Focus groups explore past, future of state’s LGBT organization

By |2010-04-01T09:00:00-04:00April 1st, 2010|News|

by Jessica Carreras

FERNDALE – The organization formed by the merger between the Triangle Foundation and Michigan Equality held a series of focus groups over March 26-29 in order to gather anonymous input from a vast number of LGBT leaders and community members. The groups were held in Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Traverse City and were facilitated by independent consultants, who spurred conversation on a number of topics relating to the groups’ pasts, as well as the community’s hopes for the future of the new organization.
Full details about the information gathered at the focus groups will be released by the organization within the next couple of weeks, along with the official new name.
The focus group held at Affirmations community center in Ferndale on March 26, which Between The Lines attended, brought together over 20 community leaders to discuss their thoughts on such topics as the merger, impressions from each organization and its staff and what they consider to be the top priorities of the community. Opinions were voiced anonymously, with Clarence Patton, head of the Pipeline Project in New York, acting as a moderator.
Political action on a number of bills was a big bullet point, including amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, passing anti-bullying and second-parent adoption legislation and enacting a statewide employment anti-discrimination policy.
“We can’t all afford to (lobby in Lansing) and it’s important that someone is speaking for us and building those relationships at the capitol that some of us can’t do far away from Lansing or don’t have the budget to do that,” remarked one participant.
Another large issue requiring attention, participants agreed, was communication between groups, individuals and allies. “Right now, the information is not getting to the people that need it,” a participant said. “Within groups, within departments or in organizations, we don’t talk to each other, by and large, and it’s very difficult to get information; it’s very difficult to get communication.

“Communication has got to be two ways and it’s got to be better than it is now.”
Other issues brought up as needing improvement included advocacy for LGBT elders, involvement of ally groups, holding events with appeal to a larger base of the community and a need for the new organization to take action statewide.
There was significant discussion throughout the meeting as to whether the new organization should focus on political or social efforts. In the past, the Triangle Foundation has done both, spending time lobbying in Lansing for bills while also working to organize events such as Motor City Pride, the Comedy Fest and the Reel Pride Film Festival, which was not held last year.
Participants of the Ferndale focus group agreed that the events were positive, but argued as to whether they should be under the realm of the new organization’s work. “It seems like the current organization spends a lot of time doing service-related projects,” one person said. “If you want to be an advocacy organization, you need to focus your attention in Lansing and getting involved in more case work. Maybe (service is) something better handled by the community centers.”
Triangle Foundation Fund Development and Communications Director Heidi Lovy said that all focus groups were well attended, though official numbers have not been released. Triangle staff members were also required to go through a similar process of looking at where they stand and what they think the community’s goals should be.

Watch Between The Lines for more details about the focus groups and how they will shape the future of LGBT advocacy in Michigan.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.