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Philly Pride's Outfest holds special significance for some revelers

Philly Pride's Outfest block party was held in the midst of what some are calling a landmark year for LGBT rights in Pennsylvania.

Philly Pride's Outfest block party on Sunday shut down a stretch of the Gayborhood with entertainment, vendors and activities ranging from a high heel race to a penis-shaped bagel eating contest.

As in years past, the streets were flooded with colorfully-costumed revelers and speakers pumped thumping bass music.

But the event, which billed itself as "the largest national coming out event in the world," was particularly poignant for some attendees.

"I'm able to enjoy myself and be myself without everyone judging me," said Shannon Alyse, 21, who traveled from New Jersey to enjoy the festivities.

The celebration was the first LGBT community event Alyse attended.

"I'm not out to everybody but I'm more out than I've ever been in my entire life," she said, calling the experience "liberating."

"I'm here to celebrate and have fun," said Alyse's friend Jaki Michele, also 21.

"Because if other people don't want to be proud of us and celebrate us, we'll be proud and celebrate ourselves."

State Rep. Brian Sims, who was on hand to receive the Gilbert Baker National OutProud Award, said the event brought back memories of his own experience announcing his sexuality.

"I wish I had something like this when I came out," he said.

"I came out to my teammates in a small Pennsylvania town and I didn't even know things like this existed. Now, to see kids and teens here being able to openly celebrate and be proud of who they are with such a support system behind them – it's amazing."

This year's festivities also held special significance as Sims, along with State Rep. Steve McCarter, less than two weeks ago introduced the Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Act legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

"I'm able to say with 100 percent certainty I am sure that piece of legislation will be law," Sims said.

"I'm sorry we're not celebrating [the law's passage] here today, but we're quickly moving toward equality in Pennsylvania, and I hope that next year or the year after that, I'll be able to stand here and celebrate that equality."

New Jersey next?


The event also came just after a judge on Thursday dismissed the state of New Jersey's request to prevent same-sex marriages from being conducted until after an appeal of the court decision allowing them to move forward is completed.

Sims said he hopes the stance on same-sex marriage held by Gov. Chris Christie, who last year vetoed a bill allowing the practice, "has progressed and evolved."

"I think New Jersey will be the 14th state to legalize marriage equality," Sims said.

 
 
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