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.
Jodi Hirsh was just a name on an email list for several years – one of those people I *should* know, but never quite met in person until about ten years ago. Facebook is how we keep in touch and how we support one another’s causes and projects. And that works – Jodi has a very no-nonsense approach to politics – especially women’s issues – but she’s also creative, crafty and conscious of the bigger picture. She’s one of the few people I know who can honestly discuss her privilege on various levels with a candor we need as a community. She’s also quite self-deprecating and one voted to give my dog Ana the “Ralph Reed” award for her creationist dinosaur Halloween costume.
Name: Jodi Hirsh
Affiliation: Founder and Principal Consultant, JustAction, LLC
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. I actually can’t remember when I first “met” my first LGBTQ person, because it was my cousin, and so I always knew him. I came from an extremely small family, and everyone “knew about Bob” (and not in a good way). He was as out as he could be in the 70s/80s, but my family (with a few exceptions) did not support him. I distinctly remember my father calling him a “three dollar bill” to me right about at the time I was beginning to understand that my own orientation was different from those around me. It set my own realization back–and certainly my ability to come out to my family–probably ten years. I sometimes wonder how much my absorption of negativity toward my cousin informed my eventual career as a professional advocate.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? I’m a non-profit consultant, and my work is almost exclusively for social justice/progressive causes and organizations. So staying up to date on equality is not just my personal passion, it’s also a professional requirement. Social media, news outlets, and legislative updates from both organizations for whom I volunteer (the ACLU, Planned Parenthood) and have as clients (People for the American Way) are the main vehicles that keep me informed.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? Gaining marriage equality in the US so that we can go back to fighting for what is actually much more important–economic and health care justice for LGBTQ families, as well as full-proof federal and state non-discrimination laws. I am not a huge fan of marriage in general, but I do think the fight for marriage equality has done a world of good in terms of changing people’s hearts and minds, and think its passage will go a long way in solidifying LGBTQ families as part and parcel of our society, with the same rights and responsibilities as other families. I hope the Supreme Court will agree. But that can’t be the beginning and end of our activism. There are too many other issues we need to be addressing.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? I can’t really complain too much; I feel totally and fully supported as an out LGBT person in Pittsburgh. The community could probably stand to be a bit better integrated; I do feel that, like much of Pittsburgh, it’s too segregated by socioeconomic status and race. We need to be more inclusive.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Jeanette Winterson. Actually she’s not a character, she’s an author. But I stand by her as my choice anyway.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Be the active embodiment of MLK’s quote: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Never be silent. Always stand up for the people and ideas that make our society just.