story and photo by Tricia Dewey
“[OUTMemphis] is ready to jump into new growth, new services, new mission,
new work that we can do.”
This year, OUTMemphis is celebrating its 30th year in existence as the only center of its kind within a 150-mile radius of Memphis. Thirty years ago it was a volunteer- based organization. Now it delivers many services to the LGBTQ+ community with a staff of 10. Since March 2019 that staff has included Molly Quinn, the new executive director, who Jonathan Ealy, Board Chairman says, “brings a great vibrancy of knowledge, ideas, and skills that we as an organization believe are paramount at this particular stage of our growth and development.”
Quinn had been at a crossroads in her career that would eventually bring her back to Memphis. She grew up in Memphis, graduated from St. Mary’s Episcopal School, left Memphis for college and graduate school and eventually settled in New York City. She worked there most recently at the famous Housing Works bookstore, a nonprofit that fights HIV and homelessness. Eventually she decided to return to Memphis after 12 years away and studied ways to make an impact in her hometown. First, she brought her literary background to Memphis founding the Center for Southern Literary Arts, culminating in the first Memphis Literary Arts Festival held in June 2017. When she first heard about the Executive Director job opening at OUTMemphis, she thought, “wow, that’s a really interesting job for someone.” Her partner, Mac Watts, encouraged her to consider it and knew that Quinn would be a great fit.
Quinn says that what excited her about the job was the potential of the position to add to the great work already being done by OUTMemphis. “The organization is at a precipice of opportunity” and they are “ready to jump into new growth, new services, new mission, new work that we can do.” That means expanding their work in HIV to eliminate the growth in numbers of new HIV cases in the South. The HIV picture is a “clear racial, economic justice issue and Martavius [Hampton] is a leader in the country and the region for what he’s provided, and we hope to simply grow those programs and reach as many people as possible.”
Youth services is also an important focus. Quinn says, “being in schools and helping schools and churches and families be affirming places for young queer people is the best investment we can make for the future of our community.” Reaching more youth may eventually decrease the need for the Metamorphosis project, OUTMemphis’ first LGTBQ youth shelter. The Metamorphosis project, spearheaded by Housing Program Director Stephanie Reyes, broke ground in March and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 to directly address the worsening homeless crisis among LGTBQ youth. It will have four rooms and will be an emergency shelter for LGBTQ youth, including a drop-in space, and also provide wrap- around services for youth.
Quinn’s energy for her new position is palpable and she will add to the growing network of Memphis progressive community workers who care deeply about improving the city across all intersections. “OUTMemphis has so much more that we can offer and will offer….Part of the reason I came to this job is that I think every major city needs a powerful LGBTQ community that is a truly embedded piece of every aspect of civic life, and I hope to help this organization be the tool to help our community that way.”