The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (the Center) first started its roots in 1983 in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan with the $1.5 million purchase of what was formerly the Food and Maritime Trades High School. The Center provided what had been missing in the past—a solid place to meet, learn, collaborate, cope, grow, and socialize without feeling like outsiders. Its mission is to provide the LGBT community with “quality health and wellness programs in a welcoming space that fosters connections and celebrates our cultural contributions.”
Within its first year, 60 groups used the Center to meet regularly—a number which has grown to over 300 today. The Center’s doors are open to anyone who needs or wants the support. Visiting the Center is free, though community members can also choose to become a member of the Center for a yearly fee, which starts at $35. It provides services for those in states of crisis, whether they are just trying to figure out who they really are, suffering with HIV/AIDS, struggling with substance abuse, or coping with anti-LGBT violence in their lives.
The Center is “infused with an activist spirit,” supporting various social initiatives that work to create a better world for LGBT people. Its members use the space as a safe haven to plan, advocate, and change the world. For LGBT organizations, the Center is also an affordable place to meet, something that keeps many groups from disappearing.
After Superstorm Sandy destroyed the Ali Forney drop-in center in October 2012, the site was relocated to a temporary space provided by the LGBT Community Center. Those youth who had relied on the Ali Forney Center were able to continue receiving medical care, mental health services, HIV testing, house referrals and more.
“I am deeply grateful for the kindness and generosity of the Center,” said Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, Carl Sicilliano. “While the damage we suffered from Hurricane Sandy is one of the greatest challenges the AFC has faced to date, it is inspiring that so many institutions, particularly the Center, have rallied behind us to ensure that our youth continue to receive the support they need.”
The Center’s primary programs are Center Wellness, Center Recovery, Youth Enrichment Services (YES), Center Cultural Programs, Center Families and the Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library. Its extensive network of programs has helped the LGBT community retain solidarity and stay organized. Nationally known groups such as GLAAD, ACT UP, Queer Nation, and Lesbian Avengers began at the Center.
Encouraging the LGBT Community to stay active and involved, the Center also offers a full listing of advocacy events and human rights/social justice initiatives. Visitors to the website can find more information on things like World AIDS Day, Spirit Day, and other upcoming issues and events. The Center has several fundraisers and events to support its programs and services, such as the Women’s Event, Cycle for the Cause, The Center Dinner and Garden Party.
Thank you to Mary Steyer for her help with this article