Northern Heart + Home was designed to celebrate the people, places and positives that set the North apart. This spotlight series focuses on exactly that: the people who are at the very heart of our Northern communities. Each profile highlights leaders who are pursuing their dreams, creating meaningful lives and truly shining in the North. This Northern Heart Q+A features Seth Compton of OUTLoud North Bay.
OUTLoud North Bay is a Queer, Trans, Two-Spirited, Lesbian, Gay and Ally volunteer led organization that affirms and supports the experience of youth and adults within Northern Ontario. Founder Seth Compton saw an urgent need in the North and set out create a safe space built around core values. The original opening set for March was postponed due to the pandemic but the recent ribbon cutting ceremony on August 7th has lead to a calendar filled with activities, events and big plans for growth in the months ahead.
The Northern Heart Q+A: OUTLoud North Bay
How did OUTLoud North Bay come to be?
During the early stages of my transition I attended a vigil for Transgender Remembrance Day led by Amelia Rising in November. There stood 45 people sharing their stories and what hit home was they all expressed they had no safe spaces in our community where they could feel safe and just be “normal”. I went home that night and cried, I wanted people like myself to feel safe, I wanted them to feel like they had a place where they could hang out and just be themselves.
I wanted to be that person that stepped up in our community and built something people could call home. Somewhere they could feel safe and meet other people just like them, just like me. This was the evening OUTLoud North Bay was born in a more physical sense. I knew what I had to do.
It took weeks to put all my ideas down in a business plan. I took all the things I wish I had as a teenager and build it all into one space. My vision is so much more larger than what you see on our website and on our social media but I am currently funding everything on my own and I do what I can when I can financially. Our priority right now is to make sure the rent is paid each month which costs us just under $2000 a month. I currently have a full time job working at Walmart but that isn’t enough. I would love to invest my time and energy into this project full time.
Describe the OUTLoud space and who it is for.
OUTLOUD North Bay is a Queer, Trans, Two-Spirited, Lesbian, Gay and Ally volunteer led organization that affirms and supports the experience of youth and adults within Northern Ontario. In all aspects of our work and throughout the organization, as we pursue our mission, we live by the values listed below. Together, they provide a picture of who we are and how we want to be.
Our Values are Youth Centered, Confidentiality, Anti-oppression, Anti-Racism, Accessibility, Harm reduction, Sex Positive, Indigenous solidarity, Growth, Learning and Community Collaboration.
Conveniently located downtown, our space has it all. Live music, music therapy, video games, gaming, board games, books, puzzles, transform clothing closet, therapeutic programming, art and cultural workshops to help promote mental health in our youth at risk regardless of how they identify. This space operates on a monthly membership for those interested in our events and monthly programming. For those that do not wish to purchase a membership, this becomes just a space for those who need somewhere to go and hang out away from home in a safe environment. We currently have sponsorship packages where individuals or businesses can cover the cost of a monthly membership for the kids in our community that can’t afford it financially.
The original opening of OUTLoud was set for March but delayed until August due to the pandemic. What did the recent ribbon cutting ceremony represent for your organization?
The delay of having our doors open during a pandemic just gave me and the team I built of locals (volunteers, parents, students, and community members) time to add some final touches to the space and to gather the things we needed in order to operate as a space. Almost everything in the space has been donated by the lovely people of our community. We still have plenty of work to do but are figuring things out as each day goes. We have officially been open now for just over a month with the 50 people capacity and we have seen those numbers and feel we will outgrow the space quicker than we can handle once schools open and the word gets out.
In the last 30 days, because other local organizations are still closed, we have workers from Hands, Community Living, Futures, Password, PEP etc. sending their clients to our space. Some of my volunteers are trained when dealing with these needs but others are just opening up their hearts to the needs of our youth. So far we’ve had to find emergency care for a 16 year old that recently started using Meth because she’s been kicked out of her home again. We have heard the stories the youth are sharing with us because we are listening. How homophobic most parents are, and we get the parents that pop in to support their kids and want to sign them up for memberships and come and hang out with their kid and gather more information on how they can be a part of OUTLoud and what they can do as a parent.
Although we experience the sadness in some, we celebrate the success we make with others. As a parent I will never understand how a parent gives up on their children based on their identity. So for all the kids out there, the volunteers in our space will be a parent mentor to our youth because we all care.
Having a ribbon cutting ceremony represented inclusivity, community, togetherness, support, and it brought life to our organization. It was a moment that we could share with our community all the hard work, time and money I invested into a safe space for our children and young teens.
What can we expect from OUTLoud in the coming months?
Growth. We are growing every single day. We have some big plans coming your way and we really want the community to come together and support this vision. We are currently looking for corporate investors or individual investors so I can share my entire vision with people that have more money than I do to help me build this entire plan and create not only a dream space for me to invest in but to keep our kids invested in positive entertainment, a safe space, therapeutic programming, arts, culture and love. Everything I do comes from love. Self love and the love to support other people and other peoples children.
We have some big events coming in 2021, they will be events to help fundraise and events to show our community what PRIDE is all about coming from our kids and their families including mine.
How can the community get involved?
The biggest thing right now is financial support. Our community needs to tap in and invest just like I have into an amazing vision to support our kids regardless if they are gay or not. Every kid has a story. If we are not a part of that story and do not aid them into a journey with support, it becomes the end of the line for many. As parents and as community members we need to step up our game, educate, understand and support. We will be offering parent network nights, where we will be bringing in the resources required for trans care, self harm care, body positive care, gay teen homelessness, and more. We have thought about it all and will build towards all of these things when the funding comes in. OUTLoud has been in the media a number of times, please check out our website for these links. www.outloudnorthbay.com
To achieve greatness individuals must work together, learn from each other and trust and rely on each other. It is with this understanding that I spend so much time and emphasis on the need to create a strong and supportive community in which individuals can support, learn, collaborate, and inspire each other. I organize, hosts and facilitate a number of activities and events designed to engage local LGBTQ2S individuals of all ages and builds a supportive community for everyone – Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bi sexual, Queer, Gender non- conforming etc. Will you be apart of his Community?
We have a place online where you can donate. You can mail in a donation. Drop off a donation. If you would like to become a volunteer, want to help with fundraising, or anything else, send us an email. It’s a community investment. Help us provide therapeutic outlets and let kids just be kids without the worry of a safe space.
As I head into the next step into my own journey leaving for Montreal mid month for my top surgery I continue to offer the space during regular hours and online peer to peer support is always an option and the parents and kids know I’m only a message away. I have invested myself into this project and I want you North Bay to join me in saving lives and changing our future generations with love.
Tell us more about yourself, why you call the North your home and your journey of transition.
I come from a broken home, my parents separated when I was just a young child. I spent many years in and out of foster care, I was a product of the system for many years.
I have always struggled with the relationship I’ve had with my mom, struggled with being abandoned and abused. She has always chosen her love for drugs and alcohol over the love for her children and that will forever make me a better parent.
But it’s these things as a young child that can change you for a life time or break you for the rest of your life. I choose change. I can remember as a young child thinking I never wanted to treat my children this way. I didn’t want to grow up and be anything like my parents.
Although my connection with my dad was deeper he wasn’t the best of dads either. He was the laid back kinda dad; hippie, loved music and his social game, hard working always provided so we never went without, but very absent all the time.
This should paint you a picture of my upbringing. I moved to North Bay when I was 5 years old. My dad remarried an Indigenous woman from First Nations. I learned a lot about the Creator and the culture, in this I found peace. Peace to understand family, solitude, nature, therapy, friendships, spiritual connections and so much more.
I found a deep love for this city. This city is full of adventure, full of arts and culture, full of people that care about the space they live in, live music, festivals, seasons, education and so much more.
But over the years as I attempted to figure out my own identity I realized the city was missing something. I spent time working in the schools and the last eight years working with youth at risk and noticed they didn’t have anything for children like they use to in my days.
I feel like we are living in Footloose where they stopped the music. If we don’t provide something to do for our children they will find something to do on their own. Will they make the best choices? Probably not.
Children these days are looking for acceptance, love and understanding. Growing up is tough and if you don’t have support it makes things twice as hard. What I have seen in the last few years is a lack of knowledge, understanding and acceptance. It doesn’t matter what background you come from, we have to grow as a community and with the changes of society. If we don’t grow together and support our own children they turn to the outside world.
Children trying to fit in and understand their own gender and identity and as parents if we don’t support that and educate ourselves, we lose lives, perhaps one of our own as this is the leading cause for suicide rates right now.
After fighting my own demons with depression, anxiety and suicide I decided last year with the support of my wife and children to begin my own journey to transition from female to male. I didn’t realize that after years of therapy, struggling day after day, my identity was truly holding me back from everything I was trying to accomplish.
I went public with my transition on social media sharing my thoughts, the process, my fears, my visions of paving the path so that the younger generations in my community don’t have to feel the way I had been feeling for 44 years. Trapped in the wrong body with no one to talk to or relate to.
My therapist I’ve had locally for 40 years still has paperwork indicating back in the 80’s I had expressed my gender dysphoria with her but didn’t understand any of it and it’s been up to me to figure out on my own. You can’t take a pill for this, this isn’t something that goes away. So how do we support our children now in 2020?
Although our community still remains small and uneducated we have some amazing medical care here.
My family doctor and his staff have been amazing during my transition, supportive and acted very quickly in getting me the additional care I require in order to make sure my transition go as smooth as possible. They address me by my proper pronouns and always ask questions to make me feel as though I walk through their doors as a human.
During this whole process I realized our resources here are very limited. I started to have parents and children reach out to me online and started asking for help. Not just from our community but from all over the world. I was getting messages from people in Brazil, Australia, Mexico, United States and some of the small rural towns like Sunridge, River Valley, Trout Creek, Mattawa, Burks Falls, Dorset and Espanola. It just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter where you live, gay people live there too.
Sharing your gender or orientation with people is like sharing your religious views or beliefs. It can be terrifying if you’re a Christian trying to have a Muslim believe your god is better, but we’re not talking about religion we’re talking about human lives which goes beyond what people believe in.
How someone identifies shouldn’t matter but it does and the youth of today are very proud of who they are but don’t have the support because some people from older generations are not open to accepting change, growth, or aren’t able to relate to the variety of orientations in today’s society.
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Interested in volunteering? Please contact us at [email protected] for more information.
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Do you know of an amazing Northerner who is pursuing their dreams, creating a meaningful life and truly shining in the North? Let us know!