In 2011, the LGBT Center of New York City began to ban certain LGBT groups and events that discussed ideas that the Executive Director, Glennda Testone, and the Board of Directors, deemed to be controversial. Initially this ban was meant to affect only a group called Siegebusters, a group of LGBT people working on activism related to Palestine, but the effects of this ban have mushroomed over the past two years.
Banning some LGBT people from the Center based on their beliefs, interests or conversations puts into danger the legitimacy all LGBT people at the NYC LGBT Center. Since the ban in 2011, many groups have left the Center, especially groups that are comprised chiefly of queer people of color, because this shift in policy indicated to many people that the LGBT Center was no longer a safe or welcoming place for them.
On February 13, 2013, Gay City News reported that Sarah Schulman, one of America's most prolific out lesbian authors, was barred from appearing at an event at the LGBT Center of New York City because the content of the book she was to read from, ISRAEL/PALESTINE AND THE QUEER INTERNATIONAL (Duke University Press), was objectionable and violated the policy of censorship put into place under Executive Director Glennda Testone.
The hosting organization, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid–NYC, is currently working to provide a back-up venue for the event.
QAIA Blog: http://queersagainstisraeliapartheid.blogspot.com/
Gay City News Article: http://gaycitynews.com/lgbt-center-bars-sarah-schulman-reading/
Sarah Schulman is a distinguished professor of the City of New York, author of 18 books, co-founder of the ACT UP Oral History Project, co-producer of the ACT UP documentary UNITED IN ANGER, co-founder of the Lesbian Avengers and co-founder of the MIX Experimental Film Festival. In her long career, she has been awarded the Kessler Prize for Sustained Contribution in LGBT Studies, a Stonewall Award for Contributions Improving the Lives of Lesbians and Gays in the United States, a Fullbright for Judaic studies, and many other awards. She was arrested five times protesting the ban on gay groups in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. In short, there are few other living activists who are more deserving of space at the LGBT Center of New York City. That the LGBT Center of New York City has become an organization hostile to an activist and scholar with the credibility of Ms. Schulman is a clear indication that no LGBT person can feel safe expressing their personal political beliefs without fear of being ostracized by this LGBT organization.
Clearly, the current "space rental policy" constitutes a dangerous form of censorship. Additionally, it is unethical and inappropriate for an organization meant to serve all LGBT people of the City of New York to exclude those LGBT people with whom the leadership disagrees.
The leadership of the LGBT Center of New York City must immediately reverse any and all policies which ban LGBT people from meeting at the LGBT center because of their political beliefs. This petition appeals to Glennda Testone, Executive Director, and to Brian C. Offutt, the Board President, who are responsible for not just an important organization but for the future of LGBT culture and activism in New York City, which was not built on, and can not be successful under a climate of censorship and fear.
The leadership of the LGBT Center of New York City must immediately reverse any and all policies which ban LGBT people from meeting at the LGBT center because of their political beliefs.