How You Can Support NYC’s LGBTQ+ Community
New York City is home to one of the largest and loudest LGBTQ+ communities in the world. As the birthplace of the historic Stonewall Riots, New York City set the stage for the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and liberation across the United States.
Over the years, countless legendary LGBTQ+ activists, academics, artists, and performers have flocked to or found their calling in Manhattan. Today, LGBTQ+ people from around the world continue to seek community, inspiration, and opportunities in New York City, as it is brimming with LGBTQ-run and LGBTQ-friendly spaces.
If you want to support NYC’s ever-growing LGBTQ+ community, we list four ways you can do so. But first, a quick history lesson on the origins of New York City’s larger-than-life LGBTQ+ community.
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A Brief Guide To LGBTQ+ History In NYC
New York City has a rich LGBTQ+ history. The LGBT+ Community Center National History Archive, a community-based archive that preserves documents and photos detailing the lives of LGBTQ+ people living in and around New York, has materials from as early as 1878.
This was a time when sodomy laws criminalized anyone caught having sexual relations with a person of the same gender. Still, underground gay bathhouses, drag balls, and nightclubs thrived despite the constant threat of being raided by police.
1960s: Raids And Riots
In June of 1969, LGBTQ+ rights saw a turning point when gay men, trans women, lesbians, and drag queens rioted against the police following an evening raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village that was operating without a liquor license.
At the raid, drag queens and cross-dressers were arrested for “masquerading” as a member of the opposite sex, which was then considered a crime. Patrons fought back against the police, and it became a hub for gay activists in the subsequent days.
1970s: Celebrations And Unrest
One year after the Stonewall riots took place, the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee commemorated the events by holding the first-ever Gay Pride March.
In 1979, 10 years after the Stonewall riots and nearly one year after San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated, thousands of members of the LGBTQ+ community joined the first National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
1980s: AIDS Epidemic
The activist group ACT UP was formed in New York City as the AIDS epidemic ravaged its gay and bisexual community. ACT UP staged various “die-in” protests to bring attention to the epidemic and shame the government for its inaction. According to NPR, ACT UP “ultimately forced the government and the scientific community to fundamentally change the way medical research is conducted”.
21st Century: Progress In The Fight For Equality
In July 2011, after years of organizing by advocates, same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of New York under the Marriage Equality Act. Five years later, the Stonewall area became a designated national monument for its historic impact.
Today, there are an estimated 756,000 LGBTQ+ residents in the metropolitan New York area – more than in any other city in the US.
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The Top 4 Ways To Support The LGBTQ+ Community In NYC
Despite the great strides made by all the LGBTQ+ advocates, activists, and artists of NYC, many still remain vulnerable, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The LGBTQ+ community was found to bear a bigger brunt of the impact of the pandemic, facing higher incidences of job instability, houselessness, depression and anxiety, addiction, violence, and police brutality. Many LGBTQ-run businesses also had to shut down due to the pandemic.
With all that in mind, how can you support the LGBTQ+ community in New York City? Here are four ways you can help:
Donate To Or Volunteer At An LGBTQ+ Organization
ALI FORNEY CENTER
LGBTQ+ youth – especially BIPOC youth – are more prone to houselessness than white, cis-hetero youth. The Ali Forney Center, the largest LGBTQ+ youth homeless shelter in NYC, aims to protect homeless LGBTQ+ youth from the dangers of homelessness and empower them to live independently.
There is a minimum commitment period for volunteers who want to assist with meal prep, drop-in center, youth counseling, and LEP tutoring. If you’re not staying long in NYC, you can also help by purchasing an item from its Amazon wish list – all purchased items go directly to a youth in need.
THE APICHA COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER
The Apicha Community Health Center is a healthcare provider that specializes in serving Asians and Pacific Islanders, Latinos, African Americans, and other people of color, as well as LGBTQ+ people living with HIV/AIDS. Its ethos is to provide affordable healthcare to the underserved people of New York City.
THE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY PRIDE CENTER
The Brooklyn Community Pride Center provides support to Brooklyn’s growing LGBTQ+ community through partnerships with other organizations (including the Ali Forney Center) and “life-affirming activities” that allow Brooklynites to learn, create, organize, socialize, and heal.
NEW YORK CITY’S LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL & TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY CENTER
New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, or simply “The Center”, is the largest LGBTQ+ community center in the city and the “heart and home” of NYC’s LGBTQ+ community.
Aside from providing HIV and AIDS services, arts and culture events, career development programs and placement support, and counseling for LGBTQ+ and questioning individuals and their families, the Center has also become a safe space for over 200 groups to meet and organize.
THE LESBIAN HERSTORY ARCHIVES
The Lesbian Herstory Archives is the largest collection of materials written by and about lesbians, shedding light on the stories of women who were silenced and excluded from contemporary culture. You can make a financial donation or donate your personal collection to the archive.
SERVICES & ADVOCACY FOR GLBT ELDERS
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders or SAGE is the largest and oldest organization dedicated to serving older LGBTQ+ adults. SAGE provides caregiving services, friendly visiting programs, and affordable housing to LGBTQ+ seniors who may not have the resources or relatives to help them in their twilight years.
You can volunteer for the friendly visiting program or the SAGEConnect program, which pairs volunteers with participants for weekly phone calls.
Support LGBTQ-Owned Businesses
As mentioned, LGBTQ-owned and run businesses have been particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as gentrification. Some of the hardest-hit establishments are historic gay nightlife spots, which have already struggled with dwindling attendance from younger demographics.
One such spot is Julius’, the city’s oldest gay bar established in 1864. It’s also known for the historic “Sip-In”, which was done to protest the discriminatory regulation that kept establishments from serving drinks to known or suspected gays and lesbians.
Alibi Lounge is known as one of the last remaining Black-owned gay bars in New York City and was created as a place where black, LGBTQ+ folks (and their allies) could feel free to be their true selves. The same goes for the Lambda Lounge, which is known as Harlem’s only African-American-owned LGBTQ+ lounge. Then, there is Henrietta Hudson, a 31-year-old “queer human space built by lesbians”. It’s known as the longest-standing lesbian bar – not only in the city but in the entire US.
If nightlife is not your thing, you can also check out the following LGBTQ-owned and operated restaurants, cafes, and shops. Our recommendations include Lebanese grocery and deli Edy’s Grocer, Mexican restaurant Fonda, the Foster Sundry cafe, and Kahve Coffee.
Visit LGBTQ+ Art Exhibits, Drag Shows, And Concerts
New York is believed to be the birthplace of modern drag culture, as documented in the film Paris is Burning. If you’re looking to experience New York’s world-renowned drag scene, there is no better place to go than Barracuda Lounge in Chelsea, which RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Miz Cracker called “a founding mother of drag in New York City” and “one of the first queer NYC venues to feature a drag show every night of the week.”
Another must-visit spot includes Industry in Hell’s Kitchen. But if you’re looking for something more intimate, head over to the underground theater Laurie Beechman for candle-lit live singing, group numbers, and more.
Art aficionados should visit the Leslie-Lohman Museum, the “only dedicated LGBTQ+ art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve LGBTQ+ art and foster the artists who create it.” The museum is home to over 30,000 pieces that span over three centuries of LGBTQ+ art.
Wherever you go in NYC, be it a nightclub, a drag show, an art exhibit, or a cage, remember to always tip your servers and performers. It allows establishments and workers to stay afloat and continue serving the community.
Volunteer For The Annual NYC Pride March
New York’s annual Pride March happens in June of each year, with numerous events happening simultaneously throughout the entire month. As such, the Heritage of Pride, the organization in charge of all Pride-related activities for NYC, is always looking for an extra pair of hands.
If you can’t be there during Pride month, you can also donate to keep NYC Pride going.
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The Bottom Line
New York City has a rich LGBTQ+ culture and continues to be one of the most exciting places for LGBTQ+ people to live. But despite the great strides the LGBTQ+ community has made in the city, there is still much to be done for its LGBTQ+ residents and visitors.
The next time you’re in NYC, make sure to help its community out by donating to any of the above-mentioned organizations and supporting LGBTQ-owned businesses.