LGBTQ+ groups merge on the lakeshore
The LGBTQ+ community and its allies may have an easier time finding resources within West Michigan’s Lakeshore, as PFLAG and Out On The Lakeshore (OOTL) merge to streamline efforts of support.
The groups have been working towards the same goal for years: Offering education and assistance to the Pride community and its allies. PFLAG will dissolve into OOTL, the largest organization of its kind in the lakeshore area. OOTL Director, Jeffrey Sorensen, said the move will make resources more accessible, by putting them all under one roof.
“Though we do focus on technically different audiences there’s a huge overlap. While they focus on the family and parents and friends of the LGBTQ+ community, they’ve also have consistently had people who are part of the community join their programming,” Sorensen said.
While PFLAG’s local chapter will surrender its name, its mission to educate and support allies of LGBTQ+ people will continue through the Family and Friends program under OOTL. Gender SAFE, a support program within PFLAG, will also be accessible under the new ownership.
“We can combine messaging. We can combine all resources that we have. While the programming itself won’t necessarily change, it’s great that we’re finally able to be together as one cohesive organization,” Sorensen said.
Both groups previously had efforts focused on expanding the City of Holland’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include the LGBTQ+ community, a measure which was passed in August of 2020. However, Sorensen said work in West Michigan isn't done, which was made more evident by a threatening message the group received on their website this month.
"It definitely brings some concern. OOTL has never received messages like that in the past, so it’s the first time for us. Those messages are out there, and we don’t necessarily always hear about them, but it’s important to note that they are happening, and it’s only further proof that social justice and the work that groups like OOTL are doing is essential," Sorensen said.
OOTL isn't disclosing the message, but Sorensen said he knows of three other pride organizations who received similar threats. One of the targets was the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan, who made a statement on Facebook Wednesday. Both groups reported the message to authorities.