Held at: John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center [Contact Us]1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Gloria Casarez was born in South Philadelphia on December 13, 1971. She was raised by a single mother, Elisa Gonzales, in the Kensington neighborhood of North Philadelphia, and lived in Westmount, New Jersey with a single aunt during her teenage years while attending Haddon Township High School. She came out as a lesbian at the age of 17.
Casarez received a BS in Political Science and BA in Criminal Justice from West Chester University in 1993. While in college she was appointed to the University's Commission on the Status of Women and was a William G. Rohrer Scholar. She also headed the Latino Student Union, organized Summer of Social Action and Spring Break for Change, and was a founding member of Empty the Shelters, a national student organization supporting the growth and development of poor people's organizations, for which she served as Program Director from 1991-1996. Through Empty the Shelters she became involved in the Kensington Welfare Rights Union.
From 1994-1995, Casarez served as a Marketing Assistant for New Society Publishers, and from 1995-1998 she held the position of Program Coordinator for the LGBT Center of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1997, she was hired by the Latinx social justice organizations GALAEI as Youth Program Coordinator, establishing the program Reaching Adolescents Via Education (RAVE). In 1999 she became Interim Executive Director of GALAEI. Later that year she became Executive Director, a position she maintained until 2008.
GALAEI was founded 1989 as a non-profit devoted to serving Philadelphia's Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities through education, representation, and advocacy especially in the area of HIV/AIDS and related health services. Some of GALAEI's programs established or continued under Casarez's leadership include: PASOS (Preventing AIDS Saving Our Lives), the Women's Health Project, Reaching Adolescents Via Education (RAVE), the Village Project, the Midnight Cowboy Project (MCP) for sex industry workers, the Washington West Project (in collaboration with Action AIDS, AIDS Information Network, Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives, and BEBASHI), and the Trans-Health Information Project started by Casey Cook and Ben Singer.
Casarez was a founding organizer and steering committee member of the Philadelphia Dyke March, a member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia Student Union, and served as a hotline counselor for the Transgender Health Action Coalition. She was a member and trainer for the 1998 Youth Leadership Conference of the National Latino/a Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Organization (LLEGO). In 2000, Gloria Casarez was named to Out Magazine's Top 100 of the Millennium.
In 2008, Casarez was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter as Philadelphia's first director of LGBT affairs, a post she held until her death in 2014. During her tenure she led the establishment of the mayor's Advisory Board on LGBT Affairs; the rainbow flag was raised at City Hall as an annual tradition for Pride Month; she helped shepherd an LGBT rights bill in 2013, first in the nation to offer tax credits to companies providing domestic partner and transgender health benefits; the city's Fair Practices Ordinance was overhauled; she testified before a State Senate committee on behalf of the Mayor's office against proposed legislation on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage; she advocated for the removal of gender stickers on SEPTA transpasses; served on a committee in 2009 to heighten awareness about LGBT inclusion in the US Census; worked with the Philadelphia School District to create and distribute an LGBT resource guide to city schools; lobbied for tighter anti-bullying policy, adopted by the School Reform Commission in 2009; and threw out the first pitch at the 9th annual gay community night sponsored by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Casarez served on the boards of several community organizations including: the Bread and Roses Community Fund; the Jonathan Lax Scholarship Committee; the city's LGBT Police Liaison committee (ex officio); and Prevention Point Philadelphia. She was also a founder and inaugural board member of the LGBT Elder Initiative; on the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau's PHL Diversity board; and the LGBT Research Community Community Advisory Board of Public Health Management Corporation. She was a frequent speaker at rallies in the city and read the city's first proclamation honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2012.
Besides the many awards included in the collection and listed in the series "Trophies, awards, and artifacts," Casarez was also the recipient of the Women's ENews 2010 Philadelphia Leadership Award, the Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia's 2011 Patron of Humanity Award, West Chester University 2012 Legacy of Leaders award; and she was posthumously awarded PGN Person of the Year for 2014.
Casarez was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2009. She wrote entries in a blog documenting her experiences, some of which were published in Philadelphia Gay News. She died on October 19, 2014, five years after first being diagnosed. After her death, the rainbow flag at City Hall was lowered to half-mast, and the site served as a make-shift memorial to the community leader.
Casarez is survived by wife, Tricia Dressel. They were married on August 12, 2011 in New York City; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter officiated at commitment ceremony in the city on the couple's tenth anniversary of being together, September 3, 2011.
The Gloria Casarez papers are made up of materials produced, collected, and saved by Casarez over the course of her professional career. They are arranged into seven series: 1) Empty the Shelters, 2) Kensington Welfare Rights Union, 3) GALAEI, 4) Miscellaneous, 5) News media, and 6) Trophies, awards, and artifacts, and 7) Oversize graphics.
The first series, Empty the Shelters, contains materials produced while Casarez served as Program Director of the student poverty organization from 1991-1996. Of note are the materials produced for the organization's Summer of Social Action program, 1992-1995. While working for Empty the Shelters, Casarez became involved with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. Materials from this organization make up the second series and include flyers and brochures as well as news clippings about the organization, 1993-1996.
The third series, GALAEI, is the largest, and includes a variety of materials related to her work as Youth Program Coordinator and Executive Director. There is material concerning the organization's Alternative Prom program, the Trans-Information Health Program (TIP), as well as grant applications in support of the organization's Reaching Adolescents Via Education (RAVE), PhillySafe Internet, and Midnight Cowboy initiatives. There are also flyers and brochures for a number of programs, as well as photographs of the staff and the organization's participation in the Philadelphia Pride Parade.
The miscellaneous materials series includes a range of materials that do not fit into the preceding categories, among them clippings, articles, brochures and flyers on LGBT youth/education and other issues; transgender materials; as well as documentation of awards from the National Campaign for Tolerance, and Casarez's inclusion in Out Magazine's Top 100 of the Millennium issue (2000). This file also includes a copy of Casarez's resume from that time.
The News media series includes articles about Casarez or the many organizations, programs, and initiatives she was involved in. Except in a few cases where only clippings were retained, most of these are in the form of complete issues of magazines, newsletters, or newspapers, from LGBT, Hispanic, and mainstream news sources. While not exhaustive, this is a significant accounting of the wide recognition accorded Casarez during her working years.
The series, Trophies, awards, and artifacts, includes a near complete collection of the many awards give to Casarez over the years. These are arranged in three boxes by size and material, but are listed in the finding aid in chronological order. Also in this series is a pair of figure skates signed "With love to Gloria, Johnny Weir" probably from the Olympic figure skating medalist's visit to the city of Philadelphia in 2010.
The final series, Oversize graphics, includes a framed and matted photograph of Casarez at the first rainbow flag raising at City Hall in 2010. It was posthumously signed for Tricia Dressel by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2014. Also, there are two posters and an original photograph for the GALAEI SexoLatex campaign.
Gift, Tricia Dressel, 2015
- Empty the Shelters (organization)
- Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Kensington Welfare Rights Union (Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Breast -- Cancer -- Patients
- Civic leaders
- Gay youth
- Hispanic Americans
- Lesbian activists
- Sexual minorities -- Youth
- John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center
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