Local LGBTQ+ Youth Group, Out N’ About, are on the road towards becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and will hopefully achieve national status by the end of this year. Chelsea Whitlow, Addi Davidove, and Tristen Shay have been spearheading the campaign since the beginning of this year and are expecting to submit final paperwork next month.
Out N’ About is a weekly support group serving primarily high school aged youth in both Linn and Benton Counties. It was founded in 1996 in Corvallis, but fizzled out after the leaders moved away after a few years. Tristen Shay, who had participated in the group in the 90’s, revived Out N’ About in 2005 with help from local group, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays).
Since then, Shay and Whitlow “have developed rules/guidelines for the students and facilitators.”
“We have added things like LGBTQ+ Sex Edu, Big Gay News, as well as other events and activities,” with the main goal of providing a safe space in the community for LGBTQ+ youth. During group nights they’ll host guest speakers, play games, and have a monthly movie night with a film typically relating to LGBTQ+ issues. Their Facebook page posts links to resources for the community, like useful books or recent policy updates. During the spring they host an Alternative Prom downtown, complete with a drag show.
Shay, Whitlow, and Davidove hope to ignite more community inclusion across the country by making it easier for people to adopt a model for a group like Out N’ About. “…Tristen and I have gotten a lot of compliments on the group and have had people express that they wish they could start a group like ours where they live,” Whitlow says. “Our goal is to digitize our knowledge so that others don’t have to keep creating the wheel over and over.”
Their framework includes guidelines on how to deal with cliques in the group and troublesome students, how to book a guest speaker, or host a sex education night. This year they have been working on a website, where they will have a “backdoor” for group facilitators to log in to. “This would contain things like where to find Big Gay News, pre-approved movies for movie nights, sex [education] info and resources, rules and guidelines, how to contact local school counselors and GSAs to let students know about your Out N’ About chapter, promotional materials, and more!”
Whitlow says that she and Shay have learned how to run a group like this “through trial and error”. She, Shay, and other facilitators work full-time, while Davidove is a full-time graduate student. This spring, they launched a Kickstarter campaign that gained $3,500 worth of start up funds from community members. They are hoping to raise even more funds at this year’s Corvallis Fall Festival by partnering with Nearly Normals’ food truck.
“This is a big project and we are taking it one step at a time,” Whitlow says. “We also want to see LGBTQ+ youth continue to be supported and valued in their communities.”
Out N’ About meets Thursdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The First United Methodist Church in room 219-C, though they are not a church group. For more information, visit their Facebook group, or email Chelsea Whitlow at email@example.com.
By Gina Pieracci