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In a time when many turn to the internet to find resources, your local LGBT center may get overlooked. That's why today, National LGBT Center Awareness Day, CenterLink hopes to bring attention to and celebrate all the social services, medical care, employment counseling, programming, activities and more that LGBT centers provide.
The day honors the Community Center Movement within the greater LGBT movement, which began in 1969 when the first LGBT center opened in Los Angeles. In the U.K., the first center opened in Birmingham in 1976 and had a profound impact on the community. According to a study, the Birmingham center "would not only cater for those already ‘out on the scene’ by providing them with an alternative to pubs and clubs, but more importantly it would also cater for the thousands of socially isolated lesbians and gay men who did not know any other gay people and did not have access to any support structures."
"We're hard at work to coordinate the seventh-annual nationwide day of action focused on LGBT community centers," said Terry Stone, CenterLink's CEO, in a press release. "More than 1.9 million people visit the over 200 community centers across the country each year. Centers have more direct access to the LGBT community than any other organization and are the backbone of the LGBT movement. We are excited to highlight that work through Center Awareness Day."
While LGBT acceptance is growing in America, far too many are ostracized from their families and communities for coming out, which is why LGBT centers are still so important. “I had to learn for myself it was alright to be gay, as I was not fortunate enough to have access to a LGBT center,” wrote Matthew Williams for the Los Angeles Loyolan. “For us, they are a place of safety and understanding. Furthermore, they benefit all individuals, regardless of how they identify, by providing education on and exposure to LGBTQ+ issues.”