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Locally LGBT+: Local Educators and Activists Join Mayor Kenney’s LGBT Commission

  The City announced 23 new members for Mayor Jim Kenney’s Commission on LGBT Affairs on February 14th. The body is intended to advise Mayor Kenney on responsive policies that will best support the lives of LGBT+ Philadelphians.

   Three members of the board have Temple University ties and foster a strong commitment to North Philadelphia. Malcolm Kenyatta, Dr. Heath Fogg Davis and Dr. Leonore Carpenter plan to focus on LGBT+ rights locally.

   Malcolm Kenyatta, an alumnus of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication, joins the Commission with his own unique perspective and experiences, having grown up in North Philadelphia as a gay, African-American and Christian man. Kenyatta has activism in his blood — he’s the grandson of the late-Muhammad Kenyatta, a civil rights activist and educator.

   “The most important title I have is citizen [of North Philadelphia,]” Kenyatta told Spirit News. “We need to tell the true story of North Philly: a story of resilience and color.”

   Kenyatta has worn many hats: the youngest board member of Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club; a Delegate for the 2nd District at the Democratic National Convention; a featured face in Hillary Clinton’s national campaign ad. The list goes on, but Kenyatta has spent his time in those titles engaging the intersection of LGBT+ life and the North Philly community.

   As a member on the Mayor’s Commission, Kenyatta plans to expand on what he’s done already. He wants to tackle LGBT+ youth homelessness: 54 percent of Philadelphia’s homeless youth identify as LGBT+, according to a 2015 report by Valley Youth House, a non-profit that provides prevention and intervention services, counseling, life skills and behavioral health services to abused, neglected, and homeless youth and their families.

  Kenyatta also wants root out discrimination against transgender people of color. According to the Center for American Progress, 15 percent of transgender people report making less than $10,000 per year.

    “If we’re not talking about jobs, we’re missing the point,” Kenyatta said.

   Heath Fogg Davis wants to talk about institutional discrimination for LGBT+ individuals. Davis serves as the Undergraduate Chair and Associate Professor of Temple University’s Political Science Department. From teaching courses on gender, sexuality and law to authoring his book “Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?”, Davis constantly looks at the need for gender classification in society in his academic work.

   “I look forward to talking with other members of the Commission about ways in which we can nudge both city government, businesses and schools in our area to question their use of gender classification whether it’s in an application form or a bathroom situation,” Davis told Spirit News.

   Like Kenyatta’s wide-spanning approach to the Commission, Davis wants to be a “voice to those who maybe have felt marginalized in many different ways by race and socioeconomic class in the city.” In his advocacy, Davis has been an organizer of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference and the Trans Masculine Advocacy Network. With a place on the Commission, Davis hopes to bring to light issues that those with intersecting social identities, like transgender women of color, face. Additionally, Davis will continue to work on issues trans people face in the public sector on the Commission.

   “Often, if you take the restroom issue, which is in the public conversation about trans inclusion right now. A lot of the discussion in the city is accommodating trans people with a separate user bathroom,” Davis said. It does not totally alleviate the discrimination people that are gender variant face in the public sphere, so I’ll be pushing to consider building a restrooms in a different way so they’re not gendered in the first place.”

   Another Temple faculty member drafted on the Commission is Leonore Carpenter. Carpenter received her law degree from Temple’s Beasley School of Law and now serves as an Associate Professor of Law whose research often centers around LGBT+ rights and the LGBT+ movement. Prior to joining the Temple Law faculty, Carpenter was the Legal Director of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, who provides legal services to LGBT+ Pennsylvanians.

   Noting the intersectionality and diversity of North Philadelphia, Carpenter claims that what the Commission pushes for these identities will have a tangible effect for the area.

  “North Philadelphia is a vibrant community with a diverse mix of students and long-term residents, plenty of whom identify as LGBT,” Carpenter said in an email response to Spirit News. “Because of the diversity of the population of this area of the city, it’s likely that almost anything the Commission does will impact someone who lives, works, or studies here.”

   Kenyatta communicated his faith in Mayor Kenney and Amber Hikes, the newly-appointed LGBT Affairs Director, for what they have done thus far in their work for LGBT+ rights. With the body of leaders who make up the board, Kenyatta describes his faith in the Commission with an African proverb:  “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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