"We are proud to announce that we are adding a new program to our arsenal of offerings aimed at eliminating fear and building a community that cares in Southwest Michigan", says Mary Jo Schnell, Executive Director of the OutCenter.
"This new effort", she continues, "will be in the form of a support group for transgender people, parents, partners, and families. While the OutCenter has supported the transgender community since the organization was established, this group, which will be co-facilitated by volunteer, licensed therapist Margo Runkle, (who will apply best practices from our successful Whole Lives, Healthy Lives program for LGBT), will take us to the next level." The Leage of Extraordinary Genders is open to people 18 and older, will meet at the OutCenter the first Thursday of each month from 7-9pm and it is free!
Co-founder of the group, Paula, a transgender woman, explains, "For most of my life, I was afraid to admit the reality of who I am to myself, much less reveal my true identity to my family, friends and colleagues. Sadly, the world can still be hostile toward transgendered persons. The worst part is the feeling that you face this hostility alone. The fact that a transgender person is often stripped of local access to the most basic human services, such as housing and healthcare, as well as suitable employment, amplifies the feeling of loneliness."
"Its that feeling of loneliness that we are trying to defeat, by showing transgender individuals that they are not alone", adds Natalie Mooney, Paula's co-founder in creating the support group and mom of a transgender teen. "We also want to help equip families to enable them to be informed and supportive." Paula agrees, adding "This new group provides a safe and welcoming place for folks, no matter where they fall on the gender spectrum, to share, to learn, and grow together".
The group is already underway, having met in May for the first time. Interested individuals are encouraged to call the OutCenter at (269) 925-8330 to find out more, or just come to a meeting. There is no sign up required. The next meeting will be on June 1st from 7-9pm at the OutCenter, located at 132 Water Street in downtown Benton Harbor, Michigan.