When LGBTQ lakeshore residents and visitors want to find resources and community, a community center on Holland’s south side serves as home base. Since 2017, the nonprofit agency Out On The Lakeshore has operated there as the only agency of its kind in the lakeshore communities in Ottawa and Muskegon counties. Its goal is to foster a safe, open and accepting environment for the LGBTQ community.
Q: What needs does Out on the Lakeshore address?
Kate Leighton-Colburn: We serve as a space for support and resources for the LGBTQ+ community in the lakeshore area. We find that it’s still important because we’re still fighting for a lot of rights for people — in this area, and nationally.
Q. How does your agency respond?
A. We provide a whole host of services. Our support groups are very well attended. Probably our most noticeable impact is with Holland PRIDE, the festival we host every June. It’s really a way for the LBGTQ+ community and allies to come together in celebration. I think that’s sometimes lacking. We can talk about the challenges of the work, but I think what people find the most refreshing about an organization like Out On The Lakeshore is that it’s a place of celebration, where people come together as a community.
There’s an advocacy piece of the work that’s so important right now. I hope we work our way out of that job eventually. The community space will always be important.
Q. Please tell us about other programs you offer.
A. Aged with Pride is our group for people 55 and older. It’s a peer space where LGBTQ folks can come together and share common experiences. Sometimes space for the aging community is kind of left out of the conversation, even though the folks in the aging community are the reason we’re here! They’ve been in the forefront of this work for so very long, before it was even a conversation that was really talked about. There are shared experiences.
Q. How can people become involved, or support your work?
A. Come to one of our community events: a monthly Pride event, like painting nights, movie nights, book club, game nights. Come hang out and meet the folks. And the PRIDE festival (on June 24 at Holland’s Centennial Park) is a big production — we need a lot of support with lead-up events and on the day of the festival, like setting up and manning tables.
The role of allies is huge and always has been. PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) are allies of loved ones who are LBGTQ and recognized that there needed to be a space for their loved ones — and allies of them — to come together. The whole point is to make being a member of the LGBTQ community normative in a way that it wasn’t always.
For more information visit outonthelakeshore.org.