An occasional series where we pose some questions to local LGBTQ folks (and Allies) to learn more about their personal experiences with LGBTQ culture. Click here for a complete list of all LGBTQ&A profiles.
I met Joe when we were both sharing stories about “saving the earth” at the Bricolage Theater in 2010. Then he gave me a superhero cape and the deal was sealed. Joe is a terrific ally because not only does he *get* various issues – he actively seeks ways to build bridges and – dare I say – alliances with the LGBTQ community. The Toonseum is an amazing resource for Pittsburgh and a welcoming place for LGBTQ families.
Name Joe Wos
Affiliation: Executive Director and founder of the ToonSeum
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. I grew up in the 1970’s in the steel town of Braddock, in an era where the words “gay, fag, and homo” were thrown around as pretty much the harshest insult you can throw at someone. So if there were any gay people in that community or certainly in my school they kept it very very well hid. It wasn’t until 9th grade when I met someone who was openly gay. His name was Brandon, he was African American and flamboyant and hilarious! He also got his ass kicked about every week. I didn’t know what he was going through as a gay african american, but I certainly knew what it was like to be different, outcast and bullied. So we invited him to sit at the “Geek and nerd” lunch table with us. It was the first time I realized the cross over between geek and gay culture. He could drop a pop reference with the very best of us! We joked and teased him about his sexuality, he joked and teased us about being a bunch of nerds and geeks, but it was different. That joking and teasing wasnt the same as what was being leveled by the other kids. It was playful in a way it allowed us to all open up and accept who we were through humor.
The funniest moment was when he came out to us. Not about being gay, we knew that. Everyone at our table was a Star Wars fan, he came out as a Trekkie. It didn’t matter he was still one of us! (and frankly I am a bit of Trekkie too, I just kept it quiet!)
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? The internet is how I stay informed on all issues.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? I honestly think the most important issue is going to be adjusting to a broader main stream acceptance. As the public begins to accept the LGBTQ community more broadly that community is going to have to adjust to no longer being “the fringe”. I think it will come as a bit of a shock when someone says they are gay, and the person responds “so what? I’m left handed. What’s the big deal?”
When the goal is equality it become tougher to still maintain and celebrate differences with pride. It also makes it much more difficult to fight for additional rights when there are those still ignorant who will say “We GAVE you gay marriage! Now what do you want??!”
The fight after perceived equality will be much greater than the fight now.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? That Pridefest would be have more public educational content. Right now it’s just a big gay frat party. Which is a great celebration. But where is the content? Where are the panel discussion on the issues? It has to be about more than lets go march and then get drunk! I would love to see a lot more education with the celebration.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Paul Lynde always made me laugh. My parents too. He would only wink at his sexuality but it pervaded his wit and timing.
Also vanity smurf! lol
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? I think it a simple thing add an “A” onto the end of LGBTQ. And that A should stand for Allies. There are those of us who stand with you as friends and family.
Not long ago I was leaving a bar on Liberty Avenue close to the ToonSeum. A few days later someone came up to me concerned and said “Joe, I saw you leaving that gay bar on Liberty… Are you gay?” I looked at him and said “You seem concerned that it was a “Gay” bar. it was a bar maybe I am just an alcoholic”. and I walked away.