Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center Opens Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, developed to provide social and recreational activities to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth in San Francisco, California, was the first program in the United States that focused primarily on providing social and recreational activities to queer and questioning youth.

Summary of Event

In May of 1988, Beth Kivel and Donna Ozawa met for lunch at Quincy’s sandwich shop on Market Street in the civic center area of San Francisco. During lunch, they talked about their high school coming-out experiences. Kivel came out in Tyler, Texas, in 1978 and was targeted with verbal harassment and physical threats of violence; Ozawa came out in San Francisco and felt isolated and alone. In the course of their conversation, they began to imagine what life might be like if there was a positive place for queer youth to gather and engage in social and recreational activities. They jotted down their ideas on the back of a brown paper bag. This “brown paper bag” became the blueprint for the creation of the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC). LYRIC was the first organization of its kind in the United States. [kw]Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center Opens (May, 1988) [kw]Youth Recreation and Information Center Opens, Lavender (May, 1988) [kw]Recreation and Information Center Opens, Lavender Youth (May, 1988) [kw]Information Center Opens, Lavender Youth Recreation and (May, 1988) Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center Youth centers Queer youth;centers for [c]Organizations and institutions;May, 1988: Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center Opens[1840] Kivel, Beth Ozawa, Donna

After Kivel and Ozawa wrote up their plan, they began to talk with like-minded folks, namely a social worker named Ruth Hughes and a nurse named Mary Goulart, who worked at Larkin Street, a drop-in center for homeless and runaway youth. They asked young people to join them in a brainstorming session about how to make life better for queer youth. Ruth suggested organizing a dance, and the group concurred. Over the summer, an ad hoc group composed of youth and adults came together. The group recruited friends, housemates, and lovers to give money and time for the event, which was scheduled for October, 1988, and raised $1,000 for the dance, which was held on October 15 at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in the Castro District. The dance was sponsored by several advocacy and youth-serving and community-serving agencies, including Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, Larkin Street Medical Clinic, Castro Lions Club, and Jackson Street Youth Group. The dance also was meant to get young people involved in the planning and implementation of more social and recreational activities. Toward that end, the group developed a survey to give out to young people, asking them two main questions: Do you want more social, recreational events? and, Are you willing to be a part of the planning process for these events? Participants also were asked how they heard about the event and where they lived.

Forty people attended the dance, advertised as a clean-and-sober event for young people up to age twenty-three. Approximately twenty chaperones attended—representatives from youth agencies, teachers, social service agencies, and homeless youth shelters. The service providers were amazed at the high turnout and heartened to think that this event might signal the beginning of more programs and services for queer youth, because the main city-sponsored program at the time was a therapy-based group, called “The Center for Special Problems.”

After the dance, meetings were held with both youth and adults interested in continuing the work. Two of the first youth volunteers were sixteen-year-old Olga Texidor, who would later become a paid employee, and twenty-two-year-old Kristen Hoffmeister. They worked side by side with other youth and adults who planned, implemented, and evaluated more dances, social, recreational events, and fund-raisers. All of the work was being done by volunteers.

Within one year of the first dance, Alfonso Diaz, Vincent Fuqua, and Mark Chekal, and adult allies Joe Hosking, Steve Sims, Ishmael Torres, and Danny Barutta (the second director of LYRIC), among others, began a weekly rap group for young men. A similar group for young women began with support from adult allies Regina Gabrielle (the third director of LYRIC), Roma Guy, Jamie, Kathy Bollinger, Barbara Blinnick, and youth volunteers Olga Texidor and Jonna Hensley. The two rap groups, along with quarterly dances, a softball team in the San Francisco Gay Softball League, picnics, hikes, and camping trips, became central to the program. To fund these activities, the group held grassroots fund-raisers, including bake sales in the Castro and annual pancake-breakfast fund-raisers, cosponsored with Gay/Lesbian Outreach to Elders (GLOE) at MCC.

Along the way, the group adopted the name, Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, which reflected their hopes for an actual space. In 1990, Judith Stevenson, director of Operation Concern (OC), a counseling center for the LGBT community, provided LYRIC with office space; OC also served as LYRIC’s fiscal agent. Stevenson, and John Wilhite, submitted the first grant on LYRIC’s behalf to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, HIV-AIDS Prevention Education Program. This grant was followed by support from the San Francisco Foundation, and former mayor Art Agnos worked with LYRIC to secure funding from his office to pay for Kivel to become the first director of the program.

In 1991, LYRIC moved into a space at The Women’s Building, and in the same year LYRIC was featured in an NBC-TV affiliate (KRON) documentary, “Growing Up and Coming Out.” Also in 1991, LYRIC formed an advisory board composed of youth and adults, and it received support from leaders such as Carmen Vazquez, Greg Day, Kristen Bachler, and San Francisco board of supervisors members Roberta Achtenberg and Carole Migden.

During a one-year period, Kivel wrote more than one dozen grants, and, in 1992, she left LYRIC to pursue a doctorate; Danny Barutta took over as LYRIC’s second director, with a budget of $250,000. In 1993, Roberta Achtenberg secured funds for LYRIC to purchase a three-story Victorian house in the Castro District.


Between 1988 and 1992, a committed group of young people and adults worked together to transform an idea into a reality. This informal group became an institution that continues to thrive with a staff of fourteen and an annual budget of more than $1 million. Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center Youth centers Queer youth;centers for

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bass, Ellen, and Kate Kaufman. Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth—And Their Allies. New York: HarperPerennial, 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gay Straight Alliance Network. http://www.gsa
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Huegel, Kelly. GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens. Minneapolis, Minn.: Free Spirit, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">National Youth Advocacy Coalition. http://www
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Be Yourself: Questions and Answers for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth. http://www.pflag .org.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rich, Jason R. Growing Up Gay in America: Informative and Practical Advice for Teen Guys Questioning Their Sexuality and Growing Up Gay. Boston: Franklin Street Books, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ryan, Caitlin. Lesbian and Gay Youth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

August, 1966: Queer Youth Fight Police Harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco

March, 1971: Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Is Founded

1982: Lesbian and Gay Youth Protection Institute Is Founded

1994: National Association of Lesbian and Gay Community Centers Is Founded

Categories: History