Many people lovingly describe former Philadelphia Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo as larger than life. In reality, he was a racist and homophobic bigot who used his authority to assault and oppress both the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. He loved the N-word and setting loose vicious police dogs against Black protesters. His police department was renowned for its wholesale roundups of suspected gay persons on their Saturday night raids of LGBTQ+ clubs and bars.
On Tuesday, state workers finally removed his statue from its place opposite city hall. The question now is which Philadelphian will be honored in its place. Here are six great LGBTQ+ names the city should consider to replace Frank Rizzo.
The Philadelphia transplant was an early activist for political and civil rights for lesbians through her work with the Daughters of Bilitis. She edited the group’s magazine The Ladder and advocated against workplace discrimination and the American Psychiatric Association’s treating homosexuality as a mental illness. The American Library Association and GLAAD have awards named in her honor.
In 2008 Gloria Casarez was named Philadelphia’s first Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs. As a student at West Chester University she co-founded Empty The Shelters, and later became Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) in Philadelphia at the age of 27.
Dr. John Fryer was the first gay American psychiatrist to publicly fight back against the American Psychiatric Association’s practice of treating homosexuality as a mental illness. Forced to leave his residency at University of Pennsylvania because of his orientation, he is most famous for delivering a speech to the APA’s 1972 annual meeting under the name of Dr. Henry Anonymous while wearing an ill-fitting mask.
The famous gay artist isn’t from Philadelphia, but he did paint the famous two-story-tall We the Youth mural as part of the city’s anti-graffiti Mural Arts Program. Haring grew up in nearby Reading before later moving to New York City where he gained fame for his chalk graffiti art in the city’s subway system.
Nobody had a bigger heart or deeper pockets than Mel Heifretz. Growing up poor in South Philly, Heifretz went from sweeping floors at age nine in his parent’s hair salon to becoming a real estate developer, philanthropist, and operator of a string of LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and hotels. He was also the community’s best friend, using his wealth to donate tens of millions of dollars that supported groups like The Trevor Project, as well as the Presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.