Sunday, December 21
by Sue on Sun 21 Dec 2008 11:05 AM EST
Now this is a nice way to wake up. Yesterday, we had a really strange day including the purchase of our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree which was marked down to $10.00. Typically, we get a nice big one, but this year feels different so we scaled back. Even so, the tree is taller (just slightly) than Ledcat. It fits nicely in the living room and was much easier to wrangle through the front door. So I think we have a new tradition. $10.00 is a good deal. Pointsettas cost more than that.
I stayed up late last night wading through the comments section and responding to email messages. Then I slept without coughing and woke up to coffee and a non-blizzard. Ha.
Today, I'm just making some random musings.
The Guardian reports a lack of lesbian (and other queer) foster parents, especially tragic given the increasing number of LGBTQ teens in the system because of their sexual orientation/gender identity. My colleagues at the GLCC tell me that there are multiple homeless gay youth who show up for the youth programs each week. My colleagues at my agency affirm that there are homeless gay youth living on the streets because they aren't comfortable in the existing shelter structures. So if you've considered it, there are young people who need you right here in Pittsburgh.
The New York Times affirms that separate but equal, in terms of civil unions versus marriage, is not equal. Civil unions should convey all civil benefits, but they don't. New Jersey has evidence to demonstrate this and the Governor plans to do something about it by pushing the legislator to take action. Incrementalism vs fairness will be locked in a death grip for sometime.
Plans are underway for a Pittsburgh based protest as part of the National DOMA protest under the "Join the Impact" umbrella. This will be on January 10, 2009. I haven't found any concrete details yet, but put this date on your calendar. Even if marriage isn't your top issue, sending a signal about the activist energy in the LGBTQ community is powerful and gives our legislative allies leverage on our other more immediate issuers here in Pennsylvania. And, frankly, you will get a real lift from being part of something bigger than yourself. It might motivate you to start a blog or write a letter or join Steel City Stonewall. I hope we see more local advocacy leaders at this protest. I'll keep you informed.
Now for Rick Warren. I doubt I have to bring you up to speed on that raging debate. PageOneQ has just about every link on the blogosphere, including what Barney Frank has to say and how the HRC is handling the matter. I'm personally interested in what the members of our local LGBTQ community of faith think about it. Do you have some thoughts to share with me, either via comment or via email?
Personally, I think it was a misstep on the part of Obama, but he's known for reaching waaaay across the divide to build unity. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground between evangelicals who believe that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and homosexuals who want equal rights. Or is there? I have friends who identify as evangelicals. I know they feel there is some choice in the matter and that marriage is a no-no, but our interpersonal bond has opened up a lot of middle ground especially as they've gotten to know Ledcat (or about Ledcat through our conversations). The trick is flipping the switch between their friend Sue, the lesbian and all lesbians and all LGBTQ individuals. That's a challenge our community struggles to address -- to out ourselves to the ordinary person in our life who is a fervent Christian instead of just challenging the wingnut on the other side of the protest sign or the hate letter.
Still, this decision is also very symbolic and there is great fear in the community that Obama will backpedal on any sort of equal rights issues to avoid damaging coalitions he needs to advance his other priorities. The fear is legitimate because it is going to take a long time to generate consensus on gay marriage. Even as the polls show that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell is acceptable to most Americans, the conventional wisdom is that the military has to come to Congress for this be a real culture change. So what's a progressive minded President to do aside from beginning those dialogues? Perhaps he can introduce more Americans to openly gay folks by appointing them to serve in positions for which they are qualified and for which they have been excluded because they aren't in the closet!
Oopss. Too late. All the Cabinet positions for which openly gay individuals were being considered have been filled. By individuals who identify as heterosexual (you never know). From The Advocate.com:
So, what does this mean for all the average queers in Pittsburgh?
First, I really would like to see leaders in our faith community take a more active role in advocacy. I'd like to see a contingent of the Spirituality Group marching alongside the always present PFLAG folks. I'd like a thoughtful written response to the Rick Warren debacle. I'd like them to speak out on ensuring that queer families and individuals struggling in a recessed economny are not forgotten by the safety net providers, including faith based groups. I'd love to hear from them and know what's happening on that level.
Second, we need to channel all these emerging energies into some cohesive force which means I'm going to drag out my oft-used battle cry for the LGBTQ advocacy leaders to get themselves into order. Surely SOMEONE in the community can have a chat with the Mayor's people. Someone knows a staffer or two. Someone can intervene to turn the advisory council discussion in a more productive and fair direction. I hate that it takes behind the scenes discussion, but clearly the folks involved are clammed up tight. My prediction based on the evidence at hand? This will be another Domestic Registry situation ... no outcome, just fanfare.
Well, there's a Charlie Brown tree to decorate and, apparently, housework!
Saturday, December 20
by Sue on Sat 20 Dec 2008 09:03 AM EST
Another heartening letter to the editor, this time from Carole E. Rose of Mt. Lebanon on the topic of gay rights. Ms. Rose is responding to a letter which regurgitated the "marriage = procreation" argument which this writer soundly rebuts:
The state sanctioned marriage of two opposite gender adults does not in any way carry a guarantee of a loving, stable home for children. Otherwise, there would be a long line of adult-children filing for their state backed "my parents sucked" refund.
Ms. Rose also gets a good swipe in for full equality.
Well said, Carole. While I'm glad for my brothers and sisters in those states, I'm concerned that Pennsylvania has not yet expanded our hate crimes laws to include acts perpetrated on the base of sexual orientation or gender identity (does anyone think beating someone up because they 'seem' gay is not a hate crime?). I'm hopeful State Representatives Dan Frankel and Chelsa Wagner will successfully steer legislation that essentially prevents us from being fired, denied housing or ejected from a restaurant because we are gay.
This topic was brought startling to my consciousness the other day when a coworker was discussing a 'staff only' bathroom with me, arguing that in an organization where we promote community integration, a staff only bathroom was akin to a "Whiles Only" or "Heterosexuals Only" bathroom. I could feel my eyes widening as it has been a long time since someone (gently) threw that argument back in my face. I wasn't defending the bathroom, just being brought up to speed on the issue. However, he made an impression because I'm writing about it two days later on a seemingly unrelated issue. There are people in my community who experience discrimination in bathrooms -- my trans-sisters and trans-brothers, my lesbian and queer women sisters whose appearance is masculine, and gay men who are stalked by the police for seeking connections in bathrooms. Yes, the bathroom has been a place of much discrimination in our community (think of all the kids beaten up in the school bathroom for the crime of not fitting in).
Legislation won't suddenly put an end to all of this, but it will provide an opportunity to educate owners on how to accommodate their LGBTQ visitors and manage confrontations that might infringe upon those rights. It will send a signal that we have recourse. We can complain to the manager and expect him to do something about it. We can contact the police, if we've experienced an act of violence (not an expression of someones opinion, mind you), and expect them to do something about it.
A "little bit" equal didn't cut it with Mr. Kampus in 8th grade algebra and it doesn't cut it with Carole Rose, either.
Thanks for writing.
Thursday, December 18
by Sue on Thu 18 Dec 2008 06:07 PM EST
Melissa Meinzer, one of two media outlets to cover the planning meeting for the Mayor's new advisory council, has the scoop here. I found her take to be interesting, especially the follow up interviews with the Mayor's liaison Gary Van Horn and the Mayor's spokeswoman.
At the meeting, Van Horn stated that he and others, including PA Human Relations Commission Chair Stephen Glassman, had met with the Mayor "earlier this year" to discuss this plan. Glassman has confirmed for me that he and local activists, Tara Reynolds, attended that meeting, but has not yet responded to my requests to confirm the other attendees.
After 40+ comments showed up on my blog post, the Mayor's office asked for my contact information. I have not yet heard from them and have no idea if they plan to answer my questions or not.
The inconsistencies around this whole plan are a bit troubling. Why is the Mayor so reluctant to have his people talk with the gay media? His Deputy Chief of Staff promised me, in front of 27 people, to answer my question about campaign contributions being revealed. She lied to me. In a public meeting. There has been no answer or attempt to answer that question. I'm a City resident and I should get a real answer, not have to read about it in the City Paper.
Let's talk for a moment about the campaign contributions. Yes, I want to know about contributions of substantial amounts of money, but I'm also interested in contributions that are smaller but still significant for the donor. If I give any elected official $50, it represents a big investment on the part of this social-work-salaried lesbian. It makes a statement about my alliances and my values and my personal support. The number of nominees for this committee that make donations of $500 and up are probably low. So, yes, Mayor Ravenstahl, it does matter if there are numerous individuals who supported you with modest amounts. And you should share that information unless you have something to hide. Period.
As I've said in previous posts, I think Gary does some good stuff for the community and I think there's nothing wrong with self-promotion to make himself the Mayor's go-to-guy on LGBT issues ... after all, no one else was trying to be that person. But I think it is a violation of ethics for Gary to be part of the planning and nomination teams if he is considering submitting his name for the board. I think he should pick one or the other. If the Mayor wants Gary on his board, fine. Just ask him to pull out of the nomination process to keep things transparent and fair. That's not difficult. Make the process fair and transparent. And that's a decision both Gary and the Mayor can make as part of their commitment to build genuine trust and communication with the community. This is the point where self-interest should take a back seat to what's best for the community.
As for the "putting the feet to the fire" quote, there are several heads in this community that should roll over that one. This was initiated by other activists who have not taken responsibility for their actions. Gary is not the only player, he is the only one willing to be held somewhat accountable. That's ridiculous. He gets to deal with all the personal crap in the comments section while others sit back and say nothing. Shame on them. If there's even a remote possibility their names are submitted and I find out about it, all details will be forthcoming.
One other advantage to the new board is that you will get to read some other opinions in future City Paper articles, aside from Gary and myself!
Tuesday, December 16
by Sue on Tue 16 Dec 2008 08:04 AM EST
In today's PG , Chris Strayer of Homewood (misspelled as Hoomewood, I think) rebuts the "marriage is for procreation" argument. Or, as Chris puts it, marriage for breeding. That was worth a chuckle.
Pay to play seems to be a theme this week. :-)
Personally, I think procreation is less powerful than the "way God intended" argument. It is hard to challenge people who are absolute in what they know God intends. Nonetheless, Chris, thank you for writing. The more pro-gay content in the newspaper, the more impact we have, especially when the content is driven by readers.
Sunday, December 14
by Sue on Sun 14 Dec 2008 11:40 PM EST
In no particular order.
The Post-Gazette examines the impact of the "new needy" on already stretched safety net resources.
I have been worried about this for months. Many of the "new needy" don't even know where to turn for help, but there certainly aren't many marketing dollars available. One very important resource in the safety net is the Human Services Development Fund which catches people who might otherwise fall through the net, for example adults ages 18-59 who often don't qualify for programs and services. This is dedicated funding in the state budget, under the Department of Public Welfare. We'll have to watch the Governor's budget carefully as this is something that is vitally important to many, many vulnerable families and individuals.
Next, check out Autumn's reflection on Pat Boone and homosexuals.
Lifetime is looking for lesbian moms for a new series.
Interested in women running for office? Join the Run, Baby, Run email list a la Gloria.
Saturday, December 13
by Sue on Sat 13 Dec 2008 08:14 PM EST
This came into my box today. How creative!
Apparently, Milk is showing in a Cinemark Theater in Tucson.
Ledcat and I caught Milk last night in Squirrel Hill. The movie is just wonderful and you should definitely go see it. One line in particular stands out to me:
This is right after Milk realizes that the mighty-mighty gays with money (the owner of the Advocate) are going to play ball with the powers that be, so he takes his movement back to the students and the grassroots. And thus begins his "come out, come out wherever you are" storyline.
After reading the comments the past few days, it seems there's some latent anger at how decisions are being made and some unhappiness with the deciders. Posting anonymous snarky comments is one thing. Doing something to be part of change requires that you come out and use your name and state your case. If you think the Mayor isn't being well-advised by those who took the initiative to form a relationship with him -- tell the truth. Talk with your own City Councilperson and share your perspective on LGBT issues. Call your own County Councilperson and explain how the new legislation will impact your life. Then, and this is the critical part, tell the people in your life who are part of the mainstream community to do the same thing. Tell them -- your family, your friends, your neighbors -- about the discrimination you've experienced, the slurs you've endured, the lack of opportunity you face. Tell them the wonderful things about your gay community.
I think it is unfair to simply point your finger at any one individual, especially anonymously. I agree that the coziness between the business community and the Ravenstahl administration is disquieting. But who else is doing what? Who is to blame, really, but ourselves? We squander opportunities. Perhaps the looming recession creates additional challenges.
I know some of the charges are leveled at me. I do have a bias - I don't admire, respect or trust our current Mayor and I am skeptical of what's going on behind the scenes on this issue. I've been on high skeptical alert since the whole Domestic Registry came to light in the context of a woman of privilege being able to buy access for $350. Nothing I sawy on this blog will ever generate that kind of access.
But it has attracted people who use words like bombastic and reference the Founding Fathers. What a delightful change. And as the commenter mentioned, 60ish people joined my Facebook group to recruit nominees. That's uplifting.
I am about 75% convinced the Mayor's office won't ever answer my qestions. I am nominating people anyway because I want to say that I tried. I've got two people in mind and I'm talking to a third. I've had a few folks contact me privately, folks I would never have thought about. Wouldn't it be great to send it dozens of nominations?
I am trying to tell the truth. I dislike the way Gary Van Horn has organized this council. I've told him that. But I also recognize that no one else took the initiative to do so. I was contacted about this months ago by someone who asked me to help and then dropped the ball, as s/he has done in the past. Gary picked up the ball and ran with it. Nothing wrong with that. But we've reached a crossroads where the larger community has been invited to be part of the dialogue. Let's not drop the ball now and then cry foul when someone else picks it up.
But I don't dislike Gary. I'm somewhat of an opportuny seeker myself so perhaps we are kindred spirits. Please try to stay focused on the issue. The little jabs are just ridiculous and keep the issue in the background. That serves no one except the folks with a little axe to grind.
I've been reviewing the stats on this post ... we've been lined from PageOneQ, Pam's House Blend and my very first post on DailyKOS. People are voting in the polls. Links are coming in from the Facebook Group. Join if you are on Facebook. Keep the momentum going and prove my skepticism wrong.
This has been a great dialogue with nultiple perspectives. Very nuanced and that's a testament to the importance of the story. Keep it up, folks!
Thursday, December 11
by Sue on Thu 11 Dec 2008 08:51 PM EST
FURTHER UPDATE: If you wonder why campaign contributions matter, check out this PG article on the connection between contributions and City contracts. Transparency, my friends. Michael Lamb gets transparency.
UPDATE: In response to some community outrage (after 10 minutes), let me be clear that I am not suggesting any specific improprieties on the part of any individuals. I'm merely pointing out that the formation of this Council has been unexamined by the larger community and calling for transparency in the current stages of the process precisely to avoid any allegations of impropriety.
c/p Pam's House Blend and DailyKOS
As I reported yesterday, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl, is launching a LGBT Advisory Council to provide an open line of communication between his office and Pittsburgh's LGBT community. The planning meeting held on December 10 was chaired by Deputy Chief of Staff Kristen Baginski and the Mayor's personal liaison to the LGBT community, Gary Van Horn, a local businessman and President of the Delta Foundation. 25 people were in attendance, along with two members of the media. The room was fairly even between men and women, but almost entirely Caucasian and middle to upper middle class. It was a pretty elite group and that didn't surprise me for a 5 PM meeting held downtown.
Represented were PFLAG, Persad, PATF, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Gertrude Stein Club, the Steel City Softball League, TransPitt, and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center among others. Several private citizens attended on their own behalf.
During the meeting, Van Horn and Baginski indicated that City residency would be preferred for Council members and described the nomination process. Nominees must submit a resume and a cover letter outlining their interest in serving. Everything is due by January 15, 2009.
The conversation was fairly cordial if vague. Attendees were interested in details on the Council's mission and structure, but the Mayor's representatives indicated that the Council would self-define these aspects along with the term of service, the meeting schedule and other details.
I have asked the Mayor's office to clarify how they will make public any campaign donations made by the appointees to this committtee. I've also asked whether individuals who serve on the nominations review committee will be able to serve on the council. The Mayor's spokeswoman has declined comment. The Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff who is staffing this project has declined comment.
We've been following this story for months. I had a tip from Van Horn's co-organizer and former Steel City Stonewall co-chair, Tara Reynolds, that this was on the horizon. Unfortunately, there was no further information forthcoming from Reynolds or the local advocacy community until Van Horn announced the meeting a few weeks ago.
Let us not forget how far we need to bring the Mayor along. It was only a year ago that he publicly stated that he is opposed to "gay unions" during a public debate. In spite of a follow up meeting with his advisors, he held steadfast to that position based on his Catholic beliefs. The Mayor's only public appearances has been at social events such as OUTrageous Bingo and Pridefest, choosing not to attend public forums where he would be required to personally engage informed (and outspoken) members of the community. The Mayor did sign the Domestic Registry into law, but has not been proactive in implementing this resource -- only six couples have signed up and there is no indication that any company has added domestic partner benefits to their benefits. My partner and I are registered with the City Department of Personnel and have never been contacted about the Registry. There are no openly gay members of the Mayor's Administration. His Deputy Chief of Staff did not know the title (Equal Employment Opportunity manager) or name (Tamiko Stanley) of the staff member responsible for cultivating a diverse base of employees.
There's a lot of room for improvement.
Other questions remain unanswered. Will the entire list of nominees be made public? Will the Mayor reach out to Councilman Bruce Kraus to recruit nominees from his network within the LGBT community? Will the proceedings of the Council, including the nomination review process, be made available to the public?
The way you can best contribute to the process is to be proactive in nominating individuals from the LGBT community to serve on this Advisory Board. The more diverse and more qualified the nominees, the better chance we have as a community to make this a meaningful resource for our community. We need to take action to build a voice that represents the entire community and not just those who already have relationships with the Mayor because of their involvement in his campaign.
by Sue on Thu 11 Dec 2008 08:22 AM EST
I stole this picture from the City Paper website where Harry Kloman reviews Milk.
The movie opens this weekend in Pittsburgh. Debate raged hotly at the recent LGBT Blogging Summit about the effectiveness of boycotting Cinemark theaters. Some cities are staging protests and candlelight vigils. Others are working with the Sundance Film Festival to address the issue. Cinemark has clammed up on the issue and will not return calls verifying their VP Bob Shimmin's claims that the company has an LGBT liaison. One colleague mentioned to me that Cinemark had a gay employee who used to "handle" those things. Not exactly the same thing, is it? Comparable to the person who "knows computers" being the tech person for a non-profit.
I definitely think you should see this movie.
This concern with Cinemark may not be an issue. According to fandango.com, Milk is showing at the Cinemagic and the Waterfront only. That doesn't preclude it opening elsewhere, but it is unlikely. Huh. We'll be seeing it at Cinemagic b/c its my favorite theater. The Waterfront is too "busy" for my comfort zone.
Still, you might want to reconsider future movie visits to Cinemark owned theaters. Why spend pink dollars where it is evident that the company is not fully committed to LGBT equality? I realize that holds true for most of the places we spend money, but when it is so glaringly obvious -- when the company CEO spends $10,000 to take away our rights and the company tries to mislead us with a fanciful letter to 365gay.com -- why would you give them your money? It is a valid question and one we face everyday if we try to be conscientious consumers (and voters).
But sometimes you have to draw a line. One of my lines is Wal-Mart. For othes, it was voting for anti-choice Bob Casey. Still others won't patronize Petland in East Liberty b/c they sell puppymill bred dogs and cats about 1.5 miles from a local shelter.
Where is your line?
Pittsburgh area: - Cinemark Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills (425 Pittsburgh Mills Circle)
- Cinemark IMAX Theatre at Galleria Pittsburgh Mills (425 Pittsburgh Mills Circle)
Wednesday, December 10
by Sue on Wed 10 Dec 2008 10:23 PM EST
Just a little hint. If you are contemplating holiday purchases, two excellent local businesses that are owned by members of our community (and employ others) are worth your consideration.
A Pleasant Present is a great little gift store in Squirrel Hill. They sell a wide array of rainbow/pride merchandise and tons of other stuff. We buy all of our gift baskets there ... they can do a wide range of themes. Michael is a huge supporter of the community -- he sells tons of tickets, passes and so forth for nothing in return. He advertises in local newsletters and newspapers. He employs individuals from our community. If you are one of those people who says "I haven't been to A Pleasant Present in a long time," now is the time. Stop in to pick up some gay themed cards or order a great gift for some hard to please person in your life. The prices are very competitive and the service is excellent.
K.S. Kennedy florist is on the Northside and has been a great find for us. We go there for all floral needs and the prices are great. Kerry Kennedy has proven to be a great friend and concerned member of the community. He has all sorts of fun side stuff, like barbecue sauce. You never know what you are going to find. Again, you'll be supporting a family owned business and Kerry sells organically grown roses. Who can beat that? If you are sending flowers to your mom or need a wreath, check out K.S. Kennedy.
(Then go to Hoi Polloi. I have to throw that in b/c someone at the Summit I attended asked me about the lesbian owned coffee house I'm always blogging about. So now I'm going to work it in even more often!)