La Crosse LGBTQ+ advocates hope for conversion therapy ban

7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection Center offers support groups and resources

LA CROSSE (WKBT) – Human services student at Western Technical College Marina Martinez volunteers at the 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection Center in La Crosse.

Martinez said she’s volunteering as an intern at the resource center because her niece is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“My whole reason for coming here was to be a better ally for her,” she said.

Despite the assistance available at facilities like 7 Rivers, not all approaches to the understanding of gender and sexuality are inclusive.

Conversion therapy is a controversial means of attempting to reverse same-sex attraction and/or gender fluidity. On Tuesday, La Crosse’s Judiciary and Administrative Committee voted to approve a city ordinance that bans conversion therapy citywide. The measure still awaits a vote from the La Crosse city council.

Executive Director of 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection Alesha Schandelmeier says an outright ban on conversion therapy in La Crosse would mean the city supports inclusion.

“It would really show that there is support from the community and support from the city,” she said.

The 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection Center helped about 2,500 people at its office in La Crosse during the year 2021, Schandelmeier said.

The center holds a number of drop-in hours and support group meetings for the community, among many other resources. Individuals as young as middle-school age are allowed to receive resources at the center, Schandelmeier said.

“They are able to come here and talk with other youth who maybe are in the same situation or compare notes and see how things are at their school,” she said.

The 7 Rivers Center is currently looking for donations and volunteers.

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