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Councilmember At-Large Helen Gym introduced two bills Thursday aimed at protecting and expanding the rights of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ-plus community.  

One mandates the city’s youth organizations to implement policies protecting young trans and gender nonconforming people. The other requires Philadelphia City Hall to install at least one gender-neutral bathroom on each of its floors.

“Trans rights are human rights and trans existence is not up for debate,” Gym said in a statement. “While we have a federal government hellbent on erasing transpeople, we in Philadelphia have an obligation to raise the bar for inclusive and supporting spaces. That means everyone should have the basic dignity of using a bathroom that feels safe and affirming. It means every young person in our city should be able to trust in and be protected by the institutions serving them.”

The youth-related bill draws on the School District of Philadelphia’s Policy 252, which focuses on “safety, equity and justice for all students regardless of gender identity or gender expression.” It would ensure organizations adopt and follow policies for trans and gender nonconforming children that are compliant with the ordinance, which outlines rules on gender-segregated activities, culturally-sensitive language choices, discrimination and harassment and more.

A September 2018 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that within 617 adolescents ages 11-19, 14 percent reported a suicide attempt. Transboys accounted for the highest rate, with more than 50 percent of those surveyed disclosing an attempt, closely trailed by nonbinary children, with an attempt rate of more than 41 percent.

“We need to support youth in their now, and this bill is a strong step forward to ensure that youth-serving organizations are truly serving and supporting all young people,” said Hazel Edwards, interim director of the Bryson Institute at the Attic Youth Center. “If we believe that youth are the future then we need to let them live in their authentic true selves, or unfortunately we could lose them to an oppressive system and never experience the power from our future leaders.”

Under the policy, staff would also undergo regular training on interacting with LGBTQ youth.

Gym’s second bill would vastly increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms in City Hall, which currently offers one on its seventh floor. It builds on 2012 legislation introduced by Mayor Jim Kenney, then a councilmember, that required new and renovated public buildings to have gender-neutral bathrooms. The bill “brings City Hall into the modern age,” Gym said.

Several leaders in the city’s LGBTQ community spoke out in support of the proposed legislation.

“In a time of increasing violence directed toward transpeople, it's important that we continue Philadelphia's historic leadership in advocating for and centering them,” said Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way LGBT Community Center.

Julien Terrell, executive director of the youth organization Philadelphia Student Union, said the bills go beyond providing a welcoming space for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals.

“It’s also about challenging and shifting culture away from an oppressive and unnecessary binary to one that is truly honoring the realities of all young people,” Terrell added.


Posted: 6/13/19 5:10 p.m.

Luanda Morris, of the city’s Frankford section, made the trek to last weekend’s Pride with her 14-year-old daughter, a lesbian.

She wanted the event to serve as a living lesson — one that made her child feel accepted and respected while teaching others about love, acceptance and unity.

“Love is love, and I see that reflected in a lot of T-shirts and messages from the artists,” Morris said. “The experience here is that people are very loving and accepting of each other.”

The 31st iteration of the Philly Pride Parade and Festival — the largest ever, with more than 140 participating groups — took over streets from the Gayborhood to Penn’s Landing during an iconic milestone.

The parade, complete with the trailblazing “Philadelphia Pioneers On The Road To Stonewall” float that honored the 50th anniversary of the New York riots, kicked off at 11 a.m. Sunday at 13th and Locust streets.

Thousands of participants snaked through the Historic District before converging at the festival at Penn’s Landing, where Stonewall activists and Pennsylvania politicians gathered to reflect on LGBTQ civil-rights history.

Officials also honored Stonewall activists Paul Kuntzler, one of the first to demonstrate at the White House; Randy Wicker, one of the first LGBTQ-rights picketers in the country; John James, who participated in Philadelphia’s Annual Reminders from 1965-69; Susan Silverman, part of original LGBTQ-rights group Gay Liberation Front; and Mark Segal, also an original member of GLF, president of local LGBTQ philanthropy group dmhFUND and Philadelphia Gay News publisher. The Pennsylvania Senate formally recognized Segal for his community activism spanning back to Stonewall. 

“It is because of the fierce advocates, the brave advocates seen at Stonewall … that we are a more inclusive, diverse and resilient city,” Mayor Jim Kenney told the crowd at Penn’s Landing. “Philadelphia celebrates its diversity and we’re proud to stand with our LGBTQ communities. We’ll continue to fly Philly’s own more-color Pride flag and advocate for everyone, especially those who have been marginalized.”

Kenney then took a strike at national leaders, which was greeted with cheers. He said the progress of the last 50 years is “in jeopardy because of the crackpot in the White House and his homophobic vice president [trying] to turn back the clock to the days before the ’60s.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also addressed the festival crowd. “Today is a day about love and about affirmation, and today we affirm loud and clear that love is love,” he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf said that while he’s proud of Pennsylvania’s progress on LGBTQ rights, more is left to accomplish.

“It is so wrong that Pennsylvania, a place founded on tolerance, inclusion and fairness, should be one of the states without nondiscrimination,” he told festival attendees. “Let us finish the work [the LGBTQ pioneers] started and bring those bills across the finish line.”

Awards were presented to various 2019 PrideDay Parade winners, including GALAEI for Best Nonprofit Group, Refuse Fascism for Best Statement, Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus for Best Performance, Hard Rock Cafe for Best Float and the Road to Stonewall float as winner in the Best Stonewall 50 category.

The annual event drew crowds from throughout the region and of varying identities and orientations.

This was the second consecutive Pride for North Philadelphian Skye Wilson, 21, who identifies as bisexual. She said she’s at her “strongest and my gayest during this month” and especially during the public celebration.

“We go through so much 365 days out of the year, but then this is one day where everybody can feel comfortable and feel like they’re among their own people,” Wilson said. “So many times people just go to work, they don’t really tell anybody about their life, friends or family, and then they come here and they can really be who they are. It’s definitely important to have that one day.”

For Hanover resident Levi Ginter, a 24-year-old transman, the highlight of Pride is seeing how it becomes ever more inclusive.

The event is especially valuable because it supports younger members of the LGBTQ community, he added.

“[It’s] continuing to let youth know as they grow up, and even those who are older who spent their lives being told otherwise, that there are people out there that are supportive and there are options. There’s healthcare, there’s everything available to you. You just have to look in the right places.”

For Liz Sweeney, 27, Pride took on a new significance this year: It was her first since she came out as trans.

“It’s my first one since I’ve been out and on estrogen and actually finally living how I want to,” the South Jersey resident said. “It’s nice to finally just be out and enjoy being around everyone and being around people who support you and don’t care who you want to sleep with or who you identify as.”

Sweeney’s friend, Brittany Howell, 28, added that orientation or identity shouldn’t be an issue.

“We’re all humans,” she said. “We’re all the same people, and it should just continue to be that way.” 


Photo credit: Kelly Burkhardt

Updated 6/13/19 1:33 p.m. 


The 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards, the world’s largest LGBTQ ceremony of its kind, was held June 3 at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Lammys were awarded to 24 winners in categories that ranged from fiction and nonfiction to poetry and graphic novels.

The “Philly Lights Up Rainbow” display will happen after sundown on two nights throughout the month: Sunday, June 9, on the evening of the Philadelphia PrideDay Parade and Festival, and on June 30, when New York City hosts its WorldPride march.

In the decade before the Stonewall, queer underground newsletters and small ’zine-style publications began to proliferate across the country, especially in cities with large gay and lesbian populations like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Shades: A Celebration of Black, Queer Identities & Expression

Thursday, June 6, 6 p.m.-midnight; $15-$50

New Voices for Reproductive Justice hosts this two-part event in support of its mission to promote health and well-being among female-identifying members of the black queer community. The evening begins with a discussion panel on the intersectionality of gender and reproductive justice followed by an awards ceremony recognizing movers and shakers in the Black LGBTQ-plus community, such as Erin-Aja Grant (Abortion Care Network), Christian Lovehall (Philly Trans March) and Shani Akilah (Black & Brown Workers Cooperative). The lights go down at 8 p.m. for the main event, which features tunes by DJ Marceline and live performances from Black Rapp Madusa and Magui Fe.

SOMO SoPhi, 3101 S. 13th St.; 267-365-7120; newvoicespittsburgh.org

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