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Photo: OUTMemphis

OUTMemphis: Creating a Better Life for the LGBTQ+ Community

Pride Month may have come and gone, but OUTMemphis has been caring for our local LGBTQ+ community year-round since 1989. While it’s impossible to list all the ways in which they cater to their needs, there are three main pillars upon which their organization was built: Health & Wellness, Youth & Families, and Community and Culture.

The Metamorphosis Project, Transgender Services, Care Kits, and the building of the Youth Emergency Center (Y.E.C.) are the main projects they are currently working on—and I got to speak with Kiya Black, the Metamorphosis Project Case Manager, and Alexander Hauptman, the Transgender Services Manager to see how each of these offers support, and to learn how Memphians can support them in their work to make life better for ALL in our community. 

“When you take a community that is so isolated and it’s hard to find people to connect with, and then you put them in [pandemic] lockdown—it’s like a double-whammy.”

Black walked me through The Metamorphosis Project  which focuses on LGBTQ+ youth, specifically ages eighteen to twenty-five, who either are homeless, or are at risk of being homeless. Under that project falls three main programs: the YES Program which provides emergency shelter, food, case management and access to job resources, the Rapid Re-Housing Program which allows OUTMemphis to house 10-15 individuals a year, and the Youth Emergency Center that will provide LGBTQ+ youth with an emergency shelter that will eventually house a Drop-In Center where people can use proper plumbing, get a good meal, and just get their needs taken care of in general.

Photo: Kiya Black

“I’m excited to see what we can provide to a community that hasn’t been very well taken care of. I’m just trying to be a stable adult presence in their lives and get them connected to what they need.” Black said.

A lot goes into making sure that these vulnerable young adults get the care that they need to remain fiscally, mentally, and emotionally well. Another component of the Metamorphosis Project is the donation center where, before COVID-19, they were accepting clothing, furniture, food, and basically anything that might be needed to set up a brand-new apartment. As of right now, they’re just accepting food donations since there’s no standard for cleaning large or fabric objects. They’ve also started providing walk-up kits for food and hygiene since the COVID-19 pandemic started, so donations of that kind or monetary donations are greatly appreciated at this time.

Photo: Alexander Hauptman

I also had a chance to talk to Alexander Hauptman about his role as Transgender Services Manager. He said that a lot of what they do at OUTMemphis is peer support groups, “which is huge, especially right now, because of COVID.” Transgender Services has partnered with Love Doesn’t Hurt to create a peer support group for the partners and family members of Trans people. 

“When we started our Zoom calls, the common theme was ‘it’s just so nice to be able to interact with people from the community again,” Hauptman said. “When you take a community that is so isolated and it’s hard to find people to connect with, and then you put them in lockdown—it’s like a double-whammy.”

In addition to support groups, Alexander assists with name changes in terms of the paperwork and cost, walks trans people through the process of getting hormones and medically transitioning, and acts as a reliable source to those who are new to the community. 

I asked both Kiya and Alexander about how people could support both OUTMemphis and the LGBTQ+ community at large, and their answers centralized around two things: Donate & Educate.

Photos: OUTMemphis

            Kiya: “The Y.E.C is about to open and that means that we’ll need stuff like brand new bedding, curtains, lamps, and basically stuff to set up a small bedroom for someone. We always need food donations, especially since we’re doing the delivery kit and the walk-up kit since COVID started, preferably non-perishables. Hygiene and cleaning products are always good too. On our website there’s a list of items that we need and also there’s an Amazon wish list on there, so it makes it easy to donate. In terms of the wider community, if you know someone who is LGBTQ+ who is at risk of becoming unstable or homeless, be a support for them. Try to form a relationship with them so that you can become a reliable, secure adult that they can come to if they have issues. In broader terms, talk to your city counselors, talk to your state representatives, so that we can try to block bills that are explicitly discriminatory towards queer individuals, especially Trans individuals.” 

            Alexander: “In terms of helping out OUTMemphis, the best thing you can do right now is financial assistance donations, because we have thirty to fifty people per week coming to get those kits on days that we do that, so we go through supplies really fast. Also, the Trans programming has a name change fund so that we can keep helping people access that, because if you’re from another state, it can cost $100 to get a copy of your birth certificate. As far as helping the youth, I think that educating yourself on some of the more nuanced issues that the youth face and intervening when you see LGBTQ+ youth having an uncomfortable interaction can be some of the best things you can do. We have a lot of legislation in Tennessee that has been discriminatory and destructive to Trans youth specifically, so voting and being active in that way is also really important.” 

            This is a really dense, information packed article, but it doesn’t even begin to cover what OUTMemphis does for the LGBTQ+ community in Memphis. They’re working extremely hard to make sure that LGBTQ+ youth in Memphis have a place where they feel safe, stable, and accepted.  

If you want to help them out, you can reach them via their website here.

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