Pittsburgh's LGBTQIA+ Community Center
The Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) of Pittsburgh had its modest beginnings in 1979, when an information Phoneline was established by Persad, Inc., a local mental health center run by and serving the needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered community. For years the Phoneline was operated out of people’s homes and eventually moved to office space donated by the Pittsburgh Free Clinic.
Persad’s Community Outreach Committee saw this as a first step towards their eventual goal: establishing a gay & lesbian community center. The mission for the Center, established then and still held today, was to facilitate the development of individual and community resources to meet the needs of sexual minorities, and to remain inclusive and sensitive to our diverse community.
On April 11, 1981, in a three-room space rented on Oakland Avenue, the Community Center opened its doors to the public, still affiliated with Persad. The Center then became an independent entity in 1984, when it incorporated and received its non-profit status. During its time in Oakland, the GLCC became active and aided in the birth of many new organizations, including a gay youth group and TransPitt (for crossdressers and transgendered people). The Center also organized the first town meeting to discuss HIV/AIDS and provided support in the early days of the development of the PITT Men’s Study.
In 1985, due to a change in the use of the building housing the Center, the GLCC lost its lease at the space in Oakland. It was then moved to Wilkinsburg on very short notice, and remained at this location through 1990. Unfortunately, the Wilkinsburg location did not prove central enough to bring in new people and organizations. As energies within the gay community were focusing more on the HIV/AIDS crisis, the GLCC declined in activity and eventually closed. Many promising opportunities turned into disappointments as the Board began the difficult process of searching for another space.
Even though the Center closed, the Phoneline was resurrected after a six-month hiatus. It was re-established when St. Elmo’s Bookstore graciously provided a space in the back of their store, rent free.
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.
In an attempt to rent a space in Squirrel Hill in 1991, the Center experienced discrimination. The landlord cited the fear of spreading AIDS in the public bathroom used by other business tenants as the reason for refusing to rent to us. A complaint was filed with Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission. Even though the Center won the case, it was a long process and much of the Board’s energy was drained dealing with this issue.
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, the GLCC was forced to move from this space in 1996, but a new location was soon offered by the landlord just down the street at 5808 Forward Ave. The lease was signed to a modern five-room office space and the Center was moved in May of that year. The following month, as part of Pride Week Events, the Center held an Open House at the new space. Even with little advance notice, the event was a big success, with over 200 people in attendance!
The response from the community towards this new space was very favorable as the number of groups using our meeting rooms each month jumped from 3 to over 20 in only one year. In just over two years it became evident we had already outgrown our space and the Board decided an expansion was necessary. In February of 1999, an additional 11 rooms were added by renting two adjacent office suites.
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 10,000 items, health screenings, local information, and of course, that very same phone line.
The GLCC has had a long and eventful past and as the times have changed so has the GLCC. Today is no different. We’ve regarded ourselves and are now known as the Pittsburgh Equality Center but our mission remains the same: The Pittsburgh Equality Center (PEC) provides gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, their families and supporters in Western Pennsylvania with resources and opportunities to promote visibility, understanding, and equality within the LGBT communities and the community at large. The PEC will work toward these goals through education, social support, networking, and advocacy.
Our new logo and refreshed vision represents our effort on inclusion and intersectionalism throughout the community and we look forward to serving the Pittsburgh LGBTQIA+ community for many years to come. Please stop by today for a visit and consider getting involved!