For the first time, the City of Brotherly Love now has the iconic pink, white, and blue of the transgender pride flag waving proudly above City Hall today, commemorating the start of the 14th annual Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference.
While the city has before hoisted the rainbow colors of the LGBT flag — and even has rainbows adorning the street signs of its "gayborhood" district — flying the pride flag is a new way for the city to specifically celebrate its transgender citizens.
Raised in a ceremony attended by an estimated 200 conference-goers, the act is greatly appreciated by many, according to conference coordinator Samantha Dato. The flag was raised at noon local time today.
"We couldn't be more thrilled that the City of Philadelphia is celebrating and recognizing our transgender community by raising the flag," she tells The Advocate. "The flag-raising is a powerful symbol of just how far we have come, thanks to the work of so many dedicated leaders and activists committed to advancing our rights as equal citizens. While there is still much work to be done, it's an honor to be able to join with our trans communities and allies for this moment of pure celebration."
Philadelphia, while considered an LGBT-friendly city, is still home to transphobic violence. Earlier this month, black trans woman London Kiki Chanel was murdered — allegedly by the boyfriend of a friend — in a North Philadelphia house. Her death is the eighth reported murder of a trans woman in the U.S. this year. Though raising the trans pride flag will not necessarily halt such violence, it does send a message of support and continued dedication to improving the lives of Philadelphia's trans population, according to Nellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia's director of LGBT affairs.
"Far too often the 'T' is left behind or out of sight when we talk about LGBT issues, and it's important to visibly make a commitment to work that we know needs to be done. I can't think of anything more visible than putting the trans flag right next to the American flag at City Hall," she told Philadelphia Gay News. "We have far too many times where the trans community is mourning, from Trans Day of Remembrance to every time we lose somebody. But instead we should take a moment and revel in the empowerment of where the community is going because that's incredibly important to celebrate."
Fitzpatrick worked with conference organizers to organize the flag-raising, and says she sees it becoming an annual event. The Health Conference, held at Pennsylvania Conference Center, is the largest gathering focusing on transgender health in the world, attracting over 3,000 community members, activists, and healthcare providers each June.
Making its debut appearance in the U.S. back in 1999, the trans pride flag will remain up in Philadelphia through the end of the conference on Saturday.