This post originally appeared on HRC's blog on December 19, 2015.
Post submitted Nellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs Director
For decades, Philadelphia has been on the frontlines of LGBTQ civil rights. Since the first LGBTQ rights bill was introduced in the 1980s, Philadelphia has grown into a city dedicated to inclusion and equality.
Established by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008, the Office of LGBT Affairs serves as a conduit and advocate for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ communities within our government. This past November, Philadelphians voted to amend our city charter to make permanent the Office of LGBT Affairs, recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ Philadelphians to our city, and ensuring LGBTQ Philadelphians have a voice in our government for decades to come.
This year also saw the creation of the Gotta Go! Guide, an interactive, Google Maps-based guide to gender-neutral bathrooms across the city. The purpose of the Gotta Go! Guide is to help trans and gender non-conforming folk locate a bathroom they can use without fear or anxiety of gender policing or violence.
In October, Philadelphia’s city council unanimously passed legislation requiring all single-stall bathrooms in Philadelphia to be gender-neutral. All people deserve to safely access a restroom when they need one. The office has also continued to work closely with the Philadelphia Police Department to train police cadets in LGBTQ competency, and to coordinate with the police department’s LGBTQ liaison on the implementation of Directive 152, an internal police directive on appropriate interactions between police and transgender people.
There is always room for improvement, but we are proud of the work that can be accomplished when the lines of communication are open.
In other exciting news, LGBTQ-identified law enforcement officers across the greater Philadelphia region have come together to form the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL), an LGBTQ law enforcement organization. This new chapter of the Philadelphia Police Department’s history undoubtedly marks profound progress, and the Office of LGBT affairs is proud to support the efforts of these officers as they support each other. Thanks to their brave and pioneering efforts, advocates are no longer fighting alone from the outside, and we will see further progress through these change agents within.
In my role as Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, I am tasked with elevating the diversity, along with the unique needs, of the LGBTQ community. This year, the Office has striven to bring increased visibility to each of our LGBTQ communities. The City of Philadelphia demonstrated its commitment to bisexual visibility by proclaiming September 23, 2015 to be Bisexual Visibility Day, in honor and celebration of our wonderfully diverse bisexual community.
This year also marked the first official trans pride flag raising ceremony, where the trans pride flag was proudly flown at Philadelphia City Hall for the first time in the City’s history. Children attending Philadelphia’s Trans Health Conference raised the flag, and Philadelphia will proudly carry on this tradition for years to come.
In honor of LGBTQ History Month, the city also unveiled a newly designed rainbow pride flag embroidered with the seal of the City of Philadelphia and the Office of LGBT Affairs. The flag was raised for the first time during the sixth annual LGBTQ rainbow flag raising ceremony held on October 6, 2015.
It is my distinct honor to stand on the shoulders of the pioneering Philadelphians who came before me to help organize and energize this large scale response, and to continue to lead Philadelphia towards true equality for all. Let’s get stuff done.
To see how your city score on this year’s Municipal Equality Index, visit www.hrc.org/MEI.