Scroll To Top

Op-ed: Why New Yorkers Still Need Community Centers Like Ours

Op-ed: Why New Yorkers Still Need Community Centers Like Ours


Living in a "post-marriage equality" New York is wonderful, that is, unless you are a young person being bullied in school; homeless on the streets without safe shelter; a transgender individual seeking housing, employment, or public accommodation outside the handful of locales that offer protections; a couple seeking a second-parent adoption; a senior looking for companionship; a transgender person seeking culturally competent health care; a person living with HIV/AIDS struggling to make ends meet; or a parent trying to understand what it means that their child just "came out." It is these reasons I am thrilled to serve as the Brooklyn Community Pride Center's executive director.

Passing laws is vitally important. In New York we've celebrated dozens of legislative and governmental victories over the years. LGBTQ individuals, couples, and families are legally protected in countless ways -- loving same-sex couples can marry and in one act be extended numerous rights and responsibilities that come with marriage; individuals cannot be discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation; the Dignity for All Students Act, now signed into law, works to protect our young people in school; same-sex couples can adopt; and the list goes on. But equally if not more important is making certain that individuals have access to information and knowledge, to support systems and community. It is through this that individuals are empowered. It is these reasons that in a post-marriage equality state community centers are essential.

Think of the LGBT Center in Manhattan 30 years ago -- in 1983, when the center was founded, there weren't many laws protecting LGBTQ people, and AIDS was a ticking time bomb, but the community came together and the result was the birth of dozens of organizations and services that continue to serve LGBTQ individuals. The ability for individuals to come together and share ideas built community as much as sustained it. To have a permanent LGBTQ center in Brooklyn will mean that the diverse communities making up Brooklyn's LGBTQ population will have a place to come together to access much needed services but to also build community.

The Brooklyn Community Pride Center currently runs a series of programs, including Brooklyn Youth United Against Hate and our ElderCare program. Brooklyn Youth United is a youth-driven empowerment program designed to bring our young people together to provide them support services and an opportunity to connect with other LGBTQs in a safe and welcoming space. ElderCare is a groundbreaking initiative taking place in mainstream senior centers addressing the commonalities among the senior population in an attempt to tackle the isolation this population often faces. Daily we are looking at ways to expand our programming to include peer support groups, legal and education services, health initiatives, name change support for the transgender community, and social gathering to bring Brooklyn's LGBTQ community together.

Currently, Brooklyn's LGBTQ community must access services outside the borough, but in time, through relationships with organizations currently serving the LGBTQ community the Brooklyn Community Pride Center will provide a physical space to bring these services under one roof. Young people and their families will be able to find support services as they navigate coming out; transgender individuals will find services related to name changing, culturally competent health care, and assistance in navigating housing and employment opportunities; people living with HIV/AIDS can come to the center for support groups, access to information about health services, and resources related to housing; seniors can continue to participate in our ElderCare program, building relationships with other seniors; and families can learn about social activities with other LGBTQ families as well as support services. Together we will build and sustain our community.

I am thrilled to be at the helm of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. Four years ago a group of dedicated and thoughtful advocates and activists asked why Brooklyn was the only borough without an LGBTQ center. They didn't stop there; they started meeting with elected officials and community leaders and built a center. It is this dedication that will grow this organization to provide the support necessary for all of the LGBTQ community in Brooklyn. I am recently reminded to "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

ERIN DRINKWATER is the new executive director for the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. Learn more about its work at

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Advocate Contributors