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LGBTQ+ in Philadelphia

June 15, 2021

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.

Philadelphia’s Gayborhood stretches from 11th to Broad Streets and from Pine to Chestnut Streets. Throughout the neighborhood, colorful rainbow flags signify that the City of Brotherly Love welcomes and celebrates all people. Photo by N. Santos for Visit Philadelphia.

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.

Pride and Progress © 2002 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Ann Northrup, 1315 Spruce Street. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

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.

A historical marker and pride flag outside of Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni's Room, the first and oldest LGBT-focused bookstore in the nation. 345 S. 12th Street. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

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.

The Philadelphia Pride Flag, featuring black and brown stripes, highlights black and brown LGBTQ+ members of the community and is displayed on businesses and homes throughout the city, particularly in the Gayborhood. Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia.

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.

  • 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. NOTE: The 2021 LGTBQ Pride Festival has been rescheduled due to COVID-19 and will now be held on September 4 at noon at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.

  • OutFest – celebrating National Coming Out Day with a block party and street festival, annually in October. NOTE: 2021’s OutFest has been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

Though the PrideDay Festival has been rescheduled, there are still several events to seek out in Philadelphia during Pride Month in 2021, including:

  • qFLIX Philly’s PrideFLIX: The Virtual Pride Film Festival will feature five weeks of LGBTQ+ films, documentaries, and web series streamed virtually throughout June.

  • Moving Forward When the World Stopped: Queer Life 2020-2021 is a virtual art exhibition hosted by the William Way LGBT Community Center that features the work of 28 Philadelphia-area artists and showcases a timeline of events, memories and experiences from over the last year.

  • A special late night screening of John Waters’ 1974 cult classic Female Trouble at the PFS Drive-In at the Navy Yard on June 2, presented by Philly AIDS Thrift and raising funds for the organization’s new Donation Intake Area.

  • An evening of Queer Quizzo at the Christ Church Neighborhood House in Philadelphia’s Old City on June 2, featuring cocktails from Art in the Age alongside beer, wine, and snacks.

  • The Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square will celebrate Pride Month with four Drag Tea events on June 5, 12, 19 and 26, featuring tea service from Brittany Lynn’s Drag Mafia and delicious offerings from the Sofitel’s culinary team, with proceeds benefiting the William Way LGBT Community Center (WWCC). The hotel will also display a collection of LGBTQ+ flags in its lobby — renamed Philadelphia’s LGBTQ Hall of Flags for Pride Month — and will be donating one dollar to the WWCC for each banquet menu item ordered that is designated with the WWCC’s logo on the menu through the end of the year and for each Liberté cocktail sold in the Liberté Lounge through Pride Month.

  • Turntable Yoga is hosting a Pride yoga flow on Sunday, June 6 at Love City Brewing. The $10 ticket includes access to the yoga class as well as a beer of your choice. RSVP here.

  • Discounted tickets for Pride Night at the Philadelphia Flower Show on June 10. The historic flower show is held outside for the first time in its history in South Philadelphia’s beautiful and spacious FDR Park.

  • The first-ever Pride in the Park event will be held on June 12 at Parks on Tap’s Trails End location along the Schuylkill River Trail, featuring a live DJ from 2-5 p.m. and a special Pride Punch that benefits local LGBTQ+ organizations.

  • Multiple drag shows and brunches will be held around the region on Sunday, June 13, including one at The Wayward — an American brasserie located at the base of the Canopy by Hilton hotel in East Market — and another at Fabrika — a cabaret-style dinner theatre in Fishtown.

  • The Bourse Food Hall in Old City hosts two LGBTQ+ outdoor movie screenings curated by The Philadelphia Film Society on June 18 and June 25 (click here for tickets). The historic building will also feature a Pride chalk mural from local artists on its patio, with a special Pride-inspired ice cream flavor available inside from vendor Scoop DeVille.

  • Pride Night at the Philadelphia Zoo will be held on Friday, June 18 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., with special programming and local LGBTQ+ organizations on-site.

  • East Passyunk Avenue welcomes the return of their monthly Queers on the Avenue (QOTA) event on June 22, featuring food and drink specials from P’unk Burger and Flannel, live music, and a free dance class at the Society Hill Dance Academy.

  • Drag shows, drag brunches, BINGO, trivia and other events all month long at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar in the Gayborhood.

  • Eight FCM Hospitality locations — including Morgan’s Pier, Juno, The Garden at Cherry Street Pier, Harper’s Garden, Parks on Tap, and others — will be donating $1 from each sale of a Pride Month cocktail throughout the month of June to support four local non-profits: William Way LGBT Community Center, Attic Youth Center, Philly Asian Queer and Galaei.

  • A series of Pride events are being hosted in nearby Montgomery County, including live music performances, a Pride Festival, and a drive-in drag show at the King of Prussia Mall.

Cover photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia.

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