Pittsburgh is a great place to be gay
In honor of the Primary Pittsburgh Project, I'd like to take a few inches of this blog to review why I think this is a great place for the LGBTQ/gay/queer community.
First, the City of Pittsburgh has codified our civil rights and civil protections. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender presentation in the areas of employment, housing or public accommodation. That was a very hard fought battle that took place well over a dozen years ago. That's a long time in gay history.
Second, Pittsburgh has many wonderful community based organizations and service organizations. We are home to Persad Center, the nation's first LGBT mental health provider. The Gay & Lesbian Community Center is in Squirrel Hill. The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and Shepherd Wellness Center grew from our communities to provide much needed services. GLENDA is still the best way to meet new gay people in a comfortable environment AND contribute to the community. PFLAG is there for our families. GLSEN and Voices of Hope (along with the GLCC and Persad's YEP programs) offer support and uplift our young people. The list goes on and on, but Pittsburgh is fortunate to have such a strong safety net.
Third, we must recognize our recreational and social outlets. From gay square dancing to OUTrageous Bingo, from softball to bowling, from potlucks to Cajun dancing, we have a lot of stuff going on in this town. There's Pink Party Productions, Operation Sappho and at least two different singles dinners. There's potlucks at the GLCC and Queer Dinners at the Gypsy Cafe. The L-Word party is immensely popular. The Film Society shows movies year round in addition to two excellent weeks of the film festival.
Fourth, let's shout out to our business community. Beyond the gay bar foundation, there are many, many local gay owned companies that serve the entire community. Coffee houses, clothing stores, caterers, and much more. One bakery has a monthly lesbian night. Another straight owned bar has declared themselves a gay bar (and has good pizza). Bank of New York Mellon has a thriving queer affiliation group for employees. And the so-called "pink dollar" is being sought after.
I want to stop and point out that the myth about gays having more disposable income is misleading. There are many local queer families that live in poverty or just a paycheck away -- just like heterosexual families. The good thing is that Pittsburgh is still an affordable place to live and raise your family so even if you aren't the fortunate few to live in a restored Shadyside Victorian mansion, you can still have access to all of these wonderful resources.
Next, I have to acknowledge electoral politics. Pittsburgh just elected our first openly gay member of City Council, so we can finally stop the wink, wink, nod, nod crap about those of whom we do not speak. Let's celebrate our champions - Dan Frankel and Bill Peduto (two straight white guys who are welcome at any gay event in town). Let's applaud our allies - Doug Shields, Chelsa Wagner, Rich Fitzgerald, Mike Lamb, Heather Arnet and others - for doing what they can to have an impact at their various levels. Let's hold out hope for our friends -- Wayne Fontana, Jake Wheatley, Jay Costa, Mike Doyle, Jason Altmire, Sean Logan -- that they remain steadfast against discrimination and hatred in the face of mounting pressure. Let's keep working on those who need work -- Dan Onorato, Luke Ravenstahl -- and work hard to keep those whom we need -- Brenda Frazier.
Most importantly, let's commend our two leading political groups -- the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh -- who work tirelessly on our behalf. We are quite fortunate to have so many talented individuals working to strengthen the political arena -- Sue Frietsche at the Women's Law Project and Dana Elmendorf of the PA Marriage Equality.
Moving on, our philanthropic resources. The Lambda Foundation has given away $1 million dollars locally. The Delta Foundation is pouring tens of thousands into Pride events. The Pittsburgh Foundation has a dedicated fund for LGBT health initiatives. Art for Life, formerly Art for AIDS, is a huge wonderful event. People turn out to public theater and to car washes to show their support for LGBT resources.
Almost there. Media and communication resources are vastly under appreciated here in Pgh. We have a monthly newspaper that serves a niche audience and serves it well. A local straight owned coffeehouse agreed to distribute it because a few people asked. That's cool. We have a super-huge Queer Events email list started by one woman who wanted to get the word out. Now she runs a calendar chock full of information and gives us a forum to discuss tough issues likes trans inclusion within the lesbian community as well as where to get the best cupcakes in town. Local gay groups are trying to catch up, they want to catch up. There are two blogs that have the word "lesbian" in their title. And 17 blogs that participated in the first Blog for Equality Day. Lynn Cullen and John McIntire talk about gay people, events and issues on a regular basis. The City Paper considers the gay angle in a lot of mainstream stories.
Finally, there's you. You might be the lesbian who reads this blog or you might be a straight man who surfed in from another site. You have kids or you don't. You are single or domestically partnered or married. Perhaps you've retired. You might go to Mass with your mother every weekend. You like the two nice women who make those awesome grilled cheese sandwiches and refuse to sell bottled water on principal. You know what HRC stands for and maybe a little bit about the whole ENDA debate. Your best friend is gay. You are the only gay person you know and you don't know what to do. You post anonymous comments telling me how wrong I am, but you keep coming back to read what I have to say about it. You are thinking about starting your own gay blog (go for it!).
You are Pittsburgh's queer community and you are what makes Pittsburgh a wonderful place to be gay.