By Meg Peters
A group of local residents has formed to support and empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals (LGBTQ) in Orion Township.
Friends, family and everyone who wants to be involved may attend their first social event, the LGBTQ Social, on May 4 in the Gaelic Room of the Clansman Pub at Canterbury Village. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and will last until 8:30 p.m.
The objective is like many of those for other support groups in Orion Township.
“It’s just providing the place and opportunity for people to be in support and friendship,” Lisa Goyette said. “It’s just compassion, with the knowledge that who they are is okay. They are cared about and their lives matter.”
Goyette created the group. She has lived in Orion Township for the past 18 years, has a Bachelor’s degree in social work, is a transgender activist and ally and is the mother of a transgender teenage son.
“A lot of people have never met a transgender person, let alone a gay person, so they don’t have anything to base it on,” she said.
One of the most common assumptions, she said, was that people assume being transgender is a choice.
“People can make assumptions that are grossly incorrect. We just want the community to know that LGBTQ people are not meant to be feared. They have the same goals and desires as everyone else. They want to be recognized as a valued contributor of the community they live in. And that they can be safe.”
A brief look at the statistics will show that LGBTQ people have high suicide rates, are victims of violence and harassment, and experience job discrimination.
Goyette’s group aims to empower these individuals, and all individuals, through the power of education.
“We believe in the sanctity of all human beings and the power of embracing those that are more vulnerable,” she said. “In Michigan today it is perfectly legal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote someone because an employer thinks they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
Michigan’s non-discrimination law does not specify any inclusion of LGBTQ people. The act, which defines civil rights and prohibits discriminatory practices, protects an individual’s rights based “upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.”
Goyette’s LGBTQ group has already been in talks with local government officials and business owners about the issues facing the LGBTQ community.
“We are encouraged by the numerous local business owners that share in our support,” Goyette said. “For example, Orion Township’s largest employer and taxpayer is the GM Orion Assembly. GM prides itself on providing an inclusive and protective work environment for all their employees, including members of the LGBTQ community.”
Communities that choose to protect the rights of LGBTQ people initiate Human Rights Ordinances and other policies, which specify that each participating community is inclusive, respectful of diversity, and does not support discriminatory practices.
Goyette also runs a support group in Orion Township for other parents that have transgender and gender expansive children.
Their goal is to educate grandparents and other adult family members focusing on managing and helping in the journey as their children transition from the gender they were assigned at birth to the one they can better identify with.
Stand with Trans meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at St. Mary’s In-The-Hills Episcopal Church. For more information email Goyette atLisa@standwithtrans.org.
“We know through statistics that children that are in homes where they are accepted, gay or trans, fare phenomenally better than the children that are rejected in their homes by their parents,” Goyette said.
Both organizations provide support and opportunity for LGBTQ people in Lake Orion and neighboring communities to meet one another in an effort to build support for all people of the LGBTQ community.
“I think gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people need to know there are people out there who support them and are there for them,” Social Coordinator Jim Larkin said.
Larkin, a Lake Orion resident, was asked by Goyette, to plan the LGBT Social.
“If they need help or if they need to know there are other people out there who are like them, this group is there for them,” he said.
Larkin was a member of the City of Holland Human Relations Commission, and on the Holland is Ready Board of Directors, a group that was formed to make the Holland area more inclusive for LGBT residents. He was also the chairperson of the Holland Area Pride Festival.