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Network offers support for county’s LGBTQA community

In light of Sunday’s shooting in Orlando, Fla., county commissioners wanted to assure members of the LGBTQA community in Centre County that they do indeed have a safe space within the county.

Chairman Michael Pipe extended a invitation to the leaders of the Centre LGBTQA Support Network to speak about their organization during the Board of Commissioners regular meeting Tuesday. Both Commissioners Pipe and Mark Higgins were in attendance during the candlelight vigil Monday at Penn State’s Old Main.

Explaining the reasons for his passion, Pipe emotionally spoke about how his brother came out as gay during Pipe’s high school years, changing who he was and how he looks at life.

“James is somebody I love unconditionally, and someone I always wanted to be protected and have safe spaces in his life,” Pipe said. “I told him when he came out to me there were going to be people who would hate him and not know who he was.”

Pipe said he felt it was important that the LGBTQA members of the county know there are safe places in this community, including the Centre LGBTQA Support Network.

If there’s anything we can be doing to serve the community, we want to be doing that.

Centre LGBTQA Support Network Assistant Chairwoman Tamar London

Network Chairwoman Kerry Wiessmann said the club shooting hit especially close to her since her son came out as gay to her when he was 10. One of the first things she saw in the Orlando story was clubgoers texting their mothers during the shooting.

“A lot of these guys were just young kids with families that love and support them,” Wiessmann said. “It also made me sad because I heard stories that this was the way that some families found out their child was gay, and that’s a whole other level of tragedy.”

The LGBTQA community needs safe spaces, she said, which is why the support network was created. While initially intended to be for parents and friends of lesbians and gays, the first meeting was well attended by many who were not just parents.

They realized the county needed a broader organization to bring awareness about LGBTQA causes, she said, and bring some social networking, education and support to the area.

Our mission is to encourage, recognize and celebrate the efforts to foster an environment of safety, equality and affirmation for the LGBT community.

Chairwoman Kerry Wiessmann

“Our mission is to encourage, recognize and celebrate the efforts to foster an environment of safety, equality and affirmation for the LGBT community,” Wiessmann said.

The network hosts events across the community, she said, including documentary screenings with panels, an adult prom and open mic nights. She directed residents to the network’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/centrelgbtqa for details on upcoming events and meetings.

“If there’s anything we can be doing to serve the community, we want to be doing that,” Assistant Chairwoman Tamar London said.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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