Give it a chance, it will not let you down. Magical things happen when we come together as a community with common goals and experiences, and take action to create meaningful change in our community. It’s an amazing chance to be part of something bigger than yourself!
Totally Outright YEG, a health leadership program for gay, bi, queer, and trans men and masculine identifying folk between the ages of 18 and 30 is gearing up for another year! To share more about why Totally Outright might be the right for you, we’ve interviewed a group of previous participants. Take a read and sign up below!
What motivated you to participate in Totally Outright?
Brandon: One of the main reasons that I took part in the T.O program was because I was looking for a way to get involved and to give back to the community.
Emmet: I wanted to get more involved in the community, but I was having difficulties figuring out where to start. T.O. gave me the opportunity to meet other like-minded folks and make connections. It also really helped me with my masculine identity as a non-binary person. I felt incredibly validated.
Alec: A Facebook ad caught my eye. I was interested in meeting more GBTQ folks that I could relate to.
David: I was motivated to participate in Totally Outright by some friends in the queer community who had shared the link to the conference on Facebook and had given their personal recommendations for it. I’ve been involved in advocacy groups before, so for me this was a bit of a natural fit although it was extremely interesting to see so many folks from all parts of the community attend.
Totally Outright had a mix of different components last year: from health education, group projects, to sessions on body image and sex toys. Did you have a favourite part of the program?
Brandon: One of my favorite parts of the program had to be the conversations facilitated outside of the panels. Everyone has their own lived experience, and being able to hear so many different thoughts and perspectives after the panels was amazing.
Emmet: I really enjoyed brainstorming about projects we could do to support the community, and getting to know more about what was already happening.
Alec: As a health care provider, it was really refreshing to get a dense information filled presentation on HIV. It was something I could utilize in my own practice. I also really enjoyed the fun and light presentation on sex toys.
David: The session that I really enjoyed was learning about our own interested perceptions of what beauty is, but also how we act on those perceptions. I think that the various stigmas exist within each of us before we begin to try to understand why, and work against them.
Part of the program is focused on health education. What was unique about learning about things like sexual health and body image in a way that was tailored for GBQT+ guys?
Brandon: Health education that is relevant to members of the GBQT+ community and taught through the lens of a GBQT+ perspective really gives a sense of belonging and being understood and validated.
Emmet: It was nice to have health education that was tailored for our particular needs. The inclusive language regarding that subject also made me feel like my identity was validated and important.
Alec: I felt like I could personally relate to the experiences of the other folks in the program. I felt safe and comfortable to share my own opinions and experience and to ask questions.
David: It was certainly a unique experience for me in the sense that these are topics that I had not discussed nor thought of within a queer framework. I mean, I think we as a community understand that sometimes our own worst enemies are ourselves through being closed minded or by saying things like “oh it’s a preference, not a racist thing” and that really does us a disservice.
In terms of the topics of sexual health and body image I think that those sessions were extremely important and not just for the GBQT+ communities. Also, I think having the workshops in small settings of 20 or so folks was really empowering in the sense that the questions and the dialogue was very respectful and very educating.
When we asked participants what they were most looking forward to about the program, a common answer was that people wanted to meet other guys from the community somewhere that wasn’t a gay bar. Did you feel that the program provided an opportunity for you to build meaningful relationships with other guys from the community? Do you still have friends that you met at Totally Outright?
Brandon: I think the program was a great resource for meeting other likeminded people. And yes, I definitely think I made some long lasting friends and also increased my network overall within the community.
Emmet: I don’t enjoy going out to bars because I feel overly stimulated when there are too many people around me. This gave me the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with other guys, some of which I am still good friends with today!
Alec: I was able to get myself out there and more involved in the community. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment from the community action projects that came out of our group. I was also able to build great friendships that are still going strong today.
David: I did find that, I would say it’s more about meeting folks who have similar interests, in this case through the community than meeting people through a political event perhaps. I think that the group programming really helped to establish friendships and regardless of political stripe it was helpful to meet new people in the Edmonton community.
A key component of Totally Outright is connecting guys with opportunities to get involved in community. How has your involvement/leadership in the community changed after attending Totally Outright?
Brandon: I think that T.O gave me the knowledge and resources to better involve myself in community work. I was already involved in non-profit work, but now I’ve been better able to shift into queer health initiatives and more community focused work.
Emmet: Attending T.O. gave me the opportunity to bring my group training project to life and start a partnership with the EMHC. I am incredibly grateful to have been able to have this experience.
Alec: After being a participant of TO, I had the opportunity to get more closely connected to the Edmonton Men’s Health Collective. I am now the newest Volunteer Board Member of the Organization and am super excited for all the upcoming projects and events we are working on.
David: I would say that my involvement has definitely geared up. Since the Totally Outright initiation weekend I have joined the Edmonton Pride Festival board. I’ve also continued to be very involved in the national scene for the Jewish community, advocating for queer rights and queer acceptance. Additionally, I’ve continued to try to build more bridges between the Jewish community in Alberta and the Queer communities, an example of which was hosting a drag show for the Jewish Federation of Edmonton at Evolution in March.
For someone sitting out there who’s sitting on the fence about participating in Totally Outright this year, what would you say to them?
Brandon: The T.O program and everything that it has to offer can be a great stepping stone for someone looking to become involved in our community. Or even for someone who is new to our community. The program offers a lot of opportunities for self exploration, meaningful connections, and capacity building tailored towards the GBQT+ perspective.
Emmet: Give it a chance, it will not let you down. Magical things happen when we come together as a community with common goals and experiences, and take action to create meaningful change in our community. It’s an amazing chance to be part of something bigger than yourself!
Alec: Take a chance! It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and get involved in our community!
David: I would say, do it! Take the plunge, come out and meet folks and make new friends. Even if you’re not always comfortable in social settings, it’s a great experience to come and meet new people, and even if you take nothing away from the programming (I hope you do) you will at least learn that some people in the community share your interests, and are really decent people.