Philadelphia at large is hardly a closeted town. Rainbows mark the city’s Gayborhood street signs as symbols for LGBT-friendly businesses, and it has earned an overall progressive reputation on the national level. Last fall, it nabbed a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Municipal Equality Index Scorecard and just last month, Comcast received top marks for workplace equality in the HRC’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index. But the city’s thriving gay community isn’t just concentrated in the Gayborhood or found working at the Comcast Center. Here, find five gay men who have taken up residence in one of the city’s most burgeoning scenes.
Kurt Souder (pictured above)
Souder (shown piecing together a graphic T-shirt in his home) moved to Philadelphia in May 2013 shortly after launching his men’s sportswear fashion line, Weft. Citing lower overhead costs and a ripening fashion scene as reasons for the transition, Newbold was simply the most “home-y” of his relocation options. “I think [Newbold] is perfect, because it’s just removed enough from Center City that I feel safe and ‘away’ when I come home,” Souder says. Souder’s fashion company was featured with six other menswear lines at The Ritz-Carlton last week.
A newcomer to the dance and theater circuit, 24-year-old Gunnar Montana appeared on the Philadelphia arts scene in the fall of 2013 when he premiered his dark, gritty and gory “Basement” show at Philly Fringe 2013. In Newbold, he appeared on the scene just shy of a year ago, joining a growing community of gay men. “A lot of us hang out at [American] Sardine Bar,” Montana says. “And every now and then you’ll run into a queen from the drag house around the corner,” he adds with a giggle. Montana will resurface in his latest production, “Hybernate,” at the The Latvian Society of Philadelphia on March 6, running through March 15.
Josh Mullins, known in drag as Paige D’Mone, unpacked his wigs and lash-curlers in his 15th and Federal streets home in August 2013. Mullins is a semi-regular performer at Tabu and Voyeur Nightclub — “Wherever I can get booked,” he says. He’ll perform as an unhinged Paula Deen at Voyeur on Feb. 25. “I do things because they’re ridiculous. If I get a guffaw out of it, I’ll do it,” Mullins says. “I live for the ‘shiggles.'”
Party-planner Josh Schonewolf, originally of “Josh Can’t Cook” viral-blog fame, made a more regional name for himself in 2013 when he launched Ratchet Wednesdays at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar in the Gayborhood. Since then, he’s gone on to produce a slew of other recognizable queer-tailored events: Songbird, Bearlesque, Bev’s Bitchfest and, starting March 2, CLUBHAUS at Broad and Tasker streets’ The Dolphin Tavern. “It’s Sunday night, so it’ll be the industry crowd,” Schonewolf says. “But I put ‘calling all queers’ on the fliers — if you’re out of the norm, you’re invited.”
Setting up camp on the west side of Dickinson Street, 22-year-old Nick Rossano, aka Nikki Styx, is another drag queen who can be spotted heel-strutting outside of the Gayborhood. Though he moved to the neighborhood in May 2013 and is pleased with what it has to offer, it is not enough to keep this queen around for the long haul. “The neighborhood isn’t bad at all. People think it’s worse than it is, in my experience,” Rossano says. “But I won’t be staying in the area much longer. I’m already onto my next move soon.” Having worked the drag world for just shy of a year, he emerged most recently in Cycle Three of Drag Wars, and performs primarily at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar.
– Text and images by Brandon K. Baker and Catherine McCann.