Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to have an annual National Coming Out Day (NCOD) event in 1990, called the “National Coming Out Day Block Party.” The so-called Outfest has been an event that is watched and anticipated by many in the nation. The idea for the Outfest was born from the second march for gay and lesbian equality on October 11, 1987, in Washington, D.C. and the idea has blossomed into a thrilling reality. The Outfest first began as a small block party on 12th and Pine St. It now roughly covers an eight to ten block area, from Walnut Street to Spruce Street, and 12th Street to 13th Street. The main stage is on 13th and Locust Street, the location of the legendary rainbow crosswalks, with a food court at 12th and Spruce Street.
Outfest 2017 will take place on October 8th, marking the 27th celebration of National Coming Out Day. Everyone should come out to the heart of the gayborhood for this incredibly fun event. This magical event is the largest LGBTQ event in Philadelphia, and the largest NCOD event in the entire world! It consists of drag shows, games, bar crawls, music, outdoor bars, dance parties, and shopping, much of which is hosted by local buinesses. Also, a main stage located on Locust hosts live entertainment of all sort all day long, from drag queens to circus performers.
However, what makes the Outfest attract over 30,000 people every year isn’t the entertainment, food, or even the artfully crafted rainbow flags, balloons, and banners; it’s the feeling of acceptance that weaves in and out of all aspects of the event. With all of the daily hatred and judgment in our lives and online, the LGBT community deserves a day where they are honored. In fact, on this day in the heart of the gayborhood, the people of this community are not just accepted, they are celebrated and respected.
This may be difficult to fathom, but the Outfest began only as a miniscule block party spread solely by word of mouth. As the festival grew into a world-renowned event, acceptance of the LGBT community grew right alongside it. The Outfest has encouraged tolerance among our nation and helped members of the LGBT community feel accepted for who they are. Freshman Isaiah Gaffeny even goes as far to say “Going to Outfest and [Philly] Pride for the first time, it felt like home.” Even if just for one day, every single human has the right to be exactly who they are, surrounded by the people they love, and the Outfest provides this opportunity year after year.
The Outfest has become an enormous festival spilling over with people of all different ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, and genders, and we come to support them, the people at the heart of all the ridicule for simply being themselves. National Coming Out Day is, in its rawest form, the day in which we celebrate the brave people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or as an ally. Coming out still matters and takes incredible courage. When people know someone who is LGBTQ, whether it is a family or a good friend, they are much more likely to come out to the Outfest and other LGBTQ events and support them.
One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who identifies as gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is one in 10. With such a large number among us, we can all be advocates, for every voice that speaks up against homophobia changes minds and helps the equality of LGBTQ people. David Rosenblum, legal director of the Mazzoni Center says, “To see young people and older people, coupled and not and racially diverse and [transgender] people…It is pretty darn amazing to see this sort of connection,” “So you see people with stars in their eyes because they’re seeing the opportunities.” The Mazzoni Center, which has provided services such as HIV testing, legal help, and counseling, is just one of many supportive businesses that participated in the Outfest and in the LGBT community. Through the years, and on National Coming Out Day, Mazzoni employees will be front and center, showing their support.
The Outfest is an event you don’t want to miss! Take this opportunity to change your community and your world for the better; and enjoy some gayborhood fun at the same time!