Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Rapids resident Colleen McFawn found herself inspired by her own life experiences to create a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community.
She formed True North Coaching Services (TNCS) in October 2020 and has since expanded to provide an outlet for members and allies of the LGBTQ community. With her creative partner Ashley Whitehurst, McFawn opened a safe space for people to ask questions, be educated and talk.
TNCS allows any question to be asked, even if the person asking the question is afraid it may be seen as offensive.
McFawn said one of the reasons she started this company is because this is a resource she wished was around when she was younger. Now a member of the LGBTQ community, she came out in 2013.
“I didn’t know who to talk to about things if there was a service where I could just ask questions one on one with someone,” she said of her experience coming out. “I thought, I don’t really know, I don’t think I need psychology, I don’t think I need counseling, but I just have questions, and I need someone to help me answer those.”
TNCS started with just one-on-one coaching sessions, which eventually evolved into the LGBTQIA+ Compass Series, a four-week series that covers every letter in the LGBTQIA+ acronym with a group of people who signed up.
The first week covers lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB), the second week covers transgender and queer (TQ), the third week covers intersex, asexual and everything included in the plus (IA+), and the fourth week covers the history of Pride. Customers can pick and choose which sessions they would like to attend. Along with covering certain letters from the acronym, each series also has an overarching topic like health disparities, stereotypes and generational differences.
“The cool part is I’ve had a lot of people who just come to the T and the Q, and then they’re like ‘What does the IA+ stand for?’ so they also sign up for the next week,” McFawn said.
She said the name for True North Coaching Services was inspired by the idea that life is an adventure and when one is seeking their “true north” they’re seeking their true self, so TNCS is a way for seeking clarity and seeking one’s true self.
McFawn added the tagline for the company is “Get Your Bearings” so people can figure out where they’re at, where they want to go and what they want to learn. The name for the LGBTQIA+ Compass Series falls underneath the same umbrella.
“I want to help you navigate the community,” McFawn said. “Am I an expert? No, but I am a tour guide that is willing to answer questions and have conversations.”
Before forming her company, she went to film school and eventually became an occupational therapist, which is where she had the first idea for what would eventually become True North Coaching Services.
“When people found out that I was part of the LGBT community, everybody had a lot of questions,” McFawn said of her work as an OT. “It was just kind of a lightbulb moment, and I don’t think it was until furlough that I really had a chance to sit and think about what I want to do in this world.”
“When someone’s been in an accident, someone was born with a condition or whatever it is that they come to me for, I help them be more independent (as an occupational therapist). Sometimes our sexual identity, gender identity or whatever we’re questioning can have barriers because we don’t feel like we can be our full independent selves in every environment. My training has helped me to hone that craft and find the value in everyday life and everyday people.”
A Rochester Hills native, McFawn has lived in multiple places around the U.S. and Canada, worked in the arts and sciences and worked for big corporations and small private companies.
True North Coaching Services has the opportunity to be a part of Michigan’s new implicit bias training that is required for all health care workers to receive their state licensure. The “Implicit Bias Training” session is available on TNCS’s website. The session includes two contact hours with a certificate of completion that meets the current required training criteria.
Starting TNCS has come with several new opportunities for McFawn, including signing a contract with David’s Bridal, where she’ll be a part of its Pride Speaker Series and will be able to speak on ways to be an ally to the community.
McFawn advised those struggling with their identity to find someone you trust to talk about it.
“Find someone that you think is safe and start talking. Start to find communities out there so you don’t feel as alone, start doing something other than just sitting with it,” she said.