*A note on language: People use many different words to self-identify their sexual/romantic orientation and/or gender identity. Some are more familiar such as lesbian or gay, while others are newer such as Two Spirit, transgender, non-binary, or pansexual. The list also grows and changes every day, so in our work we use LGBTQ2S+ to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual, genderqueer, transgender, intersex, Two Spirit, queer, and questioning individuals.
A History of OUTSaskatoon
OUTSaskatoon began as Gay & Lesbian Health Services (GLHS) in 1991. By the will and the way of Dr. Sheri McConnell and Gens Hellquist, GLHS was created to address the mental, social, emotional, and physical health needs of gay men and lesbians in Saskatchewan. GLHS’s first two employees worked half-time and offered a peer support phone line, educational information and resources, and facilitated a variety of support/social groups, all of which remain important elements of our programming today.
In 2005, GLHS changed its name to The Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity in order to better reflect the wide communities that it served, and in homage to its location in the Avenue Building on 3rd Avenue. In 2008, a relocation to 21st St West in Riversdale, offered a much larger space for offices, drop-in, and group meetings, to better serve the growing number of people accessing services, as well as a growing staff. Over the next seven years, The Avenue Community Centre worked to support the 2SLGBTQ community through increased education services, the addition of a sexual health clinic, a responsive and expanding list of social support groups, and an increased public presence in the province.
In April 2015, the board of directors elected to change the name of the centre to OUTSaskatoon in order to increase visibility and take a brave step "OUT" into the larger community. Around the same time, OUTSaskatoon started to look into housing needs for 2SLGBTQ and ultimately opened Pride Home in January 2017. Pride Home houses up to six 2SLGBTQ youth ages 16-21 and provides a supported independent living through a holistic, youth-centred philosophy. Over the years, OUTSaskatoon expanded to the entire top floor of the Habitat for Humanity building to support thousands of people who use our drop-in services, access our social and support groups, and receive education and diversity training. With all of this growth, we relocated to 213 Ave C S in August of 2019. Just a short 140 meters away, the new location is double the size and street front for the very first time in OUTSaskatoon's history. Out community partners, Saskatoon Sexual Health joined us in January 2020 so that we can work alongside one another to provide safe and accessible sexual health and holistic health services to 2SLGBTQ people.
Throughout all of our locations and name-changes, the Centre has played an important role in 2SLGBTQ well-being, research, and advocacy in the province. Our employees, volunteers, and board members have worked at grassroots, municipal, provincial, and federal levels in order to reduce the effects of homophobia/transphobia in our communities. Today, OUTSaskatoon has 14 staff who work tirelessly toward increasing the acceptance and visibility of Saskatchewan’s 2SLGBTQ people, as well as to reaching new and varied community partners, businesses, and organizations in the provision of support services, education, housing, events, and programming. In all that we do, we work to improve the lives of the 2SLGBTQ community.
For more information about the history of Gender & Sexual Diversity in Saskatchewan, check out the following resources: