Spruce Street bustled with people. A man mounted a mechanical bull. The crowd cheered as he managed to cling to it for half a minute. Dressed in plastic platform shoes, another man joined in a chorus of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Gayborhood.” A vintage flea market occupied 13th Street with its unusual oddities and period clothing.
It is Sunday Oct. 7, and Outfest has arrived.
“Outfest started in 1990,” said Philly Pride Executive Director Franny Trice. “It was originally known as ‘Coming Out Day Block Party’ and started as a little block party on Pine Street. About 500 to 1000 people came. Now it consists of eight blocks and 40,000 to 50,000 people come.”
Trice, who has served as Philly Pride’s executive director since 1998, organizes Outfest each year. Her job entails coordinating fundraising, and locating and communicating with local vendors, businesses, equipment and sponsors.
“We don’t wake up Sunday morning and say ‘Let’s have a party,'” Trice said. “It takes months and months to organize.”
Philly Pride also hosts the Gay Pride celebration in June. Trice feels these events are cyclical: Outfest provides the beginning of the realization of one who is gay, and Gay Pride offers a celebration for that identity.
“People can come out and celebrate and feel good and have a safe environment to come out and be proud,” Trice said. “It’s like St. Patrick’s Day or National Puerto Rican Day. We need these rituals to express our pride. Our events are about visibility. We see diversity and unity in our diversity.”
Later in the week on Thursday, Oct. 11, rainbow decor, jazz music and people flooded the Underground at the annual Queer Cafe, sponsored by Sexual Assault Counseling and Education, Temple Health Empowerment Office, Common Ground and other organizations.
Tuttleman Counseling Services contacted Deborah Hinchey, president of Feminist Majority and senior political science major, to get involved in Queer Cafe.
“Of course we wanted to,” Hinchey said. “Many of our members are of the LGBT community. This is my fourth year in attendance. It’s always good. I love this event.
Earlier that day, Hinchey tabled at the Bell Tower for National Coming Out Day, and built a “big gay door” to represent Temple and to encourage students who are gay to come out of the closet.
“This kind of event is always amazing because it gives young gay people to meet each other,” she said. “I came out at age sixteen as queer. I spent a lot of years not being active thinking just being openly queer was enough.”
Hinchey then became involved in social advocacy. She now fights for the rights of those in the LGBT community.
“It made me feel like less of freak,” she said. “When you come out, you feel completely alone. You feel like you’re the only gay person in the world.”
Freshman secondary education English major Emily Paisley came out when she was 14 years old.
“I was kind of young, I guess,” Paisley said. “I’m from a small town. In high school the teachers wouldn’t talk to me because I was gay. Students would leave Post-it notes on my locker. Not a lot of people know how to deal with homosexuals. I didn’t come out to my parents until I was 18. They got used to it.”
Paisley formally resided in Peabody Hall, but after some homophobic comments were made about her, she relocated to Johnson Hall.
“Not only is Queer Cafe a good place to meet on campus, it’s a safe place on campus.” Paisley said. “No [place] else at Temple that has that kind of protection.”
Thankfully, events like Queer Cafe exist to embrace Temple’s LGBT community and to educate the Temple population as a whole.
“I hope every year more people just interested in exploring sexuality come and meet the community,” said SACE Peer Coordinator Jessye Cohen-Dan, a senior women’s studies major. “It’s [a community] open to alternative sexualities, a safe space.”
Kayla Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.