Monday, February 11, 2008

The GLBT Center Trys for a Home Downtown

The Dayton GLBT Center (Gay Lettuce Bacon and Tomato?), “Center” for short, is planning on a move downtown. There was a brief open house this past weekend at the proposed storefront location on Third Street, on the downtown “gay square”.

Interior shot shows the unfinished space, with some easels and boards set up showing the centers various activities. One had a sketch floor plan. The idea is to have this big open space as the activity room in front and in the rear a kitchen, bath room, and what looks like storage and offices.

Center History: From Gay Lib to Today

It’s been said that of the social movements of the 1960s the one least expected to go anywhere, the most far-out, was Gay Liberation. It turns out the gay/lesbian movement was remarkably long-lived, 39 years on from Stonewall the movement still survives.

The Center was a local part of this history, starting in the early 1970s, which is pretty far back for a gay/lesbian organization outside of a major city. The Center recieved its nonprofit charter in 1976, and its organizer, the late Howard Goetz, was long the public face of gay Dayton as he was used by the media as a spokesman on gay issues.

I think back in the '70s the Center had an affiliation with the Dayton Women’s Center, and used the Women’s Center space on North Main as a meeting place.

The organization declined, but was revived when Leon Bey became the leader. Bey is probably better known today as an organizer of the Save the Arcade campaign and leader of the downtown walking tours, but he also had a major roll in the local GLBT community via his activities on behalf of the GLBT Center, keeping the organization alive.

By the late 1980s the Center was renting the Unitarian church community room on Salem Avenue as the meeting space, and had developed a little library of gay lit and non fiction books. The center was a venue for various things, like AIDS education, and it was the Dayton Daily News’ refusal, in 1988, to run a Center ad for an AIDS-ed seminar that precipitated the first big public gay rights controversy in Dayton (as far as I know it was the first).

The center left the Unitarians in the 1990s for its first independent space, a storefront in the old Hills & Dales shopping center

Though a first for the Center it was not the first GLBT identified organization to have its own space. The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a Protestant denomination with a special outreach to the GLBT community, has long had a Dayton presence, first at a storefront church in St Anne’s Hill, then relocating to a church out in Belmont.

When Hills & Dales closed the Center moved to a UCC church on Delaware Street near the Santa Clara area, then up to Shiloh Church out on North Main. The Shiloh Church connection goes way back as a member of this church, Aaron Schaeffer (sp?), was very active in the Center, particularly in recruiting people to come to their coffeehouses as an alternative to the bar scene.


Folks affiliated with the Center had long dreamed of a central location, and it looks like they may have found it if they can raise the funds and aren’t hassled by the city. There will be a “Construction Party” fundraiser in the space in March (stay tuned for pix of that).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT thing for the entire GLBT community.