I have a Pittsburgh Dad. He’s 72, worked in the steel mills for 50+ years, grew up in Brentwood, loves the Stillers and all the rest. He’s a socially conservative Republican Roman Catholic who doesn’t believe in climate change or unions, but he’s fine with his lesbian daughter. I think he’s especially proud that my partner is a lawyer, but you know parents …
Now I am not calling out Pittsburgh Dad for perceived homophobia or some such thing. I know the creators have LGBTQ friends – it is their silence on these issues that causes me concerns.
For the record, I have tried to reach out to them to discuss and suggest unique ways they might find humor when Pittsburgh Dad encounters the LGBTQ community without feeding into stereotypes or meanness. Unfortunately for me, they get a lot of email so I’m resorting to the interwebs to put my ideas into the cosmos. I’m sure they get a lot of ideas that are (almost) equally as good.
First, most of us Pittsburgh LGBTQ folks have Pittsburgh Dads. We grew up in local neighborhoods and can relate to just about everything they explore on the show. That’s not to say Pittsburgh Dad has an LGBTQ kid – not necessary to have a gay kid to be an ally and set a good example.
Second, Archie Bunker devoted 6 episodes to LGBTQ characters – Archie’s gay friend Steve, Edith’s lesbian cousin Liz and 3 different storylines for the lovely Beverly LaSalle. All of the stories were terrific and funny and so far beyond what we would see on network televiion today. Norman Lear showed that this can be done – a working class lovable but irascible character interacting with LGBTQ characters without losing the humor or impact of the show. He did it again on Maude in a truly hilarious gay bar episode.
Third, many of our current LGBTQ folks don’t have relationships with our Pittsburgh Dads. More than 40% of the homeless youth in this region (and the nation) are LGBTQ. They show up at the GLCC looking for support, concern, help and encouragement. Many adults lose touch with their family of origin when they come out. They turn to PFLAG to find parental figures. The “It Gets Better Project” and the “You Can Play” project shows how powerful it can be when someone’s Dad tells you that they think you are okay just the way you are. The Pirates made one of those videos. So did Brooks Orpik. (Speaking of consequences, Orpik might go to the Olympics in Russia where he is now considered a criminal for that video per Patrick Burke – that ain’t cool.)
It really boils down to this. Adults who have the opportunity to support their more vulnerable neighbors and send a positive, encouraging message must do it. Or the bad guys win. Guys like Putin. Guys who kick gay kids in the locker room and leave them terrified to go to school. Guys like the men who murdered Cemia Acoff and Diamond Williams for the “sin” of being transgender young women. Guys who call us fags, dyke, freaks, trannies, and more. Those guys win when you don’t say something. And when they win, really bad things happen. You know this because you know LGBTQ people. I’m just asking you to please make this happen and promising that I’ll help however I can.
Now, of course, I have this amazing zany idea that even my stoic partner Ledcat thinks would be very funny. I”m obviously not going to publish it here but I am going to say to Chris and Curt – there are many talented and knowledgeable folks in the local LGBTQ community who can help you get it right. We have performing arts groups, counseling groups, a film society, an anti-bullying group and a community center among the many other resources you can work with to write and produce this episode.
If you don’t believe me, just watch a few clips of the Norman Lear episodes that I linked. I know you can do as well.