Earlier in the week, our beloved Post-Gazette took a half-hearted look at Pittsburgh's potential as a gay tourist destination (or not). Someone beyond your faithful correspondents noticed and took the time to share their perspective with the PG readership.
First, we have the “tolerant” homophobe who believes in live and let live as long as he doesn't have to see “leather-clad men groping each other.” Mr. Scott Smith of Boulder, Colorado (yes, he moved away but, thankfully, continues to share his wisdom with us) thinks Pittsburgh has enough problems without adding homo-lure to its list. What is Mr. Smith's objection? It gives gays … wait for it …”special consideration.” Which is bigot talk for chipping away at white-heterosexual-middle class-male privilege. GASP!
Mr. Smith sums up his own camouflaged homophobia in two sentences:
After all, being gay is just about how to have sex. It shouldn't be so all-encompassing as to define a person … or involve a campaign to attract them.
I wonder if Mr. Smith thinks his hetero-masculinity defines his person? If he took the time to pick up the pen because some queens and a few dykes might roll into town to see the Andy Warhol museum and bring their tourist dollars with them, he's got some problems.
Mr. Smith wants us to stay in the closet and pass as breeders when we sally forth into the streets of Pittsburgh. I'm tempted to write “Fuck you, Mr. Smith” here but instead I'll just enjoy the fact that his delusion of a gay-sanitized Pittsburgh ain't never gonna happen.
Christopher Miller of Shadyside offers a gay man's perspective on several other key points we mentioned last week. The article was all about what the professionals think and very heavy on what professionals outside of Pittsburgh at that. No one asked Pittsburgh, straight or gay:
Your article does not address what Pittsburghers would think of our city becoming more gay-friendly. Has anyone asked them? Would they be comfortable with seeing two men holding hands walking down the street? Would our citizens be at ease with gays and lesbians being seen and heard? Would they welcome not only the GLBT dollars to help build the city's infrastructure, but also the love and pride that many members of the GLBT community have to share?
Mr. Miller points out that a lot of gay and lesbian families he knows move to the suburbs for peace and privacy. Thus, Pittsburgh has a lot of work to do in attracting homosexuals to live here much less vacation here.
While I agree that there is tremendous room for improvement with regard to local tolerance, I believe Mr. Miller is incorrect about moving to the suburbs. First, those who do so are deluding themselves. We have more civil right protections in the city than anywhere else in Western Pennsylvania. Any sense of heightened peace and privacy is entirely at the whim of your particular neighbors. I think there is a strand of the community that just wants to convince themselves that passing for a “normal” white middle class family is the goal of gay civil rights. Its a sad trap b/c it only ends up isolating them from the rest of their communities, gay and straight.
I also perceive that a lot of gays continue to live in the city. I live on the Northside and see family everywhere — at the store, at the gas pumps, in the park, at the bank, everywhere. The issue is that we aren't connecting with each other.
And that ties back to Mr. Miller's issue — is we aren't working on visibility and connections from within Pittsburgh's gay community, we are doomed. Most people are not comfortable with openly gay people unless them know one or two or a dozen. Why? Because our culture trains us to define heterosexuality as the norm. My opinion is that exposure is the only way to realistically chip away at that. Exposure through the arts, in the workplace, politics, Little League, faith communities, etc.
We need more people living proudly and out (albeit safely) rather than hiding away in some cul-de-sac in Mr. Smith's neighborhood being careful not to hold hands. Or grope leather clad men.