Philly’s Gay Samaritan
written by: Lucas Borschell, Angelica Owens, Jabrea Reid and Christian Williams of the Gender Benders Squad in the WERQ/Radio Podcasting & Youth Making Media Internship at The Attic Youth Center
On March 30th, 2016, from 4-5:30pm, we, the WERQ/Radio Podcasting Youth Media Making Interns at The Attic Youth Center, had a private press conference with Nellie Fitzpatrick, the City’s Director for LGBT Affairs in Philadelphia. The conference took place in the Mayor’s Office of City Hall. The purpose of this meeting, curated by our internship facilitator, TS Hawkins, was to help us develop strength of character, as well as to learn how to utilize our voices from a high profile figure in the world of rainbows. She was also happy to answer any questions we had about what the office does, how it works, and about things we can do to have a voice in our daily lives.
Some of the discussion topics that were tossed around had to deal with the accomplishments of the office, such as Directive 152; which lays out what an officer is to do upon confronting a transgender person. When asked about her involvement within the police force, she told us it was because she previously was a prosecutor as an Assistant District Attorney in the city. During her time as a DA, she says she handled many abuse cases, including ones involving infants. She is now using that experience as a driving stimulus for work in the police force, even setting up GOAL (Gay Officers Action League) and helping those LGBT in the police force with coming out. Though, this is not the extent of her ambitions, as there are plans for proclamations to the city as well as to improve acceptance of LGBT in our school systems. She even offered herself as a resource to us. We feel that her perseverance to help those who are abused or discriminated is an inspiration, and should be present in all walks of life. “Change comes from within” she says, and we couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
We also wanted to learn more about her and how she got to this position, so we inquired about what challenges faced her in becoming Philly’s Director for LGBT Affairs. “Properly moving forward and keeping to goals was a challenge” she says. Nellie didn’t even know if she would be able to keep the position as Director past the last year of Mayor Nutter’s final term. Though they voted to keep the office permanently, Nellie is still shown to be persistent by doing as much as she could that year to make an impact regardless of how long she would hold office. Which is a great goal for work ethic, if you think about it.
Later in the conference we discussed the condition of our schools in regards to LGBT, as well as what we can do about it. Nellie says that school is a very big project, and has to be done right. To accomplish this, she says that impact is key, and it has to impact both students and teachers. Eight out of ten LGBT youth say they’ve felt severe isolation, which makes this all that much more important to face head on. Youth are too often made to advocate to be themselves in school, which takes away from time they could use focusing on graduating. Nellie says, “Graduating is a student’s full time job, not educating educators on how to educate them”. No statement has ever been so true!
Overall, our conference with Nellie Fitzpatrick had us engrossed in discussion and left us feeling more informed, comfortable, and motivated. We’re so happy to have had this opportunity to speak with another person like us reassuring us that politicians understand the struggles of LGBT youth in society. Through speaking with her, we have a new sense of power in our schools with demanding our needs. We have gained more motivation with informing others on the issues LGBT face in school and in politics. We have become role models for other youth around the city knowing that they have other people backing them up!