An Open Letter to The LGBT Community Center: Reclaim Pride Coalition Statement on LGBT Community Center Cancellations
The Reclaim Pride Coalition is writing to provide notification of our decision to cancel our reservations scheduled for June 1 and June 23 at The Center, which represent all of our group’s reservations there. This decision reflects our desire to care for ALL of our communities and to hold firm to our vision of a resistance movement that is truly inclusive and embodies liberation that lifts up the realities of those most oppressed.
Our coalition has always sought to give space to the most marginalized members of our communities as we prepare for our June 30th Queer Liberation March. In discussing the recent decisions made by The Center to allow an event hosted by Walk Away to be held in your space and to cancel it at the last minute, only after significant press coverage was imminent, many of our members brought up concerns regarding The Center failing our most vulnerable communities in the past as well as failing to support social and economic justice positions in a number of instances.
The attitudes and actions of The Center appear to be rooted in transphobic, racist, and classist attitudes. It is these very attitudes that the community looks toward an institution like The Center to resist and expunge. Instead, The Center largely caters to the more privileged members of the LGBTQTSIA+ community while failing to provide a safe and welcoming space to its more vulnerable and marginalized members.
The unquestioning acceptance of the Walk Away event and The Center’s initial claim of being interested in allowing all voices within our community a space to speak stand in sharp contrast to The Center’s previous ban on Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) from holding organizing meetings to advocate for Palestinian human rights at The Center from 2011-2013.
This struggle between activists and The Center began when a queer group in support of the anti-occupation struggle of the Palestinian people, which had been meeting at The Center for several months, was informed that a fundraising event it was planning there would be cancelled. The reason given by The Center for the cancellation was that the group in question was not an LGBT group or LGBT-focused event. QAIA was formed in response and for two years fought for the right to meet at The Center. The Center insisted that some people would feel unsafe if QAIA was allowed to meet there, thus denying the very real safety issues and humanitarian crisis imposed on Palestinians. Eventually, the campaign calling on The Center to allow QAIA to rent space was successful, but The Center never acknowledged the unconscionable nature of the action it took in denying space to those LGBTQTSIA+ community members supporting the anti-occupation, pro-Palestinian movement—a fundamental and globally recognized human rights cause.
Recalling a history of oppressive practices towards the most marginalized groups and individuals in our communities, including the banning of Sylvia Rivera from the premises in the mid-90s, many people of color and transgender people within our group have expressed that they and others have felt unsafe and/or unwelcome at The Center for some time, and that they would be unlikely to attend public forums held there.
Most recently, members who attempted to avail themselves of Center-run support groups for transwomen said they were assigned overcrowded rooms where members were discouraged from connecting with each other outside of the group. Onerous and "mandatory intake requirements" including drug and HIV tests and psychiatric evaluations were required; and full, legal names were taken in order to fulfill grant requirements. When one of our members, a transwoman who was understandably frustrated by this funding-based modality, attempted to create a new, community-based support group that would convene at The Center, she was denied access.
Finally, on July 1, 2018, The Center substantially increased the rates for non-profit community groups. This has proven to be highly problematic. The Center has created an economic hardship for many of the poor and working class members of groups such as Act Up, who operate on a shoestring budget.
We ask that The Center consider its status as a focal point for the city’s LGBTQTSIA+ community and engage in true accountability and reform. By doing so it can become the space that is so desperately needed by so many in our community and can become part of renewed efforts in the emancipatory fight for queer liberation and social and economic justice. Until that occurs, the Reclaim Pride Coalition cannot in good conscience maintain any formal association with The Center.