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.