10 pieces of Philly LGBTQ news to be thankful for this year

It’s been a stressful year, featuring plenty of attacks on the LGBTQ community. With 2019 winding down, we’re heading full force into the 2020 presidential election cycle and wondering what implications it will bring for queer folks. But we here at PGN want to remind readers of the accomplishments that have been made for our community in the Greater Philadelphia area. Sit back, push aside the visions of next week’s Thanksgiving meal and reminisce on these 10 pieces of positive news that rocked Philly’s queer-sphere this year (in no particular order). 

Mazzoni Center employees ratified their first union contract after two years of negotiations

The negotiations resulted in paid leave for gender-affirming surgeries, higher wages and the establishment of a committee to increase collaboration between staff and leadership. The contract also stipulated tuition reimbursement and continuing education opportunities for staff, along with financial aid for seeing gender-affirming-surgery specialists. 

“Employees of Mazzoni believe deeply in providing the best possible care for the communities we serve,” said Anemone Schlotterbeck, a social worker on Mazzoni Center’s Gender Affirming Services Team. “In order to provide the care our patients deserve, it is critical to be able to hold management accountable and work together for change.”

The Philadelphia Pride parade was televised for the first time in its 31-year history

Local network 6abc filmed the June 9 event and produced a one-hour segment commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It aired June 30 on the heels of a half-hour history special on Philadelphia’s LGBTQ-rights movement that highlighted the Gayborhood. 

“We always try to represent the entire community and for a few years, we tried to see if we could add this parade to our year-round representation of what’s happening in the community,” said John Morris, 6abc’s vice president of content development and innovation and the station’s programming director. “With the 50th anniversary [of Stonewall] this year, we stepped up that effort.”

Mayor Jim Kenney signed the LGBTQ ‘inclusivity package’ into law 

The three laws in the package, introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym, update the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance with modern definitions of “sexual orientation” and “gender non-conforming”; require youth organizations to instate policies preventing discrimination against trans and gender-nonconforming young folks; and ensure City and public buildings provide accessible, gender-neutral bathrooms, including on each of floor of City Hall. 

“It’s our responsibility as a city government to continue to fight for every member of marginalized communities to feel safe, be seen, recognized, affirmed and have inalienable rights under the law,” Kenney said, adding, “These bills are a testament to the city’s continued commitment to celebrating the experience and safety of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.”

The state’s first LGBTQ-friendly supportive housing facility for young people opened 

An initiative by Project HOME, the Gloria Casarez Residence provides 30 apartments to youth ages 18-23 who are aging out of foster care, at risk of experiencing homelessness or are currently or have previously experienced homelessness. The facility is named after the late Philly native and civil rights leader who was the first director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. 

“By using her voice, [Casarez] gave entire communities, especially those of us who exist at the margins, a seat at the table,” said Amber Hikes, former executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. “She turned activism into action. She turned protests into policy.”

William Way opened the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center

The new resource hub, at 1315 Spruce St., provides services including health care and therapy referrals, job services and help enrolling in insurance and food assistance programs. It also offers computer access and staff who can link folks to relevant programs with other organizations in the city. 

“We felt that at a time with increasing hostility from both the federal government and from other political figures, it was really important for us as the community center to say that we wanted to stand behind our trans communities and provide the best resources to them,” said Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way LGBT Community Center. 

‘Queer Eye’ filmed its fifth season in Philly 

The season, which will debut next year, began Philadelphia-based production in June. The team hinted at the location choice in its fourth season renewal announcement on Instagram with a video featuring every Philadelphian’s favorite orange monster: the Flyers mascot Gritty.

Plaintiffs withdrew their litigation in the case against Boyertown Area School District for its trans bathroom policy

The three-year legal battle garnered national attention when a group of students sued the school district for allowing trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The litigants withdrew their litigation in September, causing the judicial decision to default to one in favor of the school district made previously by a lower court. 

“This major court win is a historic moment for transgender rights in Pennsylvania,” said Jason Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. “We hope school districts throughout our commonwealth take note: the courts back you supporting trans student inclusion.

PennDOT announced it will offer an inclusive ‘X’ gender designation on driver’s licenses starting next year

The change is especially important given that Pennsylvanians will need REAL ID-compliant documentation, which requires a gender to be indicated, to board flights starting next October. 

“This is a fantastic move for inclusion for nonbinary and other gender nonconforming people,” said Jason Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. “We were the lead community group advocating for this and have been working with so many different individuals in [Pennsylvania state government] to support this effort and make this happen.”

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg gave PGN an exclusive interview during LGBTQ History Month

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, came out as gay in a self-penned essay published by the South Bend Tribune. He spoke with PGN about his campaign, values and who he looks up to in the LGBTQ community.

“There’s so many things that we need to do that I think each of us has an obligation to put forward a robust plan and not simply make it seem as though we think that the struggle was won when marriage equality came to the land or that the Equality Act is all we’ve got to do,” Buttigieg said. 

 Out lesbian Tiffany Palmer was elected as a judge to Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas

Tiffany Palmer is an out Philadelphia lawyer with over two decades of experience serving the LGBTQ-plus community. The Philadelphia Bar Association awarded Palmer a “highly recommended” rating, one of just four they’d afforded the 25 candidates running for six open judicial seats on the Court of Common Pleas.

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