Northern Michigan’s growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community

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Rainbows are seen on Traverse City's Front Street on Sunday, June 25, 2017, to support the LGBTQ Community through Up North Pride. Photo by Amy Davis.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The existence of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community has become apparent in Traverse City, Michigan, through events like those put on by Up North Pride.

The Fourth Annual Up North Pride Rally and Visibility March was held on Sunday, June 25, as the attendees “shut down Front Street,” according to Turnbull, in a march through downtown.

“I think citizens of Traverse City who may have been publicly uncomfortable with their sexual orientation are feeling more accepted and able to show their true feelings around others because of events like this,” say Alice Trumbull Hilner, who moved her family to Traverse City 12 years ago.

Up North Pride was founded in 2014 by Jenn Cameron, Elon Cameron and Marta Turnbull. Turnbull says that the organization was created in an effort to foster a more visible and engaged LGBTQ community in Traverse City.

Events including a bike ride partnership with Norte, sign-making with Rare Bird, movies at The State Theatre, a partnership at the Playhouse, and a participant-driven march through downtown, have occurred annually in Traverse City through this group.

Marta Turnbull says that when the organization started they had only a few hundred people. They are now putting together events for thousands of people, of different ages, orientations, abilities, and more.

Delaney Miller, a student at Northwestern Michigan College, attended the march on June 25 for the first time after she had friends attend in the previous years.

Miller says that the number of people that came out for the march completely shocked her. “I was not expecting to see so much of the community fill the streets, the amount of support apparent was indescribable,” she says.

Emily Tyler of Traverse City says that she has noticed the welcoming of more and more pride flags in the windows and under the awnings of local stores and shops in the downtown district.

“I think TC is pretty liberal and open-minded. I have noticed more and more queer people and same-gender couples publicly holding hands, and otherwise indicating affection. I cannot speak for the comfort levels of trans and non-binary individuals as I am not one myself, but I do not see any forthright aggression towards them,” says Tyler.

Tyler concluded by saying that she is in a relationship with a male, but she allegedly feels as if she were in a relationship with a female, she would still feel safe in her hometown showing her love.

Kim Gribi, a human resources generalist at Traverse City Area Public Schools, has seen the progression of the LGBTQ community within the city. She says that there are a few things that can be done for even more support.

“I think there can be more community conversations so the general public becomes educated around LGBTQ issues.  And the implementation of more gender neutral spaces would be helpful. The newspaper could write enterprise stories about people’s experience as members of the LGBTQ community that help others understand their experiences and hopefully cause people to be more inclusive,” says Gribi.

To see a photo gallery made by photographer Olivia Flores of the Up North Pride’s events- click HERE.