This is what Pride looks like

Philadelphia Gay News vending boxes collage. Left photo shows a screengrab of an old newspaper with a photo of a Philadelphia Gay News vending box. The right photo shows a purple Philadelphia Gay News vending box in 2024.

There always seems to be a debate on what we should label our community: LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQI, queer, and a few others. As we have grown as a community, we seem to be taking up more of the alphabet. There was a time when society had no reference point to who any of us were. We were literally invisible and needed to have some sort of label or reference points to identify ourselves, so the simple words “gay” and “lesbian” became those first labels. To promote those labels, we became out loud and proud of who we were.

When starting the Philadelphia Gay News, we took that point of being visible to heart. We realized, as is still true today, that our best weapon against backlash is our visibility. That is why we chose the name “Philadelphia Gay News” in 1976. It was right there in the title, out and proud. Within our first year, we had bought used vending boxes from other newspapers, repaired and painted them, and added a large printed silk screen sign on both sides and the front of the boxes that clearly proclaimed “Philadelphia Gay News.” These were placed throughout Center City, the business heart of the city, and even across from Independence Hall for all the tourists.

Another distribution system for free newspapers involves placing them in locations where they would be picked up, such as coffee houses, bookstores and clubs. We also included City Hall, political offices, and various media outlets like TV stations, radio stations and mainstream newspapers.

Our distribution manager, Don Pignolet, had his hands full early on since the boxes were often targets for hateful people. His commitment to visibility meant replacing them almost overnight. We would not be invisible again.

Soon the community began to feel the same pride that we did for those boxes. They’d inform us when they noticed someone continually destroying our work, and at times we hear the stories of people defending the boxes as though they represented their community.

We have now served our city for nearly 50 years, and we still have vending boxes on the streets. We now buy them new and replace them when needed. 

Many things have been updated on vending boxes through the years, but one thing has stayed the same. Our boxes still proudly proclaim “Philadelphia Gay News.”

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