By: Muncie OUTreach Board Members: Brett Ellison, Board President; Amanda Latz, Board Vice-President; Mary Bradley, Board Secretary; Carol Bradshaw; Greg Durbin; Sue Errington; Dave Franklin; Joe Mook; Steve Sneed; and Emily Wornell—
Muncie, Indiana—At Muncie OUTreach, we exist to keep kids alive. We mean this literally—many of the kids who attend our weekly meetings have attempted suicide. Their feelings of self-hatred, resentment, and despair are the natural consequence of being bullied at school, as the targets of cruel homophobia and transphobia, with no one to turn to.
We exist to show kids hope exists. We welcome kids to show up as their whole selves, with no judgment or shame, to our weekly Friday meetings. These meetings have a regularity and rhythm that brings a sense of comfort in their often chaotic and confusing lives. First, we have introductions. Names and pronouns are shared, and each person tells about the week’s highs and lows. Their stories can be piercing some nights, and other times joyous, silly, or ironic. We then have dinner together, sitting down as a family, laughing, talking, and relating to each other. Leftovers always go home with the kids. Lastly, we host a program of some kind—playing games, watching a movie, making art projects, listening to educational presentations, or simply discussing ideas around the room.
We exist to make kids feel like they belong. We get all kinds of kids—quirky, kind, boisterous, quiet, curious, enthusiastic, thoughtful, intelligent, and shy. For some of them, their gender identity or sexuality is the only thing their peers choose to see. They often find themselves in schools, and even homes, that feel unsafe, unsupportive, and unloving. All of us want to believe that we’re seen, appreciated, and affirmed. At OUTreach, we offer that to every kid who comes to us.
We do not exist to be exclusive. We welcome all kids. Each and every one of us is a mosaic of identity factors and social influences. These include religious, racial, ethnic, and socio-economic aspects, as well as our various interests, talents, and abilities. We always try our best to see, appreciate, and affirm all who show up.
We do not exist to make kids gay. Our “gay agenda” is simply to keep kids alive. We understand that feelings can be complicated and confusing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It isn’t easy when you believe that no one around you has feelings like yours. Resolving that conflict can take some time. We do not make kids gay; we provide kids with an open and welcoming space, to let them navigate and discover their own gender identity and sexuality.
We do not exist to promote or condone sex. We do provide kids with accurate information about safe and healthy sexual behavior. We take it as a given that young people are going to have sexual experiences at some point in their lives. Rather than ignore this, we want our kids to be informed, so they are safe, responsible, and healthy, should they engage in sexual activity. We do not judge their sexual choices one way or the other.
Some of our OUTreach kids and “alumni” claim that they literally owe us their lives. We take that very seriously. We know that we are needed. We would like for more people to know us and about us. If you’d like to learn more, please visit our website (www.muncieoutreach.org), reach out to a board member, or come share a meal with us on a Friday night.
Editor’s note: September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Hotline: 1-(800)-273-8255
Learn more at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.