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.
The Pittsburgh Bowling twitter account is hopping. I noticed right away how persistent they were in promoting the groups that they love and the City. So it was a natural for me to ask the man behind the Twitter account to participate in LGBTQ&A. After watching their hysterical Pride dunking booth, I was hooked. If I could bowl, I’d try out! Sadly carpal tunnel in my right hand makes that a no-go for me, BUT I can support & cheer and share their excellence with you. Read on!
Name: Brian McCollum
Affiliation: International Gay Bowling Organization Representative for Steel City Bowling League. Executive Director of the IGBO Pittsburgh 2015 Bid Committee to bring the IGBO Annual Mid-Year Conference to Pittsburgh in November 2015.
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. The first LGBTQ person(s) that I met was Jeff Nytch and his partner Jeffery Kash. In 2007, while I was on the verge of coming out, I courageously bought two tickets to see the performance “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” despite having no one to go with. The day of the event, still with two tickets in hand, I met Jeff online (like a most closeted men do) and offered him my extra ticket to go with me to the performance. While I enjoyed the performance, I enjoyed how comfortable I was to be in public attending a show with another gay man. Following the performance, over drinks Jeff opened my eyes to the wealth of culture I was keeping myself from and invited me to meet his partner and go bowling with members of the Steel City Bowling League. As a bowler from the age of 6, I was excited to hear there was a whole sub-culture of gay bowlers right in my hometown. Now 6 years later, I am not only an advocate for the league but I also represent the league in the International Gay Bowling Organization.
Looking back, having such great role models and friends in Jeff and Jeffery as I went through the process of coming out, is truly priceless and created a friendship that I know I’ll have forever.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? While I could just look at my Facebook wall to stay informed, I prefer to read into the issues on my own before my friends taint the story. For the more important issues, I make sure to read all angles, which typically starts with news coverage on MSNBC, CNN, and yes even Fox News. Is it easy to wade through the B.S. on your own? No. But it forces me to investigate the sources and draw my own conclusions.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? The issue most important to me is the current inequality in civil union benefits. If the government would allow the term “spouse” to be any individual to whom you are unioned in the jurisdiction in which you live, then that’d be good enough for me. As LGBTQ couples embark on building families, the civil benefits afforded by our government to spousal partnership should be agnostic to the genders of the individuals.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? Most genies grant three wishes, so you’re going to get three.
My first wish is to form an umbrella gay sports organization in Pittsburgh so all gay leagues in the city can have better unity, fellowship and communication – the three founding values of IGBO. With this, leagues can help one another with tournament preparation, scheduling and even sponsorships.
Another wish is I’d like to see is more visibility of gay-owned businesses. I feel like I don’t see as many “proud” business owners as I do in cities I’ve visited. I’m sure they are out there, but unless they identify themselves, we can’t embrace them.
For my last wish, I’d create an LGBT visitors guide. We have a great city that deserves visitor attention year round, not just during June’s pride festivities.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Does Neil Patrick Harris count? While I could chose a straight actor who plays a gay role, I prefer the reverse. I think NPH is a great advocate, a seemingly down to earth guy and a pioneer for those of us who want to start our own families. I have my DVR set to record every episode of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, where he dispels the gay-man-stereotype by playing a womanizing straight man. Convincingly, might I add.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? You’ll notice I haven’t yet referred to “community” once in my interview. The LGBTQ community is the people – and I am sure our community will continue to grow.
Our local LGBTQ culture is about our attitude and how we behave. To support the culture, the biggest piece of advice I can offer is to be accepting as other communities discover how enriched and unified we have become. You don’t need to invest money to strengthen the culture, the key to prosperity is being involved, inviting and accepting.
Thank you, Brian!
This is how they modified the Pridefest logo for 2013