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Come meet our volunteers! As part of Outlink's #OutlinkOutLoud campaign this summer, we will be interviewing volunteers and organizations that do amazing work in local 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Outlink's volunteers help make all of our regular programming possible. Whether it's community group facilitation, mentorship, or working on the You Matter support line, our volunteers are indispensable and help us make our vision of peer-lead leadership and community spaces a reality.

You can view our interviews with Outlink volunteers below. Click on each tab to see an interview for a different person. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. Opinions expressed are those of the interviewees, and are not necessarily reflective of the views or positions of Outlink as an organization.

KAT (she/her) - Group facilitator, board secretary

Published Thursday, July 13th, 2023

Q: Tell us about your background. What led you to joining Calgary Outlink? What is your current role?

A: I wear a few hats at Outlink. I started off as a service user. We’re a queer family, my wife and I, and we have a daughter who is openly transgender, so we are pretty active in our community. I had come across Outlink as my first point of contact, like a lot of people do, encountering Emma [Director of Operations and Development at Outlink]. After some back-and-forth interactions, and her leading me to other organizations in the community, I came back, wanting to give back to Outlink. Outlink is an essential first point of contact and I wanted to be part of that.


I was initially looking at joining the board but I wanted a little bit more time to see what Outlink was about first, so I joined as a facilitator in April of 2021. Then, the following year, I joined the board, and now I’m secretary on the board.


I’m a military brat, so I was born in Fredericton but feel like I come from all over Canada. Even though Alberta is certainly not my favorite place (in terms of how our community is treated), I’ve settled here because I feel like it’s important that some of us stay here to help out with representation and support.

Q: What is it like to have grown with Outlink, and to wear so many hats in the organization?

A: It’s been tough sometimes, but really wonderful. Obviously, going from service user to a volunteer took a bit of getting used to, but that was probably the easier transition. Going from facilitator to a board member was a bit of a tougher transition.


For example, I went from looking up to Emma in my role as a facilitator to communicating with her frequently in collaborative efforts for the board. We had to change dynamics quite a bit. I feel like I personally transitioned quite well in that area, but unfortunately not everybody does.


Q: Could you elaborate more on how your transition to board director went?


A: The transition there revolved a lot about adapting communication. I was more active with our community members as a facilitator but had to take a step back in unfiltered communication. Some of the knowledge about Outlink unexpectedly came into play. At a board level, we’re discussing matters a little bit prior to sharing with the community. We are very transparent with our community, but we have to figure out the logistics of things first. At a facilitator level, I was used to passing on the information immediately. I had to get used to building up a filter a little bit.


I felt as a facilitator, you have a different relationship with staff than you do as a board member, and it takes some adaptation there.


Q: Tell us about some of your values and how it aligns with volunteering at Calgary Outlink.


A: I have strong core family values. I think that’s where my head goes first. Our entire family is obviously engaged in our community. As someone who didn’t have that support growing up, it’s important to me that we continue this engagement.


Through facilitating, there were many times that we had a repeated dialogue of, “I came out to my [biological] family and lost my family.” It was happening over and over again.


I grew up in the Roman Catholic church. I was not accepted, I understand. Everyone’s situation is different, but we’re each other’s family in this community. I think that’s been proven time and time again. That’s really where my family values come in. It’s important to me that we extend that to everyone in our community, not just in our home.


Q: Can you highlight some of your most notable experiences with Calgary Outlink?


A: When I first started facilitating, I encountered this individual who was a little bit shy. When my face popped up as a new facilitator, they were a little unsure, and didn’t know how to handle a new person. But over time, I think we started to connect, and got to know each other. I found out they were frequenting meetings prior to me joining, and they started doing that again. That felt like a success in itself.


During a few of our smaller sessions, things were less busy, so we got to know each other’s stories a little bit better. I found out that we were coming from a pretty similar place. During one meeting, they popped in. They were noticeably distraught, and they asked for a one-on-one with me. Fast forward - I found out that through their transitional journey, they had lost their employment abruptly, lost their home, [and] everything had kind of fallen apart very quickly. They were very hopeless, and I stepped into an organic mentorship role at that time.


It was over the holidays and [Outlink] didn’t have services going forward at that time. I extended my information, and we kept connected through the holidays. Fast forwarding from there to make a long story much shorter: I got to stand alongside this individual as they celebrated obtaining a new home, obtaining employment that accepted their transitional journey, obtaining a renewed relationship with our community, new family, and a renewed relationship with themselves. That’s the most special thing that’s ever come out of volunteering for me. I’ve volunteered for a long time, and that was a big one.


Q: What is your favorite hobby?  


A: I used to be a dancer professionally. I’m no longer able to do that, but it’s still my favorite hobby at home. Aside from that, when my body will not let me do that, I’m a writer.


Q: What does being a part of 2SLGBTQ+ communities mean to you?


A: I think it means giving back. Honestly, when I see the media portrayals, it’s seen as rainbows and sunshine. It’s this big party. Coming out was not a big party, and being a part of our community is often not a big party. It’s essential that we’re deeply rooted in knowing why we’re here, and why we’re outwardly connected to this community - so that we can take the steps to give back when we’re in that capacity.


Q: Who is someone in your life that has supported you in your wonderful journey of giving back to the community?  


A: My wife is probably the biggest supporter – right down to abruptly signing up for a membership at Calgary Outlink and volunteering at our casino fundraiser.


Additionally, Emma is the reason that I am here. I can never give enough gratitude to her for taking a chance on me as a volunteer. She led me to this fulfilling position in community engagement.


Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?


A: On Outlink’s website, I have a profile as a board member, so you may see that I have some heavy lived experience. Sometimes in my roles, that’s what I pull from to help others, so I think it's an important experience to note. However, because I transparently note that experience, I don’t think that most people see that I’m a wife and mother, and the more boring side of me. I’m not just a former addict or a former sex worker. I’m living a happy, boring suburban life that I could have never dreamt of prior. I still pull from my past experience to help others, but I don’t have to stay there. I’d like it if our community could see that side of me as well.

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