Calgary Outlink: Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity
Our Story Why We Exist
Imagine - You’re a teenage girl who just celebrated your 16th birthday with your family, friends and soccer team. This birthday was special because a girl that you like came and gave you a mix CD. The whole school year, you have been secretly crushing on Danielle, a fellow 11th grader. You feel worried because you don’t think your parents will approve.
Your family is conservative, and you have always felt worried that they would not approve of who you truly are. You often feel scared and isolated when you see your friends bullying other kids, and calling them gay. You feel like you are living two lives, and all the secrets are catching up with you. Then, all of your fears melt away when Danielle grabs your hand under the picnic table. The person you like likes you back. You are on top of the world.
Your worst fears are confirmed when after the party, your mother and father confront you. They saw you holding hands with Danielle and they let you know in no uncertain terms that being gay is not apart of your family’s values and if you continue You will no longer be welcome in the family or their home. You stop talking to Danielle and join your friends in bullying other schoolmates, worried that someone will find out the truth.
The months that follow become increasingly more bleak. The loneliness of living in the shadows eats away at you. You are having trouble getting out of bed, can’t help but feel like things would be easier if you weren’t around. One night, while you are watching TV with your parents, your Dad scoffs at some gay characters on television, saying: “you don’t want to end up like those freaks”. He’s right. You don’t, but as hard as you have tried, you feel like you will always be like this. You begin to plan how you will take your life.
Then you see a phone number for “LGBTQ* Peer Support Hotline. You call in and for the first time tell someone you’re gay. It’s such a relief to say it out loud. The woman on the other side of the phone is understanding and supportive. You feel heard and accepted for who you are for the first time. It gives you hope.
You start attending a LGBTQ* youth group and after a few months, your self-respect and self-esteem grows. It was great to be with others that understood. You were not alone after all.
You finally see that you can have a good life as a gay person. Your grades improve and you start to be interested in life again.
You even mustered the courage to face your parents. Giving them information and resources. Eventually they start going to a support group for parents of gay children, and come to accept you for who you are.
Rates of suicide in Lesbian, Bisexual & Gay Youth are 14 times that of their heterosexual peers. Stories of LGBTQ* youth suicide are far too common. Calgary Outlink provides support services to youth to help them build support networks, reducing their risk for mental health concerns and suicide.
With your help, we can create new futures for LGBTQ* youth in Calgary.
Our Impact What We Do
OUR CENTRE: We support all LGBTQ+ people. The plus sign means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, two-spirit & asexual people & their families, friends and allies – and everyone else under the rainbow.
We are LGBTQ+ led in every way. We provide a physical and emotional environment that allows LGBTQ+ people to feel accepted and supported, alive and celebrated.
We are here for the queers. Our volunteers, funders, staff and supporters are all community champions.
We elevate LGBTQ+ lives. We provide support that leads to transformation; the turning points, self-acceptance, loving relationships and safer communities that people need to thrive.
We are change makers. We are creating a safer world for LGBTQ+ people through advocacy, direct support and resources, education and social transformation.
Supporting & Uplifting LGBTQ+ Lives
The world values the beauty and power of difference and everyone is celebrated for who they are.
Our Programs How We Do It
Armed with 3 core staff & over 60 volunteers, Calgary Outlink is the sole LGBTQ+ community support hub in Calgary and Alberta, providing transformational education, advocacy & peer support aimed at making LGBTQ+ Calgarians & Albertans feel safer and happier about who they are.
Peer Support Groups: Peer support groups are coordinated by a team of dedicated, trained volunteer facilitators. They are a place to explore and get support in coming out, self-acceptance, self-love, relationships, identity, transitioning, healthy relationships and boundaries, safer sex and more!
Our peer support groups operate on a peer support model, and help service users cultivate self-acceptance and a positive sense of identity. The peer support model empowers volunteers to take mentorship roles and support their peers, building the power & leadership of our communities.
(Support Groups Include: Between Men, Beyond Borders, New Directions, Trans Families, Trans* Fabulous & InsideOut Youth Group. We also host several other community support groups to build community, centralize services and eliminate multiple services)
- One on One Peer Support: Service users can access free peer support mentorship 3 days a week at the Outlink office.
- The 1-877-OUT-IS-OK Peer Support Hotline: The Out is Ok peer support line started through a partnership with the Distress Centre and continues to provide support, information and referrals to LGBTQ+ Calgarians and Albertans, 365 days a year, from 5-10 PM.
The LGBTQ+ Diversity Education Program: Our diversity education program is highly customizable and provides training for individual groups, organizations, health care professionals and businesses on how to support employees, clients & community members of gender and sexual diversity.
The Safer Shelters Project: The Safer Shelters program is a 2 year pilot project aimed at making shelter spaces safer for LGBTQ+ populations in Calgary through a mixture of needs assessment, program development and cross-sector collaboration, including the development of a task force on LGBTQ+ homelessness.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Maya Angelou once said: "Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” At Outlink, this philosophy informs our approach to our community and our work.
Calgary Outlink is the sole support organization for the ever growing LGBTQ+ population in Calgary. Over next 5 years, we must expand our capacities and support services as Calgary’s primary LGBTQ+ support hub to serve the growing need and population of LGBTQ+ community members who have nowhere to turn for support. Through reducing isolation and providing mental health support, we save lives, build support networks and make brighter futures for LGBTQ+ Calgarians of all ages and walks of life– but we cannot do that without your help.
How can you become a community champion?
Volunteer: Our volunteers are at the core of what we do. They make Calgary a safer, more supportive place for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families, friends and allies. Get involved today!
Practicums & SCiP Internships: If you are a student and you want to take leadership on an issue relating to the LGBTQ+ community then we want you!
Donate: Each dollar you give goes to help the thousands of LGBTQ+ Albertans of all walks of life, who access our organization and programs each year. Your donations save lives, transform and strengthen communities, and help us expand our vital organization alongside this growing city. We are a registered charitable organization. Every donation qualifies for a tax credit. You can choose to give to a specific program you feel passionate about, or you can help us allocate funds to areas we’ve identified as high priority.