Nex Benedict, Rest In Power.
Hate will never win. Together, we will rise with and alongside you.
Outright’s origin story is a tale of community-based action and fierce, queer-led love. In the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, when a statewide survey showed LGBTQ+ youth were at dramatically higher risks of suicide than their cisgender, heterosexual peers, a small group of community members in Vermont had the audacity to believe that a brighter future was possible.
They envisioned a future where these very youths would experience a sense of belonging, their identities celebrated and embraced. They understood the power and pride that comes from being part of a larger LGBTQ+ community, connected to a beautifully complex history and people - artists, creators, makers, advocates, activists, leaders, and more.
It was a bold vision. It was radical hope. They believed in a world of possibilities.
These are our roots - a mighty, intergenerational group of people living in Vermont with the audacity to believe in and fight for a dramatically different world for LGBTQ+ youth.
In response to the harmful impacts of a culture made up by systems, institutions, policies, and structures never built for us all, they chose radical hope.
As we reflect on our history and pursue our current mission, we honor the deep connections that exist in our stories and experiences.
Outright’s Queer Ethic and Guiding Principles reflect our current understanding of how to live in the fullness and complexity of our community. As we deepen our knowledge, so too will our practices and commitments reflect that evolution.
White supremacy has always - and continues to - uphold hate in all its forms. It fueled the violence and radicalized greed from which our country was founded: first by creating whiteness to justify violent attempts to erase indigenous people and take their land, and then by using whiteness and a race-based caste system to use black people from around the world as chattel.
Full stop: this dehumanization is our collective history and a mere snapshot of the violent foundations our institutions rest on today. Our social, economic, religious, and moral frameworks were built primarily for white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men and, secondly, for all other white people. We must contend with that and move forward accordingly.
Insidious in nature, white supremacy culture creeps into our psyche so deeply that it is accepted as the way of life. It disguises itself in language like “tradition,” “legacy,” or “it’s always been this way.” It perpetuates itself in calls for neutrality or demands that progress be slowed down or stalled entirely.
White supremacy culture ensures our history is fully whitewashed, conditioning us to believe that the constructs of yesteryear are working equally for us all in the present.
As a queer organization, we understand the ways our lives depend on questioning norms. We understand that those who benefit from our systems - and have never known anything else - often fail to see the inequities.
Where injustice is maintained, and our differences exploited, hate thrives, profoundly impacting people's right to self-determination and joy.
In its many iterations, white supremacy permeates the societal structures where LGBTQ+ youth learn, live, and grow. Our society was built on a foundation not designed for all of us to succeed.
Having queer roots does not by default make us, or anyone, anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-classist, or feminist. Having an anti-racist ethic is a practice, a value, and most importantly, an ongoing individual, interpersonal, and organizational commitment. It takes a level of intentionality about how and why we resist white supremacy and actively work toward liberation.
Liberation is the antidote to white supremacy.
Liberation values the connection of our stories, dreams, and lived experiences and how they are interwoven. It demands our existence be bound together. It invites the vastness of our collective strength as people living our truth, allowing for the complex beauty in all of us to be fully embraced and nurtured.
No construct or tradition is too sacred to be questioned, torn down, or rebuilt with gorgeous flair. Together, our responsibility is to apply that gift of bold reimagining to the structures that lend some of us privilege: whiteness. Ability. wealth.
Without imagining - and then working towards - a liberatory future that holds us all, none of us will ever be truly free.
In the healing ideas of writer and thought leader, adrienne maree brown:
"What we give attention to grows. What we pay attention to grows."
adrienne maree brown
Just as love is the antidote to hate, liberation is the antidote to white supremacy. We choose to give attention to the liberation of all people.
At Outright, we know that the way we build a Vermont where all LGBTQ+ youth have hope, equity, and power requires a clear north star: guiding principles that uphold our ethics, values, and an intentional commitment to the liberation of all people. We pursue our path forward in the following ways:
‘With and by’ is the way we are ‘for’ youth. Youth power is central to the success of our mission, and youth leadership must inform every level of the organization. We respond to youth priorities and create meaningful opportunities for youth to connect, lead, organize, and shine. We build conduits to and recognize the many forms that leadership takes, and we invest deeply in the communities we work alongside.
We create opportunities to do things differently. We invite play and joy, and work to resist binary thinking. We believe in the power of transformation and move from a place of abundance. We create spaces for our complex, full selves to unfurl, centering the humanity in each of us. We lean into seemingly disparate ways of being and doing, knowing there is wisdom and value in the in-betweens.
We are committed to being here for LGBTQ+ youth for the next thirty years and beyond. We are stewards of the work done by those who came before us, and we build on that strong foundation for those who will come next.
Even through the hardest times, we are dedicated to leaving this work further along than when we arrived. Rooted in the values we hold dear, and with strategies that sustainably build traction and power for meaningful change, we stay engaged.
We need each other to achieve social change. We recognize that within both our organization and the larger community, our different expertise is informed by our lived experiences and areas of focus. We expect to lead or be the main informants of goals, strategies, measures, policies, processes and outcomes that impact our lives.
When connected, we offer a collective wisdom and mighty determination that is unstoppable, far better than anything we could ever do on our own.
Through diverse modes of communication, internally and externally, we proactively aim to reach the broadest number of people possible. We build choice points in every program and offering. We create opportunities for information sharing, learning, and reciprocal feedback. We share information early and often.
We work ‘at the speed of trust,’ seeking ways to center those most deeply impacted by our actions. We acknowledge and embrace the risk and discomfort of learning. We commit to the practices of active listening, reflection, evaluation, adjustment, and repair. We evaluate our power - formally and informally - and act with a queer integrity, humility, and deference.
Individual actions impact the whole, so we hold ourselves and each other accountable to our commitments. We bring ourselves to work, and must take responsibility for all we bring.
As a small but growing, collaborative team, our effectiveness relies on being clear and explicit about our approach and capacity. We must communicate our priorities, limitations, and commitments. And then show up for it!
Self-care is a form of community care, and the difficulty of digging in is only possible when we are grounded, rested, and able to be fully present. Organizationally, we are dedicated to creating systems that support humanity and practices that invest in our people.
We don't seek assimilation into the systems that cause harm; we challenge and change the norms, relationships, and institutions that uphold oppression.
Assimilation is a tool of those in power to ensure obedience, yielded through inaction, silence, or even perpetration. Together, we can imagine and create new ways of being that set us all up for beautiful futures.
We must be willing to be changed by the truth of others, and in service to others’ truth, along the way. We practice being curious, having a growth mindset, and knowing we can’t - and should not - have all the answers.
An ethic in service to liberation is one that recognizes the importance of emergence and risk. We are striving for something more abundant than what we currently have, so experimenting and risk-taking are necessary. Youth ask that we not back down. Fearlessness is a strategy.
In order to build movements capable of transforming the world, we have to do our best to live with one foot in the world we have not yet created.
- Aurora Levins Morales