LGBT Network Celebrates 25 Years
Founded in 1993, the LGBT Network provides lifesaving services and programs for hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as their families and support systems throughout Long Island and Queens.
The LGBT Network was little more than a dream in the early 1990s when founder and President & CEO David Kilmnick created a curriculum designed to educate students about the experiences of LGBT youth or his Master of Social Work thesis project. Shortly after in 1995, Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY), Inc., the first organization of the LGBT Network, opened its first community center above a storefront in Bay Shore. By 2005, LIGALY had expanded to serve the LGBT community throughout their lifespan through what is now known as the LGBT Network.
Twenty-five years later, the LGBT Network has grown to become one of the nation’s oldest and largest organizations serving LGBT youth, adults, seniors, families, and allies. It is the fifth largest LGBT community center organization in the country, and one of the few of its kind operating multiple service sites – a demonstration of the Network’s forward-thinking vision.
Providing its groundbreaking service to the community at its four centers in Bay Shore, Woodbury, Sag Harbor, and Long Island City, Queens, the LGBT Network has changed the landscape for LGBT people in many ways. The LGBT Network has an impressive list of innovative programs and has introduced many “firsts” into the Long Island and Queens LGBT communities, and the nation.
In 2001, the organization sparked a conversation about LGBT youth at high school proms by holding what became the first ever suburban LGBT youth prom in America. It garnered global media attention and helpedshape the future of LGBT youth advocacy in our schools. The organization’s leadership and outreach at the time resulted in starting more than 100 Gay- Straight Alliance clubs in schools, creating safe spaces for LGBT youth, while building their leadership and advocacy skills.
In later years, the LGBT Network organized countless rallies and protests to fight for the visibility and needs of LGBT people – organizing thousands to stand up for equality and justice for LGBT Americans. In 2004, the LGBT Network coordinated a caravan of hundreds of Long Islanders to visit town halls to request marriage licenses – building greater awareness about LGBT social justice.
From 2005 through 2015, the organization experienced and sustained transformational growth. Innovative programs and services were added – an HIV outreach and testing program, services for older LGBT adults, expanded youth services, programs for LGBT-headed families and transgender services, among dozens more were implemented. This led to the proliferation of the LGBT Network’s community centers – Nassau County in 2011, East End in 2013, and Queens in 2015 – the only LGBT centers of their kind.
At the same time, the LGBT Network’s voice grew, not only in the region, but across the country and the around the world. The organization expanded its advocacy efforts, both through policy work as well as its public relations and media messaging efforts – one of the ways the organization is known best. President & CEO David Kilmnick is a national thought leader often called upon to comment on LGBT issues. This advocacy frames messages the community is facing and provides an understanding of what is needed to achieve real equality and justice. The LGBT Network has helped change hearts and minds and build bridges with hundreds of thousands of people.
The LGBT Network also advanced the overall visibility of the Long Island LGBT community through new partnerships and collaborations. In 2012, the organization took over the annual LI Pride Parade and revolutionized and reinvigorated the event with a move to Long Beach and a re-brand as “Pride on the Beach.” By turning the event from a one-day festival into a weekend-long celebration, the LGBT Network tripled attendance and welcomed an international audience to Long Island, spurring tourism and driving economic development.
Today, the LGBT Network is poised to meet the needs of the LGBT community for the next 25 years and beyond. In the next year, the Network will be opening new, larger facilities in Nassau and Suffolk that will be able to provide more programs to more people in more communities. Construction will begin on the new development of affordable, inclusive senior housing in Bay Shore.
The LGBT Network continues to be a voice for the LGBT community and is on the forefront of tackling bigotry and hatred, leading the way to an America that is just, equal, and affords opportunity to all.