The Centre LGBT started out as an initiative to fight against the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late 1900’s. It was originally named House of Homosexualities and it was renamed Center gay and lesbian CGL of Paris in 1993 (Eribon). What started out as a response to a health crisis turned into a resource center for LGBTQ locals, dealing with the hardships of identity, homophobia, etc. As the years went by the association continued expanding its reach to other communities, such as the transgender and bisexual communities and then in 2002 it was decided that the name would be changed one last time to Centre LGBT, which includes all the groups that the association serves to this day (“L'histoire du Centre”). The center runs completely on funding from donations and over the years it has had to adapt to rising real-estate prices and other costs. As a result, volunteers run the center and there are very few permanent workers.
The Centre LGBT operates like the headquarters of multiple LGBTQ associations. These different associations are able to use the premises for meetings and events and help fund the center’s activities. Additionally, the center also offers a variety of services to the public such as psychological attention, social services, legal services, and even medical services free of charge. The center itself is comprised of two levels. The first level serves as a meeting room for daily discussions led by other associations or by the center. The second level is made up of various meeting rooms and a small library that includes works about LGBTQ life or by LGBTQ authors. The center is working towards promoting more talks about homophobia, personal and social rights of LGBTQ individuals, and other issues like classism and racism that are prevalent around the world.
The meeting room on the first floor is also an exhibition space for LGBTQ posters that promote a message of unity and speak about current issues. The most current exhibition was about intersectionality and concealing the gap between race and identity. Aside from the exhibition the center also hosts discussions throughout the week where locals can come in and chat about current topics, such as those displayed in the exhibition. The set up in the first floor is like a café with round tables where people can sit down and chat. The center has also set up a small pantry with coffee, tea, and other refreshments for people that participate in the discussions. Almost all of the people that attend the events hosted by or sponsored by the center are locals, but the center is open to receiving anyone regardless of their background.
Another very important part of the center’s efforts is its health resources. The center offers free counseling and medical screening exams. These initiatives were started in an attempt to reach out to the younger generations and teach them about safe sexual practices. This speaks to the fact that the center is trying to reach the entire LGBTQ community, regardless of age. The center also sponsors events specifically designed for younger individuals and other events specifically for males or females. Some events are open to the entire community, not only LGBTQ because their main goal is to inform as many people as possible and spark discussion within the area about pressing issues.
One of the things they are working on is creating other types of activities that will garner community-wide attention and will also spark interest in the center’s efforts. For this reason, the center has been hosting yoga classes, self-defense classes, and launching a newsletter. These events not only help draw attention, but they are also great fundraisers. The center has recently been through a financial hardship and anti-supporters have criticized government efforts to provide funding for the association. For this reason, the center has turned to alternative events to continue their works, but also to fund their new programs.
It is interesting how the center serves numerous associations while also promoting its own efforts and going forward it will try to promote events that attract a younger audience and that speak to topics like health and healthy relationships. They are also trying to use their newsletter to promote their activities and they are also trying to create a greater social presence. For such a big city, and an area like Le Marais, the center certainly tackles a lot of different tasks and without it, many associations would not be able to operate. It is important to think about whether some of the activities that the center promotes could be implemented elsewhere, especially in the context of our university.