She may have lost the election to Brian Sims, but former Rep. Babette Josephs has been named as the AIDS Fund‘s “Favorite Straight Person of the Year.” The longtime advocate for the LGBT community will be honored March 1 (6:30 p.m.) at the Crystal Tea Room during the 14th Annual Black-Tie GayBINGO.
Not only did Josephs represent the 182nd district (and yep, that includes the Gayborhood) for almost 30 years in Harrisburg, but she spent most of that time advocating for LGBT rights when it wasn’t always considered such a smart political move to do so. She was one of the original members of the Pride of Philadelphia Election Committee (POPEC) and the Liberty City Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club. By the late 1980s, she also helped create the first-ever line item in the Pennsylvania state budget that allocated one-million dollars to HIV and AIDS prevention.
“When I started working on HIV issues in the late 80s,” she says, “it was a very different time. It wasn’t so simple to support HIV prevention and to educate the public about what risky behaviors were. People were frightened, and AIDS was a nasty, miserable death sentence. I’m pleased that there has been much progress in this area over the last 25 years, and hope that one day AIDS Fund and its partner organizations will no longer have to fight to our community.”
She also consistently signed legislation to enhance LGBT rights in Philly and throughout the state – and regularly stood up against homophobic remarks on the House floor during her almost three-decade term.
Michael Byrne (also known as drag performer Carlota Ttendant) is also being honored with the Founders Award this same night. Byrne began as a volunteer with AIDS Fund in 1996 when he co-hosted the first GayBINGO. He’s now the organization’s director of development who oversees the annual Dining Out for LIfe event each spring.
“AIDS Fund has given me the incredible opportunity to honor all the people that I have lost to HIV/AIDS, as this issue is personal to me,” says Byrne. “I have been moved by the amazing AIDS Fund staff, volunteers, sponsors, and audience members who have lost sons and daughters, co-workers, friends, and loved ones, who all have a story of how AIDS has touched us. I’m really grateful to be the conduit to bring all these people together where we can have fun and still touch your heart.”
Black-Tie GayBINGO, March 1, 6:30 p.m., The Crystal Tea Room, 100 Penn Square, 215-731-9255.