Submitted by Peter Mastracci
Here at the GLCC, people often ask us about the history of the center. They want to know where we’ve been located, what we’ve done, and most commonly, how long we’ve been around. The truth is that we’ve been around so long- almost since the birth of the modern gay rights movement at Stonewall itself- that the answer is complicated! So we thought that we’d fill you in.
The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh has been serving the needs of the LGBT community long before those four letters were even used together! The GLCC has its beginnings in the 1970s as a phone information line operated in cooperation with Persad, which itself is the second-oldest LGBT therapy organization in America. The original intention of the phone line- in the pre-internet days- was to help foster a community, with the purpose of eventually creating a physical community center.
In 1981, the dedicated volunteers with the phone line finally saw that vision realized- and the GLCC officially opened its community center in a rented three-room Oakland office in April of that year.
It wasn’t until 1984 that we were completely independent of Persad. With their help, the center became its own nonprofit organization. In turn, the GLCC then spun off many new groups itself- such as Transpitt and a group for gay youth. The GLCC also held Pittsburgh’s very first town meeting focused on AIDS and helped to create the Pitt Men’s Study.
In 1985, the GLCC lost its lease and was forced to relocate on very short notice to Wilkinsburg, where we remained until 1990, a very tough year for the center. With both many volunteers and members being hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, coupled with the general inaccessibility of the Wilkinsburg location, the GLCC actually ceased formal operations for a brief time. In about six months, however, the center was back up and running, using space donated from St. Elmo’s Bookstore.
The next year, in 1991, the GLCC attempted again to secure its own operating space in Squirrel Hill, but was discriminated against by a landlord who thought that the center would play a role in spreading AIDS. The GLCC filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission and pursued the case.
In September of 1992, with the help of the Pitt Men’s Collective, the GLCC moved to a one-room apartment converted into office space at 5860 Forward Avenue, where it remained until 1996. Due to the expansion of the Squirrel Hill Theater, however, we were forced, once again, to relocate- this time to the old building that many of you know so well- a modern, five-room office at 5808 Forward Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
In 2010, the GLCC moved for the most recent time to the space where we’re currently located- at 210 Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, in the hub of the city. Here, we serve you with plenty of community meeting space, a library with over 5,000 items, health screenings, local information, and of course, that very same phone line.
We at the GLCC wanted you to know our history, because in tough times, it’s important to remember that we worked in people’s homes; we were headquartered in bookshops; we were discriminated against; we lost many staff members to AIDS, and we still survived as a center! If we can make it through all of those things, we can make it through anything! We look forward to serving the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of Pittsburgh for years to come.
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