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OUT AND abOUT: OUTniagara Celebrates Past, Plans for Future

OUT AND abOUT: OUTniagara Celebrates Past, Plans for Future

It’s one of the few times that you can call someone two-faced, and not get punched.

Janus was a Roman god typically depicted with two faces, one looking forward to the future, one looking backward to the past. Conventional thinking suggests that the month of January is named after him.

What would Janus see if he looked in the rear-view mirror at OUTniagara’s activities in 2019? He’d observe that the organization that unites Niagara’s sexual- and gender-diverse community can lay claim to some significant accomplishments, beginning with participation in the Ragnar Run, which netted much-needed funds for the newly established Community Fund, one of our organization’s pillars. To discover more about, or donate to, the Community Fund, which helps our partners with financial and resource support, go to outniagara.ca/community-fund

The reborn organization’s first annual general meeting, held in late July, saw both familiar and new faces elected to the board – an executive of four, and directorship of five, with currently two vacancies. To see the profiles of the board members, visit outniagara.ca. As with all boards, the hard work happens in committees, some of which include finance, community engagement and partnerships, marketing and communications, fundraising, and so on.

What drives us the most is our support to community partners. For example, OUTniagara showed up in force for the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Third Space Café in Niagara Falls in November. Later that month we joined Positive Living Niagara and the Niagara Falls mayor on Queen Street to demonstrate support for its AIDS Awareness Week launch activities, including the raising of the AIDS awareness flag at city hall. In early December, OUTniagara met with our newest partner, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library, to begin planning some exciting initiatives.

As part of Niagara community’s enrichment, blogger Dennis Yeo has explored the diverse history of the 2SLGBTQIA+ movement in Canada, touching on topics like Bill C-150, rebellions in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the gender binary that continues to divide us.

Providing a platform for people within the community, OUTniagara created the popular Humans of OUTniagara, a series of essays, poems and other mediums written and created by individuals young and old. If you have a story to tell (and we all do), please consider submitting to Humans. For details, go to our website at outniagara.org/humans

Our OUTfriends directory lists local businesses and services that support the 2SLGBGTQIA+ community, and there is an initiative to include local safe spiritual spaces as well.

Offering support and responding to issues that affect the 2SLGBTQIA+ community has become a significant part of what we do. OUTniagara sent a letter to the District School Board of Niagara, denouncing the assault on a young female student who had recently come out as gay. OUTniagara’s letter was also presented to Niagara’s four sitting MPPs at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Another letter to DSBN expressed our opinion that despite the unveiling of the new diversity flag, the rainbow flag should still fly in June at all schools, either with the diversity flag, or on its own.

OUTniagara also made a presentation to Niagara Region councillors to urge them to support the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities, a measure that passed unanimously. We also presented to the newly formed LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee for the City of St. Catharines in mid-December so that the committee could get to know us better.

As well, successful candidates in Niagara’s four federal electoral ridings received congratulatory messages from OUTniagara, indicating our desire to work with them to advance the sexual- and gender-diverse community.

Several media releases were sent out, including an announcement of OUTniagara’s rebirth, our expressed disappointment in the Province of Ontario’s revised curriculum on sex and gender education, and Coming Out Day profiles of a number of community members about their own experiences of coming out.

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Not too shabby.

What would Janus see when he peers into OUTniagara’s future? He’d observe that we’re building on a strong foundation, including a strategic planning session scheduled for February.

Mark your calendars for Jan. 20 (Blue Monday, which is often called the most depressing day of the year). OUTniagara is hosting a partner meet-and-greet called OUT of the Blue, where we’re looking forward to meeting community members to celebrate our accomplishments in 2019, and share our plans for 2020. The event will be held at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library from 4-7pm.

For 2020, we’ve already made event commitments to community partners Brock Pride and OPIRG. On our radar is assistance to the team making the 2021 Canada Games welcoming and inclusive, support for the annual Pride celebrations, a commitment to the national Rainbow Railroad initiative, and partnering to bring performer Ivan Coyote to Niagara in the near future. More on those plans in later columns.

To keep updated on all of these initiatives, click on our website at outniagara.ca, or join one or more of our social media platforms.

When Janus looks ahead to your 2020, may the Roman god find that you have a safe, happy, and meaningful year. OUTniagara wishes you the best.

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