BCPC Launches Women’s Groups, Observes Trans Awareness Month
The Brooklyn Community Pride Center celebrated its fifth anniversary this year with a move to a new downtown location that allows them to open their doors to events like a Women's Culture Night and an innovative Queer Co-Working program. Along with special events like their recent candlelight vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, these programs show the community that Brooklyn is a place for LGBTs.
"We've come a long way in five short years," remarked Brooklyn Community Pride Center Executive Director Erin Drinkwater. "Five years ago a group of volunteers started meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall and today we have a vibrant Community Center serving the diverse needs of Brooklyn's LGBTQ community."
Since the Center's inception, Drinkwater has been dedicated to providing services to Brooklyn's unique LGBT population, making sure there are programs for the large lesbian community and the many senior citizens who live in the borough.
"We should have our presence felt in every neighborhood, not just Park Slope," said Drinkwater in an interview with EDGE this spring. "You should be yourself and let your neighbors know you are there." As examples, she pointed to the successful LGBT Pride celebrations this year in Red Hook, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy.
"And we need to look at Brooklyn's transgender community, which means more transmen, whereas in Jackson Heights, it is more transwomen," she said. "We are looking at different sets of needs, and to be able to respond to that is important to me."
Drinkwater has also been careful not to duplicate services, but instead to partner with existing groups to reach common goals. In teaming up with SAGE last year, BCPC was able to offer the senior program Some Like It Hot, discussing relationship and family.
"Our community in Brooklyn looks a little different, so we're going to be paying attention to different things than in Manhattan, or across the state or country," said Drinkwater. "We started as a bunch of volunteers, then moved to Borough Hall, and now we are here, and moving in a positive direction."
Queer Co-Working in a Shared Space
The new location of BCPC in a first-floor Metrotech storefront has allowed for an expansion of services that help the community in a more generalized way. This includes their recently-launched Queer Co-Working program. From noon to 5 p.m. on Fridays, BCPC opens its doors for all people who want to get their work done in a queer space, with complimentary wi-fi and coffee.
"I think queer co-working is great because it breaks the isolation of working from home," said co-founder Bevin Branlandingham. "It also is a great pool for networking, and deepens connections already established in the queer community because it’s a lot easier to meet folks when you’re working next to each other than at a loud nightclub. I’ve gotten two clients and a girlfriend from folks I connected with at Queer Co-Working."
Drinkwater is thrilled that the creative networking event has been added to their list of programs, and that so many people have commented on the importance and benefits of being in a queer space. Pointing to the job-share program seen in the classic film, "9 to 5," she also remarked on the feminist roots of such flexible work programs.
"It’s pretty femme-centric in terms of the demographic that’s been coming, and we’re all ladies organizing, which is great," said co-founder Lisa Markuson. "The cool thing is that all these awesome creatives and leaders and non-traditional types working in different fields are getting to meet and synergize. I’ve gotten to introduce leaders in queer music from different scenes, I found a (female) lawyer, I learned about a queer women’s poetry salon... The connections are endless!"
Events for Women of Color and Transgenders
Brooklyn is also home to many lesbians of color. In her ongoing effort to serve all LGBTs in the borough, Drinkwater is collaborating with Circle of Voices, Inc. to create a monthly Women’s Culture Night. The evenings will feature programs of interest to women of color.
"We want to have cultural events, have different health panels, and we are working to set up testing and breast cancer discussion groups," said Drinkwater.
And more recently, the BCPC came together to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance, for those trans individuals who have been victims of anti-gay bias crimes.
On Nov. 20, they held their annual march across the Brooklyn Bridge, followed by a candlelight vigil in Columbus Park.
"We need events to raise awareness of the violence against the trans and non-gender conforming community," said Drinkwater. "It takes us outside the community center and into the public, and brings attention to the problem. We march over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, but we also take time to pay tribute to the memories of those who have been lost.
The BCPC holds a weekly transgender support group on Thursdays, run by social work volunteers. Drinkwater said that they are working around the idea of peer support in a culturally sensitive space honoring them for who they are.
On Dec. 2, the BCPC will partner with the pro-sex worker Red Umbrella Project and the Anti-Violence Project for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. They will provide a free LGBTQ sex workers self-defense training session, and work with Red Umbrella to do advocacy for sex workers.
And on Dec. 19, the BCPC invites all to their Open House, where they will share information on their programs for women, movie nights, cultural events, dating workshops and more.
For more information, visit www.lgbtbrooklyn.org