While many freshmen were sitting in proseminars in classrooms around campus, a small group met at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center to take a slightly unordinary tour of Philadelphia.
Each year during New Student Orientation, LGBT Center Director Bob Schoenberg leads a group of students in a proseminar that takes the form of a tour of Philadelphia's Gayborhood.
In the meeting room at the LGBT center, the students introduced themselves - all freshmen, although students of all years can sign up.
Most of the students were very reserved, and for some it was their first experience on SEPTA. But although they had never met, they seemed comfortable with each other.
My afternoon with the group was eclectic to say the least. Coming out of the City Hall SEPTA station, we made our way through Macy's.
"What would a tour for the LGBT be without a walk through Macy's?" Schoenberg quipped.
Running through the heart of the Gayborhood, 12th Street is filled with rainbow-colored signs near Walnut and Sansom streets. The area is home to the 12th Street Gym, which serves a primarily LGBT clientele and the nicknamed "Gay Cosi," so-called for the same reason.
Although the LGBT Center does not condone underage drinking, according to Schoenberg, a large part of the tour was devoted to exploring the various clubs and bars in the Gayborhood. This aspect of the tour was very popular - provoking enthusiasm from the reserved freshmen.
The Gayborhood is also home to the largest LGBT mural in the world, as well as the oldest feminist and gay bookstore in the world.
The mural, called "Pride and Progress," is located on the west wall of William Way Community Center, at 1315 Spruce St.
The bookstore, called Giovanni's Room, is currently undergoing renovation to fix a crumbling front entrance, which was built in 1880. The director of the bookstore, Ed Hermance explained that the bookstore was basically a break-even business. As a result, the renovation is being funded by sales, donations and book signings in the community.
Naturally, the bookstore is open to all. Hermance listed a variety of groups the bookstore welcomes - those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersexual, asexual, questioning and transgender.
Two of the students in the touring group agreed that the bookstore was the highlight of the trip.
The group also stopped by Planned Parenthood, which is in the Gayborhood though, as Schoenberg emphasized, not exclusively frequented by LGBT individuals.
Schoenberg told the group a story of gay men who defended the entrance during an abortion protest.
The group also visited the Attic Youth Center, a house dedicated to supporting LGBT youth.
Throughout the tour, Schoenberg did his best to make me feel comfortable as the lone sophomore. "Hope to see you around," he said as he stepped off the bus at the end of the tour.Comments powered by Disqus
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