Nonprofit Releases Directory Of LGBT-Friendly Businesses In Southwest Wisconsin

7 Rivers LGBT Resource Center Aims To Enable People To Patronize Safe Spaces

Downtown La Crosse. Photo: Sleepy Cat 5 (CC-BY-NC-SA).

The 7 Rivers LGBT Resource Center in La Crosse released a directory featuring LGBT-friendly and welcoming businesses in southwest Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Jackson Jantzen said that members of the LGBT community want to know that a restaurant or a store they go to is a safe space. As executive director of the center, he said that creating a business directory helps members and their allies spend money where they won’t face discrimination.

Jantzen said the directory can also help someone who needs to hire a carpenter or plumber for their home.

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“If you’ve got somebody who’s not LGBT-friendly coming into your space and then they find that you’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual based on your art or based on the books on your bookcase, their whole disposition can change and it brings back all of your defenses,” said Jantzen. “You can’t relax in your own space.”

It has not been easy for the center to get local businesses to sign up for the directory. The group is also having trouble finding local vendors to participate in an upcoming pride event.

Board member and LGBT ally Bob Lindner said that working with the group has been eye-opening when it comes to discrimination towards the LGBT community.

“It’s very surprising to me that business owners especially will shut down and not want to talk to you when they find out where you’re from and what you’re after,” said Lindner. “Wheras if I was coming in from my own business, I think it’d be a different situation. It makes me realize how naïve I was in the work that needs to be done.”

Lindner said that he hopes the directory eventually features businesses from all 11 counties in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa that the organization represents.

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