Three years ago, Claire Edwards earned a spot on the Top 40 Under 40 thanks to her leadership and work with LGBTQ2S+ youths across Alberta. In 2018, Claire goes by their middle name Avery, and has come out to the world.
“The name stuff is new, and I’m figuring it out with my work through camp and going by it in my personal life. This might be new to some people, it’s kind of exciting,” Avery says.
After being selected as a Top 40 Under 40 recipient, Avery started volunteering and eventually working with Camp fYrefly Edmonton through the University of Alberta. Avery was also part of the Youth Action Committee, which formed in late 2016 to add a youth voice to the plans of the annual camp.This all came crashing down when, earlier this year, the camp was consolidated into a single provincial camp. Staff in Edmonton were laid off and the Youth Action Committee was to be dissolved.
“I was pretty bold, and unabashedly resisted provincial government legislation and was very public and really bold being like, ‘we can build something new,'” says Avery. They established Queer Scouts YEG with other members of the now dissolved Youth Action Committee. The newly founded organization ran its first camp in July at Pigeon Lake with 30 LGBTQ2S+ youth, aged 24 and under. The goal is to help develop the skills they need to organize for social justice. The program has continued throughout the fall with weekly meet-ups. “We really want to expand programs, camp and training for all demographics,” they said.
“I’m definitely a very different person [now] . I think it’s kind of fun for the magazine to look at the younger winners you can choose and see how much they could change, and I’m still not even 25,” says Avery.