March 31, 2011

The Center's fear of controversy strikes again.

Here's Gay City News on the cancelled/moved GLYDSA meeting (link below.) Did the Center push to cancel another event because it was going to be controversial?! Interestingly, Michael Lucas is now calling the Center reps liars, and saying they deliberately went after a vulnerable group. Maybe the Center would be better off making decisions based on principals of community and openness, rather than trying to please a nutty loose cannon of a right-wing funder?
Asked by Gay City News if the Center asked GLYDSA to cancel its meeting, the group wrote, “[W]e were not asked to cancel or move our meeting... Yes, we were pressured to cancel Mr. Lucas. This was in addition to potential unwanted intrusions by outsiders, including the press. We made the decision to move away from any potential disruption for the benefit of our members who trust us to guard their privacy and confidentiality. As long-standing constituents and supporters of the Center, we thought it might also diffuse some of the tension there as well.”

March 29, 2011

Phyllis Chesler basically says queers against Israeli occupation are mentally ill

Can't post this one without some comment. Now that Jews are so visibly organized against Zionism and Apartheid, and queers are organized to demand the rights of Palestinians and decry Islamophobia, the right is finding it tough to claim that Israel is all that's keeping Jews and Middle Eastern queers (and women, etc.) safe from the ravages of the Arab world.

To keep the right-wing case afloat, Chesler is now arguing that we're "obsessed with our own victimhood" to the point where we support our oppressors (Muslims, presumably.) What will Chesler make of the Palestinian queer movement, and its insistence on the inextricability of occupation with homophobia, whenever she finally notices it?

And here's a nutty snippet:
I have seen gay and lesbian contingents marching together with leftists and Arabs outside presentations I have given; they have heckled, hooted and tried to silence me in the lecture hall. The loudest chants of "From the River to the Sea -Palestine will be free" are coming, not only from the Muslim student associations or from the Palestinians with loudspeakers; they are coming from the mouths of American Jewish lesbian feminists whose very lives, certainly their political identities, are strangely bound up with Arab territorial claims.

The Jewish lesbians among them are not "self-hating Jews." They are political opportunists obsessed with their own victimhood posturing -even if it means they must sacrifice the cause of both women and homosexuals in the process.

Village Voice: Some info on Michael Lucas, and the Center's initial resistance to kicking out Siegebusters

Village Voice's background on right-wing gay activist Michael Lucas. Maybe most interesting: reporting that the Center rejected his attempts to intimidate them. What made them cave?
Michael Lucas: The Zionist Porn Impresario Waves His Political Muscle in the Left's Face
... By the end of the week, Lucas became known for flexing his political muscle: He intimidated New York's LGBT Center into canceling its hosting of another group's Israeli Apartheid Week event scheduled for next month. And it took him only a few hours of emails and phone calls, plus a little more than $1,000, to do so.

"At first," he tells the Voice, "they tried to tell me, 'Don't intimidate us.' " He says he was told the Center had an "open-door policy." (Center officials have repeatedly refused to answer the Voice's specific questions on the matter.)

Within hours, the Center's open-door policy shut down. Lucas says: "[Executive Director] Glennda Testone responded directly to me, writing, 'We are canceling the event. Next time, maybe we can talk more about it before you do all of that.'"

Village Voice: Testone fails to make amends in mtg with Siegebusters

Village Voice's Steven Thrasher covers Siegebusters' meeting with Testone. Outcome: no movement from the Center.
'Party to End Israeli Apartheid!' Still On at Gay Center, Activists Vow, But With Picketing, Not Dancing

The Center's officials, smarting from criticism, have announced a March 13 "Community Forum," saying, "Recent events have led us to build on our process for providing space."
The Siege Busters folks are not impressed so far. After a week of silent treatment from the Center following their ejection, they say, Testone finally agreed to meet with them, but with tight restrictions on what could even be discussed.
When they arrived at the Center, Taylor and two others were escorted to meet with Testone and two members of her staff. As Taylor recalls it, "We basically said, 'We're here to help you handle the fact that you've made a terrible mistake. A terrible PR mistake, and a terrible political mistake. We'd like to discuss the way that we can, in a facesaving manner, reinstate this event and allow Siege Busters to meet at the Center again. We don't want to rub your nose in it, we don't want to attack the Center or you personally. The only thing we want is for the Center to rescind the decision.' "

Jewish Voices for Peace decries Center's censorship of discussion of Israeli policy

Jewish Voices for Peace blogs about pinkwashing, and the Center's collaboration with the effort by Lucas and others to depict Israel as gay-friendly, and its opponents as anti-gay. Snippet follows the link.

Taking Pinkwashing to a whole new level, one of Israel’s very very good friends– gay male pornographer Michael Lucas– is boasting that he single-handedly got NY’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans Community Center to not only cancel a “Party to End Apartheid” fundraiser to cover costs for Israel Awareness Week, but to ban the group from ever renting there again. How? You know, the usual calls from supporters and threats to withhold major donations (according to Lucas).

Village Voice on GLYDSA/Lucas event cancellation

Village Voice's Steven Thrasher sheds some light on the difference between Lucas' and GLYDSA's versions of why Lucas' speaking event was moved from the Center. Snippet follow the link.

Gay Center's Feud Over Middle Eastern Politics Flares Up Again

Lucas was to speak about his role in lobbying for the cancellation. But at the last minute, the Orthodox Jewish gays decided to call off their own meeting at the center and hold it at another location.
Members of Siege Busters, and others who supported the anti-Zionist activists' right to meet at the Center, howled, questioning the double standard of allowing a pro-Israel group to host a controversial speaker, while forbidding a pro-Palestine group from doing it own thing at the Center.

But on the eve of yesterday's event, the Orthodox Jewish gay group moved it to another locale.
Fanning the flames of the feud, Lucas added, "The problem is that the Center got so much involved with anti-Semitic groups that now Jews don't feel safe meeting there any longer."

There's no evidence of that, and the Center's officials — and GYLDSA — deny that there have been any threats or pressure. "We are a small private group with no interest in publicity," a group spokesman tells us. "We received no threats, nor did the Center ask us to 'un-invite' Michael Lucas."

March 28, 2011

Lucas surfaces again at the Center, then cancels himself.

On March 17th, the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association (GLYDSA) posted this announcement of an event -- at the Center -- featuring Michael Lucas. A few days later, Lucas seems to have pulled the event from the Center himself. (Read more after the jump.)

Queers for an Open LGBT Center, along with some members of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, intended to leaflet the event to decry the hypocrisy of the Center -- giving the controversial Lucas a platform, even as they bars others from speaking either at his behest or because they're "too controversial."

Center's response to follow-up letter

Hi Bill and everyone,

Thank you for checking in with us. We are continuing to carefully review the community feedback from the forum and the input coming in through the online suggestion box. This issue is a priority for us and we will keep you apprised. One of the things we heard loud and clear at the forum was that people wanted more avenues to communicate input and concerns to the Center, so in addition to the initial community forum and the online suggestion box, we have decided to offer other community forums as well. We also plan to share the details of our process for analyzing and revising our room rental policies in a public memo as soon as possible.

Thanks again,

Queer organizers pull together to challenge Center's ban

In the wake of the Center's inconclusive public forum, a growing group of queer activists planned an organizing meeting. Just in advance of the meeting, some of us sent this follow-up letter to the Center's director Glennda Testone, board chair Mario Palumbo, and the only other board member present at the pubic forum, Tom Kirdahy.

March 21, 2011

Dear Glennda, Mario and Tom,

We're writing to stay in touch about the issues raised in the
community forum and to get an update. There were several issues on
the table when we ended the forum--particularly the questions of
whether the Center would invite Siegebusters to resume meeting there,
and whether the Center Board of Directors would open its own meetings
to the community.

We are members of an ad hoc group meeting tonight to talk about all
this and we would appreciate knowing whether the Center has made any
decisions about any of the above.

Thank you,

Bill Dobbs
Ann Northrop
Naomi Brussel
Brad Taylor
Leslie Cagan
Pauline Park
Emmaia Gelman
Lisa Duggan
Steve Ault
Jasbir Puar
Andy Humm

Gay City News on Center's public forum

LGBT Center’s Ban on Israeli Critics Debated at Forum

March 13 town hall draws crowd of 100, deeply divided, with some faulting content standard for access

Glennda Testone, executive director of New York City's LGBT Community Center.
Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 4:18 PM CDT
While the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center can legally ban a group that opposes Israeli government policies toward Palestinians, it was clear at a town hall meeting held at the Center was that some in the community expect more from the 28-year-old institution than merely complying with the law.

“I think the Center cannot, in any way, make decisions based on the content or controversial nature of the event,” said Urvaishi Vaid, the longtime queer community leader, at the March 13 event. “I want the Center to be a place where people like Michael [Lucas] can come and organize and people like Siegebusters can come and organize.”

Village Voice on the Center's public forum

Here is Steven Thrasher's reporting on the forum. Boring comment war not re-posted here, but you can read it on Thrasher's blog.

More Sniping in the Gay Center's Battle of Zion

The LGBT Center
​Michael Lucas, the pro-Zionist pornographer who led thesuccessful effort to get the LGBT Center to cancel an anti-Zionist "Israeli Apartheid Week" event, once again dominated discussion at what was billed a "community forum" last weekend on who gets to use the Center.

The spirited, standing-room-only crowd, on the other hand, appeared to consist mostly of Lucas's foes: supporters of Siege Busters, an activist group that was trying to put on the anti-Zionist event.

At the heart of the debate was the right to free speech for anyone renting space in the Center versus the right of donors to have their say about who gets to use the space. That argument is far from settled.

A large number of those present seemed to feel uncomfortable allowing the Center to decide what is or is not "too controversial" or "gay enough." Some said they'd feel uncomfortable coming to a Center where a group using the words "Israeli Apartheid" was allowed to meet. But more said they had met at the Center for years around "non-gay" issues like war, the death penalty, and South African apartheid.

How the Center's forum unfolded: liveblogging from Tom Leger

The Center's public forum on March 13th was liveblogged somewhat awesomely by Tom Leger.

Transcript of the liveblogging, plus some comments, is here and below:

The Pink Sheet (from the LGBT Center's public forum)

As the Center issue was discussed among various queer activists, a shared concern emerged that the Center's "public forum" would be a melee in which nothing was accomplished, that it would amount to a turnout contest between "pros" and "antis," and the Center would be allowed to claim that "voices had been heard" and the matter closed.

A little effort to organize progressive queer activist thinking produced a Pink Sheet -- an open letter from queers to queers intended to help keep the discussion focused. Text and the list of signers are below. More detail on what did happen at the forum is posted next on this blog.

Letter to participants at the LGBT Community Center public forum –
March 13, 2011

Greetings to All,

We don't know how this meeting will go. We are (separately) members of Siegebusters, members of groups who wrote to the Center to object to the treatment of Siegebusters and queer political activists in general, organizers of the last week’s protest against the Center’s censorship, Palestinian and Jewish queers, and active participants in queer community. The Center hasn't included any of us as “stakeholders” in planning this meeting. However, we'd like to offset some of the chaos by offering a few starting ideas.

Gay City News: LGBT Center announces community forum

Gay City News was the source of news about the community forum for most of the groups and individuals (as well as Siegebusters) who protested the Center's actions.
Dispute over pro-Palestinian event cancellation continues, Jewish state’s critics plan Mar. 5 protest on W. 13th St.

In the wake of an emotional debate pitting the LGBT Community Center and defenders of Israel against critics of the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians living in the territory it controls and other community members concerned about the cancellation of a fundraising party those critics had planned at the West 13th Street facility, the Center is now planning a “Community Forum” on Sunday, March 13 at 5 p.m.
The Center’s announcement of the March 13 forum followed by one day failed negotiations between its top staff and representatives of Siege Busters about the possibility of holding a town hall meeting the evening of March 5 at the time the IAW fundraiser had initially been planned.

Siegebusters rejects a Center-controlled forum... and the Center announces a forum

According to Siegebusters reps: on March 3rd, Siegebusters met with Glennda Testone. Hoping to let the Center back out of its corner, Siegebusters reps said they would be amenable to a community forum rather than the Israeli Apartheid Week fundraiser they'd planned. Their terms: that they would plan the agenda, that the event would be open to the media, and that it would still be a fundraiser.

Testone was not agreeable to those terms. Reportedly, she said that the Center would have to control the content, no media would be allowed in because that violated the "folksy way" of the Center, and that fundraising could happen, but not as the overt intent of the event.

With no resolution in sight, plans for protest at the LGBT Center (not organized by Siegebusters) went forward. The next day, Gay City News ran an announcement of the Center's plan to hold a public forum. True to Testone's word, the Center forum was planned without input from Siegebusters, the individuals and groups involved in organizing the protest, or those who had written to the Center to object to everything that had happened so far.

March 25, 2011

Gay City News on the protest @ LGBT Center

In its coverage of the protest against the Center's ejection of Siegebuaster, Gay City News covers "pinkwashing" -- painting occupation with a gay-friendly brush -- and the Center's de facto exclusion of Palestinian queers.
150 Picket Center's Nixing of Anti-Israel Fundraiser

Protesters hoist the Palestinian National Authority's flag at a March 5 protest outside the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. (GAY CITY NEWS)
...The crowd of roughly 150 who turned out for the early evening protest voiced angry criticism of the Center for its decision 11 days before to bar a fundraising party by Siege Busters. The event would have provided money for a new flotilla to challenge the Israeli navy’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“The idea that the Center’s core mission does not include concern for queer Palestinians is a very odd definition of a core mission,” said Naomi Brussel, speaking for Siege Busters. Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, said in a February 22 release that controversy over the party had begun “to distract from our core mission.”
For Testone and the Center, however, the toughest challenge could come from critics such as Rami Al-Bakri, a 22-year-old Palestinian who has been in the US for the past four years studying (he declined to say where).

Pointing to daily humiliations he and his family endure at home, he said, “Then I come to New York and experience the same thing at the Center. It’s something I expect from the Israeli state, but not from the Center.”

Asked about the treatment of queers by Palestinian leaders and whether pro-Palestinian activists in the US can credibly claim to be speaking for LGBT people in Gaza and the West Bank, Al-Bakri, who is affiliatged with alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, responded, “Queers and women have always been part of the struggle for Palestinian rights. As a Palestinian identified as queer, I’ve always been part of the movement since I was a kid.”

“Am I giving up on my society to be gay? No,” he said, emphasizing his determination to stay with the cause in his homeland. “In Palestine, I fight for my right to be queer in the Palestinian movement. Here, I fight for my right to be Palestinian in the queer movement.”

Gay City News on the Siegebusters ban

Gay City News' Paul Schindler writes a clear profile of who Michael Lucas is in this debate -- and the plethora of longtime queer community activists calling for the Center to stop heeding Lucas' claims that opposing occupation is anti-Semitic. Several statements appear here that aren't elsewhere. Snippets follow the link.

Firestorm Over LGBT Center Jettisoning Critics of Israel

Michael Lucas, the Center's Glennda Testone, and Siege Busters' Sherry Wolf.
The February 22 decision by New York’s LGBT Community Center to cancel a party planned to mark Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), an annual international mobilization by critics of the Jewish state’s treatment of the Palestinians who live in the territory it controls, has sparked outraged response from many LGBT New Yorkers, including a good number of prominent Jewish lesbian and gay activists — but has also won support from other progressive Jewish gay leaders and journalists.


Press release: Protest @ LGBT Center


Groups challenge LGBT Center's move to ban anti-occupation group at behest of pro-Israel funders

March 5, New York, NY – More than 130 New Yorkers gathered this evening in front of the NYC LGBT Center on W. 13th St. to protest the Center's decision to cancel tonight’s scheduled “Party to End Apartheid” and to ban one of its organizers, Siegebusters Working Group, from holding regular meetings there. The party was intended to be part of the annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a series of events designed to educate and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns in concordance with the just demands of Palestinian civil society.

A festive but determined mood permeated the crowd as activists chanted and members of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra drummed and trumpeted. Chants included, “We’re here! We’re queer! And we support Palestine!” and “Educate! Agitate! Organize!” – a phrase that also appears in a large art installation inside the Center itself. Individuals instrumental in the cancelation of the event did not escape notice, as protestors also chanted, “Michael Lucas, we know you – spreading lies and hatred, too!” and “Glennda, Glennda, you will see! Our center will be free!”

Center's response to queer protest -- Goons.

In the lead-up to the protest, the Center did not respond to any of the letters it received from organizations that had signed on as sponsors. At the protest itself -- in the face of the clear message that the Center was becoming unwelcoming and/or unsafe for many queers -- the Center brought in private security ( to keep queers out.

More photos of the demo and the security firm are here:

Queers organize protest @ LGBT Center

In response to the Center's cancellation of the Siegebusters event and banning of Siegebusters' meetings from the Center, queers organized a protest of the LGBT Center.

Here's the press advisory:


Groups challenge LGBT Center's move to ban anti-occupation group at behest of pro-Israel funders


Protest rally against LGBT Community Center: under pressure from pro-Israel funders, the Center has cancelled an anti-occupation fundraiser and banned meetings of a Palestine human rights group.


All conscientious community and: Siegebusters Working Group, Existence is Resistance, Israeli Apartheid Week organizers,


Saturday, March 5, 6:30-7:30pm


Outside LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street (near 7th Ave.)

More info:

Many voices have been raised against the Center's decision through a petition: ( - 1400 signatures and counting, and statements from individuals and organizations: (

The LGBT Center's director, Glennda Testone, cancelled a major Israel Apartheid Week fundraiser this week. She acted just hours after an anti-Muslim activist threatened to organize donors to pull Center funding. Glennda also decided that SiegeBusters can't meet at the Center any more; and that airing Israel's violent repression of Palestinians -- queer and otherwise -- violates the Center's "safe haven."

This isn't the first time the Center is labeling community members "good" or "bad": it's not so long since trans people were literally thrown out when trying to attend Center events. We fought back then, and we'll fight back now. No silencing of voices calling for liberation.

Faced with bad press and a torrent of criticism, Glennda "offered" to substitute the fundraiser with a closed meeting about the Center's policies. We're not distracted by Glennda's bad-faith deal. And we don't have to have a meeting to know that the LGBT Center belongs to all of us.

Here's the list of sponsors the protest:
SiegeBusters + Existence is Resistance + Israeli Apartheid Week + Aswat – Palestinian Gay Women + Irish Queers + Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society + Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions + Audre Lorde Project + NYU Students for Justice in Palestine + Jews Say No! + Queers for Economic + Justice Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition + Out- FM (WBAI) + Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel + Queering the Air (New Brunswick, NJ) + Jews Against the Occupation + US Boat to Gaza + Professor and author Lisa Duggan + Professor and author Sarah Schulman + International Socialist Organization + Author Sherry Wolf + Professor and author Judith Butler

Here's the Facebook event, which is now full of comments:

Village Voice on how it all started

Steven Thrasher sums up the happenings -- and the serious unanswered questions -- that launched the outrage at the Center's booting of Siegebusters and their fundraiser party at the end of February. Snippets follow the link.

Well, that was quick. We were looking forward to covering "Party to End Apartheid!," an Israeli Apartheid Week event on March 5 at the LGBT Center, where those two worlds would collide.

Our excitement was short-lived. Pornographer Michael Lucas was furious that the Center would hold such an event and vowed "a boycott that would certainly involve some of the [NYC LGBT] Center's most generous donors." Lucas, one of gay porn's most outspoken figures, is known equally for his "Men of Israel" films, his rabidly right-wing political writing for the Advocate, and his custom-made dildo in the shape of his own manhood.

Statements from queer groups objecting to the Center's actions

Many groups sent statements and letters in response to the LGBT Center's cancellation of the anti-Occupation fundraiser, and the expulsion of Siegebusters. They covered topics including:
  • The marginalization of queers of color, Middle Eastern queers and Palestinian queers in particular by the Center's actions
  • Objections to censorship of free speech and queer organizing
  • Objections to the Center's capitulation to funders demanding to control queer space
  • Lack of a transparent process for deciding how our community's Center can or cannot be used
  • Challenges to the Center's excuses for acting as they did
  • and more...
Statements posted online are here:
Aswat - Palestinian Gay Women and alQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society:

LGBT Center cancels "Israeli Apartheid Week" fundraiser, expels Siegebusters

Below is the press release from March 1, 2011, describing the LGBT Center's act to cancel Siegebusters' fundraiser party, and ban Siegebusters from meeting at the Center. (From

The release includes statements from queer groups, queer anti-Occupation groups and anti-Occupation groups that are heavily queer even if not directly queer-identified.

March 23, 2011

Formation of Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFAOLC)

At the ad hoc meeting on March 21 (in space provided by the Audre Lorde Project...) Queers for an Open LGBT Center was officially formed. Our points of agreement:

- Affirm SiegeBusters' right to meet at the Center (and reinstate)
- Clarify guidelines for use of Center space (and make sure they're open)
- Open up board meetings, including maybe create Community Advisory Board

Queers for an Open LGBT Center continues to meet and work regularly.

About Queers for an Open LGBT Center