Gayborhood Racism: A 30-Day Progress Report

Part of the overflow crowd that attended the October 25th Human Relations Commission hearing. | Photo: Sandy Smith

Part of the overflow crowd that attended the October 25th Commission on Human Relations hearing. | Photo: Sandy Smith

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) has not yet released any preliminary findings from its October 25th community hearing on Gayborhood racism. PCHR has up to 90 days to present formal recommendations on how the community and government agencies (such as City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and/or Office of LGBT Affairs) should respond to complaints of discrimination and other civil rights violations.

Since the hearing, however, leaders within City Council and the Gayborhood have already begun to attempt to directly address complaints within the community. In early November, Councilman Derek Green proposed legislation that would tie a business’s ability to retain its commercial activity license to its compliance with the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance. And last week, Woody’s held a public Q&A to amend management policies that patrons might find discriminatory or racially insensitive. As a result, Woody’s now has publicly clarified on its official website that the club does not have a dress code policy and has provided direct contact information for patrons who experience any form of discrimination at the establishment.

Given the swift reactions from other government agencies and Gayborhood entities, some community members are not satisfied with the pace of response from PCHR.

“I think the silence of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations shows that anti-blackness is not and has never been a priority in our city,” said Christian Lovehall, a black trans activist who attended the public hearing. “I feel that people believe that forums, talks and discussions fix these problems — but it’s actually where the fixing begins. I think the hearing was not an attempt to solve real issues, but just another photo-op for city politicians and a ploy to keep us protestors at bay.”

G Philly checked in about the commission’s progress with PCHR executive director Rue Landau, who sent the following statement:

We are actively reviewing hundreds of pages of testimony, notes, documents, employee handbooks and dress codes that will form the basis of our report on racism and discrimination in the LGBTQ community, which will be released within 90 days of our October 25 hearing. We are thankful to everyone who has provided testimony and information throughout this process and appreciate your patience as we complete our report with due diligence. The transcript from the hearing will be available on our website by next week.

In addition, based on our review, we are working to create new tools and strategies for members of the LGBTQ community to identify and report acts of discrimination, hate crimes and bias incidents. As always, people are welcome to file complaints or report bias incidents to our office at pchr@phila.gov or by calling 215-686-4670.

G Philly will follow up with a 60-day report, or sooner if events warrant.

Woody’s Is Hosting a Q&A to Amend Allegedly Discriminatory Policies

Woody's on 202 S. 13th St.

Woody’s on 202 S. 13th St.

On Tuesday, November 22nd, popular Gayborhood bar Woody’s will be hosting a public Q&A to address current concerns pertaining to its dress code policies and overall diversity initiatives. Unlike previous community-led town halls throughout the city that were centered around dialogue, this event is the first of its kind that will be specifically geared toward directly changing internal policies at a Gayborhood establishment.

“I feel like clear-cut explanations on our policies is an important step to dispel any misconceptions,” said Woody’s co-owner Billy Weiss. “Patrons will have a chance to express their feelings and to get answers about the issues that are important to them.” Read more »

Activists Call for Boycott of Woody’s and ICandy Over Alleged Racism

Protesters outside of Woody's on September 23rd.

Protesters stand outside of Woody’s on September 23rd. | Photo by Ernest Owens

On Friday, the Black and Brown Workers Collective, an LGBTQ/racial justice activist group, organized a public demonstration outside of City Hall, ICandy and Woody’s. Roughly two dozen activists protested perceived racism at Gayborhood bars and what they say is inaction by the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs over the issue. Read more »

Patrons See “Covert Racism” in Recent Enforcement of Woody’s Dress Code

Woody's on 202 S. 13th St.

Around midnight on Saturday, September 17th, popular Gayborhood performer Kemar Jewel arrived at Woody’s with some friends to celebrate a successful FringeArts gig he’d just finished. To his surprise, for the first time in seven years of regular patronage of the bar, he was rejected at the door — and the reason puzzled him: Jewel was told he could not enter because he was wearing Adidas trackpants and sneakers.

“The bouncer told me that they couldn’t let me in with sweatpants and sneakers because that’s their policy,” Jewel, 25, says. “I was outraged … a place that I’ve called home for years had now flipped the script on me.” Read more »

A Change.org Petition Asks Philly Gayborhood Bars to “Diversify”

woodys gay bar gayborhood

Metro columnist Ernest Owens‘ piece “Black Not Fetch Enough for Woody’s?” from in May of this year caused quite a heated debate about racial segregation in gay Philly, and when G Philly interviewed him several days after his article came out, he claimed that “separate isn’t always equal” when it comes to gay spaces:

“The inclusive vibe of the space and the respect that takes place is what is lacking. You can put various people of color in one room, but that doesn’t mean they feel as welcomed. Clearly, Woody’s and iCandy had no problem accepting my cash to enter, but after checking in my coat, my experience didn’t match what the white gays experienced. Acceptance and tolerance are two different things.”

Yesterday, Owens launched a Change.org petition that calls for these bars “to deal with their current signs of potential racism and de facto segregation among what should be a safe space for all.” However, after speaking with an attorney for one of the bars, the management at Woody’s is insisting that they have a diverse establishment. Read more »

The Welcoming Committee to Take Over Center City!

the welcoming committee

Photo from The Welcoming Committee Facebook Page

The Welcoming Committee has taken over all kinds of straight bars since they started in Philly a few years ago, and they’ve even done sold-out runs at the Phillies stadium. But in June they’re going for something a little bigger: Center City!

On June 20th, they’ll set out for an afternoon of day-drinking and glitter-spreading on their Center City Bar Crawl, which will begin at Ladder 15 on 15th and Sansom and conclude at Woody’s, because, well, that’s where the booty’s at.

Read more »

Mayoral Candidate Jim Kenney is Speaking at Woody’s Tonight

jim kenney lgbt

Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney is stopping by Woody’s this evening for a fundraiser and to chat about his vision for the future of Philly.

A rep from Kenney’s office says that his stop in the Gayborhood is part of his pledge to travel to every neighborhood and community in Philadelphia throughout the course of his campaign. The candidate is also a longtime supporter or LGBT rights in Philly, helping pass 2013’s LGBT Equality Bill and last fall’s LGBT-specific hate-crime bill during his time as city councilman.

Tonight’s event starts at 6 pm. With temperatures expected to be in the high 50s—and given Kenney’s outgoing, off-the-cuff personality—I’m guessing Woody’s will open its front windows to throw a big ol’ festive affair. Tickets are pricey, though, at $100 a pop.

If you’re looking to meet Kenney in a more laidback (read: cheaper) atmosphere, he will be at William Way this Friday at 10:30 am to speak at a free event with Brian Sims and other LGBT leaders.

Top Gay Bars in Philadelphia

beagle tavern norristown

The Beagle Tavern in Norristown

Beagle Tavern

1003 East Main Street, Norristown
610-272-3133, www.mybeagletavern.com
Norristown’s unassuming, beagle-loving gay bar (it was named after the owner’s pooch Timmy) has great drink specials for happy hour and, on Wednesday nights, drag queens Thunder Showers and Summer Clearance stop by to give out blush-worthy prizes at their Kinky Quizzo event. The cozy atmosphere and cheap beer are always a welcome bonus. Best for: Kinky Quizzo, karaoke on Friday nights, and a decent lesbian scene outside Philly.

Bob and Barbara’s

1509 South Street
215-545-4511, www.bobandbarbaras.com
One of the more fun, worn-in bars that houses our rowdy little community. Plenty of our favorite performers—drag and burlesque alike—have done shows here, and it houses regular performances by queer-centric performance art troupe the Dumpsta Players. Best for: Cheap drinks (go for the Citywide Special), live jazz, and raunchy shows.

Boxers PHL | Photo by Patrick Hagerty

Boxers PHL | Photo by Patrick Hagerty

Boxers PHL

1330 Walnut Street
215-735-2977, www.facebook.com/boxersphl
The Gayborhood’s newest addition to the gay-bar scene, this New York City chain stands apart by having its bartenders slinging drinks in nothing but red mesh shorts (Inside tip: it’s rumored that most of them don’t wear undies.) There are pool tables upstairs, and a twice-weekly poker night for those looking for a little game-play in the hood. Best for: Great happy hour prices, unpretentious feel, bartenders in mesh shorts (duh).

Read more »

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