Suicides, transgender rights and Boy Scouts dominate local headlines in 2010
As LGBT activists continue to celebrate the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," EDGE looks back at the stories that dominated local headlines in 2010.
Using the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance and the rash of LGBT teenager suicides as a backdrop, SafeGuards held a series of panels and roundtables last month that sought to find ways to guarantee equality for trans Americans and protecting the country's students in the classroom. Brian Green, executive director of SafeGuards, discussed the effect the highly publicized deaths had on the conversation surrounding LGBT rights-including bipartisan support for New Jersey's anti-bullying legislation.
"It's actually opening up the conversation outside of the LGBT community-it's a conversation that straight people are having, that allies are having," said Green. "It's not just about what how we conceptualize the community of the past-it's about transforming that definition and moving forward. For too long, the LGBT community has been divided. We're looking for the Remembrance Day Series to really be transformative. We need a transformation, not just of ourselves, but of our entire community."
Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, said his organization had one of its' most successful years to date. This year's Equality Forum drew more than 800 organizations and tens of thousands of people to Philadelphia in May. Lieutenant Dan Choi was among those who discussed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" during the week-long series of events, parties and workshops.
Lazin told EDGE after President Obama signed the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal bill he feels LGBT Americans should reconvene and focus on passing the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
"The next major initiative needs to be ENDA-even with a republican dominated congress it's very difficult to defend, particularly after the passage of the hate crimes bill and DADT, why the LGBT community is not entitled to the same protections in the workplace that all other minority groups are," said Lazin. "From the viewpoint of our civil rights, it's hugely important that people feel safe in their workplace-knowing that they won't be hired, or they can be fired, or that they won't be given the same opportunities to succeed because of homophobia is a monumental problem. It needs to be a number one priority."
The Mazzoni Center celebrated it's 30th anniversary with a gala at Caesar's Atlantic City on May 21 that featured Diana Ross. Nurit Shein, the organization's executive director, said her resolution for 2011 is to continue to expanding Mazzoni's services to its growing number of clients.
"We resolve to do more in the area of youth services, noting that in the first year of our weekly youth-drop in program we saw 363 unduplicated youth clients for a total of 712 visits, and the demand continues to grow," added Shein. "In addition to the youth, as the agency grows in order to support and sustain services we must invest in increasing our infrastructure. We will also be physically expanding our medical center to be able to respond to the growing number of patients."
In other news, Mayor Michael Nutter held the first annual rainbow flag raising ceremony at City Hall in October in recognition of LGBT History Month. While Nutter received praise for making Philadelphia one of the largest to cities to fly the LGBT banner at a municipal building, the ceremony came just months after the city sold a depression-era building to the Boy Scouts of America. Nutter revoked the Boy Scouts' $1 a month lease last year after the organization refused to remove their policy that bans gay members. The Boy Scouts took the city to court, resulting in a settlement to sell the building for $500,000, a fraction of its worth.
Lazin told EDGE the city's willingness to settle the case represents LGBT Philadelphians' growing influence in local politics.
"They are willing to reward the boy scouts for their discrimination by settling a case by giving the Boy Scouts their headquarters at a huge discount-a case in which I believe we will win an appeal," he said. "The city's representation of our community in this case was woeful. It just indicates that while we get pretty words, when the rubber meets the road we still do not have equality or a place at the table."