Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Philadelphia Story

Philadelphia's largest gay neighborhood is called -- if you've never heard this, I swear I'm not making it up -- "The Gayborhood." As a Philly vacation and travel service site notes, "Philadelphia's queer enclave overlaps with the officially designated Washington Square West neighborhood. The Gayborhood is most strongly associated with 12th and 13th streets, especially from Pine in the south to Walnut in the north, but spills out to the surrounding areas. It includes such institutions as Woody's (a gay bar), Sisters (a lesbian bar), 12th Air Command and Pure (gay clubs), Giovanni's Room (an LGBT bookstore), and the William Way Community Center. All of these establishments, as well as most straight-owned Gayborhood businesses, are friendly to queer and straight alike regardless of orientation. "

Well, even "friendly" has its limits, especially when that friendliness turns out to be two-faced. The 12th Street Gym -- which, even more than Woody's or Giovanni's Room has been a central institution and meeting place for LGBQ Philadelphians -- recently faced a very public protest and near-total boycott by the gay community. The reason? Bob Guzzardi, one of the co-owners of the gym, turned out to be a major financial and political supporter of PA Senator Rick Santorum. Yes, that Rick Santorum; the man-on-dog guy, among many other less headline-busting but equally reactionary positions.

This was one of those stories that you just knew would drag on for weeks and weeks, not just because of the political entrenchment on both sides, but because absolutely nothing in Philadelphia happens at more than a glacial pace unless the right people are getting paid off. It was stunning, then, to see that on the same day that the boycott was set to begin, Guzzardi agreed to sell his shares in the gym to co-owner/manager Rick Piper. The protest turned into a victory party -- as Tom Fitzgerald wrote in the Inky, "(t)hey won the battle without firing a shot."

I don't really have much in the way of comment on this story; it might be a harbinger of change, it might be a blip on the radar. Heck, maybe it'll turn out the whole thing was orchestrated by
the one owner just to get his partner to cash out cheap. But it made me feel good to hear that at least in some cases, people won't stand for you make your living off of them while supporting people who hate their guts. What if that were always true?

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