Philadelphia mayor raises rainbow flag at City Hall
With LGBT History Month in full swing, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter hosted the first annual rainbow flag raising ceremony at City Hall last Wednesday, Oct. 6.
Hundreds of people turned out for the ceremony, making Philadelphia one of the largest cities in the country to fly the rainbow flag at a government building. And when mayoral LGBT liaison Gloria Casarez approached Nutter with the idea, he was more than eager to make it a reality. She added the event became especially symbolic after the recent number of LGBT teen suicides.
"There's been a lot of conversation around the five or six young men who have taken their lives as a result of harassment and bullying," Casarez told EDGE. "We in Philadelphia have violence and bullying as well, but I don't want the message to get lost that we're especially concerned about violence against trans people. We've seen some recent cases of violence right on the streets of Philadelphia. As much as we're celebrating LGBT History Month, we have to be focus on the business of assuring that people report crime and that when they report it we're funneling them through the proper channels."
Casarez received a call earlier last week from someone who saw a transgender woman struck over the head with a glass bottle at the intersection of Broad and Locust Streets. Instead of calling the police, the victim walked herself to a nearby hospital.
"In this situation, when this woman was attacked her reaction was to walk herself to the hospital," said Casarez. "That kind of says that maybe she didn't think she could get help on the street and/or that the police would have been responsive. Part of our challenge is that we have to confront the long standing attitudes around the community and the police, and the long standing experiences between the community and the police."
Philadelphia is not the only place experiencing anti-LGBT bullying and violence as Tyler Clementi's suicide earlier this month tragically proves. Local officials, however, have moved to tackle the problem.
The School District of Philadelphia amended its bullying policy last month to include cyberbullying. And unlike other policies that simply act as a system of values, Casarez said the new regulations contain clearly defined consequences.
"That made it seem more than an affirming statement," she said. "We need to see more of the consequences and clearer actions in terms and practices. Even with these policies on the book, it didn't stop LGBT people from being harassed and bullied. We need more than the policies in place-part of the symbolism of the flag raising ceremony was to show the city's commitment to working with our community partners."