During the late ’60s and early ’70s a number of lesbian journals began publication in Baltimore. In 1972, the Baltimore Chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) was established. There were also groups for African-American lesbians and, in 1973, gay and lesbian Catholics. Gay student groups at local universities and the Baltimore Pride rally both appeared in 1975, and that spring the Baltimore Gay Alliance (BGA) held its first meeting.
The BGA began its work galvanizing the community into one entity, celebrating diversity and offering sanctuary. By 1977 it was clear that the BGA needed to form a unified community center; the articles of incorporation were signed on March 28th, 1977 to establish the Gay Community Center of Baltimore (GCCB). The Center was founded less than ten years after the Stonewall riots in New York , and at the time Baltimore was by no means a stranger to GLBT activism.
At first the GCCB survived only through the hard work and self-sacrifice of committed volunteers who provided the Center with meeting space, operated a switchboard, and distributed a newsletter out of homes and basements. A newly established Health Clinic, which is currently known as Chase Brexton Health Services, shared space with MCC, and in 1980 the GCCB found a more permanent home at 241 West Chase Street.
Through the next several years the GCCB struggled against adversity, bigotry, and the horrors of the AIDS crisis to grow and adapt to meet the ever-changing needs of its community. The GCCB newsletter evolved into the Baltimore Gay Paper (BGP), and later Gay Life, and moved from a volunteer’s basement into the Chase Street building. In 1985, Lesbian was added to the organization’s name to create the most commonly known name and acronym for the Center: The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore or GLCCB.
During the following decade the Center continued to change with its surroundings by offering new programs and services while remaining a beacon and refuge for the community at large. The Center’s largest and most attended event, the annual Pride celebration, took place throughout much of the downtown area, from Charles Plaza, to the 200 block of Chase Street; to Park Avenue, the Wyman Park Dell, and now to its current locations of Charles and Eager Streets, and Druid Hill Park.
In 2002, in an effort to remain inclusive, the Center incorporated the entire community it serves into its name to become the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLBTCCBCM) while retaining the familiar (and more manageable) nickname of “the Center.”
In 2012, the Center adopted the term sexual and gender minorities (SGM) after feedback from the community noted that LGBTQIA did not represent the nuances and the diversity of our community. Over the course of one hot weekend in August of 2016, the GLCCB Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, and professional movers worked together to clear out the old space at 1000 Cathedral St. to move everything a few miles up the road into its new home in Lower Charles Village. The current space at 2530 N. Charles St. was customized to fit the needs of the GLCCB. The location boasts an open lounge area, three spacious meeting rooms, a conference room, and modern office space.
As a long standing fixture of Baltimore’s sexual and gender minority community, the Center consistently makes an effort to maintain relevance with our ever evolving culture and society. In February of 2019, the Board of Directors voted once more to change the name of the Center from the GLCCB to The PRIDE Center of Maryland. The most recent name change is a direct commitment to our mission of being a catalyst for uniting and empowering sexual and gender minorities in Baltimore and Central Maryland, and advocating for a better quality of life for the entire community.
Things have changed markedly from the days when the Center operated out of basements, fought for its right to hold the Pride Celebration, or watched gay rights bill after gay rights bill get voted down by the Baltimore City Council. With ever-increasing acceptance, things may appear to be less challenging now, but there is still much work to be done. There will always be challenges, both personal and societal, but through your individual gifts, generous bequests, fundraisers, and grants, the Center will continue to expand its services to include more support groups, increased educational opportunities, more community outreach services, and greater collaborations with organizations that have a desire to serve as allies of the sexual and gender minority community in Baltimore.