On January 26, Fordham Law’s Feerick Center for Social Justice invited Virginia Goggin, director of legal services at the NYC Anti-Violence Project (AVP), to give a presentation on her work providing legal resources to New York City’s LGBTQ communities.
Goggin founded AVP’s legal services program in 2013. AVP’s legacy extends back to the beginning of the AIDS crisis, in the 1980s, when its founders came together to offer support to gay men who had been the victims of hate crimes, and whose pleas had fallen largely on deaf ears at the NYPD and district attorney’s offices. Currently, AVP focuses its efforts on community organizing, public advocacy, counseling and, since 2013, legal assistance.
“We represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks, as well as people who are HIV-affected,” said Goggin. “We also offer support to anyone who has experienced violence, whether it’s hate violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or institutional violence.”
Goggin described AVP Legal Services’ work as requiring legal generalists, whose practice areas cover such disparate disciplines as immigration, criminal justice, and family law. AVP assists its clients with everything from filling out police reports to obtaining legal name changes and obtaining orders of protection. Its offerings have only expanded with the advent of the Trump administration. In addition to the individuals AVP serves every week during its regular intake, the project established a walk-in clinic soon after the election.
“Every Wednesday night at AVP, people can come in with any legal questions that they have,” said Goggin.
AVP has also launched an initiative, in the wake of Trump’s election, to obtain passports for its transgender clients, in anticipation of a possible rule change regarding which gender the federal government will allow applicants to place on official documents. For this initiative, Goggin said, AVP is enlisting law firms to help cover the approximately $100 cost of each client’s passport application.
Even with all these initiatives, Goggin said, the current political climate has left her and her colleagues reeling:
“While it’s clear what we need to do and what our mission is, everyone’s scrambling because we’re…being inundated day-in and day-out with things that people never thought would happen. So I came up with my own three-pronged approach to working toward anti-violence in all communities.”
Goggin appealed to the talk’s attendees to utilize this tripartite strategy: 1) to focus on activism within their local communities—whether that community is an apartment complex, a company, or a church group, 2) to pick one or two issues around which to organize, and 3) to attempt to reach out to people beyond their normal social circle.
Goggin herself is practicing what she preaches. She shared a story about meeting a young man on the subway who described himself as “neutral” with regard to the Trump administration. Goggin recounted how she shared her misgivings with this young man, and invited him to share his own history and thoughts in return.
“When he walked out [of the subway],” said Goggin, “he literally said, ‘All right, I’m going to see you at a protest.’ And I thought, that’s a big change…We just need to keep having conversations with people!”