Timeline of Recent Queer Radical Struggle in Philly

**featured artwork is by Art and short stories by: Wriply M. Bennet, visit for purchases and comissions**

1954 — Cops from Frank Rizzo’s precinct raid three clubs and arrest “female impersonators.” Continuing well into the 1970s, countless LGBTQ people are arrested, beaten and/or sexually assaulted by police when they raid queer bars.


February 1959 — Captain Rizzo and cops raid Humoresque Coffeeshop, 2036 Sansom, and arrest the owner and 34 patrons (“men with beards,” “women in tights”).


1962 — Rizzo, now Philadelphia Police Commissioner, instructs bar owners not to serve “drag queens,” under penalty of losing their liquor license.


April 25, 1965 — Dewey’s restaurant near Rittenhouse Square refuses to serve groups of “homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing.” Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, more than 150 Black, white, transgender, lesbian and gay people stage a sit-in, and three teenagers are arrested. After a second sit-in a few days later, management agrees to end its discrimination.


July 4, 1965 — The first annual Reminder Day picket at Independence Hall.


1969 — Gay Liberation Front forms in Philadelphia, with a significant proportion of African-American, Latinx, and Asian members.


September 1970 — Kiyoshi Kuromiya speaks at the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention, organized nationally by the Black Panthers and held in Philadelphia, with a list of demands from the “Male Homosexual Workshop” to be addressed by radical Left movements.


June 1972 — In Philly’s first gay pride demonstration, 10,000 people march from Rittenhouse Square to Independence Hall. Marchers dress freely, sing and chant, rejecting the respectability politics of Reminder Day.


September 12, 1991 — Police attack ACT UP activists carrying a coffin across Broad Street to protest government neglect of HIV/AIDS amid a devastating death toll. A witness tells City Paper, “All of a sudden the entire mood changed from political protest to cops against fags and dykes. They beat the crap out of people.”


Dec 22, 2002 — Nizah Morris, a Black trans woman, is picked up by a police officer at 13th and Walnut and offered a “courtesy ride.” She is found bleeding from her forehead at 16th and Walnut and dies two days later as a result of traumatic blows to her head. Community members believe that the investigation was grossly mishandled or included a cover-up. Activists are still pursuing their own investigations 15 years later.

June 2016 — LGBTQ activists speak out against honoring a gay police officers’ group as Pride Parade Grand Marshals while trans and queer people of color experience racial profiling and deadly state violence. Philly GOAL steps down.



City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972, by Marc Stein

“Brushes with Lily Law,” by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, chapter in Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith







Philadelphia City Paper editorial, Sept. 20-27, 1991




  1. i think this history is important but i would call it a history or resilience or something. it feels disingenuous to call it a history of struggle since so much of it is a history of suffering. i’d love to see timeline of queers revolting, attacking homophobia and transphobia, and more focus on queers being active creators and destroyers rather than a narrative that makes our history mostly one of victimhood.


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