Taking stock of our community

Gay Pride Month, every June, seems to be a good time to take stock of where we are as a community. After all, we only began to grow our community some 40 years ago.

While there were gay organizations and bars, there was little else before June 1969.

So what have we built in that blink of history’s eye? Let’s examine what I consider one of America’s gay-friendliest cities — our home, Philadelphia.

Sports: We have a softball league made up of scores of teams, we have bowling teams, tennis, running and swimming, to mention just a few. We have two choruses and the Philadelphia Freedom Band. There’s Mazzoni LGBT Health Center, The Attic Youth Center and, of course, the William Way LGBT Community Center. We have a yearly film festival, QFest, this year beginning July 9, and an arts festival.

Members of our community have served openly in nearly all categories of life in Philadelphia, from heading the largest philanthropic organization, United Way, to chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

The Independence Business Alliance, our LGBT chamber of commerce, has become a great networking business force.

Socially: One night last week I stood in the Doubletree Hotel at a preview party for this October’s Indigo Ball, the yearly major fundraiser for the William Way Community Center. A group of us were chatting about how many events we had to attend just that evening. By the way, this year’s Indigo Ball theme is Mardi Gras, and last week was so successful that 65 percent of the tables are already sold. Come September, you’ll have event after event until Christmas — another success of our community.

If all that were not enough, look at how intertwined we are in the political process here. No one runs for office expecting to get anything respectful in the way of votes without appealing to the LGBT community. We could go on, but this point is self-evident.

Let’s face it: This is the city that wrote the book on gay tourism. We were the first city in America to create a campaign to bring gay tourists to our city. So it should be no surprise to see the rainbow street signs as you walk around what we call the Gayborhood. And while we have a Gayborhood, as do many cities, on July 10 we most likely will be the first city in America whose Gayborhood will be officially declared. Almost a week beforehand, on the Fourth of July, gay history will be recognized in our Independence Day parade. Does any of that happen in any other American city?

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].

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