It’s a terribly sad day in gay Philadelphia. The incomparable Gloria Casarez, the City’s first director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs has passed away at the age of 42.
She had been battling cancer, but Gloria was a fighter till the end. One of her last public appearances was at the rainbow flag raising at City Hall on October 2nd to mark LGBT History Month in Philadelphia. Despite her illness, she stood up and rallied the crowd as the flag made its way to full mast.
The mayor’s office just released the following statement, which highlights some of her biggest accomplishments—which include everything from being executive director of GALAEI and working to put into place the groundbreaking LGBT Equality Bill that helped Philadelphia earn a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.
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Every Friday Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) Executive Director Samantha Giusti introduces you to a local LGBT non-profit in Philadelphia. This week, Valerie Johnson on Warminster’s Valley Youth House, an organization that works to improve the lives of local homeless youth and their families.
Valerie Johnson (L) and Buster from Wired 96.5 at Valley Youth House’s annual Casino Night.
Who are you? Valerie Johnson, development officer at Valley Youth House.
Valley Youth House was founded in … 1973.
One-sentence mission statement: The mission of Valley Youth House is to provide prevention and intervention services, counseling, life skills and behavioral health services to abused, neglected, and homeless youth and their families.
Our biggest shining moment, to date was the inception of our Pride housing program in 2009. We are the only organization in Philadelphia to provide rapid rehousing to homeless LGBTQ youth, which includes rental assistance and supportive services to prepare the youth for independence. Given that 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT compared to just 3 to 5 percent of the general population, these youth are experiencing homelessness at a disproportionate rate and we’re proud to be able to support them.
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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)
Every week I take a trip down memory lane in William Way Community Center’s John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives, a veritable treasure trove of relics from gay Philadelphia’s past. This week, archivist—and author of The Gayborhood Guru—Bob Skiba shares photos of Tommi Avicolli Mecca taken in the 1970s and 1980s. Skiba tells me that “Tommi was an early activist here, one of the founders of the Gay Community Center (which later became William Way) and the Archives, and a trans activist.”
Tommi Avicolli Mecca in drag at a Radical Queens drag party held in an apartment on 15th and Spruce. (1972)
Mecca playing with the Masturbatters softball team in 1972.
Mecca (right) with folk singer Anthony Lewis, who was performing at Independence Mall at the 1973 Pride march.
Mecca speaking at a Gay Activists Alliance meeting, pictured also is Marc Monro. (1973)
Gay Activists Alliance forum on drag by Radical Queens, the first transgender group in Philly. (1973)
First gay liberation conference at University of Pennsylvania. (1974)
Mecca in a Sissy T-shirt at the 1974 gay-liberation conference at UPenn. He made a impassioned plea for acceptance of transgender folks in the movement and denounced their exclusion.
Shot of an array of activists who fought for the passage of a gay-rights bill in 1974. (It didn't pass.) Standing inside City Hall. (Standing, L-R) Tom Wilson Weinberg, Dennis Rubini, Sheldon Rizen, Philip' Mara, Berna Aaronson, Mark Segal, Barbara Gittings. (Sitting) Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Harry Langhorne.
Gay Pagans and Atheists at a protest of the Catholic Church in New York City for its part in the defeat of a gay rights bill. Pictures: Philip' Marra and Tommi. (1975 or ’76)
Gay Pagans and Atheists party at Gay Community Center on Kater Street in 1975. Tommi Avicolli Mecca in nun drag.
Philip' Mara in pope drag and Tommi in nun drag at Gay Pagans and Atheist party 1975.
Shot of Mecca as a major gay-rights bill passed at City Council in 1982.
One of the most recent gay-themed thrillers on the list, director Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger By the Lake follows young Franck, who picks up Michel at a popular gay-cruising spot. Sparks fly, but there’s one problem: Michel just might be a murderer. Netflix streaming link here.
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Ever wonder where you’d go if you came down with a sudden case of the ills?
Four hospitals in the Penn Medicine network—Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and Chester County Hospital—were named 2014 Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
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Every hump day a Philly person shares their local picks for Woman Crush Wednesday. Today, local mover and shaker Samantha Jo Dato, who works at the Mazzoni Center to organize the annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. She will soon publish a testimonial journal called Sami Jo Shattered Perfect, which she “hopes will reach trans* people near and far and inspire them to transform their narratives of struggle into stories of major success.”
Samantha Jo Dato
My name is Samantha, and these are my local picks for #WCW:
Dawn is and elder in the community who moves through the world without prejudices. She has been knocking on doors for her sisters and brothers for over 2o years, and has been a humble, stern fixture in the trans movement of Philadelphia for many people.
Tatyana Ali Woodard
Tatyana is the next generation of activism that moves with intent and purpose while being fashionable at the same time. She started her own fashion house, Xistence, in 2010, and joined Mazzoni Center's Trans* Wellness Project (TWP) in 2014 . Tatyana is a trans women of color to keep an eye on. She has only just begun.
This California transplant delivers real and straight-to-the-point facts to everyone she comes in contact with. Starting with TWP, she has quickly moved up the ladder at Mazzoni Center, where she recently began a new, amazing position in the Legal Department. This is the go-to girl for support and direction in legal matters.
With her enough-is-enough attitude, Deja will get to the bottom of whatever she puts her mind to. As a recent member of the LGBT Police Liaison, she continues to speak on behalf of trans women, dedicated to letting people know that their lives matter.
This GALAEI Trans* Health Information Project (TIP) co-coordinator is one trans women who has—and continues—to give her all, including the shirt off her back to help her sisters make it. With countless years in the field, she has become a safety net to local women in need of service and care.
Cashmere is a writer and peace-maker who is full of laughter, knowledge and compassion. She is telling her story in a book called Thoughts of a Tainted Heart, which will be published by 2015. Check her out on Facebook at Author Cashmere.
Share your Woman Crush Wednesday!
Here are the rules: (1) Name five to 10 ladies you’re crushing on (2) You and all women involved must be from Philadelphia (3) Email your crushes to email@example.com.
Our Last Five Woman Crush Wednesdays:
@FanSince09, the Twitter sleuth who helped police wrangle suspects involved in the gay-bashing on September 11th in Center City, appeared on The View today.
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Every week, Philly gay gents share their local picks for Man Crush Monday. This week: Adam J. Williams (aka Adam JW), a multilingual Chinese food-enthusiast who spends his day working in public health outreach for a local nonprofit.
Adam J. Williams
My name is Adam, and these are my local picks for #MCM:
Some tastes are just … acquired. Possibly the lovechild of Kanye West and Lady Gaga, Adam is about as unconventional as they come, and in all the best ways. Outspoken, yet charming; Adam is the guy for you if you’re interested in moving beyond the mainstream. He could win the Summer and Winter Olympics in cuddling (that alone should win him the title), and if you’ve ever been on the kickball field with him you’ll know that he’s not afraid to let you know what he thinks. He’s got all the qualities you’d want in a boyfriend and so many more. Pro-tips if you’re looking to woo this gentle giant: He loves Burger King and Root Beer floats. As all acquired tastes, Adam only gets better over time—and did I mention he comes with an adorable puppy?
This guy’s name says it all. Not only is he smart, sweet, and handsome as all hell, but he’s mysterious, too. When asked about the Harry Potter-esque scar on his forehead he’ll tell you an unlikely story about a childhood injury. Don’t believe him. As his last name suggests, it’s an artifact from an epic battlefield injury involving a dragon. And as if all that weren’t enough, his sense of style is unparalleled.
Every once in a while you meet a guy in Philly, and you think to yourself, “What the hell is he still doing here?” Alex has more talent in an eyelash than most of us can hope for in our lifetimes. But as humble as he is you’d never know it upon meeting him. Breaking any and all negative stereotypes that might come along with working in the arts, Alex is well-read, down-to-Earth, cosmopolitan, and not afraid to go against the current. He’s been featured in The New York Times, on PBS, and even on our very own SEPTA bus stop ads for the Pennsylvania Ballet. Don’t wait too long if you’re interested in him, because it’s only a matter of time before he makes it big. Oh, and did I mention he’s got a body-ody-ody?
Grant is the guy your parents always hoped you’d get with. He’s attractive, successful, compassionate, and about as nice as they come. And if the rumors are true, he’s pretty damn good in the sack. The downfall? He’s straight. But since every gay guy gets a constant barrage of women asking them, “Why are there no straight guys as perfect as you?” It makes sense to remember Grant’s name. He won’t disappoint.
With an unmatched sense of humor, a willingness to get out there and actually experience the world, and stunningly blue eyes that could mesmerize even the most jaded queen, Mark is the man that got away. As loyal as they come, Mark is that guy who sticks by your side when the going gets tough. He’s got a penchant for cooking (even if he does leave crumbs behind), a contagious laugh that will grow your heart three sizes, an aptitude for all things Philadelphia, and he’ll walk you to your door at the end of the night. Oh, and did I mention he’s a pilot? He’s about as hot as they come.
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: