As we round out Pride Month, LGBTQ+ activist, Benjamin Heyn, reflects on the opportunities he's been given over the years and how he is using those as a force for good. In part-two of our Q&A conversation, we celebrate #PRIDE and the organizations within our community whose noble purpose revolve around that notion.
As we round out Pride Month, LGBTQ+ activist, Benjamin Heyn, reflects on the opportunities he's been given over the years and how he is using those as a force for good. Within in part-two of our Q&A conversation, we celebrate #PRIDE and the organizations within our community whose noble purpose revolve around that notion.
Rapid Growth: Where did your interest in being a LGBTQ+ activist first stem from?
Benjamin Heyn: When I was very young, my mom took me to the parking lot of an organization called The Link in my hometown of St. Joseph, MI. She pulled in and turned the car off. She said “Ben, do you see that building?” I thought I was in trouble. She told me, “That is the Link. If you ever feel like you can’t be at home, or feel unsafe for any reason, you can go there and they will help. No one, not even me, will be able to come inside or make you leave unless you want to.
RG: Did you ever utilize their services?
BH: I didn’t. I never even stepped inside… but I always knew that I had a say in my own life. I had an option to leave if I was in a circumstance that was unacceptable. It gave me a power to be in control of my own life. It gave me a sense of agency long before I knew what that word meant. I was very disheartened when the organization closed because even though I never went, I knew I had a backup plan.
RG: What greater impact has this had on your life?
BH: My mom was around my age when she made sure I had that moment. She was insightful enough to know that being a kid can be hard and selfless enough to help me build a safety plan. I’ve always had a safety net. As an adult I have become more cognoscente of how impactful that conversation in a parking lot was, but I will probably never know its full extent. All I know for sure is that it was powerful; it provided me an opportunity to understand autonomy and that I am more than any one of my circumstances.
RG: How does that tie into your most recent involvement with HQ
BH: In the 30 years I have been alive, I have never met a human that considered 14-24 being their best decade. During that timeframe, there are so many chances to fail and so many opportunities to be hurt, disappointed, and left jaded. So most recently, for my birthday I wanted to do something that was authentic to who I am. I wanted to honor and celebrate the people that helped me become more than I thought I could be. I didn't need to have a birthday party to celebrate me; I do that everyday. I knew I wanted to host a fundraiser and celebrate the influencers in my life. I wanted to honor those who loved me out the darkness of active addiction, walked with me through depression, and helped me see through the substance-induced chaos of my past. Then I learned about HQ.
RG: So you are involved with organizations that focus on providing a “safe space." What else does that look like in your life?
BH: I am lucky enough to have been given opportunities that I have not earned. It really started when I interned at West Michigan Caterer with Bob Johnson, who provided me with a platform to succeed. He believes in and supports so many young people in our community. For example, his company West Michigan Caterer
donates meals to HQ on a weekly basis. He also owns The Apartment Lounge
. There is such important history with The Apartment for the LGBTQ+ community.
Working with Bob led me to an opportunity at The Dunes Resort
in Saugatuck-Douglas. The Dunes provides an opportunity for members of the LGBT community to come as you are—or come as you want to be. You are welcome to be free, and to dance, live in the moment, love yourself, maybe even love somebody else. The Dunes is so many things for so many different people and intentionally inclusive of each sub-sect of the LGBT community. We do more than play dance anthems and serve drinks; the Dunes is a safe space to live your truth and it feels like family… and the music at The Dunes is better.
With that being said, I am ecstatic that next week, on Thursday, July 6, we are hosting our annual Dunes Employee Turnabout Drag Show
and proceeds will benefit HQ. I am a more complete person because of my experiences with these organizations. I am proud of who I am and who we are, because we are better together. #PRIDE
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.