If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I’ve been asking around to determine if the Peduto Administration has hired any openly LGBTQ people into a supervisory/leadership role or appointed to a commission/task force.
Radio silence. No one will comment on the record. I’ve had quite a few off the record conversations and it seems that people do not want to be perceived as critical of Mayor Peduto on LGBTQ issues (or anything.)
Asking a reasonable question about diversity in hiring is not being critical. It is simply holding the Mayor to his word to be transparent. I’m not condemning him, I’m seeking information. Yes, to be fair, the question itself implies my expectation that he *should* be doing these things. But is that an unreasonable expectation? Given his very strong and long history as a LGBTQ ally, I say no.
Bill Peduto has been an ally from the get go. He is a founding member of Steel City Stonewall Democrats, before half the current board even lived in Pittsburgh. He has been at Pridefest forever. He has hired LGBTQ staff. He strongly supports LGBTQ candidates (like Bruce Kraus) and in no way, shape or form could anyone with credibility say Bill Peduto is not an ally.
To take it one step further, if any local elected official understands the importance of LGBTQ visibility – it’s Bill. He was at Pride long before other elected officials. He understands why visibility matters and he’s made it a priority to support it in the past.
He promised transparency and I’m holding him to that. I can’t imagine how he could spin that as disloyalty or treason (or be surprised that I would ask.) I think you do him a grave disservice when you assign such motivation to him or his staff. I think you are underestimating him.
On the other hand, I do appreciate that you don’t want to discuss people’s orientation or gender identity. I’m sure you don’t want to out anyone or send a signal that you can “tell” if someone is gay. Of course not! But when I ask you if appointments include people of color or women, you don’t hesitate to rattle off a list.
Why is it different? Because of the lack of visibility itself? Because we can all name a half-dozen City employees (or employees anywhere) who are closeted or semi-out or quietly out or unwilling to “make a big deal about it” etc. And while their contributions to the City are important, the fact that they now work for Bill Peduto and remain”discreet” says something, doesn’t it?
It reinforces the reason I’m asking these questions – we need to be visible. We need openly LGBTQ folks to take leadership roles so our voices are part of Next Pittsburgh. We need young people to look into City Government and see people who look like them at the table. I’m not suggesting we push out the closeted employees or anything like that – I’m simply saying that if you can’t mention their identity in a press release to demonstrate a commitment to diversity, then you need to keep looking. Sure add them to the board, but it doesn’t count as visibility.
Someone suggested to me that LGBTQ candidates might be held back for human rights assignments (like the CPRB and the Human Relations Commission) which would be a travesty. We can certainly offer more to our City than civil rights work and support for the arts. Queer folks live in public housing and attend the schools. We are among the region’s poorest residents – imagine how powerful to see a transgender leader serving on the Housing Authority Board? Or one of our super smart lesbian sisters helping to tackle things at the Sewer Authority?
Someone else suggested that I should find out if LGBTQ people applied. Well, that’s unreasonable. I can certainly ask people but the Administration has the list of applicants – they can answer that question, too. If no one applied, again – that’s a concern in and of itself and hopefully, someone noticed that before they began selections.
Hopefully, the Administration will answer my questions. I may not like the answers, that’s true. But I detailed a lengthy proposal on how to address Municipal Equality (and found some tentative funding) so it is unfair to say that I’m not proposing solutions as well as asking questions. I don’t expect that to be addressed in the first 3 months, of course not. But as I told the Mayor’s Communications Director, this is a touchy time of year as we are paying our “gay tax” on City health insurance benefits. I brought that to the City’s attention several years ago with a proposal to provide relief to employees. That’s over $3,000 worth of patience so far ($9000 total.) Being patient doesn’t mean being silent.
(To be clear, I proposed a Task Force which is different from the Mayor’s Advisory Committee. They are very different creatures with different focuses.)
There’s a lot of hard work to be done to build a more equal Pittsburgh and we need talented, smart people on board to make that happen. I hope you will join me in supporting the Mayor and not being afraid to ask questions to *help* him build the Next Pittsburgh.
Update – While I appreciate your suggestions about who on the lists might be LGBTQ, I think it is best to wait for an official statement to protect their privacy and because that’s sort of my point about visibility. So I will not approve comments with names unless I am personally 100% certain that individual is out. We are past the point in time when we should be speculating about who might or might not be LGBTQ among community leaders. Far too many members of our community don’t have the luxury of being out – we owe it to them to pave the way and tackle the barriers that they can’t.