WPS Philadelphia Independence & the LGBT Community

It’s funny, you know, before transition, I really kinda hated sports, team sports in particular, but somehow, I seem to have turned into a huge fangirl! I have had my eye on a WPS Philadelphia Independence jersey for quite some time, and you can now add a USA Women’s Soccer jersey to that, as well.

I would really love to go see the Independence play a home game, but I’m troubled by a small detail. The stadia where the Independence play their home games, at Widener University and PPL Park, are both in Chester, PA, a city which has no anti-discrimination legislation guaranteeing the rights of LGBT people, in a state which has no statewide LGBT protections, despite overwhelming support for such laws, even in the more conservative areas of the state.

Accordingly, I have written the following letter to Danielle Duff, the Independence’s Operations and Outreach Manager, in the hopes that she might be able to shed some light on the conditions trans women and lesbians like myself might face should we decide to attend a game.

Dear Danielle:

The promotion of women’s sports is a endeavor which I believe to be of great importance in advancing the standing of women in our society. As an activist for issues which affect women, and as the parent of a six-year old daughter, myself, I am deeply gratified by the efforts of Women’s Professional Soccer and the Philadelphia Independence to demonstrate to our country, and indeed, to the world, the excitement of women’s competitive sports. The entire country recently sat up and took notice of our national team as they fought their way to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship Tournament and found a new generation of soccer heroines to admire and emulate.

I would like to be more involved as a fan, and I am sure many other women like myself in the Philadelphia region would join me in enthusiasm for our local team, however, women like myself face some difficulties in Pennsylvania.

You see, I am a transsexual woman and a lesbian, and Pennsylvania, the state in which the home venues where our teams hosts their games reside, does not have anti-discrimination legislation in place that guarantees the equal protection under the law of the rights of all people, regardless of sexual or affectional orientation; or gender identity, expression, appearance, or behavior, regardless of the traditionally-held relationship of any of those to the sex a person was assigned at birth.

Fifteen states around our country now offer such protection for the LGBT community, as well as over one hundred municipal and county jurisdictions around the country, including in Pennsylvania the cities of Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Easton, Swarthmore, Bethlehem, Lansdowne, West Chester, Scranton, Allentown, New Hope, York, and Erie County.

The lack of a statewide anti-discrimination statute in Pennsylvania is particularly odd given that, as reported by Equality Pennsylvania (http://www.equalitypa.org/discrim.html), according to polling data from Susquehanna Polling & Research gathered in 2007, there is overwhelming support for such a law in the state, even in the more conservative areas of Pennsylvania. Additionally, the neighboring state of New Jersey offers a comprehensive statewide anti-discrimination law which ought to serve as the model for such laws around our country.

Transsexual or transgender people, and transsexual women like myself, in particular, face extreme discrimination and hardship in our society, which even this 21st Century, still enforces normative standards of gendered behavior and traditional sex and gender roles in a way that discourages our full participation in society. The final report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, entitled, “Injustice At Every Turn” (http://endtransdiscrimination.org/report.html), was recently jointly published by the National Center for Transgender Equality (http://transequality.org/) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (http://www.thetaskforce.org/). It documents the pervasive discrimination faced by trans people in our country. Among it’s findings are:

Trans people have a 41% suicide attempt rate, compared with 1.6% of the general population.

Trans people are unemployed at approximately double the rate of the general population.

Trans people are four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10K/year than the general population.

90% of trans people responding to the survey reported experiencing harassment in their jobs due to their gender identity or expression

The list goes on and on, and I would encourage you to read not only the website, but both the Executive Summary of the report, as well as the Full Report.

This brings me to the most important reason why I am writing this letter. Fifty-three percent (53%) of respondents report experiencing verbal harassment or disrespect in places of public accommodations. Because both venues, (Widener University and PPL Park) where the Philadelphia Independence play their home games reside in a jurisdiction which does not protect the rights of trans people or homosexual people to access public accommodations, such as sporting venues, restaurants, hotels, or public restrooms, the idea of attending a game in support of our local teams is one fraught with difficulties and dangers.

I am unclear, currently, as to the official policies of Widener University and PPL Park concerning the equal treatment of all patrons, nor am I aware whether or not the Philadelphia Independence has promulgated an official policy on the subject which affects events held at either of these two venues, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could clarify the position of your organization and the positions of the venues in question. It would also be helpful if you could provide me with any official policy of Women’s Professional Soccer, if extant. Because I am an activist as well as a fan, I will be certain to publicize this information to help the LGBT community participate in supporting WPS and the Philadelphia Independence.

As a final request, I have not been able to locate contact information for your counterpart at the offices of the Philadelphia Union, and I would appreciate it if you could either share this letter with the management there, or provide me with any contact information for a person to whom it would be appropriate to address a similar letter.

Philadelphia is a city with a long and celebrated history of promoting freedom and equality. Although I no longer reside in Philadelphia, until recently I resided in the Philadelphia metropolitan area for approximately 20 years, including 7 years in Center City, and I still reside in what is considered the Philadelphia Metro market area. All the teams I support are Philadelphia teams. I would hope that any team that represents Philadelphia would also hold in high regard the values upon which the City of Philadelphia was founded 350 years ago and continues to promote.

Thank you for your time and any assistance you can provide in clarifying my questions…and GO Independence! I hope to see you at a home game, soon!


Gemma Catherine Viola Seymour

The Seal of Yin-Haan