The untimely death of Gloria Casarez, Philadelphia’s first director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs, has sent shockwaves through the city as her friends, family, and colleagues mourn her passing. At only 42, Ms. Casarez left a legacy that will continue to impact the community for years to come. We reached out to Philadelphians who were impacted by Gloria’s unwavering dedication to the city and the LGBTQ community to share their thoughts, memories, and pictures of the local legend.
"’I'm fortunate to have loads of memories of Gloria—from community events to dance parties to coffee dates and karaoke battles. However, I never appreciated her more than I did last year when I served as Grand Marshal for Philly Pride.
When I found out that I had to ride on a float and give a speech in front of 10,000 people, Gloria was the first person I ran to for advice. To be fair, she was always the person I ran to for advice. In addition to giving the best tips for how to liven up the parade route with the right candy and the perfect pageant wave, Gloria was a life savior when it was my turn to speak.
I don't often get cold feet in front of an audience but the crowd at Penn's Landing was the largest group I've ever spoken in front of. Gloria noticed the textbook signs of an anxiety attack right before I went on and she took time to get me water and keep me out of the sun. Most importantly, she looked me in the eye and reminded me that I earned this honor and that I should let my heart guide my words. And just to make me laugh, she made a joke about the hilarious possibility of me fainting in front of 10,000 people. After that perfect pep talk, she turned around and delivered the most heartfelt introduction I've ever been honored to hear. That was Gloria's way.
Her light was so bright, it lit the way for all of us. She used her energy to build up those around her and support our dreams and our talents. Gloria guided this community in ways most of us do not know or even understand. She was a leader for LGBTQ people in this city for sure but to this queer brown girl, she was a giant, a living legend, proof that there was a place for queer people of color in this community. She was a constant beacon of light and my world will never be the same without her.” —Amber Hikes, Director of Upward Bound Program, University of Pennsylvania
Philly Dyke March
"We exist because of you, Gloria Casarez. You brought to life the Philadelphia Dyke March as we know and love it, and breathed energy and creativity into it every year since. You were, are, and always will be our family. To say that you were a trailblazer for dyke visibility and rights is an understatement, but we weren’t the only lucky ones. You paved the way for so many in our Philadelphia LGBTQ community with your fierce advocacy and unrelenting spirit. We don’t have enough words to do you justice. Our hearts are so heavy with this loss. We will never forget you, and we vow to carry forward your passion and vision. Rest in Power: we all mourn your loss together. The Dykes United Will Never Be Divided.” —Philly Dyke March Organizers
"Gloria was a mentor, a colleague, and most of all, a friend. I still cannot believe she isn't with us, but at the same time, she always will be. She is a part of all who knew her. She is my personal Wonder Woman. My karaoke outings will never be the same. I will miss her always." —Elicia Gonzales, Executive Director, GALAEI
"My first interaction with Gloria was via email. I had just joined the Nutter Administration in 2008, and was trying to make connections. From our first meeting, she immediately had my back, and I was an instant fan. She became a friend and mentor who I could call upon for advice, or a good laugh. She was the reason I became involved in the LGBT community and I will truly miss her." —David Torres, Chief Operating Officer, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
"I used to always run into Gloria at community events, but the first time I sat and talked with her one-on-one was literally her first week working at City Hall.
I was working on a project with the staff at the Department of Human Services to update their polices for working with LGBTQ youth in foster care. I emailed her to set up a time when we could talk, and I couldn’t believe that she made it a priority to meet with me during her first week on the job. Now looking back on this, it seems so Gloria. She never wasted time, especially when it came to making the city the best that it can be for LGBTQ people.
Over the years, every time I saw her, even if we only had a two-minute conversation, I felt so inspired by her social-change work and all that she had accomplished at her age. Thank you Gloria for bringing social justice to City Hall.” —Alyssa Mutryn, Director of Development, The Attic Youth Center
"One of Gloria's fundamental orientations was being a voice for someone who didn't have one. There are dozens and dozens of people who benefitted from her. As one of the founders of the Philly Dyke March, she was really a strong advocate for women. Gloria was incredibly accessible, whether it was having the mayor attend an event or giving suggestions for a policy. Because she really strategized for people and organizations to have the ability to be self-empowered, her work will live on for decades. I was one of the adults who benefitted from her wisdom. There will be many times I will hear her voice when I try to make a decision.” —Chris Bartlett, Executive Director, William Way LGBT Community Center
"There are no words to express the profound loss of Gloria. Like she was for many, she was a role model for me and the driving force in encouraging me to take on the job as executive director of Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. In leading by example, she taught me how to lead. While I will miss her leadership, I will most especially miss her friendship. Waking up this morning to a first day without her it makes everything around me feel so much less vibrant. Her love of life infused everything she did; Gloria really knew how to live. She was one of a kind.” —Samantha Giusti, Executive Director, Delaware Valley Legacy Fund
"Year after year, Gloria came up to me at Pride and wanted to know all about the Attic Youth Grand Marshals. She was interested in their lives, their accomplishments, their struggles, and their stories. Together, she and I would walk through the crowds and find them. Gloria would congratulate them and acknowledge their honor. Knowing that she was the Mayor’s Director of LGBT Affairs, the youth felt recognized and truly special. I will really miss her, especially at Pride next year. I am so glad that I saw her a few weeks ago and I’ll fondly remember our last conversation on the never-ending hopes we’ve had for creating housing for LGBTQ youth and how close it seems we are to making this finally happen.” —Carrie Jacobs, Director, The Attic Youth Center
"As a community leader, she taught me so much and influenced how I exist in our community. As a professional colleague, there was no one I enjoyed getting on the phone and bantering with more over whatever issue was at hand than Gloria. It wasn’t abnormal for us to text at midnight over an issue involving the community. In the end, though, no matter how grave or ridiculous the situation, Gloria found a way to make lemonade out of lemons, fix the problem and then laugh about it. To quote her, 'I have an inner hippie. Sometimes I think the greatest successes [the Philadelphia LGBT community has had] have been the bad things we didn’t let happen.'
I don’t think anyone knows how many things 'haven’t happened' because Gloria Casarez was there to make sure they didn’t. While the physical presence of Gloria as a lighthouse is gone, it will always shine bright." —Angela Giampolo, Attorney, Giampolo Law Group
"My heart is heavy. This is an incredible loss for the City of Philadelphia, the Latin@ community and the L.G.B.T.Q.A. community that were so lucky to see the results of her activism, heart and care all these years. Thoughts and prayers are with Gloria's wife Tricia Dressel, family and friends - all of us that will miss her incredibly.” —Michael Beachem, Associate Director, International House Philadelphia
“The impact of Gloria Casarez on what we now consider to be the most LGBT-friendly city in America can’t be overstated. She was a game-changer for everyone in Philadelphia who had been working to bring issues of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and racial & ethnic justice to the forefront in government and policy. It would be impossible to envision the experience of an LGBT person in Philadelphia without the hard work of Gloria Casarez. This city will never be the same because of her and it will certainly never be the same without her.” —Representative Brian Sims, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Yesterday, GLAAD hosted a nationwide campaign called #SpiritDay, where it asked people to “go purple” as way to stand up against bullying and to show support for LGBT youth. Millions took part, including a nice spattering of folks right here in Philly. Locally, we had everyone from politicians to community leaders to entire kickball teams donning purple for the cause. I round up some of the ones who crossed my radar below:
GALAEI's Elicia Gonzales looks great in purple, but then again what doesn't she look great in?
@jerseyboydallas's #SpiritDay proclamation came with a message: "I've been bullied since grade school, because my voice was not deep like the other guys in my class, and I was called all sorts of names. But today I stand up to those bullies to say I'm different. We are not all the same, so there is no need for all this. It's immature so grow up!!!"
GALAEI's @thefeverview is repping all kinds of causes: #SpiritDay, transgender issues, and the freedom to wear beanies!
@njrugger45 wore purple for #SpiritDay and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. "I think both observances invite us to ask what experiences of trauma, violence, and/or oppression we can work to heal from so that we do not reenact that violence upon ourselves, our families, and our communities."
"It's always spirit day on the purple team." (Photo by @jabaiocco01)
I don't think this was intentional, but @thatjimkid got his hair died purple on #SpiritDay. And he's rockin' it.
Awww. How could bullying exist in a world with cute puppies like this? (Photo by @edwardbenner)
The Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing on hate-crime legislation Thursday at the Kimmel Center. The recent attack on a gay couple in Center City has renewed calls for the state to provide hate crime protection to gays and lesbians.
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Every week, Philly gay gents share their local picks for Man Crush Monday. This week: prolific local party producer Josh Schonewolf, who’s soon taking his popular Gayborhood singing competition Songbird to New York City for a 14-week run.
My hometown hero. Brian Sims is not only physically handsome, he's always so captivating and a true leader of our community. I find him really inspiring, and always a joy to run into. He's such an important figure in Pennsylvania's LGBTQ community. I am honored to stand behind him. Brian is everything that I like about a man: strong, confident, and easy to talk to.
So excited to be running Philly Beauty Ball with Rick in a few weeks. I love this guy, and he really cares about his community. If there was a Mount Rushmore of Gayborhood people, his smiling face would have a spot for sure.
He hosts a lot of my events, and that's with great pleasure. Eric recently sold out his Gay Fest! one-man-show, Always the Bridesmaid (which returns to Philly October 7th and 12th), and I was zero-percent surprised. I admire him for so many reasons. He is truly a voice that needs to be heard—at all times. And that is why I'm happy to hand over the the mic—whenever I can—to R. Eric Thomas, the Best Host in the Gayborhood.
Tim is going to make some lucky dude very happy one day, as he makes everyone around him very happy just by being Tim Adams. Tim is such a hard worker for our community, and he has become an awesome friend to me, too. Mr. Adams is relatable, hilarious and always the life of the party. The next time he walks into a room, get that man a drink.
Back in the day when I was starting my first weekly event, Ratchet Wednesday, I knew I needed a mind-blowing talent to DJ. Nearly two years later, Javas has become my righthand man. His talent is limitless, and there's no end in sight for our nightlife union. Javas and I are welcoming our brand new child, S.O.S., into the world on November 2nd at Stir.
My true love. I met Danny seven months ago, by bidding on him at a bachelor auction at Woody's. A few Jameson shots later, I made a bid on him. After losing the bid, I ended up meeting Danny later on that evening, and we hit it off so hardcore and organically. Sometimes we just have to accept what life holds in store for us, and Danny and I were meant to be together. He's as beautiful as he is perfect in every way possible. And just seven months in, I am 100 percent sure I found my Happily Ever After.
Submit your Man Crush Monday!
Here are the rules: (1) Name five to 10 guys you’re crushing on, and tell us why they have your heart aflutter (2) You and all men involved have to be from Philadelphia (3) Email your crushes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Five Man Crush Mondays:
LOVE Park was a veritable sea of supporters this afternoon, when more than 300 (!) local lawmakers, LGBT leaders and community members showed up in the rain to attend a rally for the two gay men attacked on September 11th in Center City.
The event was hosted by State Representative Brian Sims, who used the opportunity to draw attention HB 177 and SB 42, two pieces of legislation that would add sexual orientation to Pennsylvania’s current hate crime laws.
Photographer HughE Dillon was there to capture some snapshots, which you can seen below. Check some of the captions for remarks made by those who took part.
"There are some in Harrisburg who object to restoring sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the hate-crime law. But they haven't been calling for repeal of the law's remaining protections, for victims targeted because of their race, color, religion or national origin -- they know they would take a political hit for that. "
"Unfortunately, they think there's no political penalty or constituent outrage to face for leaving out women, LGBT people, or people targeted because of their ancestry or mental or physical disability. Pennsylvanians who don't like this injustice need to let their state representative and senator know now."
Caryn Kunkle, friend and spokesperson for the two victims: "I am thankful that many legislators are working to restore Pennsylvania’s inclusive hate crime law. This is important to me not only because of my gay friends who were brutally attacked, but also because I have struggled my entire life to protect my autistic younger brother. It is never OK to hurt someone because of who they are."
Brian Sims stands next to Caryn Kunkle.
Councilman Jim Kenney: "True equality will never be achieved through government action alone. Transphobia and homophobia have always been deeply embedded in American culture. As we were brutally reminded two weeks ago, our children are growing up in a country where LGBTQ people are still seen as an 'other' and somehow different from themselves – victories will remain hollow until this changes."
First Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross Jr.
Rudy Flesher, Beth Wilson Rudd, and Matt Kurilla
Representative from GALAEI, who's Executive Director Elicia Gonzales told the crowd that, ""The outpouring of both outrage and support surrounding this heinous act has been nothing short of heart-warming. The fact that this issue moved hate crimes legislation into the foreground must not be taken lightly. We must also bring to light the other hate crimes that have gone unpunished, and sometimes, unnoticed. Let us use this momentum to continue to seek justice for Nizah Morris, Kyra Cordova, and Diamond Williams."
Sharron Cooks, community organizer and consultant at Making Our Lives Easier LLC, stand next to William Way Executive Director Chris Bartlett,
Today at 2 p.m., State Representative Brian Sims will host an event in Love Park for the two victims of the September 11th gay-bashing in Center City, and to call for hate crime laws that would protect LGBT people in Pennsylvania.
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Yesterday we told you about Brian Sims’ intentions to take the victims of last week’s gay-bashing in Center City to Harrisburg to change Pennsylvania’s hate crime laws to include sexual orientation. Well a press release sent from his office today shows that he’s taking the steps to put his money where his mouth is.
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You can sign the “Change PA Hate Crime Law to include Sexual Orientation” petition all you want, but the real change is going to have to come from within the Pennsylvania state legislature. The good news is that there’s already a bill that’s been introduced to do it. The bad news is that it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. Read more »
Did you know it’s Taney Dragons week? That’s right: Because the Taney Dragons run to the Little League World Series happened while legislators were on vacation, only now — when they’ve returned to work in September — are we getting resolutions honoring Philadelphia’s favorite little kid athletes.
State Rep. Brian Sims received unanimous approval for a resolution declaring the week of September 14th to September 20th Taney Dragons Week in the state of Pennsylvania. Do other cities’ baseball teams have to bow in recognition of Taney’s superiority? Let’s hope so.
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If you thought you saw Brian Sims rappelling down the Commerce Square building in Center City this afternoon your eyes weren’t deceiving you. The state representative scurried down from the fourth story of the skyscraper to practice for an upcoming charity rappel down Brandywine Realty Trust’s One Logan Square on Friday, October 24th. He, along with a team of local LGBTers lead by Angela Giampolo, are taking on the task to raise money for The Philadelphia Outward Bound School.
Check out photos of Sims’ rappel above, and a video below. To learn more about the event and to donate, go here.