Outfest, an annual celebration of Philadelphia’s LGBT community, occured on Oct. 7 in the Gayborhood in conjunction with National Coming Out Week.
The celebration, which is the largest coming out day event in the world, represents the LGBT community in Philadelphia and all that it has to offer those throughout the city.
Despite rain and colder temperatures being in the weather forecast, 20,000 still visited the “Gayborhood” for Outfest, centered around a main stage at 13th and Locust streets.
“They call it the Gayborhood…there is literally no other place like this,” said Sicily Stump, a freshman social work major at Temple.
The Gayborhood is a mecca for the LGBT community with many gay-friendly businesses.
“To see young people and older people, coupled and not and racially diverse and [transgender] people…It is pretty darn amazing to see this sort of connection,” said David Rosenblum, legal director of the Mazzoni Center. “So you see people with stars in their eyes because they’re seeing the opportunities.”
The Gayborhood played host to various organizations and events set up throughout the streets of Center City.
The main stage of the event in the Gayborhood hosted various events including a magic show, Miss Philly Gay and Mr. Philly Pride, drag queen performances, high-heeled races and a penis-shaped bagel eating contest, among other events.
One of the drag performances, Brittany Lynn’s Drag Mafia, consisted of performances beyond what is considered to be the norm for drag queens. The Drag Mafia, unlike other drag shows, does not use lip-synching, but instead all of the performers sing live and involve comedy in their routines.
“We give you more of a Broadway-show style cabaret/burlesque show than the normal drag shows you see in town with people lip-synching one after another,” said Ian Morrison, alumnus and founder of the Philadelphia Drag Mafia, whose stage name is Brittany Lynn. “When people are looking for a funny host or something different from outside of the drag community, I think they always come to my show because they know that it’s going to be something that they don’t usually see all of the time.”
Although drag queens have populated Philadelphia for years now, the drag population has grown in recent years thanks to the television show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
In addition to drag queens, the rest of the LGBT community was also represented through Outfest.
The support of the LGBT community in Philadelphia was demonstrated through the organizations and causes that were present such as voting registration for the upcoming election, the LGBT committee of the Philadelphia Police, animal adoptions, Philadelphia’s Gay Men’s Chorus, “Free Hugs,” and more. Vendors were also present, supporting gay pride with rainbow merchandise, among other things.
One of the organizations that participated in Outfest was the Mazzoni Center. The Mazzoni Center, which has been in existence for 34 years, offers support to those in the LGBT community by providing services such as HIV testing, legal help and counseling.
Although the festival represented different aspects of the community’s support, it also hosted activities and groups that are available to those in the LGBT community, as well as those who support it.
Organizations such as Team Philadelphia, which participates in the Gay Games, an Olympic-like event with representation from around the world for members of the LGBT community, represented sports in the gay community.
The Team Philadelphia organization is host to 1,200 athletes, who are all involved in the LGBT community.
“We promote wellness and community,” Robert Szwajkos said of Team Philadelphia.
Not only does Team Philadelphia have representation throughout the city, but also within Temple itself.
Outfest began as just a block party in Philadelphia in 1990 and has expanded into a festival that attracts thousands of people to support the LGBT community in the city.
“I have been out since the mid-80s,” Rosenblum said. “I used to live right in the neighborhood and this was a teeny tiny block party. They actually called it the block party.”
Started in 1990, the festival has grown to not only attract those who are part of the LGBT community, but also those who support the ideas of equality.
“Everyone is welcoming, no one is trying to hate on anyone,” said Max Cohen, a public relations major, who came to Outfest to support his sister, who is part of the LGBT community.
Since the festival’s creation more than two decades ago, the LGBT community in Philadelphia has continued to expand.
“It’s nice to see the next generation and that there’s an energy amongst the community and that we’re not all of these different little pieces, but we are working toward making the world a better place and more integrated into society in general,” Rosenblum said.
Outfest has allowed those who are in the LGBT community to be recognized and feel accepted for who they are and what they stand for, regardless of how they identify.
“Going to Outfest and [Philly] Pride for the first time, it felt like home,” freshman Isaiah Gaffney said. “Everyone was really accepting and caring and really nice, at least for one day or two days out of the year. It’s weird as soon as you leave Outfest or [Philly] Pride and you go back to Broad Street, everything just has less colors and looks bland.”
Taylor Farnsworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.