3 Stories of Community Connection to Celebrate the Holidays

As we approach the end of 2022, we are honored to center the voices of Murray, Arieana, and Faiz, three community members who have found healing, acceptance, growth, and inspiration at The Center. Each of them has unique experiences with our community—whether as participants in our substance use recovery programming, career services for LGBTQ+ young adults, or our annual AIDS bike ride Cycle for the Cause—but they all discovered that The Center changed their lives for the better.

Murray Hill on Dignity and Respect in the Recovery Community

I’ve been in showbiz for over 35 years, but it hasn’t been all stardust for me. My offstage life has been challenging. I have struggled with depression, PTSD, and—when I was old enough to start—alcoholism. During years of addiction, while I kept up appearances in public, my private life got darker and darker. I ended up in a rehab facility, but for somebody like me, it was a nightmare. I was immediately discriminated against for being queer and being trans. I desperately needed to find an outpatient program that would work for me, but there were obstacles at every single turn. Then, I heard two words that changed the course of my life: “The Center.”

Photo: James Patrick Miller

The moment I walked into The Center for their recovery program, everyone in the building accepted me for who I was. They treated me with dignity and respect, and most importantly, showed me and others so much empathy and kindness. I finally had made a soft landing, and it was within my community!

The LGBTQ+ community has made so much progress, yet recent news shows we are facing a scary backlash. I believe it is our civic duty to take care of one another. The Center does just that, by providing our community with a safe place to get nurtured, to heal, to love, and to survive. We need The Center. The Center saves lives. I am living proof.

Areiana Shares her Experience of Growth and Leadership

At The Center, I feel safe enough to unapologetically be all aspects of me. I can show up as my younger self and heal my inner child, and can also be more mature and flourish into a young adult. Growing up, I was bullied for being flamboyant and living in my queerness. As I’ve gotten to know myself more over time, and through the leadership opportunities at The Center, I’ve learned to not care about how people take me. It is very refreshing and feels good to let that guard down.

As the world transitioned out of the pandemic, I decided to put myself out there—so I applied for and got accepted into The Center’s Get Employed Through Industry Training (GET IT) Fellowship with Milk Makeup. Initially, I had imposter syndrome: “I’m a trans woman. This is corporate. They’re probably going to judge me for what I have on, or how I maneuver.” But Milk Makeup’s office is amazing and so accepting. They embrace the fact that everyone has differences—and that’s a great thing, and not something to look down upon. I’m learning that I’m not only equipped, but I can thrive and function in corporate environments—and as a transfeminine person of color, I belong in these spaces!

It’s ironic to me that I only got involved with The Center this year, and how much I’ve taken it by storm! Considering how much The Center has changed my life in such a short time, I can’t imagine how much The Center has done for our community over 40 years! The fact is, there are certain resources not within reach for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. I see The Center filling that gap, providing space for people to pursue opportunities, understand that they belong, and that they are more than qualified to achieve their dreams.

Faiz Discovers What He is Capable Of

It is remarkable what you’re able to do when you have the support you need. When I joined Cycle for the Cause, The Center’s 275 mile Northeast AIDS Ride, I genuinely did not think I would be able to do it—and by the end, I rode every single mile! That was only possible because of The Center’s support from start to finish. I can’t stop thinking about it. And I wonder to myself: “What else have I assumed I could not do? Maybe I just didn’t have the support I needed to try.” The Center has rearranged my thoughts on what I’m capable of with the right support.

When I think of The Center’s broader role in New York’s LGBTQ+ community, I’m reminded of when it was founded—the events that required cataclysmic change, the need for people to speak up, come together, and build the support they needed to survive. The fact that The Center is still here today means that the needs of our community are constantly changing and ever present.

Our identities as LGBTQ+ people can impact every part of our lives—which is why it is so important for our community to have access to resources to help us holistically thrive. You can find them at The Center. Some organizations do one thing, and they do that one thing really well. But over the course of its 40 year history, The Center has proven it can be the one stop shop for our whole identities. When I share my love of The Center with my friends, colleagues, and family, it’s hard to encapsulate everything that The Center does for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers without it sounding impossible. What a place!

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To support community members like Murray, Arieana, and Faiz, please consider donating.