Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How did AlterHeros came about? Who’s idea was to create the organization? And who are the main founders?
A: I (Marc-Olivier) am a web designer and web developer. Ever since I learned to design websites, I thought that I should create one to help queer youth and those around them. When I took the “Leadership” course in management in my second year at McGill where I studied Computer Engineering, as part of my minor in Technological entrepreneurship, I got to create a “leadership development plan”, intended to help us become better leaders. I used this opportunity to elaborate, on paper, a similar project to AlterHeros. I did really well on this paper and decided the summer after to concretize this project.
I couldn’t have done AlterHeros by myself. My boyfriend at that time, Waseem, a McGill graduate in microbiology and immunology, and a Concordia MBA graduate, played an essential part. He believed in me and gave me the motivation that I needed to make this project happened. With him and the help of friends and family members, we started to research content, to develop our strategies and to make contact in the gay and lesbian community. In a few months, we had a good team of volunteers and a website almost ready to be launched.
Q: Why did you create such organization and what is your main goal?
R: One may be tempted to assume that to be gay, lesbian or bisexual (GLB) is easier than it was twenty-five years ago. Without a doubt, people’s mentality has evolved and measures have been adopted to make homosexuals feel more accepted in society. The recent decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in Canada is great news. But laws are one things, acceptance another. In fact, much prejudice still exists, discrimination is omnipresent, and the subject of homosexuality remains a taboo for many people from various cultural backgrounds and religions. In fact, homophobia can have devastating consequences. The issues faced by these young individuals are not inherent in homosexuality but a result of homophobia. These serious issues include low self-esteem, school drop-out, abusive alcohol and drugs consumptions, unsafe sex practices, depression and sadly, suicide.
To counter this violence, it is necessary to take concrete action. We believe that it is through education and communication, i.e. by demystifying homosexuality and homophobia, that it will be possible to create a more open-minded and accepting society to sexual diversity. Hence, we decided in the summer of 2002 to build an interactive bilingual website that strives to increase the public’s awareness with regard to these issues. We chose to use the Internet because it offers and serves an excellent medium for information – it is anonymous and easy to access for most people. It is particularly well-suited for teenagers that are questioning or denying their homosexuality and/or prefer to remain anonymous.
We realized that there were very few web sites offering good quality bilingual content on the web. Moreover, none of the existing sites offered a complete bilingual platform geared to homosexual youth, their friends & family, and educators on topics ranging from confronting discrimination, harassment, and homophobia at school to educating & informing about relationships, safe sex and more. We seized this opportunity and created www.AlterHeros.com.
Q: Are you working with other organizations in Montreal?
A: Our philosophy involves reaching out to and working with other local, national, and international community groups that share the same vision as ours and/or serve the GLBTQ community. Over the years, we’ve worked with many organizations and groups which include Gai Écoute, ÉMISS-ère, Jeunesse-Lambda, Project 10, GRIS-Montréal, Gay Line, Structu.re, Aids Community Care of Montreal (ACCM), and the Canadian Health Network, to name a few. AlterHéros is also a founding member of the Montreal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia.
Through our collaborative relationships, we have not only been able to reach a larger audience, but we have also been able to further assist the groups we work with in advancing their respective missions and objectives. We are very proud to have been able to persuade all these groups to collaborate.
At first, many of the groups were apprehensive, but slowly understood that it is by combining our efforts and resources that we will reach our goals. In fact, AlterHeros.com is a platform that complements all other organizations services. AlterHeros offers a tool via a new media, the Internet, to increase their outreach and their impact, to convey their messages and to increase their visibility, beyond their normal reach.
Q: How do you hope to help individual members of the gay community? And the community as a whole?
A: We do know that AlterHeros is making a big difference in the life of many young people. We know by our statistics. Each year, close to 1 million people visit our website, coming from over 130 different countries. These are impressive numbers for web-based organizations, even more for none-profit, run by youth. We are really pround.
AlterHeros.com is much more than simply a website: it is an indispensable tool to help inform and empower youth, as well as their parents, friends, teachers, and youth workers. This unique project for Québec, and Canada, aims to directly support teenagers of varied sexual orientations or sexual identities so that they feel fully accepted in our society and are fully accepted in our society. With global recognition, AlterHeros is an established site that emphasizes and promotes Canada’s International role as a leader in open values. In 2004, we were awarded the Forces AVENIR award in the category “Society, education and communication”. In 2010, we won Outstanding Group of the Year at the Gala Arc-en-ciel. This was awesome!
Q: Do you have a functioning office in the city now? How many people are working for AlterHeros and are all volunteers?
A: Currently, our headquarters are based in the Montreal Gay and Lesbian Community Center. But in fact, we don’t really need a physical office since all our activities are performed through our website. All our volunteers have an exclusive access to our administration site where we can update virtually everything on our portal.
AlterHeros is entirely volunteer run. Our Board of Directors is composed of 5 to 10 people who take care of our different services. We can count on various teams: outreach, editorial, development, promotion, animation and other special committees. In the past, we’ve also received three internship students from Concordia for a year-long internship. This was a great experience for us and Concordia students, and we hope to continue this year.
Q: What is the Mutual Aid Network?
A: Our Mutual-Aid network is a database of other organizations that can offer help and support for GLBT people and their peers. It includes hundreds of associations, groups and websites.
Q: What other activities do you have?
A: Most of our services are offered through our website, but we also organized three times a year the AlterHeros Retreats. Those are special days dedicated to our members, new and current volunteers. We have special trainings, guest speakers and fun activities for all. We also often organized fundraising events, happy hours for our volunteers and we are quite involved in the various gay prides in Canada. We are always looking for new volunteers, so if you want to help out, drop us a line by email!
Q: What is the most memorable response you’ve received from an individual who has consulted the web site?
A: We receive a lot of positive feedback from our visitors. In fact, last year, we decided to create a “guestbook” to showcase these comments. Comments such as : “Hi! I just want to say that this is such an awesome site! Some of the things in here are so touching. This site has also helped me in more than just one way. I love this site!” really motivate us.