I would love to take this opportunity to properly introduce OUTniagara to everyone. I approached OUTniagara because I have so much respect for what the team is doing for the community. I handed the reins over to the group and told them to write about who they are, what they have done and are looking to do for the future of this region.
Niagara’s 2SLGBTQ+ community is experiencing an exciting time of growth and transition. Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed an incredible number of new social and support groups established and increasing visibility, giving us so much hope for the future of our queer and trans community and this column in The Sound is a testament to that. Folks within our community have begun to organize, creating safe spaces and diverse cultural activities across the Region. OUTniagara is right there with them. We strive to provide a supportive and sustainable foundation for Niagara’s 2SLGBTQ+ organizations, social groups and individuals to continue doing their amazing and impactful work.
WHAT IS OUTniagara?
OUTniagara is a community-based, not-for-profit organization that began in November 2004 with the purpose of uniting Niagara’s sexual and gender-diverse community. It exists to support our local 2SLGBTQ+ community, amplify our voices, act as a public policy advocate, foster relationships and build bridges with our allies. After experiencing a period of down time, OUTniagara’s last remaining board member, Coline Sines, believed in the organization and didn’t want to see it vanish. He reached out to the community to find people willing to take on the responsibility of reviving the organization; and so we did. Unfortunately Colin passed away unexpectedly during the handover of the organization. We thank him for putting his trust in us and hope we’re making him proud. We are also so very thankful to those OUTniagara board members who came before us. Thank you for your courage and leadership.
The organization’s new leadership is following the footsteps of these change makers to ensure that OUTniagara evolves with the community it serves. We are a small team of passionate and forward thinking queer and trans folks from various backgrounds, ages and experiences. We are parents, students, advocates, and we are all working together with one common goal: to support our local 2SLGBTQ+ community. This is not our full-time paying job; we volunteer together, meeting and working at our homes, libraries, coffee shops, in our spare time. We are a small team and hope to see it grow to more fully represent the diversity within our community.
While you won’t be able to find us in a permanent physical space, you can find us on our new website, a virtual hub of connection and info for folks wanting to engage with our community. Whether you’re questioning or coming out, would like to find people you can relate to or are new to the area and would like to learn about what the 2SLGBTQ+ community has to offer, our goal is for the website to be the go-to space for all things queer and trans in Niagara. You’ll find info on all 2SLGBTQ+ groups and organizations, a community calendar showcasing their activities and events, and a newly launched page showcasing safe spaces throughout the Region. OUTfriends lists 2SLGBTQ+ friendly businesses and services, developed using personal recommendations from folks in our community
All of this excitement and growth in our community doesn’t come without challenges. The main challenge is the long-term viability of these groups. Most are volunteer-run and financially sustained through out of pocket contributions by their organizers, leaders and participants. Folks pour their hearts and souls into it because they believe in the connections they’re creating, the culture and community they are strengthening and are firmly establishing in the Niagara Region. OUTniagara is not excluded from any of these challenges. We recognize that while we’re growing, we’re small compared to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. We believe that if we work together we can create a sustainable future. We know that working in silos can be counter-productive. It can create barriers, division and the feeling of exclusion. We believe that strong partnerships, collaboration, inclusion and support lay the foundation for sustainable change. OUTniagara hopes to play a key role in this.
SUPPORTING OUR COMMUNITY: Partnerships, community and Pride, oh my!
In addition to the new website, we are participating in and planning a number of initiatives that are aimed at supporting with our vibrant community through partnerships and collaboration:Community Consultations: Building relationships and working with community is key. OUTniagara believes that the process of how we do things is every bit as important as the final product. It is for that reason that we want to hear from you, the people who live, play and work in Niagara and who make our community what it is. We began last year with a “vision board”. Participants at various events were asked to share their “vision” for the gender and sexually diverse community in Niagara and the responses we got reflected the beautiful complexities that at times divide us while also being our source of strength. We are continuing to get feedback from the community by meeting with community partners and developing a survey that will be available online or can be completed in person at public events wherever you see OUTniagara. We also love hearing from people via our Facebook page or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was such a thrill to host last year’s OUTformation Fair and to see first hand how Niagara’s 2SLGBTQ+ community has grown. OUTniagara jumped at the opportunity to be an organizing partner with OPIRG Brock for their Coming Out Monologues event taking place May 19. OUTniagara will be helping to organize an Information Fair to showcase our community partners. People attending the show will get a chance to learn about what’s happening in Niagara and connect with various groups. It will also be an opportunity for community groups to network while supporting an amazing event.
We’re establishing a community fund aimed at providing financial support to local groups and individuals through mini-grants. Sustaining the fund will require creativity and innovation but currently it relies on donations, membership fees and fundraising initiatives like Reebok Ragnar Niagara taking place May 31-June 1, a 300 km relay run from Coburg to the bring of the Falls. Don’t get too excited, we’re not running! Ragnar is providing OUTniagara with an honoraria for rounding up 20 volunteers to assist with the activities at its finish line on June 1 (get in touch to get involved). The money raised at this event will go directly into the community fund.
June 1 is also the launch of Pride Month, an international celebration of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a major turning point in our queer and trans history. Organized by Pride Niagara, Pride Week (June 1-8) is host to a number of activities and events with the culmination on June 8 with Pride in the Park at Montebello Park. For OUTniagara, Pride Week, including Pride in the Park (June 8) is all about partnerships.
POZitivity Campaign: Another pillar of support that OUTniagara feels strongly about is the health and well-being of our community. With this in mind, we’ve partnered with the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), a national organization promoting gender and sexual diversity through services in the areas of health, education and advocacy. We’ve teamed up with the CCGSD and numerous other 2SLGBTQ+ service providers across Canada on a national advisory committee for the planning and implementation of a a national anti-HIV stigma campaign called POZitivity. What’s more, we’re working in partnership with Positive Living Niagara and Provide Niagara to bring the campaign to the local context. The Niagara launch of the national campaign will be during Pride Week with a number of anti-stigma activities including an information workshop and fun and engaging activities at Pride in the Park that just might win you tickets to an exciting show in the Fall with Trinity K Bone’t. More to come!
Community Booth: Once again, OUTniagara will have a community display booth at Pride in the Park on June 8th. Just as we did last year, we are inviting all 2SLGBTQ+ Community Partners to join us. Many groups do not have the financial means or volunteer capacity to have a booth of their own. The community table is made available to groups in an effort to alleviate some of these challenges. It was heartwarming to see the members of the community come together last year to make the community table a possibility. We hope to be able to continue this tradition of working together.
TimeOUT Tent: In partnership with Pride Niagara, we’re hosting a space at Pride in the Park that will provide folks with an opportunity to take a deep breath, re-centre and chill out in between all of the hustle and bustle that the last day of Pride Week has to offer (not to mention what the week had to offer). OUTniagara is also working with community members to offer activities such as yoga, Indigenous healing and more!
GET INVOLVED WITH OUTniagara
We’d love to hear from you! There are several ways to get involved and support OUTniagara’s work. Become a member, volunteer with us, fundraise, partner, join our Board. Reach out to them at email@example.com and check us out online atoutniagara.ca, on Facebook or Twitter @outniagara.
There you have it, I honestly had no idea the level of service they have available and all the labour and hours that are involved in making this operation work. I am proud that I was able to work with OUTniagara on this month’s article, I want to thank them so much for sharing with us. Also at this time in the world it is important for the community to have something like OUTniagara available.
“If we stand united, we stand tall, if we stand divided we shall fall.”
A quote I came up with years ago and it just seems very fitting for the times. Until next time readers, one love.
LGBTQ+ IN THE CITY EVENTS
· May 11, 6-10pm. Singing on the Lanes! Kareooke & Bowling. All welcome, all ages. Hillside Lanes
· May 16, 9-2pm. Rainbow Youth Student Empowerment. A Day dedicated to empowerment, growth, connection and learning for LGBTQIA2S students in Niagara. Firehall Theatre
· May 24, 6-10pm. The Musical Mixer. DJ Andro & DJ Fallyfalz. Third Space Cafe