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Outloud holds BirthGay Gala March 15

2SLGBTQ+ support group formed 10 years ago
THEN AD NOW — (L-R) Mia, Natalie, and Terry Soetaert will be guests at Outloud’s 10th anniversary BirthGay Gala this March 15, 2024. The left photo shows them as they looked when they founded Outloud in 2014. The right shows them as they look today. (They were at a party.) FILE PHOTO AND TERRY SOETAERT/St. Albert Gazette

A lot has changed in St. Albert since Mia Soetaert was in high school. There was no rainbow crosswalk or Pride flag in front of city hall back then, but there were plenty of bullies harassing her over her gender or sexual identity.

In response, Mia and her parents Terry and Natalie organized a group called Outloud around March 2014 to support local two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (2SLGBTQI+) youths. Ten years later, Outloud is now one of St. Albert’s most prominent advocates for sexual and gender minority youths.

Terry said Outloud has planned a BirthGay Gala March 15 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. This 18+ event will see up to 250 people celebrate at the St. Albert Inn with dinner, drinks, and a show from drag and burlesque artists to support the Outloud Foundation.

“We never thought 10 years ago that it would be going on for 10 years,” Terry said.

“It’s kind of exciting for us that it has been able to last and been able to help kids and families this long.”

Growing out and loud

Mia said organizers modelled Outloud after the University of Alberta’s Camp fYrefly, which is a leadership retreat for queer and trans youth. Terry credited the group’s name to volunteer Alison Brooks, who suggested the group be called “out” plus something else (which the group eventually decided should be “loud”).

Outloud started off in the St. Albert United Church but moved to Bellerose Composite in September 2014, as some youths did not feel comfortable attending a church building, the Gazette’s archives show.

Mia said the group’s focus at the time was to create a fun, safe space for youths.

“We’d shoot bubble-gum balls at each other, and we did tricycle races through the high school.”

Terry said the group started off meeting once a month, but within three months started meeting every other Tuesday. Later, Outloud expanded to include a parent-specific PFLAG group and meetings for under-12s and young adults.

Outloud was a major player in St. Albert’s first official Pride Week event in 2015 and the painting of the city’s first rainbow crosswalk at St. Albert Place in 2018, the Gazette’s archives show. Last June, Outloud members travelled to Westlock to support student efforts to paint a rainbow crosswalk. (That crosswalk prompted Westlock residents to ban Pride flags and rainbow crosswalks on municipal property last February in a plebiscite.)

Outloud is now a registered charity with three outreach workers and some 300 youth and adults attending its 14 meetings a month, Terry said. With up to 60 kids crammed into its current space on some nights, Terry said the group will likely have to find a bigger home soon.

In an email, Kristopher Wells, the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University and a St. Albert resident, said it was amazing to see Outloud’s growth over the last 10 years, and praised the group’s efforts to organize this city’s Pride festivals and provide direct support to vulnerable 2SLGBTQ+ residents.

“There is no doubt in my mind their work has not only been life-changing, but also life-saving. Here’s to the next 10 years of continued growth, outreach, and success!”

History repeats?

While there is definitely more support for 2SLGBTQI+ youth today in St. Albert, Terry and Mia said there are also some big steps back happening, such as the province’s recent push to regulate trans youth.

Mia, who is now attending university in B.C., said being a trans youth in Alberta today was just as tough as it was to be gay back in 2014, adding the recent debate around rules for trans youth reminded her a lot of the controversy around gay-straight alliances of the 2010s.

“I worry about the kids that are having to go through this again,” Mia said.

“I guess that’s also a part of living in the queer community: the fight is never really over.”

Tickets to the BirthGay Gala start at $130. Visit for details.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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