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L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
October 24, 2013

Whose center is it anyway?

I can vividly recall the angst all of us marchers felt as we put ourselves out there on the streets to be ridiculed, spit-on and harassed during some of the first L.A. Gay Pride Parades; originally on Hollywood Boulevard, then, later in West Hollywood (still then the City Of Los Angeles) on Santa Monica Boulevard. Men and women marching together with one common aim, to gain legitimacy as a movement and be afforded some shred of dignity and respect as a community.

Our goal in those early years was merely to get through the parade unscathed-this was the best we could hope for. While we marched we could only watch helplessly as those taunting us from the side lines threw eggs, sodas and would indiscriminately pluck someone from the crowd to rough up. Both the L.A. police (under Chief Davis) and West Hollywood Sheriff's department in those days would look the other way, and even sometimes join in on the beatings. If you even tried to help you'd be arrested on some vague charge, so you just marched ahead, seeing the finish line down at the end of the Boulevard and wondering if you'd make it there alive.

Those are the memories I have of working for the dignities, legislation and federal funding we enjoy today as a gay, lesbian and transgender community. This is the memory of most gays and lesbians that are still around from those early days; maybe always still a little fearful that those rights could still snatched back at any time. When the first Gay Center on Highland Avenue in Hollywood opened its doors in October of 1971 it was a place everyone in the gay, lesbian and transgender community could come and feel safe and be amongst friends. It struggled financially for years to keep its doors open and because of such, needed to bring everyone in the community into the fold. We needed each other back then, if not only for support, for a place other than the clubs to network and exchange ideas.

The current Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Center, now a huge billion-dollar venture (thanks to your support) with numerous property and other holdings has grown financially, but it no longer is a center where everyone is welcome nor valued. As a senior who was recently "banned" from utilizing the services at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I know this to be true first-hand. Had I known while marching down those dangerous streets back in the 70's that what I was supporting would become simply a shell of its former self (nothing more than a "business model"), I might have done things differently.

A couple of months back, while at the center I witnessed a serious security breach that put several African-American Transgender kids from the youth center in danger for their lives. I not only became personally involved, but reported it to upper management. I was ashamed to learn the safety and well-being of our center kids are not priority one within the Lorri Jean (CEO) administration at the Center. Maybe it's because the kids were African-American that it wasn't important, or was it because they were Transgender, or maybe because it didn't fit into the Jean Administration agenda. I don't know. I do know that anyone who questions those at the helm are dismissed, over-ruled and considered the enemy.

Now I don't know whose center this is, but it's certainly not what I sacrificed and put my life in danger to support. It has become nothing more than an officious and sterile group of facilities that no longer even attempt to provide a welcoming, supportive, nor nurturing environment. It's sad that all our federal funding is lumped into this one organization and those who are excluded (ex-communicated) by the Jean Administration are out of luck. As far as I'm concerned, we, as a community have been hijacked by these people who view the center as a money-making venture. I plan to attend the next session of the Board of Director's to make my views known, but doubtfully it will change anything. How sad for us as a community, that this is what all of our hard work has produced.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Demand change

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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

No

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

None

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

MY ROLE:
General Member of the Public