by Photo courtesy of Nadia Kean-Ayub

Rainbow Spaces is a nonprofit organization in the South Bay that creates inclusive and equitable spaces serving LGBTQ families and youth, catching the attention of community leaders county-wide. 

Its founder, Nadia Kean-Ayub, is a Chula Vista native who birthed the idea from working alongside LGBTQ spaces such as the organization Parents Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) as well as other community groups. 

“Rainbow Spaces came out of the idea of helping kids by creating an environment where they can be themselves and not have to worry about the fact that they’re trans or LGBTQ. They can just play and be kids” Kean-Ayub said. Rainbow Spaces began in the city of Chula Vista where they gained access to pools for “Swim Time”, an event where youth can swim, play and socialize in a safe environment. Additionally, The YMCA hosted Rainbow Space for “Camp Surf” to teach youth how to surf. 

“At first, I think they were hesitant because we have to remember that swimming organically, swimming in your body without reservation, without people looking at you, is a new experience for them,” Kean-Ayub said. “So giving them that space where they can wear whatever they feel like and just jump in the pool created smiles that just lit up my whole life.”

According to Kean-Ayub, working for PFLAG only reinforced the things she understood the community needed.

“South Bay is my home, my community and this is my investment into the families here and their wellbeing. My foundation came out of the idea that the other organizations, as wonderful as they are, don’t understand the nuances of what it means to be in Chula Vista." Kean-Ayub said. 

In a span of four days, Rainbow Spaces fundraised $4,000 for the creation of inclusive, equitable spaces through community outreach on social media. Expenses for every event are covered by the money they raise and donations made by LGBTQ+ lead organizations.

“Rainbow Spaces is newly born,” Board Member of Rainbow Spaces, Patti Boman said. “Nadia is just getting it started, but I have high hopes.” According to Kean-Ayub, the South Bay Alliance originally sponsored the organization and their massive following helped spread awareness. Other organizations such as PFLAG, Femme & Them, and the California Teachers Association donate to Rainbow Spaces. 

“Rainbow Spaces plays an important role in being an advocate for LGBTQ youth in South Bay communities. Understanding who the members are in this community and how best to advocate for them is needed. Nadia has been very involved in the community both in LGBTQ and also within our own city government” Kathy Mayer, Board Member of Rainbow Spaces said. 

A goal for Kean-Ayub is to bring Rainbow Spaces into other cities. Currently, Kean-Ayub is in contact with a mother in San Jose who is interested in bringing the organization to the Bay Area, and Kean-Ayub is helping her connect with LGBTQ lead programs that can support her efforts. 

“I get to hear their stories. It’s amazing how resilient these kids are. When we hear statistics, we think of them as fragile. They really are so amazing and they overcome so much that other kids maybe don't have to deal with, don't have to think about,” Kean-Ayub said.“Youth can be saved from having suicidal thoughts by only having an adult that understands.” 

Youth that are of working age may be connected with LGBTQ friendly employers that understand transgender rights and policies surrounding deadnaming and misgendering through Rainbow Spaces. 

“I want to walk them through it and make sure everything is good,'' Kean-Ayub said. "My hope is to get around to different spots to hire the kids and see who has those policies in place. We want to make sure once they get hired, they don't experience anything that may traumatize them.” 

Rainbow Spaces will sponsor South Bay Rainbow Ride on Oct. 9, in conjunction with National Coming out day. Last year, Nadia was involved in the creation of Pride Ride as the secretary for the South Bay Alliance. 

“It was just great to see all of these cars decked out in rainbow colors sitting there, honking, traveling down the road in Chula Vista. It was just great to see it” Kean-Ayub said.

By October, Rainbow Spaces hopes to allocate funds to organize a halloween party for youth. According to Kean-Ayub, the goal is to continue creating safe spaces for kids. 

“I wanted to create a space where people can feel comfortable coming in and being themselves and also understand it’s okay to exist.” Kean- Ayub said.


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