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.
MARIAH (she/her) - Group facilitator, board director
Published Thursday, June 29th, 2023
Q: What led you to joining Calgary Outlink? What is your current role?
A: I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. I was searching for more of a community, especially after I came out back in 2021, so I was looking for more queer spaces. I couldn’t really find any for queer racialized folks. So, I applied to Outlink for the peer support group facilitator [role]. It was kind of on a whim, considering my social anxiety, but I was like, "You know what, it’s exposure therapy. Just do it."
So I [applied], and I mentioned, "Are there any spaces for racialized queer folks?" There wasn’t any yet, so it’s been really cool for me to see Colleqtive come into fruition.
Right now, I’m the peer support group facilitator for Colleqtive and Inside Out Youth Group, which is awesome. For Colleqtive, we get a good range of folks of all different ages. Sometimes it’s younger kids. Sometimes it’s newcomers and immigrants. We have great conversations. With the kids, you learn so much from [them], especially young kids who are forced to build that resilience at a young age. It’s been really awesome learning from kids who are confident in themselves and in their identity, or [even if they’re] still figuring it out and searching for guidance and that sense of belonging. It’s been really fulfilling so far. I started in September [start of the school year] after training.
Q: Tell us about some of your values and how it aligns with volunteering at Calgary Outlink.
A: I really found my values when I was pursuing my BA in Law & Society. I really learned about gender, sexuality, and how the law is a social construct, and how that all intersects. My core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion were fostered with this organization. I feel like this position was just what I was searching for at the time, because I hadn’t gotten exposure to nonprofit programming. I’ve never been a participant in a peer support group, so to volunteer to be a facilitator was completely out of my comfort zone. But, it was definitely a challenge that I wanted to overcome because of my values. It didn’t really sit right with me that I just haven’t had the opportunity to speak with other marginalized folks and learn more about myself.
Q: Can you highlight some of your most notable experiences with Outlink?
A: I definitely want to [talk about] my meetings with Colleqtive - especially talking to newcomers, or other second generation immigrants who were born here, but didn’t feel like they quite belonged because of their skin color. I definitely resonated with folks and I think it helped me find my community.
I also did the peer support line for a bit, for one term, and that was amazing. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, just talking to strangers. But I think there’s also beauty in that, [where it’s] not really having the pressure to open up to someone who already knows you. I’ve used the peer support line as well. As a person on the other end, I’ve been on both sides. That has been really cool for me, because I never really allowed myself to search for resources for queer folks. I denied that part of my identity for so long. But now, [with] where I’m at, it’s just been really great and really important my journey of healing and returning back to myself.
Q: In three words, can you describe your personality?
A: The first word that came to mind was ‘awkward.’ I feel like sometimes I say awkward things, even as a facilitator, to lighten the mood a bit. I’m not even trying to be funny - I just say awkward things.
I like to think I’m also determined. [I have been] stepping out of my comfort zone and facing challenges. I think that’s what really helps me grow. I put myself in those situations.
Passionate: I think with a lot of people who do nonprofit work, there’s a lot of passion attached to the role. It’s just the nature of the work.
Q: What is your comfort song, movie, TV show or hobby?
A: I feel like any Adam Sandler movie is really comforting to me. I just think it’s really cool that he can just go on vacation and film a movie with his buddies. My first comfort breakup movie that came to mind was Someone Great (2019). It’s a Netflix original. I watched it a million times, and it’s really sad. Any Disney movie as well are huge comfort movies.
For music, definitely R&B. Something I can chill and vibe to. For hobbies, [I] really like plant propagation. I have plants everywhere. I like making more plants.
Q: Who is someone in your life that has supported you in your wonderful journey of giving back to the community?
A: The first person who comes to mind is definitely my partner. We were best friends for six years. I never knew I was queer for the longest time. I think when I started developing feelings for her, I was like, "Oh, maybe I am queer!"
She’s definitely been my biggest support system, supporting me by volunteering for queer organizations. She’s the one who’s made me comfortable in my own skin. Not discrediting my own work, but she’s been amazing and definitely a support system for me.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: I hope [Colleqtive and Inside Out] continues to thrive, and that we’re able to do more programs and events. A lot of participants at Colleqtive spoke about walking with us in the Pride Parade. Especially for the newcomers, all of them don’t know where to find their community. It’s been amazing seeing how involved participants want to be. Even the kids, who are just really eager to meet other queer kids. The Make Your Own Pizza Night was definitely a highlight, and everyone had a great time.