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BY AJ TRAGER
GRAND RAPIDS – As announced in mid-October, the Network, the LGBT community center in Grand Rapids, has undergone an ambitious restructuring.
The structure and progress of LGBT rights in the state has done everything but slow down. The DeBoer v Snyder case may see the Supreme Court of the United States and Michigan may have a bill pass this fall to include full, statewide LGBT protections. “Today, we have more rights than we have ever had, more acceptance and more allies, although many challenges remain, and it is clear these changes have not benefitted all LGBT people equally,” President of the Network, Mike Hemmingsen, wrote in a press release announcing changes to the Network.
As part of the restructuring of the center, some positions have been shifted. Mira Krishnan, who was hired on earlier this year as a board member, will become Chief Executive Director. Krishnan is a leader in autism diagnosis and treatment and brings non-profit administration and leadership, grant funding and strategic planning experience.
“We will recommit to lifting up those in our community who are struggling, recognizing that until all of us are safe, none of us are safe. We will continue to celebrate LGBT lives and loves. And we will take our rightful place as community stakeholders. We will reaffirm and increase our commitment as LGBT Grand Rapidians to making this a great city, to enhancing the stability and prosperity of our industry and our neighborhoods and to doing this for all people, gay and straight,” Krishnan said.
The Network will work towards solidifying groups for LGBT youth and transgender individuals, providing services for LGBT individuals with mental illness, fostering activities that nurture families and looking at areas of marginalization and how other factors affect LGBT people.
“It’s positive and exciting,” Volunteer Coordinator Larry DeShane said.
Krishnan wants the Network to host bigger and better Pride celebrations in Grand Rapids. Her and her team are comprising a calendar of events for the year that will be more aggressive, adding in stronger recognition for smaller communities like asexuals, demisexuals or a-romantics.
“We are continuing the idea that we need a different approach to get to where we are all included. If there is anything going on, we are involved; the LGBT community is involved,” Krishnan said.
Many LGBT community groups go through restructuring. Funding and board members are often shifted around and the mission statement changes in direction. Under Krishnan’s leadership, the Network has hired skilled young professionals to be leaders in the group and sought out people who had specific talents instead of following a traditionally board-motivated chain of command. The Network now has a clinician for support groups, an experienced event planner and non-profit professionals to handle media development.
A goal for the Network is to have enough staff to provide evening and holiday services to the community.
“It’s a work in process to develop evening help. And it’s easy to shut down on Christmas, but that’s when people need us the most,” Krishnan pointed out.
She feels the Grand Rapids LGBT community is still in the process of embracing visibility. Under her leadership, she plans on strengthening that.
“People ask me, ‘Are you crazy?’ As a trans person I am in a very unique position. Coming out as transgender, you can’t go back in the closet. If people know you, you are a known quantity. It means I am free to be an advocate. It’s a lot of work, but I don’t feel like, as an LGBT professional, that I can live without the LGBT community being represented well.”
“It is important for the Network. This is a visible commitment that this is about the entire LGBT community. We have lots of invested trans people; we launched a new membership program. It’s a new era. We do need to do more to have leadership and groups that represent the community, including racial diversity, and including all the letters (of LGBT).”