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Still kicking in
New York

Still kicking in
New York


On World AIDS Day, December 1, the executive director of New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center celebrates 20 years at the helm, from the devastating early years of the epidemic to the vibrant tableau of gay life today.

How would you describe the center's mission? The center, first and foremost, is an engine of queer liberation. It is also a place to celebrate queer culture, a place to have wedding receptions and art openings, a place to connect and find a community. It's a place where we take care of our own.

You've been the leader during two tumultuous decades. What do you remember from the 1980s? Specifically, the second Tuesday in March of 1987: We invited Larry Kramer to come and speak. The raucous meeting was a call to action and the beginning of ACT UP. They came back the next Monday because Tuesdays were not available. Mostly, the '80s were a time of people dying--friends and lovers--and fighting back against government indifference.

How about the '90s? The introduction of protease inhibitors. That changed the way the community thought about AIDS. Suddenly, people were living again, and there was hope. Also, the '90s saw a dramatic increase in the political power of our community. We had more LGBT people running for office, and there was tremendous expansion of our presence in politics and the media.

So what is the most important work of the center these days? I think the formation of our Center Kids program is significant because it helps LGBT people with the adoption process. Much of the research you need to do to adopt has already been done for you. The next event is an example: "Men Having Babies," in which the focus is on gay men adopting.

Will there ever come a time when places like New York City's gay center are no longer needed? The center is here for the long term. The path to gay liberation and full equality for LGBT people is a journey we will be on for the rest of our lives--and it will continue with the people that come after us. Just as the women's movement has not eradicated sexism or the civil rights movement racism, our movement will not eradicate homophobia. As long as people are coming out of the closet--individuals taking that act of courage--the center has to be here for them. I don't think the center will ever just fade away.

What about you? Will you ever fade away? There is no way I can answer that question. Every day at the center is different than the day before, and you never know in civil leadership what is coming down the pike and where one might be needed.

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