OUTcomes: Pittsburgh’s Big Queer Rally

Yesterday was a complete blur for me.  One moment, I'm sipping coffee with Adam waiting for anyone show up at the rally site and then next I'm sipping tea with Adam waiting for anyone to show up at the post-rally dinner site.  In between, about 125 assorted folks showed up, set up and paid attention to over a dozen speakers. 

The event itself was a surreal fusion of rally and public meeting.  Most of the speakers were politicians, sharing their perspectives and pledging support on a variety of initiatives not necessarily on the agenda, such as the City-County merger.  The location boasted a large tent with plastic siding and a lot of chairs which folks set up in somewhat tidy rows, lending an almost revival feel to the whole thing.  There were a few signs, a lot of whooping and enough folks milling around to keep it just disorderly enough to feel genuine, but Reverend Janet Edwards leading folks in her version of  “We are climbing Jacob's ladder” definitely wasn't your typical gay rally activity. 

In fact, Revered Edwards message was very non-traditional as she urged people to reclaim their communities of faith by coming out and calling for social justice within those structures.  Her song caught the imagination of the Post-Gazette reporter covering the event and I promise to print the revised lyrics soon.  I've been saying all week that she's a rock star and her point that we cannot forge a true social justice movement without tapping into communities of faith is amply supported by the outcome of Proposition 8 in California. 

I was also struck by how many stayed for the entire event, especially the speakers.  The politicians who weren't there the entire time had told me in advance that they had other commitments, but for the most part — everyone hung out in a 20 degree sleety afternoon to listen to people talk about LGBTQ rights.  It was cool in every sense of the word. 

Another one of many highlights for me was the tearful comments of Miranda Vey, who spoke very much from the heart about equality and fairness.  She bantered back and forth with emcee Gab Bonesso about the newly forming Pittsburgh chapter of Dykes on Bikes and really gave a lot of heart to a mostly intellectualized discussion.  She also demonstrated great class and maturity, putting the need of her specific group aside to focus on the larger issues and I was so very grateful to her for demonstrating leadership. 

Another shout out for the volunteers who worked the advocacy table — Jess, Jamie and Ellen.  It took great spirit to sit still for multiple hours in that weather and they did a great job sorting things out, getting people what they needed and taking ownership of this very unglamorous task.  Someone commented to me that I had the “cushy” job of mingling with the speakers, but it was actually a pretty easy task — everyone I asked was immediately on board. It was actually fairly simple as far as tasks go.  The actual on-site job was a bit like herding cats as the speakers mingled and chatted, but a very relaxed atmosphere made that work.  Plus, I got to stand up near the coffee and walk around to shake off the chill. 

The event was advocacy oriented, not coffee-drinking speaking herding oriented.  The folks who put together the handouts worked pretty darn hard to compile and disseminate the information.  All the speeches in the world won't necessarily translate into action if you provide useful information for follow up.  While it was awesome when Gab Bonesso led us in a group telephone call to Dan Onorato, the series of individual calls he hopefully receives on Monday and Tuesday are what matters.  So thanks to everyone who was part of making those informed calls happen.

Media coverage has been good.  Dana Elmendorf chatted with KDKA's Mike Pintek for an hour Friday night and deftly handled a wide range of national and local topics. WDUQ did a piece on their Saturday news updates.  WTAE was there. There was a pretty good piece in the Post-Gazette along with a lovely photo.  Rust Belt Radio was there.  And, of course, the City Paper.  And all these outlets set aside recent sensational events to focus on the advocacy agenda which reflects very well on the hard work people have been doing for years.

Ledcat wants the computer so she can share her perspectives.  I do want to say a very special thank you to our emcee, Gab Bonesso.  I believe Mr. Potter described her as “on her game” and that's so true.  She was a great sport about frigid temperatures, she was super prepared and she kept things rolling along in a very smart and funny style.  She is beyond a doubt a very much-underutilized talent in the queer community and I hope that shifts. 

Sorry for the lack of critical analysis.  It would hardly be fair since I was more occupied trying to figure out the identity of the “important looking guy” in the back of the crowd (Kevin Acklin) and all that good stuff. 

The important work begins now, my dear readers.  We have four days to drum up the attendance and testimony at the County hearing, but there's more work to be done.  If you are kicking yourself for staying home and missing all the fun, go to www.steel-city.org and get involved.  Make some calls, volunteer for the GLCC, do something. 

Finally, I do want to share my father's insight upon learning I was going to a gay rights rally in the sleet and snow.  “Do you have your Terrible Towel?” he asked.  That's so Pittsburgh.  So bring your Terrible Towel on Thursday and do all of our Dads proud.

 

 

 

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