First LGBTQ+ community center opens in Stark County
The Queer in Canton Community Center, Stark County’s first LGBTQ+ resource center, opened Friday.
In addition to programs and events, the resource center is intended to provide a safe social setting for LGBTQ+ people.
The center will also feature a clothing exchange program, peer support groups and some health services, including providing injection kits for people going through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) who may not be able to access needles, syringes and other supplies.
The visibility and simple existence of the space will provide a sense of comfort to LGBTQ+ people in the area, said Queer in Canton co-founder Abby Henry.
“They don’t have to stick to the shadows,” Henry said. "I think that it’s really exciting that we can be out and proud and walk into a building that says ‘queer’ on the front and not feel ashamed or scared or any sort of way. We can just feel proud."
Queer in Canton held a launch event for the center Friday. The center is located at the Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio Canton office. PPGOH is providing the space at a discounted rate.
“Our patients, our staff members, our supporters are all part of the LGBTQ+ community,” said PPGOH President and CEO Erica Wilson-Domer. "I’m really excited that we were able to have some small part in helping bring this resource to the community."
PPGOH also began providing gender-affirming care at its Canton Health Center Friday.
“It is essential for people to be able to live their authentic selves and to receive the best care they can,” Wilson-Domer said. “They need to feel supported. They need to feel like they’re not judged. They need to feel that they have strength in community.”
Queer in Canton, the nonprofit LGBTQ+ community group that will manage the resource center, was created in 2021.
Henry grew up in the Canton area where she said she lacked LGBTQ+ role models and peers. She said she found LGBTQ+ community when she went to college in Washington, D.C. and wanted to provide similar spaces in Canton.
“I don’t have to leave here to find that community I was looking for. It’s been here the whole time. I just kind of had to find it,” Henry said. “Having Queer in Canton has been really cool because we’ve been able to meet so many queer people through our events.”