Philadelphia is one of the country’s most LGBTQ-friendly cities with a long history of tolerance.
In 1965, four years before the Stonewall Riots in New York ignited the worldwide modern gay rights movement, a group of protesters began an annual July 4th pride march in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. These “Annual Reminders” were demonstrations designed to remind the American people that many American citizens were denied the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” promised in the Declaration of Independence. What started at Independence Hall evolved into a civil rights movement and since then, Philadelphia has been a seat of progress and activism for the LGBTQ+ community.
The LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia is a highly visible and important part of the city. There are many clubs, bars, lounges, bookstores, boutiques, restaurants and shops in the Gayborhood, a section of Center City’s Washington Square District. You’ll see rainbow flags adorning the street signs as well as incredible architecture and a charming community feel. Eat at an LGBTQ-owned restaurant in the Gayborhood and snap a photo by one of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ murals, including Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Pride and Progress by Ann Northrup.
Philadelphia is home to gay pride events as well as numerous historical and culturally significant sites, including:
Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room – The country’s first and oldest LGBT-focused book store.
Barbara Gittings Gay & Lesbian Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia – The “mother of the LGBTQ+ movement,” Barbara Gittings, spent most of her life in Philadelphia and edited the nation’s first lesbian publication. She worked to eradicate the classification of homosexuality as mental illness.
The William Way LGBT Community Center – Began as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Philadelphia in 1974 to support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
Philadelphia Gay News – Founded in 1976, Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) is one of the most awarded weekly newspapers in the U.S. A historical marker honoring PGN’s history and contributions to the LGBTQ+ community can be found outside of the publication’s first office at 233 S. 13th Street in the Gayborhood.
To learn more about these sites and others in the Gayborhood, while also gaining insights into notable community leaders throughout Philadelphia’s history, schedule a Philly Gayborhood and LGBTQ+ walking tour with Beyond the Bell Tours.
Each year the city is host to many highly visible and important events, such as Equality Forum, Blue Ball, Pride Parade and OutFest, the largest National Coming Out Day festival in the world. Annual Philadelphia LGBTQ+ events include:
qFLIX Philadelphia – Independent LGBTQ+ film festival screening films from around the world, annually in March.
Philadelphia Black Pride Celebration – annually in April.
PrideDay LGBTQ+ Parade and Festival – takes place during International Gay Pride Month in June and features live music, DJs, food and drinks. A festive parade, the signature event, runs from the Gayborhood to Penn’s Landing.
OutFest – celebrating National Coming Out Day with a block party and street festival, annually in October. NOTE: 2021’s OutFest was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Cover photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia.