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View Article  Mayor's staff to meet with LGBT leaders to prepare for Advisory Council

A representative from the Mayor's office will be meeting with representatives from various LGBT organizations and entities to discuss the composition of the new Advisory Council.  While the Mayor's planning team has reached out to Leadership Pittsburgh, LP will not be playing any part in the formation of the council.  That's regrettable as the process for establishing a brand new advisory entity would be strengthened by more transparency and some unbiased perspective. LP will work on structural and procedural issues.  Still, I think that first step would make this seem more legitimate. 

There are whispers (and snickers) from multiple corners that this advisory council is just a empty gesture or an attempt for Luke to appear more progressive as he faces reelection and lays the groundwork for his next political steps.  My personal concern is that this board is going to be packed with Luke supporters (mostly gay white male business owners who need a good relationship with the sitting Mayor) and a few handpicked token Ls Bs and Ts. 

Call me cynical if you will, but I'm willing to be wrong on this. I hope I'm wrong on this and certain individuals don't sit on the Advisory Council, creating real opportunity for fresh new voices to engage the Mayor's team on these issues.  It isn't as if he is going to stop paying attention to his donors. 

What could we reasonably expect from the Administation?  Well, we can expect that LGBT civil protections and domestic partner benefits are integral to any City-County merger discussion. 

We can expect that the Mayor take a better look at the internal climate of his employees and determine how LGBT friendly it is. Really is.  Do a survey.  Look at DP benefit applications.  Figure it out.  At least try. 

We can expect the Equal Employment Opportunities manager, Tamiko Stanley, will work to recruit LGBT employees, a task that goes hand in hand with creating a more gay-sustainable work climate. 

We can expect more appointments of LGBT city residents to boards and commissions and not just the art related ones. 

We can talk about increasing sensitivity training for First Responders, but also receptionists and other front line staff with whom one's gay status might come up in conversation while seeking services or information. 

We can expect the Mayor to hire an openly queer person in his office.  Not someone that everyone "knows" is gay.  A person who claims his or her gay identity with pride and dignity. 

We can expect the Mayor to pay attention to the plight of the GLCC and step up to ensure this vital institution finds a new home. 

I can expect that other bloggers will stop having stories to share about Mayoral staff making gay-bashing comments and/or being completely threatened by the slightest hint that they aren't 100% virile manly women-loving men. 

We can expect that at the next ACDC gay meeting, Luke will show up and answer tough questions.  Not send a surrogate. 

We can expect access to the Mayor at events and meetings where this is opportunity for real contact, not just social events and parades.

We can expect something meaningful.  A change in the City culture.  Perhaps that's a tall order, but City Council has done the work on civil protections and domestic benefits.  Now it is up to Luke to execute all of that into a City that truly integrates the LGBTQ community across the board.

So, we need to all turn up and submit names for this board that aren't the usual round of folks.  I have two in mind.  Who are you going to nominate? 

View Article  How did the Jonas brothers get from NY on CBS at 8 to LA on NBC at 8:30?

My new job began in earnest this week, leaving me little time to post.  Ledcat and I are readying ourselves for the big LGBT Bloggers and Citizen Journalists Initiative weekend in D.C.  I packed up the woofers' bags for band camp and we are almost ready to go.  I'm excited/anxious.  I wish I had business cards.  But all of that energy is bookmarked by a work holiday breakfast the day we leave and a leadership meeting first thing Monday morning.  So I should be on quite the manic roll by Monday evening.  Except for that free massage I'll be receiving.  A ha!

I hope the conference gives me some perspective on how to improve my blogging.  Or at least some decent cable television and good meals.  :-)

View Article  Ain't too proud to beg ...

A lot of bloggers put up Paypal links looking for contributions to support their work.  That's not something I find necessary, mostly because I derive great pleasure from blogging.

But I'm in need.  I need a Blackberry so I can blog from the road.  So I'm wondering if any of you tech fans out there are upgrading and willing to donate/hand down your current model.  Not only will you be supporting local lesbian flavored blogging, but all the good social work stuff I do, too.  What more can you ask for?  :-) 

It doesn't hurt to ask.

View Article  Today is World AIDS Day

I'm not sure what I have to offer on this topic tonight.  First, let me direct you to some other offerings.

Pam's House Blend shares some comments from our President-Elect:

Today, because of the work of people like you, women in Kenya who were widowed by the disease, and once shunned by society, have banded together to support and empower each other.  Scientists around the world are discovering and engineering new medicines to give people with HIV/AIDS another chance at life. NGOs and faith-based institutions are marshaling the best of the human spirit to help those affected.  And world governments are coming together to address the humanitarian crisis the pandemic has left in its wake.  I salute President Bush for his leadership in crafting a plan for AIDS relief in Africa and backing it up with funding dedicated to saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease. And my administration will continue this critical work to address the crisis around the world.

But we must also recommit ourselves to addressing the AIDS crisis here in the United States with a strong national strategy of education, prevention and treatment, focusing on those communities at greatest risk. This strategy must be based on the best available science and built on the foundation of a strong health care system.

But in the end this epidemic can't be stopped by government alone, and money alone is not the answer either. All of us must do our part.

This year's slogan, "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise" is a timely one.  In the Apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he asked "if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?"  We as leaders must continue to sound that call and encourage others to see themselves as leaders in this fight.  And we must reaffirm our own commitment to confront and defeat this disease once and for all.

Thank you for your extraordinary work that you do each and every day.  I am humbled by your devotion to this cause and look forward to working with you and new partners in this effort in the years ahead.

Towleroad:

33 million people worldwide are living with HIV, which includes 2.7 million total new cases in 2007.

Above is the Keith Haring balloon which debuted on Thursday in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Haring died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. He would have turned 50 in the coming year. It is a wish fulfilled for Haring, who always dreamed of having his work in the traditional New York holiday event. Photo by flickr user Ben + Sam.

New York dedicated a long-awaited AIDS memorial for the 81100+ New Yorkers who have died due to AIDS and AIDS related complications.

Catch much more at PageOneQ.

But, what about here in Pittsburgh?  I have to admit that AIDS has not personally touched my life, at least not that I'm aware of right now.  I know that many of my friends, especially those who were adults 20 years ago, have lost dear friends and family.  When they speak about that era, it feels so unknowable to me ... perhaps because I was a kid and oblivious.  Don't get me wrong. I knew about the AIDS pandemic in an intellectual way.  I saw the Quilt in DC one summer. I wore ribbons.  I believed.  I just didn't know. 

I'm amazed that I've come this far.  Far too many of my heterosexual adult female friends and acquaintances engage in unsafe sex practices, either to please their male lovers or out of simple ignorance.  They are playing with fire. My circle of friends in the gay community continues to expand and I suppose that I know people who are HIV+ but just don't "know" it because of advances in medical treatment. 

I hope that President Obama will help us confront and challenge the barriers that threaten the lives around the world.  I hope that here in Pittsburgh folks will continue to support the good work of Persad Center, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and the Shepherd Wellness Center.  And I hope we will all work toward the days when all men and women who identify as part of the LGBTQ community live openly and proudly, making good decisions about their sexual activity for their own protection and the protection of their partners.

View Article  Welcome to PghGay.com!

We just acquired the domain pghgay.com thanks to a friend who wanted to see the domain support information and advocacy in the LGBT community.  Don't click - you'll just end up right back here. :-)   Hurrah!

View Article  Starring Gab Bonesso ...

Be sure to add this to your holiday to-do list.  It features our favorite comedian/actor, Gab Bonesso.

 

View Article  Holiday Giving Opportunities for Pittsburgh!

Click on the icon for information on giving tree, adopt a family and other holiday giving opportunities to help your ...   more »

View Article  Letters Round Up and Shout out to Cat Specter

Kudos to Dick Marshall of Crafton for penning a letter to the PG on the topic of gay civil rights. 

Hearing so many voices from the pulpits in this country condemning relationships like mine while not so subtly telling us whom to vote for is both hurtful and incongruent with the hope that many of us finally felt with this election. If the majority in this country were to have the power in this country to vote on many of our civil rights, we'd still not be permitted to have interracial marriages and we'd still have vast segregated parts of this country.

I have now seen that anyone can achieve his or her dreams in America, but I wonder if I'll ever see a day when every child can grow up to marry the person they love. That really seems like a basic human right.

Dick, I've been reading that our community needs to do a better job of reaching out to those who don't distinguish between civil and religious marriages.  Your letter is a great start.  Keep this dialogue going in the PG, my friends.  The politicians do read and pay attention to those whom are motivated enough to write letters. 

An excerpt from Leonard Pitts' most recent column about the lurking fearmongerers in the GOP:

The names change, but the playbook remains the same: Your way of life is threatened by these people and only we, the GOP, can save you.

That was the message when Jesse Helms ran a TV ad showing a white man's hands crumpling a rejection letter for a job that had to be given "to a minority because of a racial quota," and when George H.W. Bush ran for office against a black career criminal named Willie Horton. It was the message during the debate over illegal immigration, and it was the message when Rep. Tom Tancredo advocated bombing Mecca and called Miami a Third World city. It was the message when President George W. Bush thought the Constitution needed amending because of the threat posed by gay people in love.

"Let us save you from them" arguably has been the GOP's most enduring message for four decades, a promise to people shaken by change that the party will repeal the '60s and reinstate the '50s. Never mind that this would mean returning women to the kitchen, Muslims to invisibility, gays to the closet and blacks to the back of the bus.

Consider the recent rallies around the country in response to the passage of anti-gay initiatives in California, Florida and several other states. Consider the defiant signs and the upraised voices in the face of setback and ask yourself if those look like people who are about to go meekly and complaisantly back to the shadows.

They do not. Even the archest of arch conservatives must realize this by now.

The tie in, nicely made by Pitts, between the gay community and the struggle for civil rights is connecting the attempt to force us back into shadows.  There's no need to compare the bus to the closet; the point is that we shouldn't be forced to dwell or sit somewhere against our will. The POINT is that we aren't going back down those paths without a hell of a lot of noise and protest. 

I do need to give a little shout out to Tony Norman for oh-so-not-delicately pointing out the obvious that many gay people are feeling and struggling with across this nation.

 Blacks who supported Proposition 8 in California. Black folks voted 2-to-1 to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry even as they were turning out in record numbers to vote for Barack Obama. Irony is definitely lost on this bunch. Can anyone say "Loving v. Virginia"?

The challenge facing the queer community is to walk into that seeming contradiction and wrestle with the perceptions rather than merely condemn.  Pittsburgh is a great example -- our gay community is as diverse as any other Pittsburgh group, except for the younger crowds. The next big opportunity to get this right is the Mayor's soon to be appointed LGBT Advisory Committtee.  Let's hope his team finds a way to create a dynamically diverse group of folks who do not have deep pocket ties to his office.  Let's get this committee sitting down with Ricky Burgess to talk about the divide between local gays and local blacks around marriage to see what we can do about it. Probably a pipe dream.

Second chance, local membership groups amping up their outreach to black gays in Pittsburgh.  If you are reading this and you are not a member of Steel City Stonewall, I challenge you to get involved. 

Now, here's the part you weren't expecting.  I have to give a big shout out to Cat Specter for writing a nice piece of advice to a lesbian out there in PG land. While Cat still lists toward a bit of the "you go girl" side (it must be the tilt of the beret), her advice has improved and she makes no distinctions whatsoever between her hetero and homo advice-seekers.  I'd still like to see her revisit her advice on a racist landlord and redirect readers to more impactful and legal solutions when confronting racism in such situations, but maybe someday ... For now, Cat is maturing in her advice and that's a welcome change.  Maybe I was wrong about her. 

Maybe Tony Norman will take us to lunch one day. 

View Article  Phelpsians to Picket Funeral of PA Lieutenant Governor

I got a tip that the police are on high alert for Tuesday's funeral mass for Catherine Baker Knoll, the recently departed Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Why?  Because Fred Phelps and his homo-hating minions are bound for Pittsburgh to protest her funeral.  From their site (to which I will not link):

St. Paul Cathedral - Baker Knoll is in HELL! Fifth Ave at Craig Street We will picket this evil woman's funeral. She lived a lot of years, and THEN decided that she had not done enough evil in the world. So, she became a politician. Shame on her! She was a big part of the decision to make gospel preaching a crime in Pennsylvania. She no doubt is in hell, and her being in that position to begin with shows you that God hates her and Pennsylvania, to wit: Isa 3:12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. AND Pr 30:20 Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. AMEN!

Why picket the funeral? Guess ... abortion and gay rights. Her connection with Governor Rendell.  Poor Catherine had her body dragged from one end of the state to another in the longest funeral procession in recent memory (she passed on November 12), now this. 

I kind of find amusing the story from a spring visit by President and Senator Clinton to rally the troops before the primary.  Apparently, the "boys" aka Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and County Chief Executive Dan Onorato thought they could get away with disregarding protocol by attempting to introduce the former President rather than deferring to Baker Knoll, the highest ranking Democrat on the stage.  She grabbed the mike and stole the show. 

God speed, Catherine.

View Article  Cinemark has an LGBT Liaison?

h/t SteelCityDyke for the link to the original letter

By now, you've read about the letter on 365gay.com from Cinemark executive and openly gay man, Bob Shimmin.  In the letter, Shimmin states that the company has an LGBT Liaison.  So ... where is this person?

 

During my job interviews, I discovered that Cinemark has an LGBT liaison for community outreach; Cinemark provides domestic partner benefits for California team members; Cinemark hosts the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival; and Cinemark works with the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce as well as the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance to arrange advance screenings for movies of interest to the LGBT community. 

My partner participates in company and industry functions at Cinemark and is treated as my spouse by everyone here.  In short, the corporate culture at Cinemark is inclusive and the customer experience at our theatres is inclusive. 

After all, movie theatres are a community melting pot; a destination where all members of the community can share in an entertaining, and sometimes educational, experience.

I don't know, Mr. Shimmin.  What about domestic partner benefits outside of California?  Or for those whose corporate salaries don't offset the expense of private coverage (or a second salary/set of benefits)?  What about the film festivals throughout the country?  $10,000 split between 10 festivals around the country could go a long way to help promote gay-positive relations.  Who is your LGBT liaison and where has s/he been during this ongoing dialogue?  

Finally, I have had experiences in movie theaters where I've been treated poorly when I held my partner's hand or touched her back to guide her as we wind our way through the aisles.  I've heard gay slurs.  I can't imagine what it would be like to work in that environment.  I certainly don't take my movie dollars back to those establishments. 

It is great that your corporate culture is gay affirming, if that's how you define not having domestic partner benefits.  I don't.  And I think that calling attention to Cinemark's attempts to have their cake and eat it, too is a perfectly legitimate business tactic.   

I'm looking forward to your LGBT Liaison reaching out through the Pittsburgh region theaters to throw us a little love.  We have a film festival.  Have her email me. 

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