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. During Pride 2013, we are trying to feature someone each day.
I can remember where I first learned about the Women & Girls Foundation (the living room of Sue Frietsche and Chris Biancheria) but I’m hard pressed to recall when I first met CEO, Heather Arnet. I perceive her as a mighty warrior for women – all women – and those who love us. Whether speaking to a crowd of hundreds or sitting across a table having lunch, she’s insightful, bright and empathetic. She’s theatrical without pretense, authoritative without heavy handedness and an ally who understands how gender and sexual orientation intersect. I joked with Heather about being sister 2.5 wavers when it comes to feminism and someday real soon, I want to bring the rest of us together to talk about life between the ERA and riot grrrls – the space which defined many of us.
Name: Heather Arnet
Affiliation: CEO, Women and Girls Foundation
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. Hmm. that is hard to answer since I have been in the theatre since I was five years old, so I think I have always known lots of people who are gay. It is hard for me to think of a time when I did not know someone who identified in that way. The theatre I think has always been a home for inclusion in that way. So, I think the first people I knew who were gay were several men who were actors and directors at the community playhouse where I acted as a kid. They were so smart, and so creative and so fun. And as a kid I always felt “at home” at the theatre. A theatre community (actors, directors, designers, props people, stage hands) are a family. My parents divorced when I was 2 yrs old and as I said, I got involved in professional theatre at a really young age (local tv work and community theatre) so I think the theatre became my family. And so I just always had gay friends and “family” in that way. But I also remember that it wasn’t until I was in high school that I first started to really know women my own age who were lesbians. And I think it was really a few laters in college till I had a large community of female friends, my age and a bit older, who were openly lesbian and living very proud love filled lives.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? By reading Sue Kerr posts of course 🙂 and by reading Ms. Magazine (online and offline), Women’s ENews, HuffPost and Feministing and Jezebel and some other online blogs and by staying connected to the ACLU, and GLAAD, and Women’s Law Project and some other non-profits who I think do an excellent job of protecting and advancing LGBTQ rights.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? I am not sure. I know that a lot of attention is being focused on marriage equality and certainly that is critical as it is a basic civil right (or should be). But once that fight is over (and won) then it will be interesting to see what becomes most pressing for the community at large. I think the entire issue/concept of gender is in the midst of full revision. That will probably be the next terrain for advocacy. There are so many complexities related to gender and I think developing a society that can live with ambiguity and inquiry and freedom for everyone, that is perhaps the next most important issue to embrace and advance.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? Hmmm…Oddly, I think I would bring back a few things from Pittsburgh in the 1990s that I miss – Lesbian Avengers, Cleis Press parties, and Pegasus.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Omar (from the Wire) and Kima (from the Wire) are tied for my favorites of all time.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Make a donation to an LGBTQ candidate’s race for public election.
Thank you, Heather.
You can follow Heather on Twitter @HeatherArnet You can also learn about her Kickstarter campaign for her current project – Madame Presidenta: Why Not U.S.? http://www.kickstarter.com/