June a big month for gay and transgender rights in Philly, but LGBT director says work remains

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Helen "Nellie" Fitzpatrick, director of the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In the coming days and weeks, a number of activities will draw attention to Philadelphia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

One of those events is the 14th annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which will focus on the health and well-being of the city’s transgender community.

“The conference is very broad and covers the needs of the community just as diversely as the community itself exists,” said Helen “Nellie” Fitzpatrick, director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs.

“So you’ll see everything from educating and empowering trans individuals on health issues and well-being, all the way to how to inform allies and health care providers to provide better services and better advocacy for our trans community.”

The conference starts Thursday (when, at noon, officials will raise the transgender pride flag above City Hall) and continues through Saturday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

It comes at a critical time for the city’s transgender community. In May, a transgender woman named London Chanel was stabbed to death inside the abandoned Philadelphia rowhome where she lived.

“Looking at the way in which London lost her life and where she was when that happened speaks to systemic breakdown,” said Fitzpatrick. “She very well may not have had access to jobs, to education, to safe housing because she was transgender.”

Another significant event taking place this month in Philadelphia is Pride Day on June 14, which this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the breakthrough 1965 gay rights picket on Independence Mall.

But Fitzpatrick says, despite all of the commonwealth’s progress toward LGBT rights including the legalization of same-sex marriage, there’s still no blanket policy outlawing discrimination against LGBT people in Pennsylvania.

“People can get legally married in the state of Pennsylvania; they can come home from their honeymoon; they can place a picture of their legal, loving spouse on their desk at work; and then promptly be fired for doing so,” she said.

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