Center of the issue
I am very confused about something that is very important to me and, I hope, the queer community ( what is left of it! ) . Millions of dollars were spent on the new Center On Halsted. Millions of dollars were given in donation to this extraordinary building for our community, which is supposed to be a model for other cities to emulate. We have an Olympic-sized gym and swimming pool. We have a computer center for anyone to use at any times that the center is open. We have meeting rooms that are used for organizations and groups within the gay community. We have a building that, even with its hard edges and concrete walls, is a magnificent structure.
What confuses me, as one who fought at the Stonewall Riots and began a direction in the movements ( there really was one folks ) that empowered us enough to be able to build such a magnificent structure, is the fact that not only is the building inundated with straight mothers with their prams and strollers of single and twin babies taking it over for long conversational lunches bought at the Whole Foods, which opens right on to the building. There is no designation anywhere on the building that it is for the LGBT community, not even a rainbow flag hugely hanging with pride and recognition from the front of the building—not even a teensy-weensy one.
We helped make this building possible, dammit, and nothing, not one thing, says the Center On Halsted is a queer center. It could be a center for battered women, a center for street people, a center for the disabled, a center for alcoholics and junkies only or a center of anything for that matter. There is no designation anywhere.
Are we still so embarrassed about who we are that we cannot put our name on a building that is supposedly ours? If I go in there on a Saturday afternoon, I would never know it is for queer people. It really looks like a center For mothers with babies—and not lesbian mothers, either.
I get so angry when I walk into the Center. I get enraged, in fact. I use the building for my own recovery work as an addict. The Center kindly allows queer addicts and alcoholics to use its building, but I have to ask, who dictates who gets to use it and who doesn't? Quite frankly, I don't like my space filled with straight moms and their babies.
Can't we put up a huge flagpole, like the American flag outside City Hall, and hang an enormous, proud, colorful, indentifying rainbow flag from the front of the Center? Why can't we do this?
The Center on Halsted a good space—but it's not our space!