New gender resource center now open in downtown South Bend
Thursday was Transgender Day of Visibility, which celebrates gender-diverse people and raises awareness for the discrimination they still face. It was also opening day for the Tree House, a new gender resource center in downtown South Bend.
“The imagery of a treehouse is a judgement-free zone — a safe place where people can just be themselves,” Transgender Resource, Education and Enrichment Services (TREES) founder Meghan Buell said.
The Tree House is the first physical location for TREES, with working space, a resource library, research nooks and a meeting room.
Buell said it’s a safe space for gender-diverse people to interact both with each other and with the broader community.
“It functions a lot like a coffeehouse, where you sit down and do your work. But you’re going to get into conversations with folks that you would normally not have encountered,” she said. “And with that, our hope is that you find out that people have more things in common than different.”
Buell said there aren’t many resource centers that focus specifically on trans communities — she thinks there might be less than 10 nationwide that aren’t affiliated with universities.
“The [LGBTQ] acronym is a tangled web of gender identities and sexual orientations,” Buell said. “Part of our focus is to have standalone trans conversations, so people can understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are different core characteristics.”
Regardless of identity or orientation, Buell said it’s important to provide a place where people can be themselves and be seen.
“When people are seen, they’re respected more and they feel part of the community,” she said. “And when the community has everybody getting involved with it, the community flourishes itself.”
The Tree House Gender Resource Center — located at 217 N. Main St. — is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, or until sundown.
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