This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, considered to be the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ rights movement. As someone who identifies as bisexual, I was particularly excited to learn that the Capital Region played an important role in the historic era. It turns out that America’s oldest, continuously operating LGBTQ community center is based in Albany. Since 1970, just a year after Stonewall, the Pride Center of the Capital Region in Albany has been tirelessly working to build an inclusive community for people of all sexual orientations.
While the Pride Center might be based in the Capital City, it casts a much wider net, serving the LGBTQ community in 11 counties from Columbia all the way up to Warren County. It also offers a range of invaluable, potentially life-saving services such as youth drop-in locations—safe spaces for LGBTQ minors and at-risk youth—in Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga. In other words, the Pride Center’s four-person, all-female staff regularly affects positive change. Tas Steiner, founder and president of Whispering Angels of Saratoga Springs, a nonprofit that works in support of at-risk and homeless LGBTQ youth, can attest. “We recently got a call from Mayor Meg Kelly of Saratoga, Shelters of Saratoga and Code Blue, asking if we could help a lesbian couple that had moved up here from a state down south,” says Steiner. After plans to stay with a relative in Saratoga fell through, the couple had nowhere to go. Whispering Angels connected with the Pride Center, which helped the couple find temporary housing in Albany, even offering them a spot to stay at the center’s headquarters.
The Pride Center also serves as a cultural hub, helping to organize major events such as Albany’s annual Capital Pride Parade, one of the largest such celebrations in the state (last year’s parade broke attendance records with more than 35,000 participants). “In the last three years, the parade’s gotten bigger and bigger,” says Martha Harvey, executive director and CEO of the center, who’s eagerly awaiting next year’s parade, as it will coincide with the Pride Center’s 50th anniversary. “We’re hoping to top 40,000 next year.” I know I’ll be there, celebrating the center’s historic day—and waving my rainbow flag high.