For the first time, Temple University will celebrate Coming Out Week. The festival happens city-wide Oct. 11 during Philly’s Coming Out Day parade.
Franny Price is the 55-year-old owner of Spruce Street Video, America’s oldest surviving gay video store, but if it were up to her, she’d be living in a time before there were even televisions.
“If I could go back to any moment in history, I’d like to see what gay life was like in the 1700s,” she said.
“Only I would never wear a dress,” she added.
Imagine gay life in the 1700s: no parades, no protests and no gay video stores.
But Price said she believes gay life still existed and is proud to organize Philadelphia’s annual Coming Out Day Festival on Sunday, Oct. 11. In her youth as a gay woman, such an event did not exist, she said.
To mirror the city’s celebration, members of Temple’s Queer Student Union are taking a proactive voice on the issue and designed Temple’s first “Coming Out Week,” a week-long campaign to promote awareness about the queer community.
“We bring a resource center as well as attention to the administration about LGBTQ issues on campus to make it a more friendly environment,” QSU President Keith Davis said.
Davis, a senior political science and anthropology major, added that although the Stonewall Riots in New York triggered the gay rights movement, it took off in Philadelphia during the aftermath.
On July 4, 1969, Philadelphians rallied around Independence Hall to protest the riots, which since inspired Pride Day parades around the world every June.
Price said simply walking into a gay club 30 years ago was risky.
“We would walk around outside to wait for all the cars and people to pass,” she said. “It wasn’t always safe to just walk inside like the teeny-boppers do today. You had to be careful.”
A lot has changed in just a generation, though, and Price said there’s more progress to come.
Prices serves as director of Philly Pride Presents, a nonprofit that helps organize Philly’s Coming Out Day festival every October, as well as its Pride Parade in June.
Together, the two festivals aim to thicken the deep tradition of the movement, spread civic outreach and foster the indomitable spirit of pride and unity that binds the gay community.
“We’re just trying to aim for the same equality that everyone else gets,” Price said.
Price suggested that the incorporation of American LGBTQ history into high school curriculums might help better educate the public about a culture that can go unnoticed.
“The history is not just for the gay community,” Price said.
“The history involves all Americans, although the only time I feel like a citizen is when I pay taxes,” she said with a laugh.
A large part of society’s ignorance, Price said, is due to the fact that most Americans aren’t formally educated about the history of the gay rights movement.
Freshman psychology major Laurel Daddi, who identifies herself as a lesbian, said she feels “shameful” not knowing the history of the gay community and its struggles.
“I don’t really know anything about my own culture,” she said. “It’s kind of embarrassing.”
QSU Vice President Kate Moriarty, a senior women’s studies major and LGBTQ studies minor, said OutFest is the result of a Washington D.C. protest held to give gay rights a more familiar face, despite a lack of unity within the LGBTQ community at the time.
“There has not been a lot of working together. Everyone has their own separate agendas because of racial and class divides, but we do have a movement,” she said.
Price said Philly’s Coming Out Day parade is the largest in the world. She said she hopes it will help strengthen the LGBTQ community and help its transgression for the same rights as heterosexuals.
“As far as rights, we’re the last on the totem pole,” Price said. “But we’ll eventually get it right.”
Matthew Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.