NAVAL SURFACE WARFARE CENTER, PHILADELPHIA DIVISION —
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division held its first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) History Month event featuring Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims as the guest speaker on Oct. 9.
Since 2012, Sims has represented Pennsylvania’s 182nd District, which consists of Philadelphia County, and is the first out gay man in the history of Pennsylvania’s State Legislature.
“This is our first LGBT History Month event. I’m very happy to be hosting this and I’m hoping it will be the first of many,” said Chris Savage, NSWCPD’s deputy technical director. “Philadelphia is full of LGBT history, from Walt Whitman’s writing, to protests at City Hall in the 1960s, to the city’s Gayborhood neighborhood.”
Sims discussed growing up with two retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonels for parents, Pennsylvania’s LGBT community, and the need for empathy in government.
The state representative said he inherited his passion for equality from his mother, noting that because of her he witnessed firsthand how important it is for women to be represented and thus grew up wanting to become a feminist lawyer.
He was so set on becoming a lawyer that he took and passed the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) at age 16. He went to law school immediately after college, becoming a policy attorney and civil rights advocate in Philadelphia.
Sims has spent his career pushing for equality and civil rights for all. While there has been progress, Pennsylvania does not have civil rights protections for LGBT people. Race and religion are protected under the Civil Rights Act but sexual orientation is not, he said.
“Pennsylvania doesn’t have any LGBT rights,” Sims added. “This conversation that we are having could get me fired in about 70 percent of the state. I could be booted from a restaurant, or my house, or be denied promotions at work. I could even be fired if they thought I was gay, even if I wasn’t.”
Sims pointed out that Philadelphia is considered to be the best city in the country for LGBT civil rights.
“No city in America is as equal for LGBT people,” he said. “Not San Francisco, not New York.”
As a state representative, Sims looks to expand everyone’s civil liberties and believes the best way to create change is to vote underrepresented people into office. He decided to run after he was unable to find another LGBT politician to support.
“The ripple effect of equality is usually started by legislature,” he said.
Sims also believes the best way to make the government function more smoothly is for more women to be in elected positions.
“The answer to our broken democracy is women in politics,” he said. “More important is women of color in politics. We need more empathy. We need people to be able to connect.”
Sims is hopeful for the future because, “more women, people of color, and LGBT people ran in the last election cycle than ever before.”
LGBT History Month was first celebrated in 1994 by a coalition of education-based organizations in the United States. A teacher in Missouri realized that schools were not teaching the trials and triumphs of the LGBT community and started organizing to teach LGBT history during the school year. October was selected to include National Coming Out day, which is celebrated on Oct. 11, and because schools are back in session.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,600 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.