Op-Ed

Any inmate who has taken a trip to Philadelphia’s State Road House of Corrections knows exactly what the terms “pumpkin patch” or “pumpkin suits” mean: They refer to the orange jumpsuits all inmates are required to wear, and when all of us are gathered together on a cell block, we look like a pumpkin patch. My soul flinches when I hear people talk about the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” because, on the show, prison looks exciting, adventurous and integrated. However, if you ask any African-American who has been to a correctional facility in the United States, orange has always been black.

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Following the success of the Keystone Pride Conference on March 20, Philly Pride has listed all Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley events on our webpage (www.phillygaypride.org/keystone-pride-calendar).

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of The COLOURS Organization, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia that has provided social-justice initiatives, community-building programs and HIV/AIDS related services to Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons since 1991.

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While rancor and posturing drives most of today’s political discourse at both the national and state levels, those of us in the real world are focused on the economic realities of growing our businesses, serving our clients and, in my case, nurturing my latest digital enterprise while writing another book.

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Republicans and Democrats may continue to spar over the budget in Pennsylvania, but they have come together to pass medical marijuana. In a true spirit of bipartisanship, legislation that would help bring relief to tens of thousands of children, adults and senior citizens suffering from the effects of serious medical problems passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives overwhelmingly last week and — when enacted — will be the first time in the country a Republican-dominated legislative body has passed medical-marijuana legislation.

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The crimes committed against Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught on Sept. 11, 2014, were heinous. As a community, we have the right to be outraged. Kathryn Knott, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, all young suburbanites, came into our city and, on the outskirts of our neighborhood, these outsiders viciously assaulted two of our own while calling them faggots. This outrages me.

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The budget isn’t the only thing the legislature didn’t get done in 2015. Because of the never-ending budget impasse, almost every other issue that Pennsylvanians care about was not addressed. One of those key issues is discrimination. Most Pennsylvanians are shocked to learn that it is still legal in the commonwealth to be fired from your job, turned away from a business or denied an apartment just for being gay or transgender.

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The Supreme Court’s decision this past summer to extend marriage rights to LGBT Americans was another step in a long and broad civil-rights struggle demonstrating that our nation can be made more perfect — that every citizen deserves dignity, respect and equality under the law.

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The loss of Kiesha Jenkins came as a shock to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community. Twenty-one trans women have been murdered in 2015, two in Philadelphia. Each time, we are hit with the same jarring impact and inconsolable grief.

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Sometimes I am reminded that I'm not a spring chicken. Indeed, I've been public as a trans woman for 22 years now, and that is still less than half my life.

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