Nate Plunders the Archives: Part 1

With the William Way archives at hand, I have begun to do some archive work for the first time in my life (well, mostly just picking and choosing what to look at). When I search for information on topics I will typically Google it, as I can assume most people will do now. Google is perhaps the most useful tool one can use today, but like all tools, it can be easy to misuse and instead of finding information that is authentic and credible, you end up in a Wikipedia spiral that leads to conspiracy theories about Martians that have infiltrated the highest levels of government and are controlling the fate of humanity (or seemingly destroying it through idiocy…). While Google scholar can prove a handy tool in any research work I need to do for classes, there is still an issue of information not being on the internet. This problem is very apparent with queer history, which is often not taught and is often not mentioned. With the vast collection of printed material in the archives I could glean information that may not be on the all-knowing internet.

 Just grab everything

Just grab everything

Where am I going with this? Well, after a brief trip to the archives I have already learned some important information regarding gay news in the past. Drum Magazine, which was highlighted by the William Way Archives, was a good starting point and proved to be something that I will return to again. With its mix of news updates, stories about pot, and barely-dressed or nude men on every other page, it seems to be the peak of gay media. Reading something written in the late sixties proves to be quite interesting, although the time period was very different, there seems to be a great deal of overlap with the discussions we still have today. In a women’s section of one Drum Magazine (find volume issue #) there was an article about femininity and how there is a very narrow definition that many people consider “feminine.” This discussion of gender and of pressure on women to look and act a certain way is still just as present today. The looks that women were striving to achieve in that time, though, were far different than they are now, and we can stand to reason that in another 50 years the definition of femininity will have taken a different mantle (or have been done away with completely).

 KNOWLEDGE!!!!

KNOWLEDGE!!!!

I also was able to read some of Philadelphia Gay News from the early eighties, with my intent to find a first story on the AIDS crisis. I did not find that story but I did find a front-page article about what had been learned of AIDS by 1984 (check this again). I was able to read something from the source instead of a summary of it online, which has been a rare experience for this millennial. There was a greater connection I believe and I was able to read what was written with all the knowledge we have today. It was notable that for prevention the article suggested less partners, knowing your partners were in “good health,” and that the best prevention seemed to be monogamy. At the end of the article was an italicized disclaimer that the article was not meant to be political, but only strived to inform. This presents an interesting disconnect from how we talk about sex today (perhaps not a very large one) as we have more information about AIDS and HIV, a drug that can prevent contraction, and encourage the use of condoms for prevention. The hesitance to use condoms seems to have continued now though, and as the AIDS Crisis recedes into the past we are seeing alarming new HIV rates as people become less persistent about the use of condoms or do not have the access to PReP. This topic could be a post in itself but I will hold that for later.

 TOO MUCH KNOWLEDGE

TOO MUCH KNOWLEDGE

For now I am not going into the archives with an express purpose besides learn about queer history of Philadelphia and beyond. It would be rewarding to enter the archives with intent so I can focus on specific information. I will definitely be returning to the archives for more information and to gain knowledge in a way that is not utilized as often today, but that which still has great purpose and results. I’ll have to Google other archives in the area to find out more…

 MRW I find some juicy info 

MRW I find some juicy info 

Reflecting on Orlando

Nate Pentz

What transpired in Florida is “not going to tear our community apart; we are going to continue to come together, and build together and continue to organize and to end all of this violence that’s happening because we know it’s not just about gun violence,” said Jorge Gutierrez, passionately.

My first year of college, the first year I lived out of the closet, news was centered on marriage equality and the unstoppable wave of progress. Less than a month after I finished my first year Pennsylvania legalized same-sex marriage. The summer after my second year marriage equality was nationwide. Discussions among campus groups often centered on what was next and how we, as a community, could avoid becoming complacent after large victories that certainly did not mean the end of the road. Recalling those conversations brings up almost a bitter taste in my mouth. We were very right in many ways, and in others we were so, so wrong. It was never conceived that the largest mass shooting would occur in a gay nightclub, and it was not thought that the toll could be so high.

I have experienced privilege in many ways. Being white I hold a great deal of privilege, and I have not encountered large problems because of my sexual identity. In times like these I want to convey my own feelings about the shooting while boosting the voices of those who were victimized and their communities. I am still coming to terms with the shooting and what it means for the queer community. This process has taken a toll because, for the first time, I have been afraid to be who I am, I have been afraid to attend a queer event, I have been afraid for my life. I am also angry that this event has barely been properly recognized by most news stations and that it only seems like violence against queer people is increasing and nobody outside of the community cares. I have committed my college career and more to LGBT issues, but now I feel like I have no real power to enact change. 

I am also very confused on where to go from here and what the community could do. This was not in the dialogue at Penn State.  For Pennsylvania, workplace discrimination protections and hate crime laws have moved nowhere in years. If this happened in my state it wouldn’t matter that the news broadcasters are hesitant to admit that it was a hate crime; it wouldn’t even be legally classified as a hate crime.

This blog is serving as a means for us to document our own experiences at the Center and around Philadelphia, as well as highlighting news stories over the summer. The Orlando shooting is dominating news currently and there are many voices speaking on the issue, but I believe that this article, “Queer Latinos After Shooting: 'Mi Existir es Resistir',” boosts the voices of queer latinxs and summarizes how the entire community feels about this incident.


Read the full article, "Queer Latinos After Shooting: 'Mi Existir es Resistir'," here http://bit.ly/1Q1RgGE

In the article those interviewed talked about their identities as queer and trans latinx people, as they gathered in the New Jalisco Bar in Los Angeles. They talked about community spaces and safe spaces and why these are important to them. A message I've seen many queer people try to convey about this incident is that there is a disconnect with the greater American community about why bars are so important for queer people. 

‘Sitting here in the New Jalisco Bar, which for me as a queer and trans Latinx, it becomes very real for me that these are our community spaces,” Esperanza said. “Often as queer and trans people, but especially as queer and trans people of color, we don’t have spaces to come together in community, so clubs and bars have been so important to us, where we can be around people that look like us, that live like us.’
‘These clubs are sanctuaries for us,” said community organizer, Jorge Gutierrez. He doesn’t show up to Jalisco just to dance, he said, but rather, he sees it as a space “where a lot of us can be our true selves.’

One can also see a questioning of safe spaces and whether there can truly be one, Johnny Pimentel, age 19, comments on this in the article.

Johnny Pimentel, 19, was invited to the event at Jalisco by his friend, the organizer, Esperanza. They have a hard time believing safe spaces exist, especially as a person who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them, because they face the threat of violence every day when going outside at night wearing makeup or dressing “a certain way.”

And highlighted in the article is the moment where the exact issue Pimentel is discussing materializes itself as if cued.

In the process of getting interviewed outside the bar about whether Pimentel felt safe going to gay spaces in the future, given what took place in Orlando, a man walked by, mocking them, and repeated the phrase “gay bars,” in a sarcastic tone, scoffing, before walking away.


And finally, perhaps the most prominent message of the article is the need for queer voices of color to be brought forward and to be heard. The issues that these communities face are too often ignored or forgotten but if we are to be one community we cannot allow that to happen.

Jorge Gutierrez, of Familia, said he hopes people don’t erase the identities of those who died. “One thing to remind ourselves is that this is a moment; the stories, the narrative, the voices need to be centered around the LGBTQ Latino and black communities.”

Donate here (Florida Equality): https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund

(GLBT Community Center of Central Florida): https://www.gofundme.com/orlandounited

 

 

On Talking and Listening at the Philly Trans Health Conference

written by Sarah

Last week, Nate and I got to table at this year’s Philly Trans Health Conference. It was my first time at the Conference. Although several friends had encouraged me to go in years past, I had declined, both out of unavailability and hesitancy of the space I take up in such a place. Going to represent the Center and offer resources to attendees seemed like a perfect opportunity to at least get my feet wet.

Anyone who has tabled for a school club before knows how utterly monotonous the process can be; dehumanizing at worst, dull at best. As both a former Girl Scout and a signer for several student groups, I am sorely accustomed to keeping a smile plastered on and trying to be friendly as anxious passersby avoid eye contact, hurrying away from me as quickly as possible for fear of being convinced to either buy something or sign up for a list-serve. Point being, my expectations for tabling at generally pretty low; if nobody shoots me a look like I’m single-handedly responsible for this year’s presidential nominees, I consider it a successful day.

After somehow getting lost about 5 times on the way to the Convention Center (I get off at Jefferson - how is that even possible?) I finally met up with Nate and Eric, who had already set up the table. It was only 10 on the first day of the Conference, but the lobby was already bustling with vendors and businesses, offering an appealing variety of free pens, candy, and tee shirts. It was only a few minutes after I had settled in that people came over and started talking to us, asking questions about the Center and, of course, going for the wristbands we brought with us.

By an hour in, Nate and I both had our spiels down pretty well: “We’re the William Way Center, located right down the street on 13th and Spruce, we offer about 40 programs a month plus a huge library and archive...” etc, etc, etc. Every person who we talked to was actually kind and receptive, or at the very least, polite. (And, ok, I’ll admit it - chatting with families and kids undoubtedly brought that domesti-queer baby fever into my heart.) Even better, many of them had already heard of the Center, or attended programs there! People spoke sincerely of their appreciate for William Way in a way that I hadn’t expected. Here I was, an intern who hasn’t even been here a month, and people were talking about experiences they’d had here years and years ago.

One particular story that stuck with me was an older woman who told us that she’d seen TransWay in at least 8 or 9 different versions. She said that the first time the group had ever met, someone had convinced her to go with the promise of pizza, only for her to show up with no pizza there. They promised that the second time, there would definitely be pizza; validly suspicious, she had brought the pizza on her own instead. Finally, at the fourth meeting, “there was pizza, and there has been pizza at every meeting after since.”

In this way, tabling at the Trans Health Conference was beyond a good experience; it brought a warmth and depth to William Way that I had previously been unfamiliar. It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about queer history; it’s another to volunteer or intern at an LGBT Center, and it’s also another to actually listen to the stories within your community. Suddenly programming went from something typed up on a calendar to something talked about in the context of fond memories and excitement about the future. And in a larger sense, just being around such a generally engaging and sensitive crowd of people brought me some warm and fuzzy feelings in the mildly apathetic pit of my soul.

Going back to my domesti-queer comment, there’s something about seeing so many loving, non-heteronormative families in one place that makes me go “!!!” internally. Part of that comes from the way our society has boxed queerness and gender non-conformity into this strange roped-off area of “adult things,” things that are neither appropriate or accessible for children. Obviously, this is hurtful to me as a gay adult, but even more so, it’s hurtful and harmful to gay children, or trans children, or any children who will be under the LGBT+ umbrella at some point. Meeting kids who were writing their pronouns on their name tags, going to workshops, and essentially being encouraged to take the reigns over their own gender, presentation, and identity - the only way I can sum it up is with my previous “!!!”

I found that after a few hours, my memorized speech had gone from canned to thoroughly sincere, deviating from the script as appropriate. My takeaway from Thursday and Friday was an intensely positive one. For all the people I talked to, I know there are dozens more with their own anecdotes related to the Center. Packing up on Friday afternoon, part of me was wishing we could come back on Saturday and have the chance to talk to people again. Maybe at next year's conference, I'll be the one stopping by the William Way table to tell my story.

Who is Nate??

By: Nate Pentz

Nate is now a senior at Penn State University studying sociology with a sexuality and gender studies minor. He has lived outside of Philadelphia his whole life, most of that time in Broomall. Although he has lived near the city for so long he discovered the William Way Center relatively recently and upon that discovery applied to be an intern for the summer.

 You get that internship Nate! 

You get that internship Nate! 

Nate did not come out until he had finished high school and arrived at Penn State, a decision partially made on the available resources at the school. He joined several LGBT student organizations on campus like the LGBTA Student Roundtable and the LGBTA Student Coalition and has served on the executive boards of both orgs. This last year he worked as a programming assistant with Penn State’s LGBTQA Student Resource Center. For his final year at Penn State he will continue his work with the Penn State community as a co-chair for student concerns in Penn State’s Commission on LGBTQ Equity and as an at-large representative of Penn State’s student government (UPUA). He will also remain active in student organizations.

 Only if you insist...

Only if you insist...

Nate hopes that he can see how the Center operates on a day-to-day basis and what services it does for the community. He is very excited to be working with such an established community center and he is also excited to continue to experience the city. Keep an eye out for posts he makes about his travels around the city in search for new places, especially places located in the Gayborhood (a place he had rarely been in before working here believe it or not).

 Actual footage of Nate exploring the city

Actual footage of Nate exploring the city

Beyond college Nate is considering several paths. He is hoping to either enter into graduate school to earn a degree in sociology or in sexuality and gender studies and conduct research, to attend graduate school in higher education to pursue student affairs at the college level, or to work in LGBTQ advocacy and community work (and then probably work on a masters or another degree after several years). Regardless of what he chooses he hopes that his experience here will give him new skills and knowledge of what LGBTQ community work is like!

 Everyone's reaction to this heartwarming bio

Everyone's reaction to this heartwarming bio

Nate Travels the City Part 1

By: Nate Pentz

Nate is an intern with the William Way Center and also wants to explore the Gayborhood and Center City more. We asked Nate to write about some things he is doing while he roams around the city in search for really cool queer stuff. Giovanni’s room stands out as a place to visit because it not only has a huge selection of queer reading, it stands as the oldest queer bookstore (also now doubling as a thriftstore) in the country.

For me, I’ve always searched to read on whatever topics I enjoy, and being queer means that I want to read on a whole range of things related to my identity and other queer identities. The existence of Giovanni’s room and spaces where one can find books that speak to their identity and experience is incredibly important. There is a lack of these spaces where you can find books made for you and the queer community, and reading these works can open up one’s mind further or connect them to someone who experiences queer identity in a similar way. It is also common knowledge that reading is FUNDAMENTAL (I couldn’t resist). So here is my experience on my first trip to Giovanni’s Room!

 Never has anyone been more excited about reading

Never has anyone been more excited about reading

Barnes&Noble doesn’t really provide you with a comprehensive queer reading section. Sure I can find my endless aisles of cookie-cutter straight romance novels (which do have many, many finely toned, muscly men on the cover) but finding gay romance, non-fiction, literature? Nah. Giovanni’s Room had floor-to-ceiling shelves of queer writing though. Walking in the blue door to the building, one can immediately see the stacks of queer works on the first floor of the building. What’s even better is that they are also very affordable as they have been donated to the store. With sections like classic ol’ literature, mystery, romance, sci-fi (yes!), non-fiction, philosophy, health and wellness, and on-and-on, Giovanni’s Room is one of the largest collections of queer books I’ve ever seen. Definitely the largest when I count out the few libraries I’ve been in--Penn State’s LGBTQA Student Resource Center library and the Center’s own library--which, unfortunately, do not sell their books (and boy do I love buying books).

 Seeing all them gay books

Seeing all them gay books

When you walk up either flight of stairs--one right in the middle of the store under a wonderful skylight and one winding red staircase decked out with art and lights hiding in the back of the store--you find a selection of books that haven’t been donated and constitute the more conventional, bookstore priced section. The collection was even larger than I initially thought! It’s great to have a space where one can find writing on any aspect of queer life because, as I mentioned, Barnes&Noble usually doesn’t cut it. And browsing through selections of books is much more entertaining than browsing through the lists on Amazon. I like to pick up what I’m looking at and see what it is and rifle through shelves of titles to see what catches my eye. To have such a collection in the heart of Philadelphia is truly amazing. I won’t be able to stay away for too long before I head back to take a look again.

 and If you could turn to page 50 of The Joy of Gay Sex you'll find...

and If you could turn to page 50 of The Joy of Gay Sex you'll find...

If you are not a reader at all, there is also some quality thrifting to be done. There are rooms and rooms of unique items that you can look at, and a large selection of art that’s also for sale. This combination of thrift and book store makes the space unique in its own right and similar to Philly AIDS Thrift’s main store further south (another must-see in Philly). Instead of rooms and rooms of various thrifting gold, as one sees in PAT near South Street, Giovanni’s Room directs its focus more towards books and provides a lot of punch in a smaller space. It wasn’t long before I had been in there for an hour looking through everything in the store, but there’s still much more for me to see. Whether you are looking for classic queer literature, a campy gay romance novel, some steamy erotica, beautiful art to decorate your place, or a random doll, toy, CD player, anything, Giovanni’s is the place to go.

 nobody reads like Gaston!

nobody reads like Gaston!