Only this January (2009), relatively smaller GLBTQIA groups merged (with the urging of Devon, Nikolai, Pepper, Takashi and Ivan) to form OUTBACK, a “clan” (often, an SMS-based group of GLBTQIAs/MSMs) that “aims to pursue what every person in the GLBTQIA community desires: Equality in human rights, (something) that PLUs (people like us) deserve,” says Nikolai, adding that “oneness, the strengthening of ties by building camaraderie” that the group is doing is “one of the best ways to attaining that goal.”
“At first, we started with only a small group of members. But after reaching about 30 members, the group kind of stalled in its progress, and we decided to invite small groups to merge with us. After that, our group started to get noticed in a certain community network Web site, and people who wanted to join started pouring in,” Nikolai recalls. “It was a bit troublesome (at first) since we were not very organized – too soon, the group grew too large for just two or three people to handle, so we decided to put some members who we thought were qualified into office, (while also dividing the group into) three divisions, with each division having a maximum of 50 members and a set of officers to handle them. Just recently, we formed yet another division since the applicants who want to join the group (continue to overflow).”
And thus far, the group is on its way to attaining its goal, as it now “has more or less 100 members, divided into four divisions: Smart Main Division, headed by Devon; Globe Main Division, headed by Pepper; Globe Extension Division, headed by Nikolai; and the Sun Main Division, headed by Takashi.”
As an SMS-based group, it should go without saying that most often, “we do SMS activities, where we ask the members to participate and answer the questions given out,” Nikolai says. This is a way for the members to interact – know each other better, even – with each other. “And when that happens, be ready for massive loads of SMS,” he adds, laughing.
Nonetheless, strengthening the ties among the members is largely done by holding GEBs (grand eye balls) “so each division could get to know all the members of the clan. We hold GEBs for the benefit of the members so they could interact with each other. But since we only do this once a month, it’s a festive (event to participate in),” Nikolai says.
The clan allows for some members to organize mini-GEBs, however, for smaller group interactions.
“Right now, we’re eyeing on a bigger picture which involves doing charity work for the less fortunate, doing good deeds so that other people might see that the GLBTQIA community isn’t just all about partying and having fun,” Nikolai says. Among others, the group is planning to “do some feeding program for street children and the less fortunate.”
Nikolai admits that “the plans are still raw, and we still have no idea where to start, but knowing ourselves, we think we can manage to do these things in time. It may take a while, but we’ll definitely get there. Hopefully, other groups like ours would also join in our plans so we could help out more less fortunate people without thinking of the prestige it’ll bring the group.”
The bigger focus for OUTBACK is, obviously, on the GLBTQIAs/MSMs themselves, particularly the clan members.
“We meet every week in any place we want to stay and we discuss a wide array of topics. Some members of OUTBACK are interested in cooking. Some are interested in spiritual matters and promoting peace. Some are interested in culture. Some are concerned about environmental issues. Some are interested in politics and activism. Some simply enjoy listening to discussions and learning new things. Like I’ve said, (we discuss) a wide array of topics,” Nikolai says.
On a bigger scale, OUTBACK is actually “planning on putting up an event to raise awareness on the general issues concerning the GLBTQIA community, mainly discrimination and issues regarding the rampant spread of HIV among the GLBTQIAs. We want PLUs to know that to be respected, we have to show everyone that we respect ourselves, and not just throw away our character like it was renewable. We want the GLBTQIAs to value their lives more and fight for what we rightfully deserve.”
It is in this that Nikolai sees the difference of OUTBACK to other clans. “We are different in a way that we aren’t just about meeting up to have fun. Of course, we can’t take the fun away whenever we meet up, but we think of the meeting as something like business with pleasure. We don’t just drink our hearts out, we meet so we could talk about issues in the clan, and we use the time we have to combine all of our ideas to formulate a good activity that will benefit us, the GLBTQIA community, and even the major (mainstream) community,” he says.
Nikolai is first to admit that “we pretty much still have a long way to go (as a group), considering we’re (only newly formed). We haven’t even outlined every problem (we may encounter as a group) at the moment, and while there are no major problems in the group, only minor ones, we expect a few bumps here and there as the group progresses,” he says. This early, though, “we can only assure members a sense of having a second family; a sense of camaraderie where they can get to know people of our kind and create a community where they will have a sense that they belong; a community where they can be themselves and a place where they will feel safe from the harsh scrutiny of the majority of the (heterosexual-identified) scene. Our group is a place for them to interact with people who they can open up to.”
And in that, being out back has never been better.
To join, or simply to get more information about OUTBACK, email email@example.com.