Peer Pressure Creates Important Conversation in the Queer Community

Can peer pressure be positive? Why or why not?

Yes, being pressured toward healthy and positive behavior can be positive. Positive is offering encouragement when someone shares their fitness activities. Positive is not posting your own amazing story in the comments section as encouragement. Positive is a gentle nudge, a reminder, a supportive voice and a shoulder to cry on once in a while. Positive is not shameful, nitpicky, intrusive or judgmental.

I experience quite a bit of positive peer pressure in the local blogging community. We have a yearly conference and a growing Facebook group. This gives me a lot of exposure to blogging tools, tips, techniques and so forth. I find it helpful to feel that gentle pressure to try something new, to read up on a new tool, and to learn how others are measuring their impact. The group is set up to minimize hard sells or excessive self-promotion and create a defined space for discussion.

And, to be honest, even when people are engaging in excessive self-promotion, they still seem nice – just pushy. The firm boundaries on that conduct seem to keep the pushy contained and allow the nice to shine through. The boundaries themselves were voted on by the participants. While not everyone agreed on the final “rules,” having buy-in from the majority has been helpful.

And it ties in with the other daily prompt, discussing my personal style. I have no clothing style, no hair style (just long and grey) but I do have a blogging style.  Let me be clear, it is not a brand or a theme or a motto or anything like that.

My blogging style combines some actual reporting with lots of personal commentary. I write about things that interest me, but I feel an obligation to write about LGBTQ topics which are often overlooked in the mainstream media. I’ve shifted a bit by using Facebook and Twitter to share original sources rather than write a laundry list post about news. I try to avoid to use the term “Breaking” as much as possible to maintain some credibility.

So I feel compelled to cover the following on this bog

  • Local and regional LGBTQ related stories, especially those covered in the MSM
  • Letters to the editor published in local media outlets because I think it is important to nudge you (pressure you?) to write a response. And you need to see what people are reading.
  • Media watchdogging. Pittsburgh journalists and media outlets are simply terrible when it comes to LGBTQ coverage – their language, their grasp of the facts, it is all over the place. This is an annoying and exasperating task because I know that David Shribman is never ever ever going to meet with me to discuss. And “CBS Pittsburgh” is never ever ever going to do anything to gag Marty Griffin. So it becomes important to monitor and report the most egregious errors.
  • Things I want to rant about. That’s doesn’t need much explanation does it? If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
  • Random stories from my life. It helps round out the concept of what LGBTQ people do beyond hedonistic sex orgies and plotting the overthrow of the public school system. We cook dinner, squabble over who does the chores and stand in line at the grocery store – just like everyone else.

My style is loose, informal and not particularly concerned with punctuation. I used to write more often about events, but that doesn’t seem very engaging these days. Cutting and pasting from a Facebook event as opposed to a press release or an email is a PITA. So if you want me to write about your event, don’t just send me a FB invite.

My event coverage now tends to be several status updates and photos shared with Facebook and Twitter (and maybe Instagram) followed by a summary post if necessary. My specialty is taking photos of Ledcat with assorted people – she’s posed with Mayor Peduto, Council President Kraus, Kevin Acklin, Doug Shields, Franco Harris, Dok Harris, Brian O’Neill, Tony Norman, and more. Wow, that’s all men. I need to work on Ledcat photos with women. I also try to take a photo of Ledcat each unique place that we go – if I’m going to “check-in” to a locally owned restaurant, I include her photo at the table.

This is my new favorite photo that says a lot about my style (and timing)

Pittsburgh LGBT
Bruce Kraus, Laura Dunhoff with Billy Hileman in the background. LGBTQ Civil Rights History in a nutshell with this photo

I intentionally took this photo of newly elected City Council President Bruce Kraus (l) with my partner Ledcat (Laura Dunhoff) as part of my series. I did not realize until much later that one of the legendary figures in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ civil rights history, Billy Hileman, was right behind them. Billy was part of the national team who organized the March on Washington in the early 1990’s and made waves because he wore a leather vest to a meeting with President Clinton. Hileman was at the table for the passage of the City’s non-discrimination ordinance as well as fighting for domestic partner benefits for City employees. That was 1995. It took more than 10 years to elect Kraus, the City’s first openly gay official and nearly 20 to elect an openly gay City Council President.

Laura was a volunteer with Billy on multiple projects, including his resurrection of a somewhat dormant PrideFest in the 1990s. She was a volunteer for Bruce’s campaign and is a City employee so we enjoy the fruits of their efforts to provide domestic partner benefits and the Domestic Partner Registry.

I like this image because it captures some triumph for three adults who worked in different ways to make these moments happen, all over 50 and all still public employees fighting the good fight. I like that Billy seems to be looking ahead to the future (he had no idea I was taking this photo fwiw) with a look of determination, while Bruce and Laura are stopping to acknowledge the moment.

It isn’t a diverse photo obviously, but it was just a moment that just happened. And it captures the reality that life even for gay white men and lesbians is not all roses and sunshine. It is sobering in fact to think of the sacrifices and experiences I happen to know each of these three people have experienced to move us this far.

Sobering because a few minutes earlier, Ledcat and I had a dismaying conversation with two young lawyers, one of whom already has his own firm. Good for him, but when LGBTQ civil rights issues arose he used his privilege to try and smack me down and tell me what’s best for the trans community. I asked if he were a trans ally. It got heated very quickly from there. He actually said “We are past all of that” with no regard for the fact that actual lesbians were telling him about actual experiences. I’m pretty sure I called him an arrogant jagoff prick, but maybe not.

Keeping smiling, but keep your focus on the future because the march to equality has a lot of miles yet to cover.

(From the left, starting Bill Clinton: Alexis Herman, straight White House public liaison; and gay leaders Tom Stoddard, of Campaign for Military Service; Tim McFeeley, of HRC; Bob Hattoy, White House staffer; Keith Boykin, White House staffer; William Waybourn, Victory Fund; Billy Hileman, MOW organizer; Nadine Smith, MOW organizer; Andrew Barrer, A-Gay Consultant With Money; Torie Osborn, NGLTF; Phill Wilson, Black AIDS Institute. Official White House photograph. Courtesy of Billy Hileman.)
(From the left, starting Bill Clinton: Alexis Herman, straight White House public liaison; and gay leaders Tom Stoddard, of Campaign for Military Service; Tim McFeeley, of HRC; Bob Hattoy, White House staffer; Keith Boykin, White House staffer; William Waybourn, Victory Fund; Billy Hileman, MOW organizer; Nadine Smith, MOW organizer; Andrew Barrer, A-Gay Consultant With Money; Torie Osborn, NGLTF; Phill Wilson, Black AIDS Institute. Official White House photograph. Courtesy of Billy Hileman.)

Blogging is a form of peer pressure (I hope for the good) in that we raise awareness of issues and ideas and lived realities that hold all of us accountable. Being queer in America is being “under pressure” every single day to reconcile second-class citizenship with our privileges, our blessings and our gifts.

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