Pride Week 2012: Jackson Heights Among City's Most Popular Places For LGBT Residents
Chelsea has long been a mecca for the city's LGBT community, but a Queens neighborhood has also become a haven for many. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
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One of the city's most diverse neighborhoods has become one of it's most inclusive.
In between the rapidly-growing South Asian and Hispanic population in Jackson Heights is an increasing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Many find the neighborhood attractive for a number of reasons.
"There is acceptance," says one person. "There is openness. There are outlets for hanging out and having fun and for information and for counseling."
But it wasn't always this way. City Councilman Daniel Dromm knows that firsthand. He's one of two openly gay council members from Queens. He's also a former school teacher who received a lot of pushback when he came out 20 years ago.
"It was the school board and the politicians who were questioning whether it would be appropriate or not for me to be a school teacher," he says.
Dromm started his activism then. In 1993, he became one of the organizers of the Queens Pride Parade, which began as a protest after Julio Rivera was murdered by a group of skinheads who said they were looking for a homeless or gay guy to beat up.
Some say the annual parade has helped the neighborhood to shake that image and now it's become a destination for the gay community, especially LGBT immigrants. The Queens Pride House helps many of them with the transition into the community.
"There's a trans-Latina group," says Carlos Cubas of the Queens Pride House. "It's a group that meets here every Tuesday, which is meeting today. Their numbers have doubled in the last six months."
"Although many of our clients are Hispanic, we also welcome various Bengali and Pakistani," says Michelle Abdus-Shakur of the Queens Pride House.
The neighborhood's popularity has led many people to call it the "New Chelsea" but some LGBT residents here say this neighborhood is unique with a different atmosphere.
"There are a lot more gay families moving in," says resident Alfonso Quiroz. "There are people who are getting married, adopting children, raising families and living here and being treated like everyone else."