An occasional series where we pose some questions to local LGBTQ folks (and Allies) to learn more about their personal experiences with LGBTQ culture.
Ledcat has known Ted for many years, but I’ve gotten to know him through his work with Persad Center – Ted is currently coordinating “Safe Zones” projects in outlying counties. Ted also coordinated a recent seminar on legal issues and hate crimes protections. As with everyone, I’ve asked to contribute to this series – Ted has an amazing story about his first encounter with LGBTQ culture.
Name. Ted Hoover
Affiliation Coordinator of Persad Center’s Community Safe Zone project. (I’m also a
theater critic with Pittsburgh City Paper.)
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. I can’t remember the first person I met, but I can remember the first time I understood that there were others out there who were “like me.” At the end of the 1960’s, Life Magazine published an issue called something like “The Decade in Pictures.” My grandparents subscribed and I remember very clearly — I was around 9 at the time — reading that issue and coming across a black and white photo of the Stonewall Riots with a cutline describing what the protests were about.
It absolutely floored me. Somewhere in a place called “Greenwich Village” (which I’m sure I must have pronounced in my head as Green-Witch) there were people who were just like me and they were very mad and fighting back. I bet my face turned about 30 different shades of red and I was so terrified that someone in my family might have seen me looking at it that I immediately threw the magazine under the coffee table … and throughout the day kept sneaking back to take a peak at that picture. (If my grandparents had known that such a photo was in their house, they would have set the place on fire.)
In that afternoon I learned that I wasn’t alone and that I could expect… something better. I can still see that picture as clear as day in my head.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? Lots of reading. (Although, as my kid would say, I’m very “old school” and only read hard copies of newspapers and magazines.) And, since I work at Persad, a lot of information naturally comes my way.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today?That Pennsylvanian LGBTQ people have no state or federal laws protecting them from discrimination in employment, public accommodations or housing. In the western part of the state we have protections in Allegheny and Erie counties, but absolutely nothing in between. It is perfect legal in Westmoreland (or Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Washington,Mercer, Lawrence, Fayette, Green, etc.) to fire someone because he/she is LGBTQ, to refuse them service in a restaurant, to evict them from their apartment …. And they have no legal recourse. Of course marriage equality is very important, but what good is it if the hotel you book to celebrate your honeymoon won’t rent you a room becauseyou’re LGBTQ?
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? As Harvey Milk used to implore us — we all need to come out. As the recent case of Sen. Portman shows, nothing will change until we let the world known who we are.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Probably Belize from “Angels in America.” Although Lady Bracknell from “The Importance of Being Earnest” runs a close second. She’s not gay, but she was created by Oscar Wilde, so that has to count for something.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Find out who your elected representatives are and let them know how you stand on the issues. (Even if he or she already supports you.) And no, that doesn’t mean an online petition or adding your name to a mass email. If you write a letter in your own words telling your own story and why you support the legislation you do, the effect would be monumental. (Also — and this is a shameless plug — make sure you come to “Art for Change” the 25th anniversary art auction benefiting Persad Center. It’s the most fun you’ll have doing something good. www.persadcenter.org
For more on Persad’s Community Safe Zones project.
Finally, if you are interested in Ted’s theater reviews – check him out on the Pittsburgh City Paper website.
To suggest someone to participate in LGBTQ&A, please email pghlesbian at gmail.