Support Centre for LGBTQ Community Facing Possible Closure
The Calgary Outlink Centre struggling without volunteers or board members
Nina Grossman, News Editor
The Calgary Outlink Centre for gender and sexual diversity has been an institution in Calgary for over 30 years, and has now temporarily suspended all services due to funding and internal issues.
Two weeks ago, the centre released a statement on their Facebook page explaining that without new board members, the organization would be dissolved. According to the sole remaining board member and secretary at Calgary Outlink, there were problems meeting the requirements of funding parties and the money received had to be returned to funders; as a result, the organization no longer had enough funding to pay staff.
The statement also briefly mentions accusations of micro-aggressive behaviour and racism within their Beyond Borders program; an initiative designed to provide support for LGBTQ immigrants and people of colour. Information about these accusations is provided saying that, “until recently the board (and possibly staff members) were unaware of these micro-aggressions and accusations of structural racism.” The organization has also been accused of not properly funding or staffing the Beyond Borders program, amongst other charges.
When providing safe and accepting support, the value of organizations like Calgary Outlink cannot go understated. A support system for any and all members of the LGBTQ community, Calgary Outlink’s website explains that they provide “support that leads to transformation; the turning points, self acceptance, loving relationships and safer communities that people need to thrive.”
In an emailed statement, Calgary Outlink explains that its “staff have worked diligently to alleviate the multitudinous oppressions facing communities they serve and that includes racism, sexism and ableism.” The statement expands that in their effort to serve, (Calgary Outlink) took on more work then they were capable of handling. “Recent events and accusations mean that much more work is required of Calgary Outlink in areas of capacity and of anti-racism.”
Kimberly Williams, a professor of Women’s Studies at Mount Royal University, is saddened to hear the news of Calgary Outlink’s struggles. “It’s a huge, huge travesty, mostly because the work that Outlink did was so unique to the community in terms of supporting the LGBTQ community.” Williams often used Calgary Outlink as a resource for young people that needed help. “ I very frequently would send my students to them, and for me to not have that resource is a huge loss,” she says.
Blaine Jones, or as he is better known, Elektra Kute, is heavily involved in Calgary’s drag community. He says that the potential closure of an organization like the Calgary Outlink Centre is a devastating loss to the city. “I remember coming out. It was hard but I had a lot of support. There are lots of people, especially youth who aren’t so lucky. Without places (like Calgary Outlink) they have nowhere to turn. I can’t imagine not having anybody to help during a time that can be really difficult.”
The centre provided support for these communities, but also helped with bringing awareness to the general public. “These organizations raise awareness of struggles, which is always good,” says Jones. “The community truly needs these types of organizations.”
The accusations of structural racism show that even good organizations can have serious problems, but there is still hope. “It is unfortunate that one bad thing can shift the narrative from the decades and decades of hard work that Calgary Outlink has done,” says Williams. “I hope they can pull themselves up and re-stitch the tears in the organization.”
Update: On Oct 2, Calgary Outlink tweeted “it is with happiness that we now have a brand new board, please support them as they work to rebuild Calgary Outlink”
The organization is looking for donations and support as they attempt to restructure their organization.