Monday, August 06, 2007

Philadelphia Daily News: Philly's Too Gay for Some Tastes

Stu Bykofsky | Philly's too gay for some tastes

IT'S TIME FOR straight talk.

Just before tourist season began, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, in Franklin, tucked into the northwest corner of the state (aka, God's country) warned people to steer clear of Philly.

It was not a formal boycott, says AFAP President Diane Gramley, a pleasant, God-fearing woman. She visited Philly three years ago and knows we're not really Sodom and Gomorrah.

Well, not Gomorrah anyway.

She wanted to spawn what I call a Boycott Lite because the city went "overboard," she says, to lure gay tourists (aka Sodomites), through advertising to gays, such as the 2004 Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation's "Get your history straight and your nightlife gay" TV commercial campaign. It cost $1.7 million, and GPTMC estimates a return of $153 for every $1 invested in gay tourism marketing.

Gay outreach was extended when the city put up 36 rainbow signs to designate Center City's gay-heavy district (aka, the Gayborhood) last April.

My condo towers are in the middle of the Gayborhood. The majority of my neighbors, like me, are straight, but aren't intimidated living among people with a superior sense of style. Nor do we find them scratching at our doors after midnight or baying at the moon.

(Despite Boycott Lite, June hotel occupancy was 7.3 percent higher than the previous June, according to GPTMC President Meryl Levitz.)

I don't think Gramley really hates gays. Mixed in with the religious fundamentalism, what I heard was fear, with an icy coating of disgust.

While she sometimes quoted scripture, Gramley more often quoted the Philadelphia Gay News, which reported gays would "feel safe walking hand in hand down the streets" of the Gayborhood.

"Why should parents be put in a situation where they have to explain that to their little kids?" she asks.

It's parents' job to explain things, I say. Besides, same-sex hand-holding isn't all that common in the Gayborhood.

Without the rainbow flags (a wrongly appropriated Christian symbol, Gramley says), she probably wouldn't even know she was in a gay mecca, I say. It's like any other Center City neighborhood.

People aren't having sex in the streets, I say. Guys aren't frenching each other, women aren't groping each other.

Designating a Gayborhood, said an AFAP press release, "actually segregates them and, in essence, proclaims 'This is our territory; stay out!' "

I wonder if AFAP wouldn't want them segregated, but I ask Gramley if having signs in Chinese in our Chinatown means non-Asians have to stay out. She sidesteps with a refrain about how "homosexual activists" try to equate their "lifestyle choice" with ethnicity.

With minor exceptions, Gramley believes gays are not born that way, they select their lifestyle.

I ask myself why anyone would volunteer to join a club that has been mocked, hated, purged, attacked and murdered for most of modern times?

Gramley also believes Philly's gay-oriented events attract trouble-makers. In my experience, there are fewer problems on Gay Pride Day than during Cinco de Mayo, St. Paddy's Day or the Greek Picnic.

"How do you think the Founding Fathers would react to what's happening?" she asks. My guess is they'd keep their noses out of peoples' privates.

"Thomas Jefferson authored a bill that penalized sodomy by castration," says Gramley.

Jefferson also kept slaves. I think he'd agree he was wrong there, too. *

E-mail or call 215-854-5977. For recent columns:


No comments: