The Lesbian Blog That Shut Down the City of Pittsburgh

Reports have surfaced that the City of Pittsburgh was forced to block this website as a desperate measure to keep the City functioning.  pgh1

“We had no choice,” sighs City Computer Guy,Ken. “We have a computer usage policy – somewhere ’round here – hey yinz seen that folded up tablet paper with the doodle of Sophie on it?”

City employees have been flocking to the region’s longest running LGBTQ blog for information to such an extent that productivity dropped noticeably. Some offices reported raucous laughter, a sudden increase in the use of “LGBT” as opposed to “the gays” and a concurrent spike in visits to General Hospital website.

Now – City employees who attempt to visit Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents encounter the dreaded screen shaming message “THIS IS PORN. A SCREEN CAPTURE HAS BEEN GENERATED AND AUTOMATICALLY SENT TO YOUR PARISH PRIEST!”

“I was stunned to read that the City Firefighters don’t offer domestic partnership benefits and that gay employees have to pay extra taxes on their family health insurance,” confessed one anonymous employee. “We are the 5th gayest City in America, right? Most liveable? It is like the Great Recession actually hurt gay families, too! Where else am I going to learn that information?”

“If I want someone to label me a pervert, I can go to Bob Evans and use my iPhone,” states Sarah. “Or pose for a photo with Steely McBeam. I need access to LGBT information for my job, so my manager gave me a laptop and sent me to Dunkin Donuts to work.”

Attempts to locate the computer usage policy were unsuccessful. “Ken” was unsure if it was on the folded up paper or perhaps the backside of the 1996 football pool – reuse is a core component of the City’s sustainability efforts – but he sadly informed me that the actual policy manual had been wedged into a crevice of the City-County Building to literally shore up the building.

“Listen up, we ain’t CMU down here,” says Ken. “We don’t have time to go around to every single City office and fine tune their web filters so they can ‘do their job’ …you don’t see Pittsburgh Dad moaning about not being able to look at a dy, I mean, lesbian website.”

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websiteblockedOn October 25, 2012, I learned that my website www.pghlesbian.com was being blocked on the City computers as part of a general upgrade blocking many nonessential sites (videos, etc.) My site was labeled “porn.” I asked a few contacts to test it out and they confirmed this message. They also were able to access other local political blogs and general LGBT sites that did not use words like “lesbian” in the URL.

I reported this to the City multiple times over the next two months. I had some response, but none of it was encouraging. Yesterday, Americablog released evidence that some Pentagon servers (mostly the Air Force) were blocking LGBT sites (including Towleroad) and using the label “LGBT” as an actual category. This flies in the face of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I don’t think the City is doing this intentionally. It happens all of the the time – because of the word lesbian. It isn’t my content, my images, my language or ads (I don’t have ads.) It is my identity – your identity – that is being automatically lumped in with pornography. And that’s the disturbing part.

  • The inconsistent application to political blogs puts this in violation of the CIty’s own non-discrimination ordinance. A lesbian political site was BLOCKED during the most recent election which marked the election of the first openly lesbian woman to the US Senate and the first openly gay man to the PA House of Representatives.
  • The City is tacitly deeming “lesbian = pornography” which is offensive, inaccurate and potentially harmful to LGBTQ people around the region. It objectifies us and reduces us to a shameful stigma. That’s a disturbing message.
  • It creates an unfair burden on LGBTQ employees who have to ask for access to sites comparable to heterosexual sites that are open – I ran into this at a former job all of the time. It would take 2 email messages, the effort to explain my rational and a few days. How is that productive? I only asked for access to work related sites (often times, grant research) so it was humiliating. I even had coworkers ask me to ask for them because they were uncomfortable. Yes, that’s the type of environment you create.

An easy “fix” is to open up my site. The real solution is to invest the time & effort into creating a clear policy on how employees can use the Internet and to adjust the filters accordingly.

What can you do?

  • Research. If you are a City, County, State or Federal employee – try to visit sites (I can provide you with a list.) Let me know what you find.
  • Take a look at your computer usage policies. If you can access Facebook – guess what? You can access the blog’s FB page and content. Wow. That’s effective.
  • Contact your City Councilor.
  • Then contact the Mayor’s office and ask why his Administation’s IT Department has been ignoring this reasonable inquiry. 412-255-2626 (By the way, it is sooo cute that the City website has “facsimile” written out in the contact info, but not an email! Perhaps that’s part of the issue – Luke think it is 1990?) Does the Mayor think lesbian = porn?

If you work elsewhere, test it out there. I’ve talked with lawyers, accountants, nurses and more … block, block, block. It is lazy secondary discrimination and it is wrong.

Ironically, the City folks won’t even see this post! Unless they are on Facebook … get back to work!

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