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
Every Tuesday, we are featuring a recently wed Philadelphia-area LGBT couple. Today: Melissa Cooper and Lauren Schmucker, who took over The Franklin Institute for their special day.
Lauren and Melissa dancing under a statue of Benjamin Franklin. | Photo from Facebook
Names: Melissa Cooper and Lauren Schmucker
How long have you been together as a couple before you got married?: Our wedding took place on our ninth anniversary.
When did you get married?: October 4, 2014
Describe the experience of your wedding. Where did you get married? Who was there? What was the most memorable part?: Our wedding was a dream come true. We were married at The Franklin Institute, which perfectly reflected our individual interests in science and architecture. Our family and friends were there with us to celebrate our day. There were many memorable moments, from our ceremony under the stars in Fels Planetarium, to the cocktail hour in the new Brain Exhibit, followed by dinner and dancing in front of Ben Franklin himself. Our bridal party ended the night with a rousing rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin”” which we will never forget.
Were there any local businesses that were helpful when you prepared your wedding?:
Want to be featured in a future Tie-the-Knot Tuesday? If you’re a gay or lesbian couple married in Pennsylvania, we want to hear from you. Take our brief survey!
Marquise Lee, Tim Adams (blowing a smooch), Paul Blore and friends.
Trista Prudon and Madison Berezowsky with their dog, George.
Josh Schonewolf and Brittany Lynn
Paul Tyrrell, Paul Foster, and Matthew Wilmann with the Philadelphia Gay Mens Chorus.
Kade Bently, Shayla Roberson, Nyesha Henry, and Brandon McBride with Community College of Philadelphia.
Alexa Melendez and Rosie Kastor.
Don't be fooled: she won!
It is five o'clock somewhere: these good-looking studs were selling booze at noon.
Sarah Spohn and Megan Schramm with Equality Pennsylvania.
Harold Jordan and Mary Kate Kalinich with ACLU.
Michael Pomante and Karen Smith with the William Way Community Center.
City Council At-Large candidate Paul Steinke and attorney Larry Felzer.
OutFest organizer Franny Price keeping things straight on the mainstage.
iCandy DJs spinning some hot jams.
Master of Ceremonies Henri David.
An early-afternoon workout sponsored by 12th Street Gym rocked the main stage.
Dale Varga (center) presented some magic on the main stage.
Contestants for the ever-popular gay dog contest.
Awe, look at the gorgeous pup!
Okay, we're pretty sure this rainbow dog was all over your Instagram yesterday, but we couldn't help but share it here.
A regal shot of Rainbow Dog.
Rainbow Dog won a lot of awards at the dog contest!
G Philly teammates were out taking in OutFest during three parts of the day. Contributor Bryan Buttler went early, as local organizations were setting up their tents and photographers were wiping off their lenses for a full day of picture-snapping. It was a gorgeous day for a Gayborhood block party.
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A photo from Thomas Cerveny’s Facebook page, which was posted two days before his disappearance.
Local authorities in Maple Shade, New Jersey are seeking the public’s assistance in locating a gay man who has been missing since October 3, 2014. Read more »
A who’s who of gay Philly attended the fifth annual City of Philadelphia LGBT History Month Celebration and Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall this afternoon. Representatives from the Mazzoni Center, GALAEI, the Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League, Philly Black Pride, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, and more joined Mayor Michael Nutter, Gloria Casarez (Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs), and Rue Landau (Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations), as the rainbow flag was hoisted above City Hall. We were there to capture some of the great faces that showed up to celebrate LGBT History Month right in the City of Brotherly love.
Sheri Donley and Meredith Swinney.
Every Tuesday, we are featuring a Philadelphia-area gay or lesbian couple who have walked down the aisle in their own special way. Today, we feature Philadelphia’s Sheri Donley and Meredith Swinney. The couple planned their wedding for years but secretly hoped that Pennsylvania would change their marriage equality laws so they could tie the knot here; lucky for them, their dream came true.
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David B. Devan & David A. Dubbeldam (plus guests)
Every Tuesday, we are featuring a Philadelphia-area gay or lesbian couple who have walked down the aisle in their own special way. Today, we feature David Devan, Artistic Director of Opera Philadelphia, and his husband, David Dubbeldam, from Philadelphia. Yes, they are a pair of Double-D’s!
Names: David B. Devan and David A. Dubbeldam
How long have you been together as a couple before you got married?: Two years.
When did you get married?: August 4, 2007
Describe the experience of your wedding. Where did you get married? Who was there? What was the most memorable part?: In the summer of 2006 we returned to Victoria, British Columbia, the city we met in and lived in before moving to Philadelphia, to be legally married (marriage equality has been recognized in B.C. since July 2003). Our wedding was the most beautiful day of our lives filled with cherished family and dearest friends (including over 20 from Philadelphia). We were not expecting to be so moved by all the love and support that everyone had for us as a couple—it was so powerful and we will never forget it!
Want to be featured in a future Tie-the-Knot Tuesday? If you’re a gay or lesbian couple married in Pennsylvania, we want to hear from you. Take our brief survey!
Every week, Philly gay gents share their local picks for Man Crush Monday. This week, Chatterblast Creative Director and co-founder Matthew Ray.
Hi! I'm queer South Philly boy Matthew Ray, the Creative Director and co-founder of ChatterBlast Media. I am doing this under cures; I hate to limit my love. But, I hope this truncated list bring some attention to a few fantastic boys we have in Philadelphia, and…please donate to my MS City to Shore ride! I'm trying to raise a bundle to help fight Multiple Sclerosis in our region. Donate $1, $10, $100…it all helps! Okay, enough philanthropy: here's the BEEF, with special music to listen to during your social media stalking of them!
Popular, adorable, amazing. The official “godfather” of my business, “Brauny” is one of the sweetest, kindest, friendliest men I’ve ever met. It helps that his beautiful eyes and wide smile remind me of my favorite television star, Kermit the Frog. Just like a Muppet, Michael is cuddly and cute and is devoted to his pack.
Music to stalk him by: I Wanna Get Better, The Bleachers
Christian William Myers IV
Local boy and Penn grad (one of several on this list) Christian is a HUNK. I now that’s a dated term, but he is so freakin’ hot. Stylish to a fault, friendly and funny – I’ve had a crush on Christian since we got blasted on a party bus to Vermont. Or was it New Hampshire. Connecticut? Where we went to exactly is unclear, but I didn’t care ‘cause he was there.
Music to stalk him by: King Of The World, Rising Young Sons
This highly sought after consultant spends his week jetting across the country, and his weekend brunching at some of the city’s most select spots. If you happen to make the cut as one of his pieces of arm candy, then you’re in for a fun ride. Champagne for everyone! David is suave, dreamy, and the only man who makes he laugh so hard my sides hurt. Mama always said: “Marry a man who makes you giggle.”
Music to stalk him by: Automatic, Pointer Sisters
Geoff Kees Thompson
While incredibly handsome and masculine, Geoff’s sexiest quality is his unswerving love for Philadelphia and his devotion to making it a better city. One of the best bloggers (check out This Old City) in the region, Geoff’s intelligence and empathy are so attractive you can’t help yourself but want to learn everything this guy knows… MORE PLEASE.
Music to stalk him by: Feels Like Summer, Panama Wedding
Perfect body, great dancer, spiritual guy – Gavin’s knockout looks might seem intimidating but he’s really a big softy. FYI: Boys who build businesses are boys who we should date, and Gavin has built a health and wellness biz to beat the best. Truth be told, he’s a bit to much of an aggressive/dominant… ahh… cuddler… for me– but if that’s your kink, he’s your dream.
Music to stalk him by: Simply The Best (RMX), Tina Turner
Ian Michael Crumm
Most self-proclaimed fashionistas are vapid, vain and vicious. Ian’ is none of the above. He’s warm, personable, cute, and impeccably dressed, ALWAYS. Transcending twink, Ian is a spirited and witty young man with the brightest future possible. He has a no pretense approach to fashion that makes him classy even when he gives you a devilish little smirk. Check out his blog, and look at those eyes! >> Sigh <<
Music to stalk him by: Donatella, Lady Gaga
Jeff almost got booted from this list since he is now commuting to New York, leaving us without his magnificence. I adore Jeff and think he is a beautiful man inside and out. I don’t give a flying fig about kickball, but I followed his team this year like I had money on it. Every appearance Jeff makes on the ‘book is a “BRAVO!” I’ll let you make up any puns about his last name. (Wink-wink)
Music to stalk by: My Friend Has A Swimming Pool, Mausi
Dr. Nick France
British. Ginger. Doctor…. Covers most of the bases in my sexual fantasies. Aren’t all of us white trash kids from the sticks suckers for handsome fellas with accents? When people say, “The world is broken.” I agree, mostly because Nick is still single. This sassy lad is honest to a fault, but when he tells you that your too fat for your Speedo – that accent makes you blush and giggle. Well, at least it did for me.
Music to stalk him by: London Calling, The Clash
Dr. Scott Grossman
Jewish. Lacrosse God. Doctor…. Again, covering the bases. Strong but sensitive, sweet but can be tart, Scott is fascinating mystery. I would marry him and even convert. (Jesus will forgive me.) It makes me sob to think he’ll be leaving Philly in less then a year for an amazing position in New York’s medical community. Such a keeper. The buffet line to gobble up this sweetheart begins behind ME, ladies.
Music to stalk him by: All Eyes On You, St. Lucia
I met Dan in the wave pool of Typhoon Lagoon during a mad-mad-MAD Gay Days Disney. I was a wacky Temple undergrad with bleach blond hair; he was a debonair and direct Center City socialite. Fast forward a few decades later and he still makes my head spin. He also still has a thing for Temple undergrads. ZING!
Music to stalk him by: The Promise, When In Rome
The Alpha and Omega: Evan Urbania
Evan is my best friend, my business partner, my rock and handsome, helpful, hysterical homosexual. Confident and cool with perfect features, Evan’s touch of grey reminds you he is a professional even when he lets his whimsy walkabout. I love him.
Music to stalk him by: Harbor Lights, A Silent Film
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:
There were a lot of questions surrounding the announcement that Giovanni’s Room, the famed LGBTQ bookstore on the corner of 12th and Pine, would be operated by Philly AIDS Thrift: would the store maintain the same kind of merchandise? Would it feel the same as it did when it operated as a bookstore? The answer to both of these question is pretty clearly “No.” Read more »