“It Was an Ambush”: Behind the Vote That Ousted Sharron Cooks as LGBT Commission Chair

Sharron Cooks | Photo taken by Kelly Burkhardt

The Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, a 23-member advisory board announced in October 2016 after several intense months of revelations about racial discrimination in the Gayborhood, convened its first meeting on March 16th at City Hall. This inaugural gathering served as the formal introduction of Amber Hikes, a black queer woman newly appointed as the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, to the diverse body of volunteers who would help her advise Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration on the pressing needs of Philadelphia’s LGBT community.

It was during this meeting, which kicked off with commission members taking the floor for two minutes apiece to present overviews of their lives and work, that Sharron Cooks, a black transgender advocate and new member herself, noticed something potentially troubling. She felt that another member, a white cisgender woman, was “taking up too much space” — essentially framing discussion of diversity and inclusion around her own experience rather than that of people of color. Cooks said nothing, but noted that, unlike other members, the woman eventually spoke for five minutes longer than the allotted time. Read more »

Sharron Cooks Announces Resignation From LGBT Commission After Being Voted Out as Chair

Sharron Cooks | Photo taken by Kelly Burkhardt

After having made history as the first transgender person ever to chair a city commission, Sharron Cooks was removed as head of the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs on Tuesday night in a 13-3 (with 3 abstentions) vote during an emergency meeting. G Philly was sent documentation from the meeting that raised concerns surrounding Cooks’s social media interactions with members of one of the commission’s committees.

Read more »

Sharron Cooks Becomes the First-Ever Transgender Person to Chair a City Commission

Sharron Cooks | Photo taken by Kelly Burkhardt

Sharron Cooks | Photo taken by Kelly Burkhardt

The Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs finished its internal election for board leaders this week, and G Philly was notified on Thursday that transgender advocate Sharron Cooks was elected as chair, along with out rowing coach Libby Peters as secretary and community activist Jason Evans as treasurer. In this role, Cooks becomes the first transgender person ever to chair a citywide commission in Philadelphia. Read more »

Mayor’s Office Announces Appointments to the Commission on LGBT Affairs

Photo courtesy of Philly Bricks.

Photo courtesy of Philly Bricks.

A day after announcing Amber Hikes as the new director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, the Mayor’s Office has released its long-awaited list of appointees to the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs. The commission’s 23 members were selected through an application and review process that involved the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, the Office of LGBT Affairs, and the Mayor’s Office.

“Philadelphia values and promotes diversity and the contributions of our LGBT community,” said Mayor Kenney in a statement.  “I appreciate the commitment of these stellar individuals to serve on the LGBT Commission, and I believe the city will benefit from their rich and varied perspectives.” Read more »

Kenney Announces New Commission on LGBT Affairs

Photo courtesy of Philly Bricks.

Photo courtesy of Philly Bricks.

A week after Mayor Jim Kenney made his first-ever public statement addressing incidents of racism in the city’s LGBTQ community, his office has now officially announced the creation of a Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs.

“In order to fully serve the many needs of the city’s diverse LGBT community, we need an array of voices and perspectives to inform and advise us,” Kenney said in a statement on Monday. Read more »