A message from our E.D.
Hello friends and supporters,
What a year for Seacoast Outright! It was just over a year ago that I sat at a desk in our former office space wondering what we were going to do. Outright, which was such an instrumental part of my life as a queer youth in 1997, was faltering. Our account was hovering close to a zero balance, my Board of Directors was non-existent, and I just couldn’t make the numbers come together. The future looked bleak. Just about everyone that I discussed our situation with suggested that it may be time to close the book on it. We were, after all, the last Outright standing in NH. Everyone would understand they said, we should just cut our losses and accept that it’s just a different social climate these days.
We still had a core group of youth that looked to us every week. The group was probably smaller than it had ever been. When I broke the news that we would be moving, and that I wasn’t exactly sure where we would be moving to just yet, the looks on their faces motivated me to give them my word that the meeting would happen the following week as planned. Fearing the worst myself, I assured them that everything was going to work out.
A few weeks prior to this I had reached out to Dr. Chuck Rhoades. I didn’t know Chuck personally, but he came up frequently in conversation as someone who may be able to help. Then, during a meeting one evening, I had a youth talking about a health class at his high school that had changed his life. He said it had been the first time in his life that he had heard the term transgender used in a positive way. The shame he had lived with for so long began to lift that day. Within days I called Chuck and set up a meeting. I explained the situation to him and thankfully, he didn’t hesitate to jump into the driver’s seat as Outright’s new Chairman.
We hit the ground running! Soon we were in meeting after meeting, re-engaging past supporters, networking, shedding all that wasn’t working, and slowly piecing back together all that Outright once was. My good friend Chris had agreed to take on the Treasurer position on the Board, and for a while the three of us met regularly to map out what our next few critical steps would be.
We gave up our expensive rental space, moved all that we could fit into a storage unit, and board meetings took place at my kitchen table. Chuck secured us a place to meet for the next few weeks at the South Church in Portsmouth. As promised to the youth, there was no break in meetings. South Church welcomed us with open arms and generously gifted us meeting space until we could get back on our feet and eventually sign a lease for our new dedicated meeting and office space in the Karnan House, where we had begun 21 years prior.
It just kept going up from there. Chuck worked tirelessly to recruit a talented, committed group of experienced and enthusiastic new board members. We called on members of the community to meet with us for a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for fundraising and becoming self-sustaining once again, when the idea of bringing a Pride event to Portsmouth as our signature event was born. Our collective energy shifted into planning and preparing for this event. Our hard work paid off when the 1st Annual Portsmouth Pride event drew crowds that were estimated at 2-4000 people the day after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage.
Thanks to the hard work and determination of the board, and donations from all of our supporters, programming for youth has already expanded. We held an open mic event in May at RiverRun Bookstore that was well attended and showcased the talented youth in our community, a ‘Glam Gay-la’ at The Stone Church, and we have been able to add open office hours. We are already planning Portsmouth Pride 2016, and look forward to building on the tremendous success of 2015.
In the near future, we will be branching out into the community with outreach, community resource networking, and educational events. Chuck has since stepped down as Chairman but still participates on the board as time allows. Without his dedicated service, Outright may not exist today. Two of my fellow Outright alums that were serving on the general board immediately stepped up to co-chair. They have been doing a wonderful job so far. Ideally, we would love to see Outright staffed for more hours and better flexibility. We know we are capable of moving to the forefront for providing safe, social support and leading the way in education and advocacy. We would also like to be able to devote more time, resources and support to the under-served transgender population. We need your support and generosity to make these things happen.
So much has been accomplished in just one year thanks to all of your help. A future that was once bleak is now bursting with opportunity. Please consider donating to Seacoast Outright and investing in a safe, welcoming, all-inclusive community. It is such a privilege to work with our amazing youth, and with this community that continues to blow my mind every day. I really had no idea what I was signing up for when I volunteered to be the next Executive Director almost two years ago- but I have truly been blessed to have been given the opportunity.
All the best,