May 26, 2011

QUEER VICTORY! Today's action is still on!

Dear friends,

Pressure works! Yesterday afternoon, the LGBT Center reversed itself, and offered Queers Against Israeli Apartheid a meeting room for tonight's meeting. Thanks for all your very effective emails, calls and action RSVPs.

But the huge problem at the LGBT Center is not fixed.
  • The Center is clearly still panicked over queer political organizing -- they jettisoned their whole space request process because they didn't like the name of a queer group.
  • The Center board is still refusing to meet with queer organizers about these major accountability issues. Supposedly they've hired a consultant to "figure this stuff out" -- but they're not talking to the community!
  • Board meetings are still closed-door, unlike other queer community centers.
  • The right-wing gay forces who touched off this firestorm are gearing up again -- hoping to claim that allowing political groups to meet is a violation of the Center's non-profit status. It's ridiculous, but also scary.
PLEASE COME TONIGHT: It's still very useful and important to be at the Center at 6:30pm tonight.
The Center has just started to feel the pressure -- but truly, they still haven't gotten the message that they can't act this way. Filling the room (and the hallway!) tonight will help them get it.

Tell the Center's board: We refuse to have to organize actions and sit-ins in order to use our community space.
The Center must be transparently run, and be accountable to all queers.
The board must open its meetings, restore Siegebusters' right to meet there, and meet with Queers for an OpenLGBT Center.
Send your email from here:

Join us tonight! Meet in Rm 412 to support Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Overflow into the halls!

Michael Lucas kicks up again.

This email from Michael Lucas circulated after the LGBT Center announced that it has approved meeting space for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Terrifyingly, it proposes that the Center is not allowed to host any political group meetings, and that the Center is itself an "anti-Israeli nest." (What does a pro-Israel nest look like, then?!)

If ever there were a time to shore up the Center's principles of openness and commitment to queers' long history of political organizing, it's now.

From: Michael Lucas
Date: Wed, May 25, 2011 at 4:47 PM
Subject: Bad News
To: Michael Lucas

Dear friends-

I have a very unfortunate update. The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was just granted the ability to have their meetings in the LGBT Center. As I always believed, the LGBT Center of NY is an anti-Israeli nest and we did not put enough pressure on them to stop their efforts to harm the Jewish state. But we have the power to stop them. The LGBT Center receives city, federal, foundation, and private funding. We have to work on reaching the government officials and ask them to cut that funding unless the Center changes its decision. We should also reach out to different organizations and individuals and collect money to take a full page ad in the New York Times Magazine. I know this is not cheap and I myself will generously contribute. I also believe that their support of political activity may jeopardize their ability to maintain tax-free status. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts, input, and suggestions. I do need your help.

Best regards,

Michael Lucas

LGBT Center's press release on Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Here's the LGBT Center's press release on giving Queers Against Israeli Apartheid some meeting space.

It's something of a mystery that the Center did not send this statement to any of the folks who wrote from Queers for an Open LGBT Center, nor the folks who send them emails about QAIA. So whom were they talking to with this press release?

And second: really, it was worthy of a press release?! Then we still have a problem...

May 25, 2011

Statement on Decision to Allow Space Use by Outside Queer Identified Group

The Center recently received a request for space rental by a group called “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” for the purposes of holding recurring meetings to plan for local Pride events. This afternoon we informed the group that the Center would allow access for these meetings.

The decision is consistent with our current guidelines. Under the guidelines we provide space to community groups for a fee on a case-by-case basis, asking that they abide by the Center’s Space Use Agreement, Payment Terms, Code of Conduct and Good Neighbor Policy. Earlier this year we denied space to a group with a similar profile because among other reasons, it was not LGBT focused. In addition, the Center has a longstanding practice of allowing non-LGBT groups to meet so long as it doesn't distract us from our primary purpose of serving the LGBT community; the circumstances surrounding the group in question diverted us from our core mission and we therefore asked it to move an event and all future meetings.

LGBT New Yorkers are facing urgent issues including: youth homelessness, violence, bullying, substance abuse, health disparities and the other myriad of challenges our community members encounter each and every day.  The Center is here to help address these issues 365 days a year. Six thousand people pass through our doors every week.  We have a responsibility to meet the vast and diverse needs of this community, and our number one priority is delivering critical services to the people we directly serve.

The Center also provides space for a variety of LGBT voices in our community to engage in conversations on a range of topics. The Center does not have a position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, nor does it endorse the viewpoints of this group or any others that use rooms here. This is a complex issue, and there is a tremendous diversity of viewpoints within the LGBT community.

We are currently undergoing a review of our space-use guidelines to ensure we have the most robust standards moving forward. As an interim step we are asking all new and existing groups to sign a Space Use Pledge of Non-Discrimination as part of their rental agreements. The group we approved today has signed this pledge.

Most recently we have also engaged the firm Ritchie Tye Consulting, Inc. to help facilitate a thorough review of the Center’s current standards and procedures for determining space use by outside groups, with the ultimate goal of strengthening our guidelines. Ritchie Tye Consulting, Inc. is a New York-based organizational development consulting firm with a long tenure of work with the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities.

The firm has already been working closely with Center leadership on a process that includes opportunities for input from a diverse cross-section of Center and community stakeholders through interviews and small groups, and will deliver recommendations to the full Board of Directors later this year. At the conclusion of this process, we will apply the newly adopted guidelines to all existing, recurring and new space-for-fee requests.

The Center continues to welcome community input and feedback on this topic through our online suggestion box.

May 24, 2011

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May 23, 2011

Action Alert! Thursday 5/26 - come out for an open LGBT Center!


WHAT:  LGBT group that is being denied meeting space at LGBT Community Center will show up to try to take it.
WHEN: Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 PM
WHO: Queers Against Israeli Apartheid supported by Queers for an Open LGBT Center
WHERE: LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., Manhattan
MEDIA CONTACT: Pauline Park, Queers for an Open LGBT Center at (718) 424-4003 (phone); (718) 662-8893 (cell); e-mail:

Join a support action at the Center on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 pm.

Call or email Center director Glennda Testone on (212) 620-7310/ to demand meeting space for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
Call or email Center board chair Mario Palumbo at (212) 875-4900/

Statement to the Community: Stonewalled by the Center -- Enough is Enough


Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to Meet at LGBT Center May 26 at 6:30 PM
Request for Space Stonewalled by Center
Queers for an Open LGBT Center Say, “Enough is Enough”

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will hold a planning meeting for participation in New York-area Pride marches on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 PM at the LGBT Community Center at 208 W. 13th St. Queers for an Open LGBT Center is calling on community members to show up on Thursday in solidarity with their request for meeting space.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid works to build LGBT opposition to the Israeli government’s institutional racism and occupation of Palestinian lands and in solidarity with Queer Palestinians who identify how these issues are a necessary part of their Queer agenda.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid applied for meeting space on May 10. The Center’s stated policy is to respond to such requests within “two to three business days,” but the Center has still not confirmed a meeting space and time for the group almost TWO WEEKS later. Instead of receiving an answer, the group has been stonewalled, asked to answer a raft of questions about its intentions and stonewalled again. Promises were made

Press Release: Center denying space to queer political groups

Call to Show Solidarity as Group Tries to Meet at Center May 26, 6:30 PM

Below is a joint statement from Queers for an Open LGBT Center and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid protesting the LGBT Community Center’s ongoing attempts to filter and censor queer political organizing. The Center staff has most recently refused to grant meeting space to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Pride-season organizing or even make a decision about the group’s request in a timely fashion.

Time Mag on queers & Palestine (will the Center's board read it?)

This blog is not about queers and Palestine -- it's about the Center. But one can't help pointing out: even Time Magazine gets that queers are organizing around the Israeli occupation, and it's a queer issue. The Center's refusal to deal with queer organizing on this issue smacks ever more of censorship reflecting the specific political opinions of the board -- and some donors.
Is Israel Using Gay Rights to Excuse Its Policy on Palestine?Read more:,8599,2070415,00.html#ixzz1NBCzfFtp
Next month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, an international season of parades, cultural festivals and street parties celebrating gay rights. But amid all the good cheer, tensions are rising over a controversial issue that is splintering LGBT communities. Around the world, major pride events are being used as battlegrounds to combat what some pro-Palestinian, progay activists are calling pink washing: Israel's promotion of its progressive gay-rights record as a way to cover up ongoing human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.

Another group facing denial: Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

The Center is using "procedure" and delays to deny space to yet another queer political group that it apparently finds uncomfortable. Queers for an Open LGBT Center supports the right of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to use our community space for queer organizing.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid made a standard request for space on May 10th to organize the group's participation in upcoming Pride events. Space requests are supposed to take 2-3 days to approve.  So when QAIA didn't hear back from the Center in three days, its representative called the Center to ask what was up.

May 13, 2011

Pauline Park in Village Voice: LGBT Center 'Gave the Community the Finger'

More coverage of the LGBT Center's censorship of "controversial" queer political organizing, from the Village Voice's Steven Thrasher. Pauline gives some history of the Siegebusters/LGBT Center issue, and some sorely-needed fresh air on the Center board's skittish response to queer political engagement.
​Veteran transgender activist Pauline Park — responsible for adding the "T" to Manhattan's LGBT Center — blasts the center's controversial decision in March to cave to pressure from pro-Zionist gay-porn impresario Michael Lucas and ban an "Israeli Apartheid Week" event sponsored by Siege Busters. The Queens Pride House, of which she is board president, hosted Siege Busters' screening of Arna's Children (a documentary sympathetic to Palestinians) last weekend in Jackson Heights. We spoke with Park about why she thinks the Manhattan LGBT Center has "basically given the community the finger" and has said to other gays — in her words — "Fuck you, drop dead, we only care about the bottom line."Officials at the Manhattan LGBT Center, the city's major gay community center, will no longer talk about the controversy, telling the Voice, "At this time, we are not doing any further interviews on the topic."
[Interview with Pauline follows... click to read it!]

Stonewalled: Center rebuffs queers seeking sunshine.

On April 5th, Queers for an Open LGBT Center wrote to the board to ask for an update on their progress -- and some accountability to community members engaged in this issue, in the form of a meeting with the board. No dice. A week later, board chair Mario Palumbo referred us to staff as the administrators of the old policies still in place, said they were working on it, and shut the door.

It's worth noting that the Center's "community forum" was heavily attended by long-time organizers from many corners of the queer community. The Queers for an Open LGBT Center letter is signed by some of them. Others, including many groups of queers of color, have made their own contact with the Center. The Center's refusal to meet because "more people might also want meetings" is seriously bad behavior for stewards of a community space. Queers who are organizing are the Center's constituency, and must be at the heart of this discussion, if it's honest. The Center board's odd, ahistoric removal from queer organizing is clearly part of the problem.

Here's the thread:

About Queers for an Open LGBT Center