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Gay Group HQ May Go Old School

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The 27-year-old Gay and Lesbian Community Center plans to double its space and greatly increase its reach by moving from its rented Squirrel Hill office next year. In the first week of December, the group raised the first $20,000 toward the as-yet-undetermined cost and began shopping for a fresh location.

Rick Allison, GLCC chair, says the move will help the group better serve everyone from seniors to teens.

"Think about Pittsburgh and our aging population," Allison says. "Obviously, a percentage of that population is GLBT" -- gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. While those older Pittsburghers might belong to a bridge club or other social group, he says, "It's really important for them to be around people they can share their entire lives with."

The GLCC also has a "very active" youth group of more than 30 young people meeting on Friday nights, he says. "We have parents who will drive their kids from Johnstown and Bedford because it's a safe place," he says.

Unfortunately, it's a safe place that's too crowded. The current rented office, about 5,000 square feet, already houses multiple tenants, including the Lesbian and Gay Film Society, GLENDA (the Gay and Lesbian Neighborhood Development Association), the Lambda Foundation, TransPitt and the U.S. headquarters of the National Association of Black and White Men Together, as well as anonymous HIV testing by the Pittsburgh Aids Task Force once a week. Already the GLCC's most visible event, the periodic Outrageous Bingos, has to be held in leased space on the South Side.

In purchasing a new building, Allison sees room for even more GLBT groups, plus art openings and performances alongside the bingos -- even a coffeehouse or bookstore. It could be the center of a future PrideFest, currently held outdoors each summer, he adds.

"Probably the perfect building for us would be an old school," Allison says, with its parking, auditorium and handicap-accessibility. The GLCC will soon begin a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds.

GLCC Vice Chair Kat Carrick, head of the new building search committee, emphasizes that the location must be in the City of Pittsburgh: Unlike the county, the city has an anti-discrimination ordinance that covers sexual orientation along with factors like race and gender.

Plus, Carrick says, "We need something people could rent out for receptions" -- for same-sex unions, of course.

"Visibility would be good," adds Allison. "It was controversial six or seven years ago whether [current GLCC offices] would just say 'GLCC' or spell out what that meant." Today, he says, such questions are no longer an issue. "I can't tell you that there hasn't been a night over the past six or seven years when somebody has screamed something at me, [when I was] going in or coming out. But it's pretty rare.

"You still don't see same-sex couples walking down the street holding hands in Pittsburgh," he acknowledges. However, "Pittsburgh's come a long way, and it's better than other places."

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