“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.
It is more than just a passion project for Seth Compton. Out Loud North Bay is a space that represents safety, community and a place where you can be yourself. Something many people in the LGBTQ2+ community in North Bay did not have.
“We’ve got things for parents and kids too, we’re just waiting to open the doors at this point,” he says.
Once the parameters around the COVID-19 outbreak start to subside, Compton says the goal of the space would be to provide a spot that can be used throughout most of the day. He says the concept all came out of a Trans-Remembrance Day Ceremony held at Amelia Rising.
“You had a night where about 45 people were holding candles and expressing fear about being in their own community with no safe spaces and feeling isolated. I came home and shed some tears that night because my own community feels like they have no space to go. It sunk in really deep for me and I thought to myself, how can I make people safe and build our community up. That’s when I starting to think about putting Out Loud together.”
This happened shortly after Compton had broken the news to his family that he needed to make a life-altering change, “I came out as a lesbian and lived that way for 20 years and just last January I came out as transgender.”
“It’s a crippling fear. I can relate to a lot of people whether it’s adults or kids, I did it twice and I thought the second time it would be easier, but it really wasn’t. My wife and I have been together 17 years, married for 15 and through the times of just having the conversation over and over through the years it was always my fear that would stop me, and it was her pushing me to move forward.
"She was the one saying our marriage will survive this and yes, it’s ok that you do this I love you just the way you are. But even though those words were spoken often, it was still something I was struggling with because we have children and I was worried. Would the community take it out on my kids? A lot of thoughts were running through my own head and how I would deal and cope with those things all at once.”
Compton says since that time, he hasn’t faced any adversity over any of his decisions.
"There was more fear in me finding the words to say, 'Hey I’ve been struggling with my mental health and I feel like this is relating to some gender dysphoria' and when I told them they would say 'Wow it’s about time,' because it’s as if they knew and it was just something that I needed to come to terms with myself."
He adds, “It was just to break down that fear and say; 'I deserve this, it’s who I am, and I need to get this out there and we’ll see how people react to it.' I had nothing but love and support. Moving forward with some of the things I’ve been doing in the community, I feel the love and support. It’s a community that’s growing and supporting this whole thing 100 per cent.”
Compton says by coming out publicly it has allowed other people to reach out to him in times of need.
“The comments that I get on my posts are all positive. The message I get from kids and parents are all, not necessarily positive, but they are seeking advice from me, they break down the struggles they are dealing with whether it's with their children or with the kids. In a way, I feel like I’m saving lives if that makes sense. The amount of people I had reaching out to me after coming out on social media platforms was kind of overwhelming at first. I wasn’t really sure how to take it, but I know right now my purpose is to help as many people as I can.”
That’s what he hopes to continue to do through Out Loud.
He says right now there isn’t one place in North Bay with this singular focus, although there have been spaces that host different events, including Compton organizing a Queer-Karaoke night at the social café with about 50 people showing up. He says, “The event was between 5 to 9 p.m. and a lot of same-sex couples came out with their kids. I had parents thanking me for hosting an event where they can bring their kids and sit down and enjoy a coffee and meet new people. That, for me, made my heart sing. I’ve always been about community and I’ve put a lot of effort and purpose into helping others. When I saw this event went over well, I thought that we could do more of this for kids and parents."
So, he started to put in the footwork and figure out what could be done.
“I grew up here and when I was a kid there were a lot of things to do here. But now I feel like if you don’t play hockey there is not a whole lot going on when it comes to resources. I went up to the army base when they had their Bell Lets Talk Day Mental Health Expo just to make some connections and see what the places and spaces were available and offered resources. I wanted to know what was out there before I started any kind of my own project. I feel like people and places are now more open to people’s identities and orientations, it’s not like it used to be, but it still isn’t easy.”
He says the reception to his idea has been well received, “I’m amazed at how much support I’ve had in the community, whether it’s just people or businesses. I made a window decal after that event at Amelia Rising and I started going business to business looking for support for a safe space. And the fact they wanted to meet me as a person and not just because it’s oh he’s the transgendered guy. It has genuinely been a business meeting because I have a goal and they respect or align with that goal and want to work together.”
Compton says one sticking point was with naming the space “Out Loud.”
“I had some people ask me if we were going to rename it because what if some kids weren’t out yet and they wanted to tell their parents they were going to hang out at a space downtown. So, we debated that a bit, but I think we’ve kind of created a name and we want to hold on to that.
"I have had parents message me personally asking if the name can be changed so that some people don’t know their kids are going there. However, I don’t want to hide it. I want people to know that it is a safe space. We have plenty of adult volunteers. We have been working hard around the clock to get the space put together and I want people to know that it’s there. And once we can get the doors opened, it is going to be one of those community hubs where all kids are going to be able to be themselves.”
Compton says it comes down to people being able to express themselves freely no matter what their identity is.
“I want people to know that we do have different religions, and different upbringings and ways of living, but at the end of the day we are human and all we need is love.”
If you have a person or place in mind that you think would be an excellent addition to this series, feel free to send Matt an email at email@example.com or find him on Facebook and twitter @matthewsookram.