It’s a beautiful day in the Gayborhood

Philadelphia will kick off “There’s No Place Like Home,” a two-week celebration of the Gayborhood, starting 4 p. m. July 10 in front of The Independent Hotel, 1234 Locust St.

Since Philadelphia’s LGBT community began migrating from west of Broad Street, near Rittenhouse Square, to its current location on the east side around 12th Street in the 1970s, the Gayborhood has become a destination for residents and visitors in search of culture, food and fun. The purpose of “There’s No Place Like Home” is to recognize and celebrate the contribution that Gayborhood business owners and organizations have made — and continue to make — to economic, civic and social development in Philadelphia.

The celebration is a collaborative effort among the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, QFest, Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, Midtown Village, Southwest Airlines, Wachovia, Finlandia, Philadelphia Gay News, Philadelphia Magazine, CBS3, The CW Philly 57 and numerous community businesses.

I’ve had the opportunity to help organize “There’s No Place Like Home” over the past few months and, above all else, this experience has taught me that the Gayborhood is much more than the sum of its parts. Throughout its history — and well into the future — this neighborhood has played a crucial role in the evolution of our local LGBT community.

The physical space within and between Gayborhood establishments provided a “safe” environment for LGBT individuals to gather, socialize and share ideas over the last several decades. In the not-too-distant past, it was dangerous to be openly gay — let alone be seen interacting with other gay individuals. Enclaves in metropolitan areas all over the country provided the only safe physical spaces in which a grossly marginalized and previously invisible population of gay men and women could be together and be themselves. Having a safe place to live, work and socialize gave LGBT individuals the opportunity to share ideas and build relationships. It is inside gay neighborhoods that we evolved from an invisible minority to a visible social group, to a viable demographic with political power, economic influence and social consciousness. Were it not for the safe space provided by places such as Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, the contemporary LGBT community would be a dream — not our reality.

With that in mind, I encourage every member of our community, as well as our allies, to participate in “There’s No Place Like Home.” In addition to the July 10 ribbon-cutting ceremony, a film screening of “Welcome to the Gayborhood” and the July 11 block party, don’t miss the following special events:

— Opening Party at Q Lounge and Kitchen, 1234 Locust St.: On July 10, immediately following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Q Lounge will host the opening party, which is free and open to the public. Stop by and enjoy a cocktail or a tasty treat from Q’s fabulous menu.

— Gayborhood T-Dance at Voyeur Nightclub, 1221 St. James St.: After the Gayborhood Block Party ends on July 11, head over to Voyeur for an afternoon tea dance. Nightlifegay.com hosts, as world-renowned DJ Roland Belmares spins his famous mix of uplifting dance classics and pop hits.

— Closing Party at Woody’s, 202 S. 13th St.: At 9 p.m. July 24, one of Philadelphia’s most historic gay bars will host the official closing party for “There’s No Place Like Home.”

In addition to these exciting parties and events, don’t forget to pick up your Rainbow Discount Card. They are available at the block party July 11, and at participating businesses in the Gayborhood. Cardholders will receive discounts from 30 participating local establishments throughout the two-week celebration of “There’s No Place Like Home.” For more information, visit facebook.com/visitgayphilly.

I look forward to seeing you during “There’s No Place Like Home.” It’s an exciting, unprecedented event in the life of Philadelphia’s LGBT community, so get out and show your support. ‘Til next time, get offline and see what your community has to offer!