Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
|Founded||December 1, 1983|
|Focus(es)||Health and Wellness Programs, Community Center, Celebrates LGBTQ cultural contributions, Center for organizing.|
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center is a nonprofit organization serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population of New York City and nearby communities. The Center is located in the West Village at 208 West 13th Street, an historic building which formerly housed the High School for Food Trades.
In December 1983, the New York City Board of Estimates approved the sale of the former Food and Maritime Trades High School, located at 208 West 13th Street, to the Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center, Inc., for $1.5 million. In its first year, 60 groups met regularly at the Center. Today more than 300 groups call the Center home. From the beginning, the Center has served to fortify and enrich the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Since the historic 1969 Stonewall Riots, our community has grown and changed dramatically. We have built an infrastructure where none existed before — institutions that serve those in crisis: the young, the elderly, people living with HIV and AIDS, survivors of anti-gay or anti-lesbian violence, people struggling with substance abuse, and gay people and their friends and families overwhelmed by the devastating toll of the AIDS epidemic.
Our community is infused with an activist spirit that other progressive communities envy, and, as a result, we continue to support many political and legal organizations and cultural institutions. Our community often suffers a barrage of attacks from the religious right that is dedicated to our annihilation and exploits our lives as political scapegoats for its gain. The Center provides a secure place to come together and plan, advocate, ACT UP, share our knowledge and expertise, and shape our future.
Programs produced by the Center include Center Wellness, our Adult Services Department working with people with AIDS, struggling with substance abuse issues, mental health challenges and much more; Youth Services, an activities-based program for LGBT youth; Center Cultural Programs, presenting established and emerging artists, writers, and activitist to the community; Center Families, the Center's family project; and the Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library, New York City's largest LGBT lending library.
In addition, one of the Center's prime functions is to provide affordable meeting space for LGBT organizations, many of which would otherwise have no place to go. The lack of affordable, safe space in this city has pushed several organizations to the brink of extinction. Stepping forward more than once, the Center has kept doors open and ensured the delivery of much needed services and programs. In 1985, the Center became temporary home to the Harvey Milk High School, a program of the Hetrick-Martin Institute. The Lesbian Switchboard became a permanent tenant after it was evicted from its former home, and Dignity, a Catholic gay and lesbian religious organization, sought refuge when it was expelled from Catholic churches.
The availability of meeting space has been a major organizing tool for our community. Since we opened our doors, the number of LGBT organizations in New York City has multiplied many times. Groups that have expanded throughout the nation, such as the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Queer Nation, Lesbian Avengers and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), were born at the Center. The Center's website receives more than 45,000 monthly visitors and is an excellent tool for social change. Our physical space has been expanded and improved through the renovation of many individual meeting rooms, the renovation of the third floor Cultural Programs room, the restoration of the facade, and the construction of a ramp entrance for wheelchair accessibility. All of these changes have made the Center more livable, more workable, and more accessible to everyone.
We have the opportunity to leave the next LGBT generation a legacy on which to build.The Center is certain to play a part in our community's future: to give shelter to our struggle and to participate in the shaping of our destiny, while memorializing and honoring our past. We look forward to providing a heart and home deserving of New York's LGBT community, as well as confronting the political challenges presented to our communities in this and coming years.
Facilities and Activities
Every week, 6,000 people visit the Center, and more than 300 groups meet in the building. These groups range from political activist organizations to social clubs. The Center also frequently hosts speeches, performances, workshops, and commercially sponsored information sessions.
Numerous Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other twelve-step recovery groups meet at the Center. The Center's Mental Health and Social Services division also sponsors support groups focused on coming out, transgender issues, bereavement, and other topics of concern to the LGBT community.
The Center also houses Y.E.S., the Youth Enrichment Services. This organization provides services and support for queer and questioning youth. Programs such as both a young men's and a young women's discussion group, a gender exploration group, a safe schools network, and a variety of support groups are available to youth free of charge.
Library, Archives, Gallery
The Center also hosts and documents the artistic and historic contributions of members of the LGBT Community in its archives, and its lending library has the largest selection of LBGT materials in New York. The Center's cultural program includes the Campbell Soady Gallery, named in honor of major donors William Campbell and William Soady. The Gallery exhibitis artwork that celebrates the diversity of LGBT life and supports the work of emerging queerartists. The Center is also home to a repository of manuscripts, personal papers, organizational files and records of the Center itself. Archivist Rich Wandel oversees this all-volunteer project.
Israeli Apartheid Week controversy
In February 2011, the Center became embroiled in a controversy over a pro-Palestinian group that was to have a party in the building on March 5 during "Israeli Apartheid Week." The group, Siegebusters, planned to train activists and raise funds for another vessel to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Advocate columnist and porn producer Michael Lucas threatened a boycott, claiming that Israel is the only gay-friendly country in the Middle East, that the group was anti-Semitic, and that LGBT people in the Palestinian territories are tortured and killed. The Center cancelled the party, stating that Siegebusters was not an LGBT-related group. Siegebusters protested the decision by organizing an online petition; whereas Lucas hailed the decision in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
In May 2011, the Center announced that it would allow the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to meet in their building. The Center defended the move, stating that it "provides space for a variety of LGBT voices in our community to engage in conversations on a range of topics." In the beginning of June 2011, the Center decided to place a "moratorium" on renting space to "groups that organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
- Michael Lucas Says LGBT Center Pressed Jewish Group to Move Meeting, Duncan Osbourne, Gay.com news, February 2011
- LGBT Center Cancels Israel Apartheid Event, The Advocate, February 22, 2011.
- NY gay center pulls plug on Israel-Apartheid event NY gay center pulls plug on Israel-Apartheid event, Gil Shefler and Benjamine Weinthal, The Jerusalem Post, February 24, 2004.
- Don’t Mess With Jewish Porn King Michael Lucas, Michael Kaminer, The Jewish Daily Forward, February 23, 2011.
- N.Y. gay center rapped for renting space to anti-Israel group, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 26, 2011; accessed May 26, 2011
- New York LGBT center ejects Queers Against Israel Apartheid
- The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center — official website
- Center Happenings- News and Events