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January 23, 2017

Philly commission finds racism in Gayborhood, recommends training for bars, Mazzoni

A report out Monday finds racism in Philadelphia's Gayborhood and recommends members of an LGBTQ healthcare provider and an AIDs service organization undergo training on the city's Fair Practices Ordinance and implicit bias.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations released a report Monday that found LGBTQ people of color, women and transgender people often feel unwelcome and unsafe in the Gayborhood, a Center City neighborhood that has long been viewed as a safe space within the LGBTQ community. Racism and discrimination have been ongoing issues for decades, the report found.

The report recommends members of the Mazzoni Center, an LGBTQ healthcare provider, and Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDs service organization, as well as other nonprofits serving the LGBTQ community, receive voluntary training on the city's Fair Practices Ordinance. It recommends similar training for Gayborhood bar owners and staff.

"In every movement, change starts from the community," PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau said in a statement. "Our report reflects those community concerns. We hope these recommendations will bring about systemic change so that all people in the LGBTQ community can feel safe and be free from discrimination."

The report, which follows a public hearing held by the commission last October, also found that past and former employees of LGBTQ social service agencies reported patterns of discrimination relating to the agencies' employment practices.

In testimony collected by the commission, workers voiced concerns about employment practices, employee compensation and the adequacy of services provided to LGBTQ people of color at the Mazzoni Center and Philadelphia FIGHT. The commission deemed the agencies' employee handbooks and policies "inadequate or not properly implemented," leaving employees vulnerable to discrimination.

In recommending training, the report notes that many employees did not file claims with the Human Relations commission because they were unaware of the city's Fair Practice laws or feared retaliation.

  • LGBTQ people of color, women, and transgender people often feel unwelcome and unsafe in Gayborhood spaces.
  • Racism and discrimination have been ongoing issues among Philadelphia's LGBTQ community for decades.
  • The business practices of bars in the Gayborhood substantiate the numerous reports of racism and discrimination the PCHR heard.
  • Past and current employees of certain LGBTQ social service agencies report patterns of discrimination relating to the agencies' employment practices.

"Requiring training for all stakeholders of the nonprofits, at all levels, will ensure that all stakeholders are clear on when they are a violating the law or being subjected to unlawful discrimination," the report states.

The report stresses that all nonprofits should "adopt model policies" and provide ongoing training. Under the city's Fair Practices Ordinance, all nonprofits and social service agencies must display the commission's information posters in a common employee area.

"The goal of these policies should be to reduce implicit bias," the report says. "A written statement of the policies should be available to potential and existing patrons at the door. All staff should be trained and periodically retrained regarding them."

Implicit bias is the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes – implicit attitudes and stereotypes, for example – that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control, according to the National Center for State Courts.

  • Bar owners and staff must receive training on the City of Philadelphia's Fair Practices Ordinance and implicit bias
  • Board members, directors, management and staff of the Mazzoni Center and Philadelphia FIGHT must receive training on the FPO and implicit bias. It is recommended that other nonprofits serving the LGBTQ population voluntarily participate in these trainings as well.
  • The Independent Business Alliance, Greater Philadelphia's LGBT Chamber of Commerce, should provide training in leadership development for prospective and new board members.
  • Nonprofits that receive city funding to provide services to the LGBTQ community must conform to the non-discrimination provisions of the FPO and the Office of Economic Opportunity requirements included in their professional service contracts with the City of Philadelphia.

The report also includes recommendations for the Gayborhood's social scene, noting most business owners are "white, cisgendered males who create preferable environments for white, cisgendered, male patrons." That particularly leaves transwomen of color vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and physical violence.

It recommends bar owners update and adopt policies regarding dress codes and admission requirements to be in accordance with the city's fair practice laws. Bar staff should also reflect the diversity of the city's LGBTQ population and create a path for advancement.

The public hearing in October was called after a video captured Darryl DePiano, owner of the iCandy gay nightclub, using a racial slur to complain about black patrons. The video prompted protests in the neighborhood and a boycott of iCandy. 

"I attended the hearings that PCHR held on October 25 last year and I was able to hear about some particularly troubling experiences," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "Racism in the LGBT community is a real issue. We all need to do more to address it."

The hearing featured nearly 30 speakers, mostly black or Latino, who delivered testimonials about experiencing racism in the form of dress code and an air of "white privilege." 

The speakers also included one former Mazzoni Center employee who criticized its lack of diversity, saying "it can be a dehumanizing environment for people of color."

The entire PCHR report can be viewed here.