Thursday, June 30
by Sue on Thu 30 Jun 2011 01:53 PM EDT
We surged past 200 signatures on the petition overnight and now hover around 223.
223 Pirates' fans encouraging the Bucs to take a stance against bullying of LGBTQ youth. This is a great way for you to weigh in and urge our hometown team to stand up for youth right here in our communities. I might say it paves the way for other collaborations down the road.
I went ahead and invited the Diversity Initiatives staff to meet with the Gay & Lesbian Community Center to learn more about what is actually happening on the ground for LGBTQ folks every day, not just on Pride Night at PNC Park. I'm also not sure folks realize that there is a lot of sports enthusiasts in our community.
If the Pirates take this stance against anti-LGBTQ bullying, it will be a grant thing for Pittsburgh to be among the first Major League clubs to "step up to the plate" (ha) and embrace the responsibility of being the City of Champions.
Pennsylvania faces many up-hill challenges for our community and our allies. We still don't have anti-discrimination protections, hate crime protections or protections in our schools. We are struggling to get domestic partner benefits for public employees, unionized or not. We have to fight off another battle over a so-called "marriage protection" amendment. It is a very full plate.
I think we should welcome the Pirates to join us there in whatever capacity they can do it. I wonder if they offer domestic partner benefits?
Please promote the petition. http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-the-pittsburgh-pirates-to-make-a-video-for-the-it-gets-better-project
Wednesday, June 29
by Sue on Wed 29 Jun 2011 09:34 AM EDT
From the City Paper:
Yes, this is a bit daunting. I had actually forgotten this tidbit. Hmmm. Still, "something we are looking to take part in" is not an outright "no thank you." I'm not sure what an effective plan might be. The truth is that there are LGBTQ kids sleeping on the streets in Pittsburgh b/c they got booted from their homes, either directly or due to unrelenting pressure about their identities. There are kids being slammed into lockers, stuffed into lockers, kept from their lockers and having their lockers vandalized. The get beaten up, called "fags" and "dykes" and much worse. They are mocked, belittled and persecuted in the way that only other teens can do.
It is not as if a Pirates video will save these kids from future harassment. But it does acknowledge their persecution and remind them that their are adults who are in their corner.
Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have some resources for LGBTQ youth. Dreams of Hope performing group does amazing storytelling about these and other experiences. The Gay & Lesbian Community Center has a thriving Friday night youth might under the leadership of Ben Cook. Persad has an afterschool program. Faith communities embrace queer youth and remind them that they are loved and safe in their youth programming. And street outreach programs try to connect homeless LGBTQ youth with appropriate services. Families Like Ours provides exposure to other LGBTQ families.
Frankly, I'd like to see the Pirates charitable arm funding some of these efforts. I'd like to think the dialogue won't stop at a video.
But, the video might be the entree we need. It is worth a shot. It has gotten us this far. I'm moved that I don't know most of the folks signing the petition. I don't recognize their names. I do appreciate their comments and the fact that the information is apparently making its way around Pittsburgh.
Please, if you haven't done so, sign the petitions. Share the link on FB and Twitter. Be that one name that gets us past 150 signatures and a little closer to 200.
Tuesday, June 28
by Sue on Tue 28 Jun 2011 12:36 PM EDT
Are you familiar with the "It Gets Better Project"
Recently, a series of Major League Baseball teams have contributed videos to the project. The first team was the San Francisco Giants followed by the Cubs, Red Sox and the Mariners. According to the project, other teams are considering signing on.
So I contacted the Pirates Diversity Manager whom I've met and began a dialogue about the project. I recruited some other folks to advocate for our community and teamed up with Equality PA (they are also working with the Phillies).
The time has come for fans to weigh in so we set up a Change.org petition, much like folks did in the home cities of the teams listed above. Please take a moment to follow the link and sign on. Include a message in the comments section if you like. But please remember, we are in encouragement mode.
The Pirates hosted their first "Pride Night at PNC Park" in 2004 so there is precedent for them to work with our community. And I would hope they would appreciate that taking a stance against bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not exactly a controversial LGBTQ rights stance. It is tremendously important issue and the more allies the project gains, the more we can hope to improve the lives of youth in our community.
Here's the link. Please pass it around. http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-the-pittsburgh-pirates-to-make-a-video-for-the-it-gets-better-project
Friday, June 24
by Sue on Fri 24 Jun 2011 11:58 AM EDT
I feel like I am in the big girl lesbian blogger leagues after receiving my first national anti-gay email commentary in response to being quoted in a Politico.com article on marriage equality. <sniff>
As you may know, the President does not believe in marriage equality. He used to when he was a State Senator, but now that appears to be a paperwork error. He is "evolving," but in spite of collecting a lot of big fat gay money last night at an LGBT fundraiser in NYC, he didn't evolve fast enough to weigh in on the NY marriage equality vote that could come as early as today.
I'm kicking myself because we missed an opportunity to remind him that we paid attention by showing up with some signs and annoyed gay would-be-donors at his Pittsburgh appearance today. Missed opportunity.
Here's a portion of what I shared with Politico.com when the contacted me.
The reported loved the part where I tied Obama's lack of leadership and failure to deliver to the social conservative Democrats denying domestic partner benefitst to their employees because they quiver at the political fallout. (Again, yes, I am still talking about "that" Democrat.) Sort of trickle down lack of leadership. I wonder if the fat cat Democrats on the national level give a damn about lesbian partners being unable to access preventative healthcare because of their actions? But it didn't make it into the piece.
So actually, I thought the email message was spam because it seems to be a fake address so I almost deleted it. Thank goodness curiosity got the better of me. And it is pretty tame compared to when the local lesbian told me she hoped I choked and died on my own bile. Now that's an insult. And sort of a death wish which was kind of creepy. Then there was the gay man who told me all the lesbians in Pittsburgh hate me. I didn't realize anyone was conducting a poll and if there was, sweeping it is a pretty significant accomplishment. I was accused of bullying a gay man of affluence and access which was in poor taste given the recent rash of youth committing suicide over LGBTQ bullying. That one I almost published because it was pretty disgusting to compare yourself to those kids because you think I'm mean to you.
There's more. I'm anti-ally, anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ family, don't do enough in the community, bitch and moan too much, don't appreciate behind the scenes work, don't trust the white men to "have it under control," and focus too much on dykes and the leather community.
Then there was the time "he who won't be named" lost his cool at a public event because I published his voting record. That was sort of the pinnacle of "arriving" as a blogger.
But this is a whole new level because it is polite and apparently well-intentioned. Plus, it took a bit of time to track me down as my blog was not mentioned in the Politico piece. Here's a snip.
She's so polite, if grammatically challenged. So, Sharon Kass of Washington, D.C., here's to you for validating the time I took to talk with the Politico writer. Here's to you for validating the time I spend blogging, regardless of the fallout. Here's to you for reminding me why the lives and experiences of death-wish issuing lesbians and suicide contemplating LGBTQ youth are worth the effort I invest both here on the blog and in the other work I do.
And here's to you for keeping my interest and desire to expose the ex-gay ministries alleged to be deeply embedded in the "ministries" of two local mega-churches.
You join a long line of folks who don't want to hear it. And that's okay with me. Because I don't represent anyone but myself. And no one is forced to read my blog.
But they do.
Saturday, June 18
by Sue on Sat 18 Jun 2011 11:13 AM EDT
By now, you may have heard of the scandal involving two white heterosexual men posing as lesbian bloggers. One of whom was an editor that recruited me to contribute to the blog, LezGetReal.com
When Syrian-American lesbian blogger Amina Araf was allegedly taken into custody by government authorities, we eventually learned that Amina was really an American man named Tom McMasters. A straight man.
One of "Amina's" biggest supporters, was Paula Brooks editor of LezGetReal. As folks realized that no one had actually met Brooks either (like "Amina"), suspicions were raised and we learned that "Paula" is another straight white married man named Bill Graber. A retired construction worker from Ohio.
This story is unbelievable, but it is true. Both men claim they were trying to help the LGBTQ community. Instead, they have done incredible damage to the credibility of bloggers and other online media sources around the world, especially LGBTQ sources.
I was duped. When Graber, posing as Paula Brooks, approached me about contributing to the site, I checked out the site content and agreed. I haven't contributed too often and most of it has been crossposted from my own blog. But "Paula" pursued me to write about Pennsylvania politics on a more consistent basis. I just didn't have the time.
But I am aghast to be associated with this duplicity. And I'm so sorry that I didn't exercise more due diligence before I pointed you in the direction of LezGetReal for information. It was all based on fraudulent conduct. The information may still be good, but it is a slap in the face of LGBTQ bloggers everywhere.
There's debate over the extent of damage the deceptions crafted by McMasters and Graber have caused. For the new editors at LezGetReal, their is a need to grapple with the personal violatioin and restore the site's credibility.
To be honest this hasn't really registered locally. Marty Griffin hasn't been camped out at Lesbian Central to catch me on film. No one insists I skype them to verify I'm a lesbian. I haven't seen interviews with former compadres who have fingers to point about my sordid heterosexual past (I came out at 28 so there is one.)
To put things in context, my colleague Chris Potter of Slagheap (and the only one who did notice enough to poke at me about it) had this to say:
For me? Well, I'm not a straight white man. I did get duped by one, but it doesn't change my overall opinion of straight white men. Like Santorum. And Gingrich. And Metcalfe. Oh ....
On a more serious note, I will no longer be contributing to LezGetReal because I just have concerns about what is happening in the wake of this revelation - there's a lot of emotion driven decision making. I am fortunate enough to belong to a national LGBTQ blogging group so I've met many of the other bloggers live and in person. I met Pam, Bill and Jeremy along with others so I don't have qualms about contributing to their sites or attributing their writing. I'm under no illusion that John Morgan is a lesbian so that's all good. But I will have to rethink a few things, too.
Credibility is a serious issue for the LGBTQ community. For our community, the mainstream media coverage is pretty skimpy, although getting better. Blogging and citizen journalism are significant tools in the struggle for equality, both here in the US and across the world. We can't afford for even the most well-intentioned ally to play these types of games. There are reasons McMasters and Graber made their choices instead of simply lending their skills and talents to actual lesbian bloggers.
Lots of blog decisions to be made in the near future.
Sunday, June 5
by Sue on Sun 05 Jun 2011 11:53 AM EDT
Target is holding a shareholder meeting here in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. This is the first such meeting since the corporation donated $150,000 to support an anti-gay candidate in their election bid.
There was immediate backlash. It is a terrible contradiction to tell us you want our shopping dollars and support us, then try to elect someone who denies us our basic equal rights. More on the donation specifics here. These donations are tricky, but understand that this was from the actual company. Executives within the company also made personal donations (including one from the CEO to Michelle Bachmann) which are troubling, but there's a little more gray when it comes to choices made by employees. The $150,000 donation came from the profits WE generate by shopping at the store, not the salaries of the employees.
Groups have united to plan a protest at the meeting on Wednesday, 12 PM at the new store site in East Liberty (you can't miss it).
Participating organizations include: Keystone Progress, Common Cause, Action United, Delta Foundation, We Are One Pennsylvania.
So why does this matter? Here's the perspective from Common Cause
The LGBTQ community should take heed of this. It is not a coincidence that they chose to support Tom Emmer, a State Rep running for Governor of Minnesota. It was a calculated decision that probably had to do with business, but conveniently overlooked Emmer's strong stance against marriage equality, LGBTQ parentings, and his affiliation with an "incendiary" Christian group. This man was much more Darryl Metcalfe than Tom Corbett if I can make so bold a continuum.
If you work in the East End or can get away for a bit mid-day, please make an effort to head to East Liberty and send a message. Let them know you are paying attention. We can't stop corporations from making huge financial donations to the 2012 elections. Do you want Target funding anti-equality candidates in Western Pennsylvania?
My post on personal choices around boycotting Target and other companies ... another time. It is constructive to know we can participate without the interminable inner struggle about where we spend our dollars. So let's take advantage of this opportunity, queer Pittsburgh, and send a message. We are paying attention.
Wednesday, June 1
by Sue on Wed 01 Jun 2011 05:02 PM EDT
Once again, it is time to participate in the blogswarm for LGBT families sponsored by the blog Mombian.
I've given some thought to my topic this year and decided to write a response to the perception that not having children makes us less than a family. I think there is more than one person who perceives LGBTQ families without children as somehow a little lesser. It is particularly sad when people who claim to be pro-choice condemn those who choose not to have children outside of the context of abortion.
First, I have a lovely family even though I do not have children of my own. I have my partner of nearly 8 years with whom I've built a little nuclear family of our very own. We cannot legally wed, but we are a family. We also have extended family including two nephews and two nieces, all five and under. Then there are cousins, second cousins, recently found cousins missing for two generations because of a turn of the century adoption. Our family is complex and complicated, but never dull.
Second, we have a role in the lives of children who are not related to us and this is not unusual for LGBTQ people, especially those who do not have their own children. To some of these children we are aunts. To others, we are family friends who come bearing gifts and/or delicious snacks. To all, we are accepted, loved and valued as part of their own extended family circle. Yes, they sometimes ask about our relationship, but they are always satisfied with the answer b/c they have no agenda, just curiosity. I am humbled every time they run over to show me a work of art or ask me to play. Or confide a secret.
As for why we chose not to have children, well, that's really a private decision. But just because we joke about being mom to our kitties, please don't think we fail to honor and appreciate the children in our lives (and their parents). And we grew up in families so we do have some perspective as to what they need to be successful. Support from other adults is one important thing. I had someone in my life who was close to my family, but objective and he meant the world in the terms of providing me support and love.
Deciding not to parent is a valid choice. It is not better or worse than raising children. It is just a different path. I'm sure there are plenty of people who do it for selfish reasons, but be honest - there are plenty of people who have children for selfish reasons. We can't know what is in people's hearts or behind their decisions unless they share with us. But we judge families and parents each and every day, especially in the media. It is really heartbreaking to see the relentless scrutiny of a parent in the news as if a 60 second soundbyte could tell us the real story behind a poor decision, mistake or error in judgment.
I find it wonderful how the number of LGBTQ families with children has grown in the past few years here in Pittsburgh. Monthly potlucks, swim parties, trips to the zoo and so forth are spontaneously organized through a loosely organized group. Organizations like the Gay & Lesbian Community Center and Pridefest have greatly expanded their programming for children and youth. My church has several same sex parents in attendance and it is all good. I love it, in fact.
My friends opted for an open adoption and their son occasionally tells people he has three mommies which is hysterical and I'm sure raises a few eyebrows. But he's a pretty lucky kid to have three women who love him and he knows it in an age appropriate way kids have for absorbing information.
Supporting LGBTQ families is one reason I work so hard to advocate for legislation that supports the larger LGBTQ community. Domestic partner benefits are essential, especially if one parent opts to stay home with the children. Public accomodation protections are imperative as families access those places on a more regular basis, be it the local Wal-Mart or the public pool. Encouraging LGBTQ families to become foster parents builds stronger families for children in the system. The list goes on and on. I've also worked in my workplaces to create LGBTQ friendly policies and supports.
It is also why I pester my parent friends to make themselves aware in spite of daycare, basketball and laundry commitments. Their votes and involvement in advocacy puts a face to the concept of a LGBTQ family.
Happy Pride to ALL of Pittsburgh's LGBTQ families and our allies!
by Sue on Wed 01 Jun 2011 03:11 PM EDT
I'm a little behind the curve, but kudos to Easton, Pennsylvania for doing what Allegheny County leadership won't by extending domestic partner benefits to your employees. Yes, I mention Allegheny County because I was genuinely shocked to read that only 5 municipalities across Pennsylvania have addressed this equal rights issue, especially given how many private sector employers offer these as a matter of routine. Allegheny County is woefully behind the ball with regard to the economic development indicator.
We should note that the Commonwealth provides domestic partner benefits. Truth be told, this is only half the battle. If the climate isn't LGBTQ-friendly in the workplace, people aren't going to out themselves to access these benefits. Another somewhat shocking fact is that not every public employee union affiliated with the City of Pittsburgh has added domestic partner benefits to their contracts. More than fifteen years after the City first offered them. What the heck is going on in those labor halls that they either don't have LGBTQ members OR those who are there aren't being taken care of? That's a black mark on labor.
It is imperative that we continue to work for employees paid with our tax dollars to access health insurance and other benefits for their families. That's a given in my book. However, we must also continue to push for LGBTQ-friendly ordinances -- and the statewide ordinance -- to provide workplace protections. The two go hand in hand.
I don't have a link, so I'll publish the press release in its entirety courtesy of the PA Diversity Network. One thing I did find on their website is a running list of LGBTQ municipal legislation. That's worth a read.