I will ALWAYS use my voice!

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

A lot of people keep asking me my opinion on the new flag and I was not going to say anything about it, but I just want to give you kids a little bit of insight.

I've made a few comments here and there on peoples Facebook posts and I keep hearing the same response-"You can't use your voice or say anything because you're white."

So let me tell you something honey…

I used my voice at rallies when we had to gather in fear when marching for even the basic of liberties.

I used my voice on a million microphones all through the 90s when we were raising money for AIDS medications for those in need of them. And I don't mean people who didn't have insurance. Back then if we did not have those fundraisers the people just didn't say "oh well we didn't raise a lot of money." When we did these shows people were DYING from lack of medication – quickly – and we came together with the best of our ability to keep our friends and loved ones alive.

I used my voice at college events at Temple University and various campuses when they sat us at tables wayyyy out of the area so no one could see us-to let people on campus know that there is a safe space at Temple for us to gather. There was no internet, we posted flyers around campus that were constantly torn down or defaced with the words "FAGGOTS DIE!" And when I tell you the campus gave us a small closet of a space to meet it was a damn closet in the SAC building. But it was something.

I used my voice on the streets and at City Hall during marches and demonstrations when the cops didn't stand in front of you to protect you from the rest of the world. They often turned their heads when people shouted the worst things imaginable and threw things at you, and we did not have civil liberties because we were thought of as a mental disease.

And when we all marched and held hands we didn't point out the color of the hands, we all gripped each other in support and strength.

I used my voice to cheer at the creation of Outfest and Philly Pride when it was just a small city block event in front of Giovanni's room.

I used my voice to speak at high schools, colleges, and prisons to speak about trans rights and to educate people on the different aspects of the LGBTQIA community with my trans brothers and sisters by my side.

I used my voice to speak with our Mayor to create an LGBTQ group made up of gay men, trans men, and trans women-that marches every year-in drag-in our city's biggest parade-and we confront homophobia in its biggest form each and every year-letting any racism shown in our parade that it can take several, several seats.

I found this voice when I first came out and the majority of my closest friends were all black transsexuals and performers I met at 12th Air Command and Bob & Barbara's and they still remain the people that know me best twenty years later. Often when I mention that people say "oh he's name dropping black activists"-no honey, I'm telling you about my FAMILY. These were the people that took me in when I first came to center city and showed me how to be a proud gay man and to stand up for myself.

When people ask me why I would still work at iCandy – I tell them, I have history there. I worked there when it was Hepburns. When it became 12th Air I made inseparable bonds with the most diverse group of people you could imagine. And we lived our life inside those walls even though it meant possibly getting jumped the moment you walked outside those doors. When I am inside those walls I see Angelo the bartender serving me a purple woohoo, I hear Reenie Kane spinning the best 33" disco albums that me and Salotta had to help carry up those steps because records were-and will forever be-the best thing to spin if you're a dj. The venue may look different and be surrounded by controversy, but when I do go there, I see all of my friends that died from the AIDS crisis and other circumstances that no longer hold us everyday in fear. When I am inside those walls, I sit there and remember my friends that have passed and the place that taught me it was ok to be gay and to love myself and that there are others out there like me – in every size, shape, and color.

And the rainbow flag was a symbol to me that gave me hope.

We are constantly growing as a community and living in times that my generation never thought would happen. The city started to recognize the gayborhood as our territory – improved the street lights for our protection, provided more patrolling police, created LGBT liaisons with their departments and with city hall, gave us the pride flag on our street signs, the pride flag on the crosswalk, and raising the pride flag at city hall.

It may be a new flag, but it's not like they are saying "this is the flag you must use." They are giving it to the community as a gift to show inclusion to communities that need your help and support. Personally I came out during a time where we wore pride rings as a secret code to let others know we were gay because even as little as twenty years ago, we were not accepted as the gay community is today. And that flag is the one that I grew up holding so close to my heart. During times when we could only be gay on our own sacred ground. And that's what the gayborhood – and ALL of its venues are to me.

We were slowly made mainstream by Real World, Ellen, Momma Ru – and everyday we have our setbacks from the asshole in the White House and religious factions/hate groups, but we also make AMAZING strides from within our own community. We have an LGBTQ committee created by our Mayor that works with our own local government, and is lead by a woman of color – the incomparable Amber Hikes – to act as our liaison with our city to help improve our community – and her committee added two stripes to the gay flag to create awareness and inclusion for our black and brown gay communities. And they held a rally and raised that flag at city hall. Can everyone take a moment and see what an amazing thing that is and a testament to the times we are living in?

So, yes the new flag is an amazing thing. You don't have to like it, but you better respect it because it still represents our community.

And – if you want to tell me that I cannot use my voice to speak about the new flag, or anything that is occurring in our LGBTQIA community here in Philly – please take note: My voice was one of the many here in Philadelphia that spoke up for you before you even took your first step. My voice was one of the many voices that made it so you can hold your lover's hand when you walk on our city streets, and my voice was one of the many that helped create an environment where you can feel safe, and not cowered in your bedroom feeling fear of being alone and different from the rest of the world. And my voice will be one of the many that will fight for you and will cheer for ALL OF YOU every damn day – including this Sunday's Pride Parade.

I know there will be plenty of comments on this post, and I welcome them – good or bad – trust me I'VE HEARD WORST, and said to me in person in public places, because I choose to live my life freely and to be gay. So you can be that keyboard warrior and rant and rave on here, but I also encourage you to find me and have a discussion with me personally. I've been here for you these last twenty or so years, and I'm not going anywhere soon.

Love and light and Happy Pride

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