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LGBT center would offer services and safe space

Morgan Springer
Community members gather to hear about a proposed LGBT community center in Traverse City.

A group is working to open an LGBT community center in Traverse City. Around 60 people gathered to discuss the proposed center at a town hall meeting last night.


  The meeting began with a moment of silence for those killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday. Steph White, the executive director of Equality Michigan, talked about violence against the LGBT community.


"People attack us. They want us to go away," said White. "They want us to not be ourselves. Be quiet. 'I don't mind if you're gay, just don't go flaunting it.'"

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers says the LGBT community could use a space to gather. He says the biggest obstacle is money.

White said the most beautiful thing about events like the shooting in Orlando is watching how the LGBT community transforms that violence into peace and resolve. Mary Jo Schnell, executive director of the Outcenter of Southwest Michigan, said the Orlando shooting shows the need for an LGBT community center in Traverse City and in every community.

Polestar LGBT Center of Traverse City would offer support services, programs and a gathering space for the LGBT community in the five-county region.

Eddie Grim, chairman of Polestar's exploratory committee, shared the most recent results from a needs assessment survey taken by over 250 community members. He said the community says they need support services, like legal help or counseling.

"It’s heartbreaking," said Grim. "I’m part of a support group, and people come to the support group. They don’t know where to turn. They don’t know where to go for services. And the worst thing is I’m sitting there, and I’m not sure who to tell them to go to.”

The LGBT center could help remedy that while also providing a gathering place for the community, especially after an event like the Orlando shooting. 


Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.