Tis' the season, if you are looking for an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Christmas Eve Church Service.Read More
Let me start out by saying how honored I am to be taking on the Executive Director role at the Grand Rapids Pride Center (GRPC). Approaching its 30th birthday in 2018, I am extremely excited to be joining an organization that has for so long empowered and offered support and resources to the Grand Rapids LGBTQ+ community.
A Bit About Me
I am originally from North Carolina and moved to Michigan in 2012 to attend grad school at Grand Valley State University. For the last 5 years, I have worked at Hope Network in Grand Rapids as the Director of Children’s Residential Services.
My time at Hope has taught me that my true passion lies in advocacy and empowering underrepresented and vulnerable populations; this is what I’m looking forward to bringing to the GRPC.
My Vision for the Grand Rapids Pride Center
These are exciting times for the GRPC and I believe we are poised to grow significantly in the next 3-5 years as we begin to form new partnerships and expand our services being offered. I’m looking forward to getting the internal operations working smoothly and effectively, and building upon the great work that our staff and volunteers have already been doing!
Long term, my goals for the GRPC include...
Strategic placement of the GRPC to better align with the unique needs of our community.
Continued advocacy and support through services offered.
Engagement with community initiatives and projects that will work to further support our Grand Rapids LGBTQ community.
Increased partnerships with communities beyond our own.
Grand Rapids and Beyond
On a local level, we will continue to be that safe space in the community for those who need it while also exploring how we can take a larger role in advocacy, policy development, and education.
Looking beyond our local community, the GRPC will utilize partnerships and resources it already has to ensure we are doing our part in creating safe spaces across our state; this includes community coalitions, data collection, and training and education.
I am so excited to be joining an organization that works so hard every day to create a community that is accepting, educated, and safe.
I look forward to getting started, and I welcome anyone to stop by and visit!
Thomas Pierce, LLMSW, MPA
Grand Rapids Pride Center
Peter M. Kulas local author of Aberration tells the Grand Rapids Pride Center about his debut novel.Read More
Big Tobacco companies know that marginalized groups are more likely to smoke, so they target LGBTQ people with advertisements for cigarettes. Additionally, smoking is even more dangerous to those living with HIV, as it can weaken the immune system and worsen HIV related health complications.
Here are five facts about how smoking affects the LGBTQ Community and some helpful resources. All information was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, visit their website.
1. Nearly 1 in 4 LGB people smoke cigarettes, whereas 1 in 6 straight people smoke.
2. The Transgender Community is at a high risk of smoking due to the higher rates of HIV, substance abuse and depression associated with the stress of daily discrimination.
3. Over 30,000 LGBTQ people die each year of cigarette related illnesses.
4. Cigarettes can affect the health and appearance of your skin, teeth, nails and mouth.
5. LGBTQ people are less likely to be aware of smoking quitlines and less likely to receive the help they need to quit smoking.
For help quitting contact the MDHHS quitline:
If you have HIV and need help quitting, contact Fonda Kingsley of the Red Project:
If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at the Grand Rapids Pride Center:
by Annaka Koster
Weybridge Hill Cemetery is a triangular lot of grass and weeds wedged between two country roads in the middle of western Vermont. A couple lies buried there under a single, unassuming headstone. Its raised letters, embossed at the extra expense of the interreds’ relatives, spell out all the usual details included on a 19th-century gravestone: the names of the dead, their dates of death, the ages at which they died, and even the names of their fathers. The two died seventeen years apart--the first in 1851 and the second in 1868--but spent the majority of their adult lives living and working under the same roof. Their names were Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake, and they had been, in their own understanding and the understanding of their community, married since 1807.
Charity Bryant was born in North Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in the midst of the American Revolution. Throughout her early years, the Bryant family felt the war’s financial burdens as well as its physical ones. Their youngest daughter, Charity was an intelligent woman and disinterested in traditional marriage, remaining single well into her twenties. That aversion to marriage, as well as her proclivity towards intimate friendships with other women, caused her to be dogged by gossip and accusations against her character. She moved constantly and quickly left areas as soon as the rumors grew too much to bear. It wasn’t until 1807 that she finally ended up in Weybridge, Vermont, where she would spend the rest of her life. Well-educated and an excellent seamstress, Charity brought class and much-needed skills to the frontier town, but it wasn’t financial or social opportunities that convinced her to stay.
Sylvia Drake was born in 1784 to a poor but healthy family in Massachusetts. While the Revolutionary War and its aftermath took a financial toll on the Drake family, all of its members survived the conflict. Like Charity, Sylvia spent her early years indifferent towards traditional marriage. As women were outnumbered in frontier towns, there were plenty of prospects for Sylvia, but she seemed contentedly averse to marriage, a condition her family eventually accepted. Sylvia, it seemed, was destined to remain single. That was, of course, before Charity Bryant came to town.
In 1807, Sylvia “consented to be my help-meet and came to be my companion,” Charity wrote in 1844. It might seem like a simple sentence to our twenty-first century ears, but it implied so much more. For much of human history, mutual “consent” was all that was needed to cement a marriage. Even more telling than that word is the presence of the phrase “help-meet,” a common early American synonym for “wife.” Charity and Sylvia shared a home, a business, and were respected members of their small community, a community that recognized them as a couple. In his memoirs, a local community member would write, “Miss Bryant and Miss Drake were married to each other.”
“The past is a foreign country,” novelist L.P. Hartley wrote in 1953. “They do things differently there.” It’s one of the first things budding historians--professional and amateur alike--need to learn. We love to draw lessons and morals from the past; it’s one of the main justifications many use for the importance of history instruction in schools. History repeats itself, or so we like to say. Whether it does or not, the past is a foreign country, even when that past takes place in our own nation. What was and worked in the past cannot be universally applied to our lives today. Charity and Sylvia’s story is important, but we need to be careful how we apply any “lessons” from their story to our modern world.
So what can we learn from these two frontier women? Charity and Sylvia’s story is only now coming to light because of a 2014 book by historian and University of Victoria professor Rachel Cleves. As some have noted, Cleves’s book is a lot like early works of feminist history; it’s more reclamation than interpretation. Charity was especially cautious when it came to her personal documents, probably a holdover from the unspoken accusations she experienced as a young woman. It’s only through some impressive historical Sherlocking that we have their stories at all.
In a 2014 interview with The Boston Globe, Cleves gives two important implications that Charity and Sylvia’s relationship has for the modern LGBT community specifically and for modern people in general. First, it’s an important counterpoint to the notion that gay marriage is a radically new idea in the modern Western world. While stories like Charity and Sylvia’s were uncommon, they did exist. In other words, LGBT people and same-sex marriages existed in the past. It’s an obvious point to make, but one that is nevertheless important and often forgotten.
Second, Charity and Sylvia’s relationship showcases the importance of continuing the struggle for equal rights. The two were able to make a life for themselves in Weybridge; they were even recognized as being married by the members of their community. Their marriage, however, was not a legal one. It was a fragile arrangement that was entirely dependant on the good opinion of their neighbors. They were able to maintain their relationship only through conscientious effort and constant community service. Without legal protections, any turn of bad luck could destroy their reputations--and their union--forever.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 was obviously an enormous step for the LGBT community, but it’s also not the end of the fight. Perhaps the last thing we can take from Charity and Sylvia’s story, then, is the importance of remembering. People are important. Ordinary people are important. It’s not just the Oscar Wildes and the Virginia Woolfes that deserve remembrance; it’s the ordinary LGBT people who lived and worked and struggled throughout history, people like Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake.
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Annaka Koster is currently a student at Calvin College, where she studies the dead things and books. She also likes video games, board games, sushi, bragging about her semester abroad at Oxford University, writing things, reading things, and talking about herself in the third person. On alternative days, she is obsessed with/hates puns.
“Editorials on “Community Voices” are meant to give voice to all aspects of the LGBTQ community in and around West Michigan. However, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Grand Rapids Pride Center or official policies of Grand Rapids Pride Center. All comments are expected to remain civil or they will be deleted at the sole discretion of Grand Rapids Pride Center. Click HERE for Grand Rapids Pride Center’s full editorial policy. ”
We are always looking for more local LGBTQ voices. If you are interested in contributing to the Grand Rapids Pride Center Blog email firstname.lastname@example.org
Grand Rapids Pride Center MSW Intern and co-facilitator for the Young Adults Group, Aubree (Aubs) tells us why Black History Month is important to her.
Today more than ever, it is important that we celebrate the acomplishments made by the LGBTQ Black and African American community. It is past time for us to awkwnowledge these civil rights activists, pioneers, and outspoken leaders, so that they are no longer left out of our shared history. Their contributions and sacrifices have led us to where we are today.Read More
Looking for an LGBTQ affirming Christmas Church Service?Read More
We are OVERJOYED! Tuesday's fundraising event for youth programming at the GRPC generated over $1300! We are so grateful for our partners at The B.O.B. who made this possible, and for all who attended!Read More
The Grand Rapids Public Library is thrilled to be doing a series of guest posts for the GR Pride Center! Once a month, Library staff will be sharing their recommendations of new and interesting LGBTQ materials. We love talking about books, movies, how to get that streaming music onto your phone or tablet, what the best diverse graphic novel is of the month and so much more! Some of the titles we recommend may also be available through the Pride Center’s Library collection. Check it out by visiting or going to their Learning Center .Read More
Dear Community Member, Read More
In light of the current political climate, the Grand Rapids Pride Center would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our support for the community...
Guest contributor and LGBTQ+ME Facilitator discusses her struggle with coming out again and again to family, to co-workers, and the interesection between LGBTQ and mental health.Read More
Guest contributor, Davison Sarai Nicholas MA, LLPC, CAADC discusses why reading the comments on social media may be getting just a little bit easier.Read More
Guest contributor Jaime Wise offers support and advice on "How To Be A Proper Asexual."Read More
March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility. To Celebrate the annual holiday, Grand Rapids Pride Center asked some of our Out and Proud Transgender community members, "What advice would you give to trans and non-binary youth?"
Be true to yourself first and foremost. Sometimes it can be very difficult to be true to yourself, but in the end, I promise, it's worth it.
Second, just as people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, so does identity. Never let anyone tell you how to look, how to dress, or how to be you. There is no such thing as not being trans enough.
And finally, reach out. There are so many of us in the community - trans, non-binary, even cisgender individuals - who want to help, who are willing to help, and who want to see you succeed. We're here, come talk to us.
I recommend seeking out blog posts, articles, and videos by other trans/non-binary people to experience that representation. Representation for folks like us is incredibly important since our identities and experiences are so often invalidated as confusion or a phase. I'd also encourage you to document your experiences, whether you choose to share them or keep them to yourself. Your journey is important.
I'd also like to take a moment to point out some really, really important things that I wish someone had told me when I was trying to figure things out for myself. Your presentation does not invalidate your identity. Your interest or lack of interest in medical transition does not invalidate your identity. Don't worry about fitting anyone's idea of how you should look, act, or feel. Focus on being comfortable in your own skin and on loving your body and how it works. You know who you are, or if you don't, you'll figure it out. Don't let anybody's interpretation of who you are define you or drag you down. You are valid.
Never be ashamed of who you are! You are beautiful, and capable of anything you put your mind to. Never let anyone bring you down because you do not fit their idea of who you should be. Be you! Love you!
You are real, you are valid, and your instincts are more important than anyone else's opinion. Let yourself be yourself, and know that most people are not going to understand or know what to do, but your love for yourself is the most beautiful and important thing. You will find community. We are out there. I am here, and I do not even have to know you to love you. I believe you, and I trust your intuition. We all need you to be you. Thank you for being you.
Trans youth already know that it's going to be hard. The world isn't ready for us, and most people can't or won't understand us. You may very well not get the acceptance and support that you want and deserve from everyone you love. It's sad and unfair, but it's probably true. Be yourself anyway. Through struggle, through adversity, through heartbreak - be yourself anyway. There is no other choice. I've seen too many late aged adults who say they regret never being honest, never allowing themselves to truly live. Don't waste your life. Don't waste another second. There are people who believe in us and will support us. Find them, and above all else find yourself. Be brave.
I don't know if it's advice or not...try to find ways to show yourself love, self care is important. If your family of origin isn't supportive, look for support from others. embrace the fact that you are a wonderful, glittery unicorn and you don't have to fit into someone else's mold or expectations.
You know yourself better than anyone. It is your body, your transition, your life. Do it your way.
LGBTQ Supportive Businesses
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Become very comfortable and proud of yourself. It takes a pretty big amount of courage to be who YOU are, take self defense classes, also...go buy some good headphones. They help you drown out the idiots
What advice would you give to trans and non-binary youth?
If you would like to contribute your answer to our living document email Jason
To celebrate Women's History Month, a list has been compiled of some of history's most influential women who identified as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. These women were incredibly brave and were highly successful and respected for their individual work. Unfortunately, many of these women were unable to be completely out in their identity due to the time in which they lived. All the listed women are icons in women's history, as well as members of the LGBT community. These women should be recognized for their accomplishments, and many for their activist work, that has helped to shape the world we live in today.Read More
Why do we need this space? Why does the Trans* (nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, transgender) community need a space held solely for them? Why does the Queer (queer, asexual, pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay) community need a space held for, made up of, and taught by them? The simple answer is, there isn’t space for us already. There aren’t yoga classes for or inclusive to trans and queer folks in our area already, so I made them.Read More
Grand Rapids Pride Center celebrates LGBTQ Black and African American civil rights activists, pioneers, and outspoken leaders for their contributions in our fight for equality.Read More
***Trigger Warning - This article contains graphic language and imagery. If you are bothered by language of a mature sexual nature or pertaining to self-harm or mutilation, this article may be distressing for you.Read More
Children's book author, AJ McKeever, talks about what the inspiration behind their book, My Favorite Color, their advice for new writers, and more.Read More