30 Years Of OYM: Faces Of Odyssey
Over the last thirty years, countless individuals have contributed to make Odyssey what it is today. From youth participants who shaped the space to famous faces who brought awareness to Odyssey's mission of equity for LGBTQ+ youth in the Inland Northwest, let's take a look at a few folks from Odyssey's history.
Featured Alumni: Jacobi Groomer
Image Description: A selfie of Odyssey alumni Jacobi Groomer. She has reddish-brown hair, blue eyes, and an eyebrow piercing. They are wearing a gray hoodie and a gold flower necklace.
Jacobi Groomer (she/her, they/them) started attending Odyssey in 2005. "At school I never really fit in, so when I made the choice to stand out and be me, my sisters friend told me how weird I was," Jacobi said in a recent alumni survey, "but she knew of a place 'where all the weirdos hang out'."
While attending Odyssey's youth programs, Jacobi enjoyed all the group activities with peers who understood her; Odyssey's recreational space was particularly enjoyable "[because] we were just around people who accepted and knew what we were going though. Growing up queer, I needed to be heard and to feel accepted. So many of us walked around thinking that we are alone and that no one cared."
Jacobi carries the lessons she learned at Odyssey through life. "Because of my time at Odyssey, I know that even when I feel alone, I am not, and I am proud to say that has positively impacted all aspects of my life. I can stand up for myself and others around me; my voice is loud and strong and I get to use it to help youth and families find their voice. I do just that at work and in my personal life."
"I want [today's youth] to learn that who they are matters and your voice is as loud as you make it. Today's youth are fearless and will stand up for their rights in ways that I only wish I could have. Our fight for equal rights will never be over, and as our youth grow stronger we need to remember what it was like to carry that weight at a young age and support them in any way they need us to."
Famous Faces: Jeffrey Marsh
Image Description: A picture of transgender activist Jeffrey Marsh standing with Odyssey's former Director of Advocacy & Education Sevan Bussell in April 2017. They are standing outside of Odyssey's drop-in center in the South Perry district of Spokane, on the deck and in front of Odyssey's old rainbow sign. Jeffrey has short brown hair and is wearing a leather jacket over a brown cardigan, with a blue, tan, red & white scarf. Sevan has short blue and purple hair and is wearing glasses and a blue button-up with a darker blue skirt.
For many LGBTQ+ folks, Jeffrey Marsh is a household name. Their videos, first posted on Instagram and YouTube and now on Tiktok, range from education on gender to affirmations for their fellow trans folks. In April 2017, Jeffrey visited Spokane to speak at Whitworth University's Pride Club and stopped by Odyssey for a visit. They're pictured above with Sevan Bussell, Odyssey's former Director of Advocacy & Education. Odyssey posted later in the day, thanking Jeffrey "for the positivity and support you send into the world...and for showing us how to be ourselves."
Featured Alumni: Emerald "Fitz" Fitzpatrick
Image Description: A selfie of Odyssey alumni Emerald "Fitz" Fitzpatrick. They have dark brown hair swept to one side and gold hoop earrings and are smiling at the camera. They're wearing a red shirt and a silver necklace.
For many years, Odyssey advertised its' programs almost entirely through word of mouth; and when Emerald "Fitz" Fitzpatrick started attending Odyssey in 2010, it was because a friend had invited them. As is the case for many LGBTQ+ youth who found their way to Odyssey via peers, Fitz "especially loved meeting other queer youth and just having a safe space to make friends."
While some of the needs of local LGBTQ+ youth have changed over the years, one thing that hasn't is the need for programs that provide what many LGBTQ+ youth often aren't getting in the classroom and at home. "When I attended Odyssey as a youth, a huge need was safe space [and] inclusive sex education," Fitz said in their alumni survey. Those exact resources, safe spaces and education, give LGBTQ+ youth "the freedom to fully explore, to change [their] minds, and to be safe." In addition, the need for a youth-friendly space to obtain gender affirming clothes was as consistent in the early 2010s as it is now. "During my brief time working at Odyssey in 2013, we saw a huge need for gender affirming clothing and I think that is still a huge need today."
Fitz has continued to live out their experiences of Odyssey's mission in their work as a therapist. "Being at Odyssey as a youth really solidified that my queerness was important to my identity and being so cared for as a youth there made me want to give back as an adult which is why I'm a therapist that specializes in helping LGBTQ+ people. There is something really special about being a part of an institution like OYM and knowing there is decades of community before and after you. "
Jacobi, Jeffrey, and Fitz are just a few of the countless folks who've been involved in Odyssey's legacy in one way or another. We're grateful to our Odyssey alumni, staff, and board members both current and former, as well as the Spokane community for their work to support Odyssey's mission of promoting equity for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults right here in the Inland Northwest.
Do you or someone you know have an Odyssey story to share? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add your story to the Odyssey archive!
Interested in Odyssey's programs and resources? Join us for drop-in! Open to youth ages 13-18 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 3-8PM and young adults ages 18-24 on Thursdays from 5-9PM. Visit our website at odysseyyouth.org/programs or email us at email@example.com for more information.