The rainbow-painted concrete at 13th and Locust Streets was especially bright and welcoming as crowds gathered to witness an outdoor drag show featuring various members of Philadelphia’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally community.
As the first OutFest since the Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, this year’s pride festival was not only met with happiness but to also continue pushing on for visibility.
“It is important to continue to be visible and to have a welcoming, safe place, for the LGBTQA community to express themselves,” said Patti Calandra, president of the Philadelphia Freedom Band. “We want to show that we have every right like every other citizen has and to have a good time doing it.”
The Philadelphia Freedom Band is a volunteer-based LGBTQA band composed of a concert, marching and jazz band. The musicians come from all different walks of life, from music teachers and professional musicians, to people who haven’t picked up an instrument since high school.
The first public appearance of the Freedom Band after a nearly twenty-year hiatus was at the 2008 OutFest.
The Freedom band played on the outdoor stage during the afternoon festival and was also presented with this year’s OutProud Award.
The non-profit band is also a part of a large organization called the Lesbian Gay Band Association.
“ The [association’s] motto for this year was ‘music, pride and visibility’ and that carries through to all of us,” Calandra said. “We are making noise about who we are to show the kids who have to keep quiet that you can be a band geek for life.”
Ross Schwartz, a senior Media Studies and Production major at Temple University, attended the festival not only to help strengthen visibility but to spread the message about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is an HIV prevention pill taken daily for people who are of higher risk to get the virus.
A panel discussion was held on Thursday, Oct. 15 at Temple where health professionals and a person currently on the pill, examined and took questions about the medication.
In his final year of college, Schwartz said he wanted to get the most out of helping with LGBTQA issues.
“It has been in existence for over two years and so far today, some of the reactions are just ‘what really is this thing?’” Schwartz said. “I think that is what’s really important—just to spread the word and that is why I wanted to get involved for a very good cause because this is the last stretch to basically eliminate HIV.”
Throughout the Center City blocks, there were DJs in drag, blasting danceable tunes and vendors selling graphic tees that read “Straight outta the closet.” OutFest felt like a very special party to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage while building a strong community and promoting visibility.