No one knows this, but the woman who inspired the character, “Vivian, the Angry Copyreader,” on my blog, Ms. Adventures on the Mon, was Chris Biancheria. She worked at The Pitt News copy desk when I was a writer there, back in the late '80s. And she was gay. She had an extremely dry sense of humor, and I'm pretty sure she found me amusing, in all my bubbly blonde, hetereosexual glory. Chris taught me a very valuable lesson about prejudice against the gay community; one I often repeat. She was — and is — a very smart woman.
There was a frequent letter-to-the-editor writer — an African-American woman — who used the phrase, “you whites” a lot in her letters. She wrote to all the local papers — not just TPN. In an effort to better understand her, I set up a meeting to listen to her concerns. Chris asked to come along, and so we went to the Burger King on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, which is now long gone (emminent domain!).
Chris didn't exactly tell me what she was up to. But it was pretty clever, what she did. She let a photo of a man embracing another man “accidentally” fall out of a textbook for our frequent letter writer to see, to gauge our letter writer's reaction. Our letter writer was appalled, and made a derogatory remark. The intent was to expose her hypocrisy, which we all sort of picked up on in her letters, and this cleared up any doubts we had. The lesson I learned that day was that we can't cherry-pick human rights. All men and women are created equal.
Chris would go on to do some great things. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04279/390544-53.stm
So how does that bring me to Sue Kerr? Well, mix in a little Andy Newman, former editor of In Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh City Paper (who does great things for the New York Times now: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/nyregion/20neediest.html?_r=1), who introduced me to John McIntire, former host of PCNC's NightTalk (I make no apologies when I say this — but the show is not even a shell of what is used to be without McIntire) and current all-things-media man, who had the Lesbian Correspondents on one of his radio talk shows. That's when I first heard of Sue. I had no idea that Pittsburgh had Lesbian Correspondents. How cool, I thought.
Somewhere between Chris and Sue, I was busy raising children. I've always written while raising my kids, but there was only a certain level at which I could really be involved in extracurricular activities. Raising children takes a lot of time and energy. But as they became (and continue to become) older, I was able to reach out a little more to the causes that stirred my heart, and Sue was the catalyst to rekindling my involvement (the interest was always there) in human rights when she began her blog four years ago.
I admired how she was willing to “go there” on all issues LGBT — and otherwise. What a tough cookie (though I think she prefers cupcakes), I thought. As I grew to know her and her partner Laura over coffees at a lovely little place on the North Side, Hoi Polloi, I saw that there was a very funny side to Sue. Honest — at first, she scared me a little. Now that I know she has a weakness for red velvet cake and loves to shop at Target, and has a house full of adopted furry friends, I'm not so much afraid of her. Even when she sends me texts that say, “Why the hell are you texting me at midnight?”
That's just part of MY charm.
There's something to be said for the relentless, tireless pursuit of what's right, and Sue and her partner Laura serve the pursuit well. They are our true public servants.
Midnight is better to the 5 AM texts, madam. Ahem. Frannie has also gone from sister blogger to highly valued friend. Her kind words are very humbling. I so appreciate the multiple references in this and other guest posts to human rights. I often focus on the trees and lose sight of that type of forest thinking. I have to go set my alarm for 2 AM to text Frannie a Happy New Year.