Mayor Jim Kenney pledged to take action against discrimination in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood during a news conference Monday morning.
City leaders unveiled a new report issued by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations detailing instances of discrimination in the historically gay neighborhood. This followed an October public hearing, which invited members of the LGBTQ community to share their experiences and concerns regarding racial tensions in an area often associated with inclusion and diversity.
But the facade of peaceful coexistence did not always extend to community members of color, many of who complained for decades about racial bias and discriminatory practices while frequenting bars, restaurants and even social service organizations in the Gayborhood.
“It’s an urban myth that people from a marginalized community don’t oppress each other,” said Ernest Owens, a gay activist and editor of G Philly. “Now, our concerns are validated.”
Among the report’s finding was evidence that “LGBTQ people of color, women and transgender people often feel unwelcome and unsafe in Gayborhood spaces.”
The report cites business practices that “substantiate the numerous reports of racism and discrimination” in the neighborhood.
Owens, a black 25-year-old who relocated to Philadelphia from Houston, has experienced some of these problems firsthand.
“I’ve had to get patted down, up and down, all around while I can see other people in front of me get in with no problem,” he said. “That kind of discrimination is very inhumane and derogatory. I really felt less than.”
While the report issued Monday did not provide statistics, the authors did find that discriminatory practices have been common for at least three decades. Most frequently, black patrons were turned away for not complying with dress codes and forced to present several forms of identification, according to the report.
The commission’s October hearing attracted close to 400 participants. Among those attendees were the owners of 11 bars that had been subpoenaed by the commission and several directors of nonprofit organizations that service the neighborhood.
The commission combined data offered by these businesses and found that employment policies, dress codes and other practices worked to create an unsafe and unwelcoming environment for people of color and transgender community members. As a result of their findings, the commission issued a series of recommendations that include mandatory training for business owners and nonprofits working in the neighborhood.
“Racism in the LGBTQ community is a real issue. It’s a real issue in our entire society, not only just in the LGBTQ area or in the Gayborhood,” Kenney said.
“We need to do more to address it here in Philadelphia. We will do whatever else we need to do to see that the recommendations are adopted. And that possibly could include eliminating organizations who won’t change their ways by limiting our participation in their work financially.”