Something very strange is happening on 13th Street at the LGBT Center. As a scourge is affecting LGBT organizations — the Bronx Pride Center shut down yesterday, amid charges its director, Lisa Winters embezzled $338,000 — the city’s main LGBT Center refuses to speak to the press.
As we wrote in last week’s Voice feature “Does ‘Gay Inc.’ Believe in Free Speech?” the Center clamped down a year ago and refused to allow any discussion of the Israel/Palestine situation. This flies in the face of decades of queer people being able to discuss the important issues of the day on a variety of gay-specific and non-specific topics.
But just as disturbingly to us (for obviously personal reasons) is that the Center refuses to speak to the Voice about anything, or to answer any questions from press as far as we can tell. This could be because of critical things we’ve said about Executive Director Glennda Testone and her leadership (or lack thereof) over free speech at the Center.
But the Center does get a huge amount of public money (about $2.75 million a year, according to the most recent publicly available tax filings), and Testone is paid a little more than Governor Andrew Cuomo (we’ll have more about this in the coming days), so we think it’s entirely appropriate she and her paid, full-time spokeswoman would take questions from the press (or at least from the Voice, the first paper to cover Stonewall and a major publication in the neighborhood where the Center resides). The Center has refused to speak to us for a year, but as the Bronx burns with its Pride Center shuttering due to financial matters involving its leader, it’s imperative that the partially publicly funded LGBT Center answer questions.
Since, over the past week, the Center has refused to take any of our calls, we posted this query on the Center’s Facebook page (which has over 97,000 “likes”):
The Center responded by not only (predictably) erasing this question, but by shutting off the ability for anyone to post anything on their wall. It’s a pretty harsh reaction to keep any of the 97,000 people who “like” the Center from commenting just because they didn’t like one question from one reporter.
But this is the locked-down world of Gay Inc., where “communication” only goes one way.
What is the Center hiding? Why are they so afraid of speaking with the press about free speech, their finances, their staff, or anything else? Why will they not answer questions, as another LGBT Center’s finances have imploded, about what they are doing with their own money? It’s ironic that both Creager and Testone came from GLAAD, an organization adept at telling the media what to say, and yet they both refuse to speak to their hometown newspaper.
But that’s a through line through all of the heartbreaking stories we are investigating right now. The heads of these LGBT organizations go from one job in Gay Inc. to another, moving without loss from GLAAD to the Center to other non-profits, no matter how much damage happens on their watch. No matter how poor the people are they are supposed to be “helping,” the people who helm these organizations go from one high paying job to the next, often with little setback even when they preside over (or cause) the worst of financial mismanagement.
We saw a lot of this when we reported on “The Nonprofit 1 Percent.” It’s sad to see it in Gay Inc., too.