A Queens-based LGBTQ Democratic club is rebranding under a new name and fresh leadership heading into the 2023 Pride season.
The Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens has been renamed the Lavender Line Democratic Club of Queens, or Lavender Democrats.
The new club’s goal is to expand the base of LGBTQ political activity and place a stronger emphasis on diversity at a time when the city is bracing for pivotal election cycles across multiple levels of government. There are LGBTQ elected officials in the borough, but there are also anti-LGBTQ lawmakers such as northeast Queens-based Councilmember Vickie Paladino, who has repeatedly hurled transphobic remarks and attacked drag story hour.
The name of the club stems from the lavender line painted along the route at the annual Queens Pride festivities, which takes place during the first weekend of June. Lavender Line is one of multiple Democratic clubs throughout the city, including the citywide Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, as well as Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn. Political clubs typically host regular meetings, vote to endorse politicians, host fundraisers, and campaign on behalf of their endorsed candidates, among other activities.
Lavender Democrats formed a leadership team that includes individuals who have been involved in the local LGBTQ political landscape, though the roles are considered “acting” at this point in time. Rod Townsend, the former president of the citywide Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, is the acting president, while Irak Cehonski is the executive vice president. Bill Behan is the vice president, John Simonian is the secretary, and Melissa Sklarz is the treasurer. Other roles are in the works, as well, according to the club.
The club has launched a website that prominently features the historic role former Councilmember Daniel Dromm has played in Queens’ LGBTQ history — and the site states that the club intends to follow “that legacy and the mission to increase the visibility of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the political arenas of the county, city, state, and nation.”
In a press release distributed by club leadership, members and elected officials heaped praise on former City Councilmember Daniel Dromm for his role in founding the club’s predecessor, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens.
Dromm — a former teacher who fought for LGBTQ inclusion and The Children of the Rainbow Curriculum in the ‘90s — eventually rose to become one of the first two out elected officials from Queens when he was elected to the City Council alongside Jimmy Van Bramer.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, describing Dromm as “a friend, an ally, and a hero of mine,” said he is glad to see that the club Dromm founded is “not just surviving, but thriving.”
Similarly, Dromm was mentioned by out Queens Councilmember Lynn Schulman, who said Dromm continues “to inspire progress and activism in the LGBTQ+ community of Queens.”
“My own roots in LGBTQ+ activism have shown me the importance of bringing people together to make progress happen,” Schulman said. “LGDCQ has almost 30 years of successes, and I know that will continue with Lavender Line! As Pride Month approaches, I look forward to working together on the issues affecting our community.”
Dromm reflected on the last three decades as he welcomed the Lavender Line Democratic Club of Queens to the borough.
“Almost 30 years ago as an educator, I faced off against an administration that imposed what amounted to a “Don’t Say Gay’ rule in the schools. We realized the solutions to not just that issue, but so many problems LGBTQ+ folks faced, could only be solved by political organization and education, and so LGDCQ was born,” Dromm said. “I’m reminded of those times every day when I read the news across the county, and even though we’ve made a ton of progress in the city and state, LGBTQ+ people need a space to come together and continue the work. I’m just ecstatic to see that continue now with Lavender Line Democratic Club of Queens!”
Lavender Line is hosting its first event — a mixer — at 6 p.m. on May 25 at Viva La Heights at 78-13 Roosevelt Avenue in Queens.