STRAIGHT TALK: West Shore Pride dedicated to area’s LGBTQ community

MASON COUNTY — Over the summer, Ludington’s first-ever pride rally was organized by a small but dedicated group named West Shore Pride.

Hundreds attended, proving the overwhelming pride of the area’s LGBTQ community. West Shore Pride is dedicated to strengthening that sense of community.

The Manistee News Advocate recently caught up with Renee Snodgrass, president of the organization, to discuss West Shore Pride’s past, present and future.

MNA: What is West Shore Pride and what is its mission?

SNODGRASS: West Shore Pride is a newly-formed non-profit organization whose mission is to create a sense of community among LGBTQ people in Mason County and the surrounding area.

MNA: What is the history of West Shore Pride?

SNODGRASS: This past summer, a small group of people came together and planned Ludington’s first-ever pride rally. The response was overwhelming, with more than 200 people attending. People told us, “We never thought something like this would happen here.” That’s when we knew we wanted to continue our efforts, not only to host an even bigger pride rally next year, but to do things year-round to advocate for and connect LGBTQ people like us.

MNA: What types of events or services does West Shore Pride provide the community?

SNODGRASS: Our primary event is the annual Pride Fest (mark your calendars for June 10, 2018!), but in addition to that we want to do fun things to help people meet each other, like the dinner we just had together at the beginning of this month, or the Halloween party we’re planning for Oct. 27.

Another area of focus is outreach to young people, since there have been incidents of bullying in local middle and high schools relating to students’ perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. We want to give teens a safe outlet and show them that it’s possible to be proudly and openly gay or transgender in our community, at church, and in the workplace.

We’re also interested in bringing LGBTQ cultural competency to area businesses and organizations. A lot of homophobia or transphobia comes from not knowing a gay or transgender person or being afraid to offend someone. We want to teach people about terminology, share our stories, and give them ideas on how to be more inclusive to employees and customers alike.

MNA: How many people make up West Shore Pride and how does one become involved in either joining the group or helping its mission along?

SNODGRASS: Right now we have four board members: James Masters is vice president, Barb Cressy is secretary, and Mike Fitch is treasurer.

We would love to have an officer from Manistee to make sure that we’re plugged in with what Manistee wants and needs from us! We have over 100 people interested in the cause. To get involved, follow our Facebook page.

You can view our events and share ideas for how to make this area more inclusive.

MNA: What does the future of West Shore Pride look like?

SNODGRASS: The future I think isn’t for our organization, but for the LGBTQ community here. I want people to feel safe in their own skin, welcomed into their neighborhoods and workplaces, and recognized and embraced for their uniqueness and heart. We have so much to learn from one another!

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