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 A Tribute to Gloria Casarez by Michelle Angela Ortiz and Pride and Progress by Ann Northrup.
Philadelphia is home to gay pride events, including OutFest, the largest National Coming Out Day festival in the world, history and significant sites including:
- Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room – the country’s first and oldest gay and lesbian 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 Community Center – Began as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Philadelphia in 1974 to support and advocate for the LGBTQ community.
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.
In June 2020, as a result of restrictions due to COVID-19, Philadelphia’s wide array of Pride Month festivities have moved online. Several remote events include:
- Beyond the Bell Tours’ Pride-In-A-Box packages deliver Pride to your doorstep in the form of themed boxes packed with items from local LGBTQ+ businesses and exclusive access to online events such as virtual drag shows.
- The Philly Pride Run Virtual 5K takes the pair of races that typically lead into the Pride Day Parade and moves them online, tasking runners with completing courses on their own terms anytime from June 14 through June 21 (with cash prizes on the line). Proceeds raised from registration and other donations go to the William Way Community Center.
- The Free Library of Philadelphia offers a Virtual Moment of Pride each Wednesday as well as weekly virtual Drag Queen Storytimes, workshops, trivia, happy hours, and other online events.
- The region’s largest LGBTQ+ film festival, qFLIX Philly’s PrideFLIX, has moved its programming online, with five weeks’ worth of feature-length and short films, documentaries, and web series.
- On June 24, the National Liberty Museum will host Liberty Learning Live online, where participants will paint the rainbow flag while learning about the significance of each of the colors and the flags importance to the LGBTQ+ community.
Cover photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia.