Open Letter to the NYC LGBT Community Center

To Glennda Testone, Executive Director
Dear Glennda Testone:
I believe you made a serious mistake in banning the Israeli Apartheid Week event and groups from the Center.  The claims that the groups Siege Busters Working Group and Existence is Resistance are anti-semitic is entirely bogus, based on the notion that all criticism of Israeli policy is anti-semitic.  This smear tactic was brought to you by Michael Lucas, the media producer whose openly racist views are well known.  Here is a quotation among the many that researchers have posted online:
Michael Lucas: I hate Muslims, absolutely. It’s a horrible, horrible religion. It’s a plague. People ignore me the way they ignore Rush Limbaugh because he’s a drug addict. … There are moments in life when silence is your fault and truth …is your responsibility. The religion, the institution, the system of Islam — they are as talented and creative and passionate as anyone else. But they’re stuck in a horrible lie, brainwashed from birth to death. And now they have been stuck in time since the 7th century. They have not contributed to civilization in any way, in any field — political thought, science, music, architecture, nothing for century after century. What do they produce? Carpets. That’s how they should travel because that’s the only way they travel without killing people.

This breach of the open policy of the Center is an ominous sign that LGBT community institutions are subject to unilateral control by wealthy donors–the Center in this case did not even open a dialogue with your other constituencies.
In addition to press coverage–the Village Voice already posted a brief piece, and a longer Nation piece is coming out next week, I understand–this news is traveling via Facebook and Twitter among Queer Studies academics all over the country, as well as among progressive LGBT organizations.  We are *outraged* and shocked at your action.  The reputation of the Center will suffer mightily in the days and week ahead unless you take immediate action to open the Center to all of our communities.
(I have heard there is a claim that these groups are not wholly LGBT groups?  Well neither was ACT UP, or the many 12 step groups, or many other associations of allies with LGBT members who use the Center and support the LGBT community.  Apparently support of Palestinian queers is not within the purview of the Center?)
Shame on the Center for this outrageous action.
Lisa Duggan
Professor, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies
Department of Social and Cultural Analysis
New York University

3 replies on “Open Letter to the NYC LGBT Community Center”

Lisa – Thank you for this letter. And this may be quite small, but I am really glad you avoided the not so subtle insinuation that because Michael Lucas is in the porn industry this somehow makes him immoral. The public dialogue about this disheartening affair has insinuated this, in my opinion. He is a disgusting human because of his Islamaphobia and racism and his power to act on those things through money — not because he makes porn. Sexphobic tactics are cheap.

These injustices are not what our community is about. The center holds a special place in my heart but I will no longer support a place that shuns people out because of there own prejudice and bias.

Please take some time to reflect on why you truly made that decision. I think this will help you become a better leader.

The center is a special place for many people please do not let hate and money be the driven factors in determining its future.

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