Exclusive: Philly National Coming Out Day celebrations set for first weekend in October

By Michael Zipkin

For the first time since 2019, Philadelphia will celebrate National Coming Out Day. Galaei’s Pride 365 program will organize the weekend of events, called OURfest — which stands for “our uniting resilience” — and will kick off Saturday, Oct. 7 from 4-6 p.m. with the inaugural National Coming Out Parade. The parade will stretch from 5th and Market streets to Broad and Locust streets. Meanwhile, the OURfest: National Coming Out Resource Fair and Festival is set for Sunday, Oct. 8 in the Gayborhood, spanning 12th and Spruce streets to 13th and Walnut streets, with other nearby roads closed off.

“We’re really coming at this from an angle of celebrating National Coming Out Day in Philadelphia and the nation coming here to do that,” said galaei Executive Director Tyrell Brown of the annual LGBTQ+ awareness day observed on Oct. 11.

Galaei is encouraging LGBTQ+ community members from all corners of the country to make travel plans soon for the three-day festival, which includes a welcome event on Friday, Oct. 6, and other festivities to be announced.

For many years, Philadelphia’s National Coming Out Day festival was the largest, Brown said.

“So [we’re] really adding layers to what we traditionally expect for National Coming Out Day in Philadelphia, and making sure that it is something that is truly representative of the city, but also of the national implications of what it means to come out now in 2023, and being able to tell the diverse stories of us coming out as people. Not everyone has the same path or walks the same path, so we want to make sure that we’re really lifting up what these diverse stories mean.”

A new way to celebrate National Coming Out Day

Up until 2019, the organization Philly Pride Presents (PPP), helmed by Franny Price, organized Pride and Outfest events in Philadelphia for decades. In June of 2021, local queer and trans BIPOC activists called for PPP leadership to be overhauled and for serious changes to be made due to what they saw as PPP’s failure to make Pride and Outfest events inclusive of and accessible to Black and Brown and other minority LGBTQ+ community members. This included centering police at Pride parades and other culturally-insensitive decisions.

Shortly after the announcement of a speak-out event by QTBIPOC organizers, PPP shut down its entire organization. A new group of Black and Brown, queer and trans community members, who called themselves PHL Pride Collective, began organizing a Philly Pride event that they intended to be much more reflective of the community and of the history of Pride as a protest movement. Galaei leadership offered their physical space for PHL Pride Collective at the time, but due to differences of opinion, the brunt of the Pride organizing ended up falling on the galaei team, and PHL Pride Collective ultimately ceased being active as a group. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disbandment of PPP, OURfest is the first National Coming Out Day celebration in Philly in four years, and will boast the first parade of its kind.

OURfest: National Coming Out Parade

The OURfest parade will consist of curated and designed floats, representatives from community organizations and live performances. It will also include themed sections that will feature LGBTQ+ youth and families, sports and recreation, professional leaders, pioneers and grand marshals, arts and culture, drag performers and other components of queer and trans culture. The “community cheer” section will showcase the new 200-foot Pride flag featured at the June Pride festivities.

According to a statement from galaei, the final route for the parade is being finalized and will be shared in a future update.

OURfest: National Coming Out Resource Fair and Festival

Similar to galaei’s Pride march and festival, the OURfest resource fair and street festival will be abound with performances, speeches, resources and food from a multitude of LGBTQ+ organizations, nonprofits, artists, makers, entertainers, restaurants, bars, food trucks and vendors. The first annual Mx, Ms or Mr OURfest 2023 will also be awarded at the festival.

Marchers during this year's Pride parade in Philadelphia. (Photo: Cody Aldrich Photography and Aversa PR)
Marchers during this year’s Pride parade in Philadelphia. (Photo: Cody Aldrich Photography and Aversa PR)

Festival attendees can also enjoy youth and family programming that includes bounce houses, game trucks, resources, chest feeding and changing stations, and other resources. Members of several local LGBTQ+ youth orgs will curate this section, including The Attic Youth Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence, galaei’s Student Power Leadership and Activism Together program, Philly Family Pride and the William Way Community Center.

“Bailar con amor,” a space dedicated to Afro-Latinx heritage, art, dance and expression, will have a space at the festival, as it did at Pride. “Kiki Alley” will provide a performance space to showcase the culture and history of Philly’s Ballroom scene, and the “Philadelphia Muses” stage will be rife with local performers, DJs and producers, including Sway Philly and BOS Philly. “OURstage” will feature a melange of producers and acts that don’t have physical brick-and-mortar spaces.

On a more somber note, OURfest festival goers can also engage in a space dedicated to Maso Mut, galaei’s “dearly departed sibling,” as a press release states. Mutt was part of the PHL Pride Collective and died by suicide last year. The space, VICE (*18+), will have workshops on kink and consent, resources and shops with leather items for purchase and safe sex items for free.

The OURfest festival will also offer other spaces and resources including the “decompression zone” in partnership with Disability Pride PA, where attendees can avail themselves of comfortable seating, a cooling station, bathrooms and more. Community services will be available, such as medical tents staffed by doctors and nurses from Bebashi Transition to Hope and Mazzoni Center, as well as therapists, people trained in narcan administration, security managers and other helpful staff. Galaei’s Prioritizing Our People program will have its wellness tent, composed of local community-based organizations, which will offer linkage to health testing and care, and resources like housing, health care and employment by way of case management opportunities. Corporate Way will feature tables by vetted businesses that have shown support for the weekend’s events. Beyond that space, the larger OURfest community will remain the center of attention.

The Pride 365 team intends to “focus not just on the celebratory aspect, but also making sure that there are resources here to support the community after they do come out,” Brown said. “[We’re] really trying to highlight our organizations, the infrastructure here in Philadelphia, the small businesses here in Philadelphia and to do that in scale.”

Of course, a variety of food trucks will be available at the festival, as well as a “sober vibes” space hosted at Writer’s Block Rehab.

For more information about OURfest and Pride 365, visit https://www.galaeiqtbipoc.org/ourfest/ or email [email protected] for more information on volunteering, participating or sponsoring the festival.

The schedule of events, so far, is as follows:

Saturday, Oct. 7

OURfest: National Coming Out Parade
4 p.m.-6 p.m.
5th and Market to Broad and Locust

Sunday, Oct. 8

OURfest: National Coming Out Festival
12 p.m.-7 p.m.
12th and Spruce to 13th and Walnut

Resource fair and family zone
12 p.m.-5 p.m.

Last call for mobile bars/food trucks
6:30 p.m.

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GALAEI offers free at-home testing kits and case management resources 365 days a year. Photo credit Shara Dae Howard/KYW Newsradio
Under Tyrell Brown, nonprofit Galaei served some 84,000 individuals in 2023 thanks in part to its increased visibility through Pride month.
An annual inclusive celebration with live performances, local food and more...