Professional Portraits: Steve McCann

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do,” said Walt Disney. Well then, curious would indeed describe Steve McCann, founder of Philly Gay Calendar, an online resource for queer events in the city.

PGN: So, are you from Philly? SM: I was born and raised in King of Prussia.

PGN: Is it mandatory to work at the King of Prussia Mall? SM: [Laughs.] No! I worked at my church and did some time at Kmart.

PGN: Only child? SM: I’m third of four. We’re really spaced out: There’s 16 years between the oldest and youngest. We were boy, girl, boy, girl. Very “Leave it to Beaver.”

PGN: What did the folks do? SM: My dad was in computer sales and my mother was stay-at-home. Very suburban.

PGN: What kind of kid were you? SM: I was the dork. I had no friends, played by myself. I did a lot of computer programming and I was a member of the AV club. All the things you would associate with being the nerd. And now I can say, “Ha! I throw huge parties with hundreds of half-naked men. Look at the dork now!”

PGN: What was a favorite class? SM: I enjoyed AP chemistry and organic chemistry, which most people hate. I don’t know why, but I loved it.

PGN: Where did you go for higher learning? SM: I went to Penn State University and majored in everything they had.

PGN: So you went from the suburbs to the boonies. SM: Have you been there? It’s definitely the boonies but the campus is a little bubble. It’s very city-like with lots of people, lots of things going on and very liberal, progressive people. It’s a little oasis, but if you go a block out you have cows.

PGN: What were a couple of your majors? SM: I started with computer science, then went to computer engineering, then management and information science, then business, and ended up with human sexuality!

PGN: OK, that last one was a jump! SM: I know. What happened was that in my fifth year I couldn’t figure out what to do so I showed all of my classes to my advisor and said, “What can I be with this?” We went down the list of what I needed for each degree and I only needed one semester to get the degree in human sexuality, so that was it. Done! And now I’m a sex expert.

PGN: What was your first job? SM: I worked at the University of Penn. I started there with a temporary job, just to make some money and, after 10 years, I’m still there. I like the college environment, I like the people I work with, so why go anywhere else?

PGN: What do you do there? SM: I do communications, graphic design, Web design, posters, videos, audio, podcasts and other duties as defined.

PGN: Tell me about your lesbian experience. Whoops, I mean your gay experience! SM: [Laughs.] I did have a lesbian experience, if making out with two lesbians at once in a straight bar counts. Other than that, it’s pretty limited. Though I did play in a dyke football league in college.

PGN: How did that come about? SM: I was the cheerleader, but when our quarterback got hurt, they put me in. I’m not much of a sportsman, but you run much faster when big lesbians are chasing you.

PGN: Tell me about coming out. SM: I was raised Irish Roman Catholic. Gay was wrong and there were no gay people anywhere except for San Francisco. They didn’t exist. Not on TV, not in public and certainly not anywhere near where I lived. My plan was to graduate college and move to San Francisco — where all gay people were required to live — and come out of the closet. Then I went to college and found out that there were gay people in Pennsylvania. Who knew? So I came out during my freshman year and took over the gay scene. I became the director of the gay group on campus and started my path as a big gay activist.

PGN: How did the family respond? SM: Very well. It took time to get used to it, but they were supportive, which made it easier to tell everyone else. Life is so much easier when everyone knows. One of my college advisors said the farther out you are, the higher you go. It’s true. I’m gay and out and because of that, I’m the director of a large organization on campus and I run an exciting business.

PGN: Other activities? SM: I’ve always been involved in activism. Even before coming out, I did a lot of activism in my church and was the president of various groups. [Laughs.] I like to run things.

PGN: What is/are “Boys of Summer”? SM: It started as a little party and one of my friends said, “Hey, I’m going to come in my bathing suit, won’t that be fun?” and I said, “Sure, why not?” and it just blossomed from there. Now, we have hundreds of people come in from all over, from New York to D.C., and everyone’s in swimsuits. It’s our big fundraiser to support Philly Gay Calendar.

PGN: Tell me about the PGC? SM: I’ve been doing it for five years now. I felt that there was a lack of organization in the community with everybody doing things, but no one knowing what or when the others were doing it. Everyone was in their own little pocket. I wanted have one spot where you could see everything that was happening in the city. I love that it’s become a staple in the community.

PGN: What are some of the things you do for the community? SM: We sponsor hundreds of events in Philadelphia. We try to support and push charity events and highlight them as much as possible. There are so many events where you don’t have to pay a cover, just go and drink and raise money for a good cause. I’m always trying to tell people, if you’re going to go out and party, you might as well do something beneficial at the same time. We’re trying to put up virtual walkers for the Oct. 17 AIDS Walk, so that you don’t even have to have an actual physical team. You can virtual walk and participate even if you can’t make the event.

PGN: Do you ever get submissions that you have to turn down? SM: Sometimes. We get a lot of non-gay stuff and I’m very specific that everything has to be in Philly and has to be gay. They’ll be like, “But gay people like this … ” and I have to say, “Gay people like everything, but you can post it on some other site and they’ll find it if they want to find random straight stuff.”

PGN: How do people post things? SM: There’s a link on the site.

PGN: And who monitors it? SM: That would be me. We have photographers and columnists, models and writers and it’s all done on a volunteer basis. Nobody gets paid, including me. It’s a great community effort. We do it to help the community. People feel like they’re part of something that brings everyone together.

PGN: What are some of the plans for the future? SM: We always want to sponsor more events and we have a few other things up our sleeves that we’re not ready to discuss yet, but we always try to stay integrated — using Facebook and Twitter and that type of media to expand. It’s a little difficult because it’s not my full-time job, but I’m hoping to give the whole site an overhaul.

PGN: Do you have a partner? SM: I do not. [Leans into the microphone.] So if you’re out there, I’m waiting!

PGN: Any hobbies before you started the website? SM: I’m a friends person. I go with the flow, so if a friend asks me to go rock climbing, I’m there. I’ll go skiing with a friend because they’re into it. We’ll probably do a group picnic this weekend. I recently went paint-balling because a friend wanted to try it.

PGN: Did it hurt? SM: It hurts a lot. Not for long, but it stings and it leaves welts. Our adventure the next day was finding all the paint-ball welts. It’s also very nerve-wracking and a lot harder than it looks. I’m not sure I actually even hit anybody!

PGN: What’s the farthest you’ve traveled? SM: When I was in high school I went to Spain, but since then I’ve been a homebody. My friends pick on me for not going anywhere, but I love being in Philly. It seems like there’s something happening every weekend that I want to go to. On our website, there are about 30 events a week. And that’s not including the reoccurring events. I always hear people complaining, “There’s nothing to do here.” And I’m like, “Thirty events a week and you can’t find anything to do? That’s ridiculous!”

PGN: What was the first R-rated movie you saw? SM: I don’t know. Something violent. I love horror films so it was probably something like “Friday the 13th” or “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Being good Catholics, we weren’t allowed to see anything sexual, but murder and mayhem was OK!

PGN: Do you talk in your sleep? SM: [Laughs.] You’ll have to ask my tricks.

PGN: Any famous relatives? SM: My aunt, Aileen Quinn, was Annie in the film version directed by John Huston.

PGN: First kiss? SM: It was awkward and uncomfortable. But in a way it was the reason I got into activism. I was on a date with this guy and it was about 2 in the morning and we were walking around campus. We sat down and were holding hands and we had a little kiss. Someone walked by and he jumped away from me. He didn’t want anyone to see us and it pissed me off so much! I was furious that because people hate gays so much, he was afraid to hold my hand. I just thought, I have to do something about this. We need to end homophobia. And I immediately got involved in LGBT rights.

PGN: Something nice someone did for you? SM: I was dating this guy, Greg Cleaver, and I’d had a really rough day. My back was sore, I was having sleep issues and I had to be up early for something important the next day. He was going to school at Princeton, but he drove all the way to Philly and massaged my back until I fell asleep and then went home. It’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done. Unfortunately, he’s in San Francisco now. Hi, Greg!

PGN: Habit you’ve kicked? SM: I have nothing to quit. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs.

PGN: If you could bring anyone back to life for 15 minutes, who would it be? SM: My dad. He died of cancer when I was pretty young, so it would be nice to have a conversation with him as an adult.

PGN: And how old are you now? SM: 18.

PGN: Uh-huh. SM: OK, 34.

PGN: What do you think we can do to involve young people in the community? SM: I think we need coming-out training courses. As soon as you come out of the closet, they ship you off to camp. When I was an undergrad, I taught a class in gay history and I was amazed at how many kids didn’t even know what Stonewall was. It should be basic knowledge for gay people to know where we came from and why we did and do certain things. Even the knowledge that the drag queens that so many people denigrate now were the ones who started the movement and we stand on their shoulders. I feel bad that for young people coming out, the bars are where they automatically go, so their first gay experience is getting hit on by drunk old men trying to get in their pants. We need to do better.

PGN: You taught sex ed: What was something surprising? SM: How little people know about it. In class, I would give a test about a woman’s sexual anatomy and 80 percent of the guys and 50 percent of the women would get it wrong. I’d say to the girls, “These are your body parts” — and visible parts at that — “You need to learn about them.” It’s a subject nobody wants to speak about, but once you give them the opportunity, they can’t stop.

PGN: What keeps you going with the website? SM: I had a guy write me to let me know how much the website meant. He’d moved to Philadelphia and hated it. He didn’t know anyone or where to go, had no friends and wanted to move. Then someone gave him a Philly Gay Calendar card and he went online and found all sorts of resources and things to do. Now he has tons of people he hangs out with and he’s got a boyfriend and has decided to stay in Philadelphia. He’s even telling other people to move here! Things like that keep me motivated.

To suggest a community member for “Professional Portraits,” write to: Professional Portraits, 505 S. Fourth St., Philadelphia, PA 19147 or [email protected].

Newsletter Sign-up