IT IS WITH DEEP SADNESS THAT WE INFORM OUR COMMUNITY OF THE PASSING OF ONE OF OUR OWN… GLORIA CASAREZ.
The incomparable Gloria Casarez, the City’s first director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs has died at the age of 42 to Cancer.
Gloria Casarez has been a staple to the LGBTQ community of Philadelphia for over 20 years.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Kensington, Mexican descent Casarez graduated from West Chester University with degrees in criminal justice and political science. She was the founding member and community organizer of Empty the Shelters, a national housing rights and economic justice organization.
At the age of 27, Casarez became the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) in Philadelphia. Casarez led GALAEI from 1999-2008, tripling the organization’s funding and developing nationally recognized programs serving men of color and transgender communities, including Philadelphia’s first mobile HIV testing centers and the Trans-health information project – the first multi-serve transgender health program.
Her work has shown a continuing interest in constituent led and community organizing efforts, starting with her early participation in social justice and political action movements. An early advocate of harm reduction, Casarez co-chaired the board of directors for Prevention Point Philadelphia from 1999-2003. She was a longtime board member and leader of the Bread and Roses Community Fund, a public foundation that supports grassroots organizations working for racial and economic justice. She was a founder of the Philadelphia DKYE March, Drag King, and the House of (Manolo) Blahnik Board of Directors. Casarez’s work supporting LGBT ballroom communities was recognized with her receiving the Humanitarian Award at the House of Prestige’s 20th Anniversary Renaissance Ball and the Community Service Award at the House of Blahnik Ball.
In 2008, she was appointed to a public sector position as Director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, leading the efforts of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and the Mayor’s Advisory Board on LGBT Affairs. She fought for many issues including public safety, education, economic development, health and city services and civil rights. In 2011 she co-founded RAICES LATINO PRIDE, an organization formed to enhance LGBT latin pride and awareness throughout the city of Philadelphia.
In 2012, Philadelphia ranked number two nationwide for LGBT equality in the First Edition of the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. Because of Gloria’s hard work, Philadelphia was the highest scoring city in the nation (of the ten largest cities) and the highest scoring city without statewide legal protections for LGBT people. During Casarez’s tenure, Philadelphia adopted the broadest LGBT rights protections in the nation.
GLORIA CASAREZ, a leader, a pioneer, an advocate, a humanitarian, a sister, a lover, a friend. She will truly be missed by all.
Casarez is survived by her wife Tricia Dressel.