LGBTQ families and allies were welcomed by rainbow balloon arches, a live band, and tables filled with art and food that took over the Lovett Memorial Library’s lawn in honor of Pride Month on Saturday afternoon, June 22.
The second annual Philadelphia Family Pride Picnic and Arts Festival was a joint effort between Philadelphia’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Philadelphia Family Pride, and the Mt. Airy Art Garage.
The picnic featured a variety of different tables, featuring art and book vendors, LGBTQ organizations providing resources and educational materials, as well as hosting activities like arts and crafts for children to participate in.
Adam Podowitz-Thomas, a member of Philadelphia Family Pride, sold T-shirts at the event.
“I think it’s really important for families like ours to see one another in the community,” said Podowitz-Thomas. “It’s important for kids to see other families that look like theirs.”
April Alexander, another member of Philadelphia Family Pride, agreed with Podowitz-Thomas.
“I would add that having a space where people can come and get resources is helpful and it shows that families aren’t alone,” Alexander said.
The event also featured live musicians, a drag queen story hour, food trucks and a balloon artist.
Although the picnic was geared towards families, all were welcome.
Evan Thornburg, the deputy director of the Office of LGBTQ affairs, whose job entails creating policy and advocating for the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia, finds community events to be an effective way of engaging citizens and educating people on the importance of accepting of all identities.
“It doesn’t matter how inclusive folks are, there’s a big difference between someone being sympathetic to your identity or people being competent of your identity,” said Thornburg.
The Office of LGBTQ Affairs is fairly new to Philadelphia government, created in 2008 by executive order of Michael Nutter, and officially added to the city charter in 2015.
“The big ask from this current administration was that the office be more forward-facing than it’s been in the past,” Thornburg said. “In the past we’ve been very much focused on policy and remaining kind of ambiguous for the general public.”
At the Family Picnic, parents and children filed past tables filled with stickers and candy alongside literature telling people how they can better support the LGBTQ community. At the table for the Philadelphia chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, volunteers gave children and adults pamphlets titled “Our Trans Loved One,” “Faith in Our Family,” and “Our Children.”
“This is a great event in terms of it supporting LGBTQ families of Philadelphia. That’s the reason we’re here,” said Kim Otto, the president of the Philadelphia PFLAG.
The Office of LGBTQ Affairs works to benefit the community not just during Pride Month, but year round. For Thornburg, the ultimate goal is to educate more Philadelphians in LGBTQ issues so they can make decisions and policies that are sensitive to issues of identity. One way Thornburg puts these ideals into practice is around policing at the LGBTQ office’s events.
“When we do large scale events like Pride in the Park last week, one of the major requests that we had was the request for police presence because of how many people were expected,” they said. “But we asked that they be plain-clothed officers because of the activation and the history police have with the LGBTQ community.”
Thinking through these issues ahead of time can allow organizations to meet their public obligations, but in a way that maintains an inviting and safe atmosphere conducive to community, Thornburg said.
“We recognize that the need for them as a safety element, but having over thirty police officers visibly in uniform can be activating or traumatizing for members of our community,” Thornbrug said.
Thornburg and other members of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs also identify city policy and legislative opportunities to promote inclusion. For instance, the office pushed for a recent ballot initiative to change “councilman” and “councilwoman” to the more gender neutral “councilmember.” They have also encouraged non-binary individuals to run for public office.
Thornburg’s hope for a diverse government does not end with diversity in sexual orientation, but also race, religion, and disabilities.
“I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done,” Thornburg said. “We have quite a great representation of trans and nonbinary folks that work for the city that are both out and not out. I love that they work in spaces where people respect their pronouns and I love that they work in spaces where they have access to HR folks and HR managers who have been trained on being competent.”
Pepper Gardner came with friends to enjoy the day and celebrate Pride.
“I had just searched online to find pride events near me and this popped up,” said Gardner. “Pride events tend to be chaotic, noisy, and awful for me, so this is more relaxed and nice for people who aren’t primarily interested in drinking or partying.”
Kris Owens, one of Gardner’s friends, was glad he accompanied her to the event.
“This is our first time attending this event, but from what I can tell it’s a great place to hang out that’s wholesome and welcoming for everyone,” said Owens. “I think that this is a good gateway event for folks who don’t know anything about Pride to get their feet wet with the idea.”
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