LGBTQ Center opens in Cedar Rapids to create safe place for area youth

Published: Oct. 26, 2018 at 3:02 AM CDT
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On the ground floor of the Tanager building, on 5th Ave Southeast in Cedar Rapids, there’s a spot that may look like and sound like a simple pool hall for young adults. But, those who use it hope space will become much more than that.

People like Molly Ritchie, a transgender teen who says she's been waiting for a place like this almost all her life.

"I think this is going to be a great place to come out and be more myself,” said Ritchie. “Being at school-- I can't dress as feminine as I wish to be. I'm hoping this is a place where I can come, get changed and be me around here.”

Ritchie is one of what organizers hope will be a growing community of LGBTQ kids using the place as a safe space three days out of the week, after school. It’s a place designed to be free from judgment, where the kids can be themselves.

"Having a place like this-- you can avoid people that are rude to the LGBT community,” Cole Schmidt a sophomore at Washington High School. “If, like, you have homophobic parents, or people that you don't want to hang out with after school. You can just come here."

The LGBTQ Center is something Cedar Rapids has lacked for years, said organizers. Something that's been desperately needed.

"This community of kids hasn't really been serviced,” said Consuelo Steel-Cherry, one of the Center’s creators. “They need a space to feel safe and supported and educated at the same time. The community doesn't really have anything for them."

The spot isn't officially open yet. That's coming in a few weeks. For now, it's still a work in progress. But, when finished, it'll feature video games, a place to study and a lot more.

"We're going to teach them some skills-- life skills,” said Steel-Cherry. “Cooking. Resume building. Getting ready for the real world."

But for Ritchie, it's not about the skills, the fun, or even the friends, it's about the freedom to be who she is.

"Sweatshirts are heavy,” said Ritchie with a smile. “I can't wait to take them off."

There will be an open house for the center coming up ‪on November 2nd.‬ The public is welcome to check out the spot ‪from 5:30 to 7:30‬ p.m.