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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Last Five Woman Crush Wednesdays:
You’ve likely seen the above image of Chelsea Manning that’s accompanied nearly every story of her since it was announced that she was transitioning. Manning was never happy with the image and the way it portrayed her, so she and supporters set out to find an alternative, something to send to the media that reflects her in a better, more realistic light.
The answer? A portrait by a relatively unknown Philadelphia artist and UArts grad named Alicia Neal. But it wasn’t going to be an easy job. A detailed article on theverge.com explains:
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Suddenly Fem, a fashion and lifestyle catalog that sells clothes and accessories to the cross-dresser and male-to-female transgender community, is all up in Philly this weekend. Not only will it be participating in tomorrow’s fourth annual Philly Trans* March, but the retailer has donated $5,000 worth of clothing to the Mazzoni Center—everything from dresses and heels to jackets and lingerie that are made to fit the male-to-female figure.
The donation will go to the Center’s Sisterly Love Trans* Wellness Project, which, among other things, seeks to help trans women succeed in the workforce. “The trans community has a high rate of unemployed people and many struggle to find the right professional outfit,” says the Mazzoni Center’s Samantha Jo-Dato. “We will make the clothing accessible to women in the trans community who are looking for jobs. We welcome them to stop by and pick out a couple amazing things for their wardrobes.”
That’s one of the goals of Suddenly Fem, too.
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The party is always hoping on Camac Street, between U Bar and Venture Inn. | Photo by Josh Middleton
The 24th annual OutFest is on Sunday, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t celebrate National Coming Out Day all weekend. To keep you on your gay-game we’ve rounded up the best events so you’ll know how to whoop it up from Thursday night till the sun goes down Sunday.
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The Transgender Law Center hopes you’ll be classy, like these ladies, this Halloween.
Halloween: It’s the spookiest night of the year, but sometimes the fun and games can can turn downright ugly. With that in mind, the Transgender Law Center is hoping that individuals will think twice before they don what may be perceived as offensive costumes on October 31.
The Center, which advocates for policy and law changes to support all gender identities and expressions, has started a campaign aptly titled “Discrimination is Scary,” that discourages folks from wearing Halloween costumes that could be perceived as sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist this October. Read more »
Photo via Facebook.
Lily McBeth, a transgender activist and substitute school teacher who fought to keep her job in the Ocean City school district after transitioning, died on September 24th at the age of 80. NJ.com has a nice writeup about her legacy:
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Kate Lynn Blatt
A transgender woman in Allentown has filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer, Tilden Township sporting goods store Cabela’s, saying that the company discriminated against her when she was transitioning, even going so far as to fire her because of her gender identity.
Kate Lynn Blatt’s lawsuit claims that management wouldn’t let her wear a gender-appropriate uniform, they forced her to wear a name tag with her birth name on it, and refused to let her use the women’s restroom.
“I mean it personally tore me down,” she says. “It never let up, they never stopped, and it prevented me from expressing who I was. … [My right to use the women's restroom was] refused and thrown in my face, even after I had provided all the documentation and proved my case.”
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Photo from Facebook.
GALAEI’s TransHealth Information Project (TIP) just released information about the passing of 17-year-old transgender man Riley Matthew Moscatel*. The young man, a student at Bucks County Technical High School, was killed when an Amtrak train hit him Monday afternoon. Coroners are ruling it a suicide.
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Yesterday I told you about Rachel Pepe, the 13-year-old transitioning transgender student who was told she would not be able to enroll at Thorne Middle School as female. In a shameful turn of events, the school told her that she would have to dress as and answer to her birth name, Brian.
Thankfully the school district’s superintendent, William O. George, is stepping in to make the transition easier for Pepe. Yesterday evening he announced that he would work with staff to ensure she could attend school as Rachel, and do what he could to create a safe environment for her. This includes having the staff undergo LGBT sensitivity training.
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