LGBTQ&A: Wit López

Wit López | Photo by Yvonne Badu-Nimako

Wit López is a disabled, gender-nonconforming/non-binary transgender mixed-media creator, performer, and independent curator. We speak with the visual artist on using their aesthetics to challenge cultural stereotypes surrounding desirability, race, and gender expression. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Heath Fogg Davis

Heath Fogg Davis

Heath Fogg Davis is a transgender male activist who teaches at Temple University, serves on the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, and is a member of the Trans Masculine Advocacy Network (TMAN). We chat with the advocate on being a trans man of color, exploring masculinity through activism, and his new book, which challenges the role gender plays in society. Read more »

“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 »

This New Podcast Will Change the Way You Think About Philly Teens

mouthful-podcast-stories-of-philly-teens

It seems that podcasts come and go from our cultural conversation. There’s no talk about them, and then something like Serial happens. Then they go away again until a series such as S-Town comes along, and once again we’re all taking about podcasts.

Well, it was around the same time that all of the controversy over S-Town was bubbling up that we learned about Mouthful, a brand new podcast featuring the real-life and often gritty stories of Philly teens.

And while Mouthful doesn’t have the tension of a Serial or the deep darkness of an S-Town, lighthearted it is not. These are moving first-person narratives that shed a light on just how difficult it is to be a teenager today.

Take, for instance, Mouthful, Episode One: One Hundred Sleepless Nights. This first episode is based on a monologue written by Hunter M., a trans high school senior in Philadelphia, and it focuses on issues surrounding trans and non-binary identities.

During the 21-minute episode, host and co-producer Yvonne Latty, a former Daily News reporter and current NYU prof, interviews Hunter M. and teens at Philly LGBTQ youth center The Attic, and transgender TV actor Scott Turner Schofield (you’d know him if you enjoy the guilty pleasure known as The Bold and the Beautiful) performs Hunter M.’s monologue. It’s an intimate, gripping portrait of a trans teenager.

The second episode doesn’t let up.

Mouthful, Episode Two: Comfort features a story written by Science Leadership Academy student Taytiana Velazquez-Rivera, who pens blog posts like “The School to Slavery Pipeline”.

Comfort is all about eating disorders and being an obese kid.

Taysha Canales

Taysha Canales

Noted Philly actress Taysha Canales (she plays Hermia in the Arden’s fantastic Midsummer Night’s Dream, which closes this week), performs Velazquez-Rivera’s sad, insightful monologue, and local clinical psychologist Samantha DeCaro weighs in with her experience treating teens with eating disorders.

By the third episode, we’ve arrived at an examination of race.

Mouthful, Episode Three: Pedestals tells us what it’s like to be a student of color in a school that’s mostly white. In Pedestals, Latty interviews high school students of color who attend private schools in the area, including Olivia Nelson-Haynes, a Penn Charter student who made a video called The Black Boy Project, in which she interviewed black male teens about their experiences.

Nelson-Haynes is also the daughter of Mouthful executive producer Lisa Nelson-Haynes, the head of Philadelphia Young Playwrights. That’s the organization behind the Mouthful podcast.

The episode also includes some perspective from Latty and her own daughter, Nola, a student at Friends Select School.

Yvonne Latty

Yvonne Latty

“As a parent, I am constantly amazed by the complexity of being a teenager today,” says Latty, who has raised two teenagers of her own. “It is not an easy time, filled with rapid change, struggle and awareness. Working on Mouthful has opened my eyes to so much. It has helped me be a better mom, because when you hear these kids express their joys, fears, and hopes so honestly, it opens you up. It makes you look at your own kids and want to listen, really listen, in a way you didn’t before.”

Mouthful officially launched on Thursday, April 13th on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Soundcloud.

The first season of Mouthful is currently slated for ten episodes. Its launch coincides with Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ High School Monologue Festival at the Drake, which features performances of new monologues written by 18 high school students from across the region. Thursday’s opening night show is sold out, but it runs through April 22nd.

As for Mouthful, it will make you change the way you think about Philly teens — and teens in general — and if you have kids who haven’t quite hit those years, it may be a real eye-opener.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter

“Pop-Up Love Party” Counters Anti-Trans Bus’s Philly Stop

Sharron Cooks guiding people away from the anti-trans bus | Photo by Jennifer Bryant

Sharron Cooks guiding people away from the anti-trans bus | Photo by Jennifer Bryant

On Saturday, the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, in collaboration with GALAEI, Trans-health Information Project (TIP), Attic Youth Center, William Way, ACLU, Mazzoni Center, and other community organizations, held a “Pop-Up Love Party” to protest the anti-trans “Free Speech Bus Tour” that was scheduled to appear. The National Organization on Marriage (NOM) has been driving across the East Coast for several weeks in a striking bright orange bus with transphobic messages and images, which has been met with protestors and vandalism. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Aamina Morrison

Aamina Morrison

Aamina Morrison

Aamina Morrison is a long-time black trans activist and local HIV-prevention specialist. We got the chance to chat with her about the recent string of black trans murders and how the Gayborhood can be more inclusive of gender- nonconforming LGBTQ individuals. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Julie Chovanes

Julie Chovanes photographed by Amanda Swiger.

Julie Chovanes photographed by Amanda Swiger.

Julie Chovanes is the executive director of Trans-Help, a legal service provider for trans individuals. The lawyer and trans rights advocate talks to us about seeking justice for the late Nizah Morris, participating the PCHR Gayborhood racism hearing, and what the city can do to better serve the LGBTQ community. Read more »

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