Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
The Center's facade on West 13th Street
|Founded||December 1, 1983|
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, commonly called The 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 in Lower Manhattan, in a 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.
Programs produced by the center include Center Wellness, an 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.
The Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library is named in honor of individuals who championed LGBT causes in their professional and personal lives. The Center Library is a lending library connected with others around the city, sponsor of a monthly reading group, and producer and/or collaborator for literary events of interest to the LGBT community.
In 1985, the center became the 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 was a major organizing tool for the LGBT movement in the 1980s and early 1990s. Groups that have expanded throughout the nation, such as the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Queer Nation, Lesbian Avengers, and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), had their inception at the center. At one point in the early 1990s, the Center was hosting regular meetings for more than three hundred groups.
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 Center Youth (previously called 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, a yearly summer camp and a variety of support groups are available to youth free of charge.
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." At the beginning of June 2011, the Center decided to place a "moratorium" on renting space to "groups that organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
- Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library
- Lune, Howard (2007-01-01). Urban Action Networks: HIV/AIDS and Community Organizing in New York City. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780742540842.
- Michael Lucas Says LGBT Center Pressed Jewish Group to Move Meeting Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, 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 Archived 2011-05-29 at the Wayback Machine, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 26, 2011; accessed May 26, 2011
- New York LGBT center ejects Queers Against Israel Apartheid