In December, Seth Compton had a vision; a safe space that people from all walks of life can visit and unwind if they need to. Now, his vision has come to fruition, as OUTLoud North Bay opens up its new space to the public.
After the pandemic halted his plans of opening the doors to OUTLoud’s space on Ferguson St., Compton will be showcasing the building in its grand opening on August 7.
“As soon as you walk in, you feel the love. That’s what it’s all about is to create new friends, bring families together, and educate the families that don’t understand what their kids are going through right now. Whether they identify under LGBTQ2+ or they’re just kids who are coming from everyday issues,” said Compton.
The vision for OUTLoud has been a fast-moving one. Compton says that his work before returning to North Bay from Hamilton was what inspired his vision.
“I spent the last seven years working with youth at risk down south. So in group homes with boys, mental illness – all of that stuff. That’s what’s given me this passion to help out where I can,” he said.
When he and his family returned to North Bay, he was in a same-sex marriage with his wife. About a year and a half ago, after some internal reflection, 45-year-old Compton came out to his family, then the world as transgender.
“I remember myself 15 months ago, the fear that sat in me – having to explain to my coworkers coming out again. I was terrified,” he said.
The OUTLoud space offers an array of services for LGBTQ2+ members and allies alike. Compton is providing resources to those who may be questioning their identity, careful not to force anything.
“In the washrooms, there are pamphlet holders. I know that every kid that comes through the doors isn’t going to be comfortable asking for help. So I’ve put everything in the bathroom. When they go in there, they’re free to take any pamphlet they need. I’m trying to think like a kid,” Compton said.
So far, the space has been busy with its nightly events which include painting and movies. Compton adds that some of the kids coming to use the space now are more open than he was at their age.
“Some of the kids are very comfortable with themselves, they come in here, tell me their pronouns, they’re happy to be here, happy to be out. Then there’s those kids you can see how afraid they are. So I want it to feel like home here,” said Compton.
Compton says that he took over the space on March 1, and has been using the downtime to collect donations. He has been able to do a “soft opening” with limited amounts of people a few weeks back.
There have been donations of musical instruments, books, and video games among others. Compton is hoping that with the loosening of health restrictions, the community will further support OUTLoud.
Compton also says that there will occasionally be random donations from a community member.
“Last week I got a check for $1,000 from a gentleman in his 80s. I went and sat in my car and cried. I’m thinking 60 years ago when that guy was younger, spaces like this didn’t exist,” Compton recalled. “My idea for the space was to have the community support me… but once COVID happened, I didn’t have the opportunity to hit businesses and ask for the support because everybody was concentrating on supporting those local businesses to keep their doors open. So I spent the last five months eating out, trying to support those businesses,” he explained.
The grand opening on August 7 will have many members from the community visiting the space. Compton says that Mayor Al McDonald and some other politicians will be there. He adds that safety precautions like masks and physical distancing will be enforced as he expects a good turnout at the event.