Crashing the Garden Party? Activists, Donors on Collision Course at Gay Fundraiser Tonight


As Gay Pride Week starts, the LGBT Center is hosting its annual Garden Party tonight, a fundraiser that many old-time LGBT activists have viewed with increasing skepticism — most of the people who use the center can’t afford the $100 admission.

And this year, the Israel/Palestine situation, which has plagued the Center’s officials in the past few months, may crash the party, merging the worlds of the Center’s donors and some of its most marginalized political users.

The party, some activists alleged, shows the kind of disconnect between the Center’s donors and board, on the one hand, and everybody else.

Giving a shout out to each letter of the LGBT acronym, the group Queers for an Open LGBT Center writes on a flier, “Don’t fuck with the fairies! Don’t dick with the dykes! Don’t brawl with the bis! Don’t trifle with the trannies!” as it announces its protest at 5:30 this evening at 14th Street and the West Side Highway.

“For four strange months, the LGBT Center has shut out queers, made Arab and Palestinian queers (and supporters) explicitly unwelcome, censored queer political organizing and forced queers to hold sit-ins just to get meeting space?!” the flier states. That last item is in reference to Queers Against Israel Apartheid’s planned sit-in a couple weeks ago in the Center’s lobby after the Center banned all talk of Israel/Palestine within its walls.

(Curiously, the group was allowed to meet in the lobby undisturbed despite the ban, with one participant telling us, “There is no policy. Apparently, whoever threatens the Center on any given day wins that day.”)

Organizers of today’s protest note that “Mayor Bloomberg is attending [the Garden Party] for the first time and being greeted by the Center as a ‘strong supporter,’ despite his terrible record on LGBT rights and civil liberties.”

(Bloomberg may indeed be warmly welcomed at the Garden Party, given that his 11th-hour push of Senate Republicans on marriage could eventually be viewed as a major step in pushing through gay marriage.)

Still, with the mayor, the Center’s board, and the pro-Palestinian activists the board has always avoided speaking to, tonight’s Garden Party could be as exciting a soirée as the activists’ never-realized “Party to End Apartheid!” dance.

This will happen on the same day when, across town at the Church Center for the United Nations, a press conference will occur with 15 passengers of the Audacity of Hope, which will leave later today for Athens, where they’ll join others for a second attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza at the end of the month. It was the attempt to raise money for this voyage that first brought the Israel/Palestine issue to the LGBT Center.

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