I never fully understood the depth of impact that LGBTQ+ centers had on the community until I started working at OUTMemphis.

Many of you are familiar with the general services- peer-led support groups, HIV testing, housing, advocacy, trainings, etc. But you may not be aware of the “smaller”, moments of need that come up every day for our staff. As my time at the center comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the moments I have been a part of over the past eight years. I have come to realize that helping individuals and families find comfort and solutions to those situations are the most significant ways that LGBTQ+ centers make an impact.   

I started my career at OUTMemphis in youth services and had many encounters with families trying to understand how to best support their LGBTQ+ child. These hours-long conversations with parents on how to love their kid in a way that affirms their identity are the ones that stick with me the most. Sometimes it was about helping them find the best way to advocate for their trans teenager in their new school and other times we just worked on understanding pronouns. No matter what the questions were, the desire to find help for their family remained the same.   

Another area of small moments that have left an immense impact on my life are the conversations with the young adults in the Metamorphosis Project. For many years I was the person picking youth up from the homes that they were kicked out of and bringing them to safety. Those situations of loading my car up with their bags of stuff, or sometimes, just themselves, will never leave. No matter who was in that seat, having the support of the LGBTQ+ center to make them feel normal and safe was life-changing.   

I know that all of my coworkers have had their own set of small but powerful moments with the individuals and families they work closest with. I also know that they would agree that these situations are the ones that we carry with us when the work gets hard and exhausting.   

As I spend my last few days in my role as Deputy Director, I am asking you to please consider making an end-of-year gift to OUTMemphis. With the financial support of this vast, amazing network and community, I know my team will continue to make sure anyone who reaches out to OUTMemphis receives the love and support they are seeking.   

I never fully understood how much I needed a place like OUTMemphis until I was here, as a participant, a staff member, and first and foremost a queer person trying to understand my identity and community. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have these connections to other LGBTQ+ individuals and families. Thank you for a wonderful eight years of support, friendship, collaboration, and family.   

With love,
Stephanie Reyes

Stephanie Reyes

Deputy Director