Thursday, June 26, 2008

Countdown to Pride: New York LGBT Center Turns 25

Found in Today's Metro NY Newspaper

Remember 1983? I do. We were in the throes of the AIDS epidemic, burying our lovers, partners and friends. Who could have imagined that 25 years later, same-sex couples in New York could marry legally in California, return home and have their marriage recognized by the state of New York.

As the executive director of the New York LGBT community’s “Grand Central Station,” The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, I have a front row seat to our community’s struggles and triumphs.

This weekend in New York City, as the center marches with our float in the Heritage of Pride parade, we will be celebrating a wonderful achievement — the center’s 25th anniversary. Of course, there is work ahead of us, especially the Center’s urgent need to grow in order to meet the needs of our diverse community.

Let’s go back to the early 1980s, when the time was right — New York’s gay community needed a center. The Center appealed for gifts and loans to raise the $150,000 downpayment for 208 W. 13th St.

Aquarter century later, we have more than 6,000 people a week come through our doors, and thousands more from around the world connect with resources and community at www.gaycenter.org. More than 80 staff members and hundreds of volunteers provide services for all the diverse parts of our community — from youth and families to transgender people to individuals struggling with crystal meth addiction. Every day there is a broad array of art, culture, music and other events to attend. You can browse the stacks of our library or surf the Internet at our cybercenter. The Keith Haring room is an international art-lovers destination. You need to see it to believe it.

Today the Center is an established home for LGBT New Yorkers in all our diversity — just as our founders envisioned in 1983. But even now the LGBT community lacks basic civil rights protections at the federal level and incidents of prejudice and violence are still common, even in New York. We still have far to go to achieve full equality. We still need a place where the community’s heart and soul can reside safe and secure. That place is the Center.

When you walk into our lobby, you enter, in the most profound sense, a safe, queer space built for you. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and our allies own our piece of New York City. Of that, all New Yorkers should be proud.

By Richard Burns

I have been to The Center time and time again. The Center is where I attended my first ACT UP meetings, where I first met Larry Kramer, where I attended and helped run meetings for the Queer Justice League, where I heard Michael Cunningham read, where I attended disco blaring hairy chested dance parties. For 25 years The Center has been home to so much - I wonder what it will bring in the next 25...

What have you seen or done at The Center?

Happy Pride.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the progress is amazing. Gotta love California.

kitchenbeard said...

Does modeling nude in front of 150 people for the Erotic Art Festival count?

bstewart23 said...

I totally held it in for blocks just to be able to duck in and pee for as long as possible in the Haring Mensroom.

In fact, when I visited NYC in the early '90s I don't think I peed anywhere else.

ewe said...

I volunteer. The Center continues to be a work in progress. It is a pillar of strength and community.

ewe said...

and Richard Burns is a gem full of passion for the city of New York.

Joe said...

indeed! thanks for the great comments.