For many young people, growing up in the LGBTQ community is not easy. An Edmonton-area organization hopes to change that.
The Outloud Foundation for LGBTQ Community Support and Services, located in St. Albert, is a non-profit organization that has been supporting youth since 2014.
Through the open doors is a large room with comfy chairs around the periphery, as well as a fridge and a bench with pizza boxes on it. Pride flags adorn the walls.
“My first day here, I was very shy, I was very scared. I didn’t do the introduction because I was too anxious,” 19-year-old Mikey Roseborsky told CBC Edmonton. Radio on.
But now the organization is an integral part of their lives.
The idea for Outloud came from the daughter of its executive director. Terry Soetaert said his daughter Mia had been to Camp fYrefly a few times and loved everything. Camp fYrefly is a national leadership camp for LGBTQ youth.
“Except it only happened once a year and she wanted something to happen more like once a month,” he said.
Inspired by Mia, the two worked together to start something local, and something that could be a more reliable source of support for LGBTQ people in the area.
The first meeting of the Outloud group consisted of a handful of children. The group after was slightly larger.
“Now, eight years later, there are about 30 weird kids in there,” Soetaert said.
The foundation offers group sessions for people of all ages. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
Sessions usually start with a quick introduction, followed by an icebreaker question.
Meetings consist of games, activities or guests. Once, Soetaert brought chickens, enough to make the children smile, he adds.
“It’s infinitely important to have those kind of resources and just connections to people, because without them you start to feel alone in your struggles,” Roseborsky said.
For Eli Botterhill, 13, Outloud is a safe space where they can connect with other community members. They are regulars at bimonthly meetings.
“Kids can get hands-on experiences and meet other people who might have gone through something like them,” Botterhill said.
Soetaert said most of the children who attend the organization have been bullied in one way or another.
Botterhill says they are one of the lucky ones because one of their biggest supporters is their mother.
“I know she’s there and she’s like my rock. But Outloud is really important because for some people, if they don’t have [support]you can help them,” they said.
Roseborsky said a resource like Outloud is important for young people in the LGBTQ community because it gives them a sense of belonging.
“It makes you feel like you’re part of something because, you know in everything, you can always come back here and relax and be yourself,” they said.