Community members call out Office of LGBT Affairs for lack of leadership

Kendall Stephens and Breighton Golphin at the protest after the June 2 Pride flag raising.

Immediately following the June 2 Pride flag raising event at City Hall hosted by the Office of LGBT Affairs, a small group of trans people of color protested what they say has been a lack of leadership from the office’s executive director, Celena Morrison.  

“There’s been segments of our community that have been largely ignored by the Affairs Office,” activist Kendall Stephens told PGN. “We call for the termination of Celena Morrison, and to have someone in that position who has deep roots not just in the LGBT community, but also in the Philadelphia community.” 

Activist Valentina Rosario, another voice in the protest, initially called out Morrison during the Trans Day of Visibility flag raising. After the June 2 event, she expressed the need for the executive director role to be an elected position. 

“As a country, we are under attack,” Rosario said in front of a group of about 20 people at the action. “Other Black and Brown trans people who are complacent is not how we’re going to overcome this. I see the opioid crisis and how it’s impacting queer communities. I see how the lack of fair housing is impacting queer communities. I see the people who sleep in the street. I see the trans people who are struggling with healthcare.”

Breighton Golphin, organizer for Philly Trans March (PTM) said at the protest that much of the work to address the needs of queer and trans communities in Philly falls on activists. PTM hosted an occupy event outside of City Hall for five days in late May. Councilmember Kendra Brooks was the only government official who came out to listen to them, Golphin said. 

Some of PTM’s demands include acquiring more funding for community healthcare organizations, inclusive housing solutions, mobile crisis units, harm reduction initiatives and workforce development protection programs. 

“When we as a team were talking about it, we were kind of like, what’s being done about getting money to our healthcare,” Golphin told PGN. “That’s when I found out about the People’s Budget Office and the sessions that they were holding. I’m working with ROC United, Office of Worker Protections, and I [thought], why isn’t the Office of LGBT Affairs teaming up with the Office of Worker Protections and being in alignment with us? PTM should not be the one behind passing a resolution for Philadelphia becoming a sanctuary city. This should not be my job, this should be Celena’s job.”  

In response to the backlash, Morrison said in an email, 

“The Office of LGBT Affairs respects the community’s right to peacefully protest and make their voices heard. As we shared during Friday’s flag-raising in honor of Pride Month, our Office continues to work hard toward building a city where our LGBTQ community, specifically our trans community, feels supported, valued, and loved.”

Morrison cited the office’s “pursuit of trans-inclusive policies in the workplace,” such as guidelines supporting employees transitioning on the job, and its work toward instituting new award categories for nonbinary runners in the Broad Street Run. She also singled out a community tour that the Office of LGBT Affairs team has been carrying out, where they meet with organizations and neighborhood leaders in Philadelphia “to hear their concerns and strengthen partnerships.”

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