In an effort to show pride for the services it provides to those in need, the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Greater Cincinnati
rounded out 2012 by finishing renovations to its facility. Now, the Center is prepped for September when it will celebrate 20 years as an informational resource to the GLBTQ community and its allies.
The Center was found in 1983, and according to board member and long-time volunteer Michael Chanak, “the world was pretty different then.” Prior to the “advent of 1,001 gay-friendly groups,” Chanak says, there was more of a need for a meeting space, which the organization still provides; but its current and primary function is to serve as a site that points people in the right direction, depending on one’s needs.
Though the organization receives a lot of calls about various forms of counseling and legal advice, the Center’s volunteers are not licensed to provide this type of support. Rather, they refer people to those who can.
“We don’t necessarily do a lot of hands-on, direct work,” Chanak says. “It’s a place where it’s kind of a stepping-in and a stepping-off point for a lot of folks. I would say the vast majority of stuff is, ‘I’m new to the community;’ ‘I’m new to the area;’ or ‘I’m coming out, and I don’t know how to. Who can I work with or what can I do?’ or that sort of thing.”
For newcomers to the Cincinnati area or for those who have lived here for years but who may be new to the GLBTQ community, the Center is a vital resource.
In addition to serving as a liaison for community members and resources, the Center makes it part of its mission to bring in certified individuals for educational seminars on issues that are critical to the GLBTQ community. In conjunction with the Central Community Health Board
, the organization provides access to a quarterly HIV seminar. It also puts on a semi-annual workshop which addresses gender, identities and sexually, and is presented in cooperation with the Midwest Trans* & Queer Wellness Initiative
Though the Center is proud of the work it has done during the past 19 years and is looking forward to continuing to provide awareness and education to the GLBTQ community as it embarks on its 20th anniversary, Chanak says he’s not sure he wants the Center to be around 50 years from now.
“Is there going to be a need for a center 50 years from now?" says Chanak. "I hope not, in a way. What’s made these sort of organizations come about was there wasn’t the basis for support and information. But we’ve got a way to go there too, and we need a place for gay people to go and get information.”
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By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.