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View Article  Bruce, Jason and Smores: A Lesbian Evening

Tonight, Ledcat and I rolled up Route 28 to a bonfire sponsored by the Steel City Stonewall Democrats.  There were hot dogs (and veggie dogs).  There was a real dog for petting purposes.  There were smores (two pronged marshmellow roasters!). There was plenty of beverage.  And, I am pleased to report, there was more than a smattering of young people in attendance.

I have to be quick because I need to go pour more fake blood on the disfigured cafeteria lady in front of the house.

First, let me thank all of the candidates and elected officials who turned out for this event.  It does matter that you come and even as I critique your speech and/or your actions, please know that you are heads and shoulders above our allies who never put us on their schedule.

I met Bruce Kraus tonight.  First time.  He's very smart and we had a nice little exchange, even if I disagreed with some of his points.  He still invited me to sit down with him and chat.  And he was very on point and attentive to the issue of electing Barack Obama.  I think some of the other officials who aren't actually on the ballot in 23 days muffled that message a little bit.  I suspect Bruce personally asked almost each person in attendance to volunteer for Obama.  That's commitment.

Jason Altmire was there.  He and I met back in 1999 and he recognized me.  That always gets me.  He was very on point, made excellent arguments about electing Democrats and just really impressive (except on ENDA).  I was dismayed that someone cut him off to introduce someone running for office in May.  If a U.S. Congressman takes the time to attend a gay event, he should at least get a gracious exit.

The thing I noticed was the lack of women candidates and elected officials in attendance.  That's a stumper because there were a lot of lesbians and queer women in attendance. 

The other thing I noticed was that there is no conventional wisdom in the LGBT community.  I heard at least three different perspectives on the current status of HB 1400.  If you are going to put it on the table, you really need to get Dan Frankel out to tell us why electing Barack Obama and other Democrats is going to get that damn bill passed.  Or get cosponsor Chelsa Wagner to attend.  She's up for reelection. 

The final thing I noticed is that more openly gay men are running for elected office.  That's great and a sure sign of forward momentum.  Now we just need to run, baby, run to keep things moving a little more in synch with the community. 

Overall, it was a nicely done event.  The crowd seemed appreciative, the hostesses were very gracious and the setting was super-duper.  I'm so happy that Steel City is getting out of the bars a bit. 

OK, I gotta go spill some blood.  

Oh, I almost forgot Rob McCord.  He was there early, greeted everyone and made a nice speech.  He went to Harvard, I believe.  I was swayed.  He did not receive the PG endorsement b/c of his ties to Wall Street and his lack of ideas on campaign reform. I did not get a chance to ask him about those accusations.  If anyone can fill me in, that would be great ...

View Article  3 down, 47 to go ... eh, maybe 46 and a half

By now, you've probably read that gay marriage is legal in Connecticut.  Technically, the Supreme Court overturned a gay marriage ban.  This has been in my inbox for several days as I've pondered what I could possibly add to the debate. I'm part of a national LGBT blogging email list and my inbox has probably 700 messages on this topic.  From people who pretty much agree on the topic. 

It is a big year for gay marriage.  A tough year.  California legalized it, but is facing the mother of all battles over a ballot initiative to de-gay the constitution.  Arizona, the only state to successfully beat down such an amendment at the polls, is facing it once again.  Florida also has it at the ballot box.  Most of the monies are flowing into California on the conventional wisdom that defeating the proposition keeps marriage legal which is a step ahead of paving the way to legalize gay marriage.  And some people really are stupid enough to vote against the Prop (the good vote) because Brad Pitt donated money (to the good side). 

I had lunch with Tony Norman yesterday (name drop!) and he is of the opinion that the imminent election of Barack Obama will signify a culture shift of epic proportions in American society.  Apparently, Tony opines, the homos will be along for the ride as we chatted about passing an inclusive ENDA and eliminating Don't Ask, Don't Tell. 

What comes to mind when I think about the opportunity to marry Ledcat is purely financial and legal.  I've never even entertained the romantic and symbolic aspects. I watch my parents age with very little of a safety net and wonder how our interdependence will play itself out without even that safety net (Social Security survivor benefits, etc).  We are secure with health insurance right now, but one small change in our employment situation could negate that security.  It is a little scary.  But then again marriage didn't do my grandmother too good ... after grandpap died, she garned a $78 monthly pension and no health insurance.  Plus, the realization that she had been merrily charging (and paying) for years solely on his credit so she had none.  Scary.

Legalized gay marriage isn't on the radar for Pennsylvania and that's fine with me.  We have enough attention on this issue as the fracture point for the entire Western Kingdom of the Episcopal Church. I'm sure I'll be following how the divorce settlement turns into an ugly example of why "marriage" isn't such a holy union in all cases.

Pam's House Blend does a wonderful summary is you are interested in what the national LGBT groups are saying about this court decision (and the wingnuts, too).


View Article  Hunger and Stuff

One of the members of the Northside Social Workers (NoSoWo) Subversive Committee sent me this link ... $25 Challenge.  A group of food bank folks and allies in Illinois took a challenge to survive on a food budget of $25 per person for an entire week.  That's the average amount of food stamps folks receive in Illinois.  It is very eye opening.  I'm not so far out of grad school that I can't remember eating pretty cheaply, but I've usually had Mom and Dad to bail me out. 

I may have written about this before, but once upon a time I was a social service person in a rural Kentucky county.  That's where I learned about real poverty.  Not have a home with running water source type of poverty.  One woman who befriended me taught me a lot of about food stamps -- back then, they used stamps.  She would trudge back and forth between the two grocery stores in town to round up enough cash to puchase diapers and other non-food items.  Like soap.  And deodorant.  One time, I ran to the store for her because the baby was sick.  She insisted I use her stamps.  I had been to this store dozens of times, paying with cash or check.  This time, my experience was completely different.  The teenage cashier was noticeably rude to me and impatient when I fumbled with the stamps.  She rolled her eyes, she whispered to the bagger about my purchase of pop (ginger ale - the older kids had upset stomachs).  It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.  When I talked with Karen about it, she just shrugged it off which spoke volumes about the universality of the experience. 

I have since always said that, as part of our training and education,  social service folks -- like MOI -- should be dropped in a foreign city with food stamps and forced to do our shopping for a week.  Most of the women I knew in Kentucky never bought tampons or maxipads -- they were a luxury.  Soap was more important.  So they used rags.  My volunteeers would just set aside all the unsellable clothing that would make good menstrual cloths. 

That made for some interesting chats when I met with women's groups.  The tampon and pad donations began flowing in every week.  Pun fully intended.  People just don't know. And the sad thing is that they really prefer not to know because then they have to go buy tampons.

Something I don't know -- how gay sensitive are the local food banks?  Do poor queer people feel comfortable disclosing their true household composition in order to get the necessary amount of food?  I'm going to look into that.  I know THE food bank is cool, but I wonder about the little pantries tucked here and there. 

Can you imagine -- $25 and no tampons? 

View Article  Janet Edwards Cleared!

From the PG:

A church court of Pittsburgh Presbytery ruled 9-0 that the Rev. Janet Edwards did not violate scripture or the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) when she conducted what she has always said was the marriage of two women in 2005.

Since church and state define marriage as between a man and a woman, she cannot have done what she was accused of, the court ruled yesterday.

"It can't be an offense to the constitution to attempt to do the impossible," said the decision, read by the Rev. Stewart Pollock, chairman of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery.

In 2005 the Rev. Edwards, a parish associate at the multi-denominational Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, conducted the ceremony in McKees Rocks. The Presbyterian Church (USA) says clergy may bless same-sex couples but "should not" offer a service that could be mistaken for a marriage. She argued that "should not" doesn't mean "must not."

The testimony at The Priory, a North Side hotel, was lopsided on the side of the defense. The prosecution called one witness, a church official who had told her that she could bless a gay couple, but not marry them.

The defense presented three biblical scholars and theologians who testified that her acceptance of same-sex marriage was within the Presbyterian tradition of interpreting scripture in its cultural context. They also called an authority on church law who said that it did not prohibit same-sex marriage.

Janet had this to say:

Even though the decision did not affirm gay marriage, the Rev. Edwards said the trial was an opportunity for dialogue.

"My ministry has been that of reconciliation," she said.

"I love the kind of conversation that was had in these two days, when Christians were able to talk together about our understandings of the church and how to engage in the world."

Asked if she would conduct similar ceremonies, she said, "I am glad we are all allowed to have the space we need to respond to God's call."

It really is about dialogue.  What a tumultuous dialogue we've had in Pittsburgh these past weeks -- this trial, the huge mess within the Episcopal church and the District Court Appeal on sex discrimination by a Butler County man.  On the national level, we've had Sarah Palin affirming the being gay is a choice, albeit one she "tolerates" and Joe Biden reaffiming that while he supports gay civil rights, he is opposed to gay marriage.

Whew.  That's a whole lot of people talking about queer stuff.  Conversation about topics that were completely taboo only one generation ago.  Institutions -- courts, churches and executive branches (despite what Dick Cheney might think) -- wrestling to reconcile "traditional" views with the very real American lives of gay people. 

Good job. 

View Article  Discrimination

There's something brewing in the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals this Wednesday and it is important for every LGBTQ person to pay attention.

Brian Prowel is appealing a federal district decision stating that the discrimination he experienced in his workplace was due to sexual orientation which is not a federally protected class.

Prowel and his attorney argue that the discrimination was based on his sex.  In essence, Prowell did not act like a man and was subjected to gender stereotyping which should be covered by Title VII, the federal law that prohibits such discrimination.  From the PG:

Brian Prowel is effeminate. He crosses his legs and swings his foot. He files his nails if one has a snag. He has a high-pitched voice.

He is also gay. He has a rainbow decal on his car and he talked about the men he was dating at work.

On Feb. 23, 2006, Mr. Prowel filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Wise Business Forms Inc. in Butler County, alleging sex discrimination.

He argued that he was discriminated against because he did not live up to his co-workers' stereotypes of how a man should look and act.

It seems that whether you are gay or straight, if you don't conform to gender expectations you can be harassed in the workplace.  If the decision stands, you have no recourse.  There are many heterosexual men and women who do not behave or dress consistently with gender expectations.  In essence, a woman working in a non-traditional environment could be fired for acting too much like a man. 

Ledcat thinks this "could be a disaster" because an employer could use your dress, your words, your actions against you if they don't meet her or his expectations.  All they would have to do is be sure to call you a dyke or a fag to cover their trail.  Bam.  Women are locked out of workplaces where we are already struggling to gain a foothold.

Sue Frietsche of the Women's Law Project wrote a friend of the court brief:

"Simply stated, employers cannot immunize themselves against sex discrimination claims by hiding behind their anti-gay or anti-lesbian prejudice,"

What's important to note is that no one is denying the Mr. Prowel was the victim of discrimination based on his sexual orientation.  Rather, they argue that the discrimination was intertwined with that based on his sex.  They may have perceived him as being gay, but that perception is based on his acting too effeminate. 

This is super important.  If you live outside of Pittsburgh, this could impact you in your workplace.  Legislation is pending before Allegheny Countil that would extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation.  Dan Frankel and his allies have been working on the state level for the same thing, in vain this year. 

This court decision could set us all back, especially women.  It is important that we push for the legislation on the local and state levels.  It is important that the federal government pass ENDA legislation that includes gender identity and gender presentation.

It is also important that we support organizations like the Women's Law Project who are on the front lines watching out for us.


View Article  Diversity Discussion at Podcamp Pittsburgh

The next Podcamp Pittsburgh is quickly approaching.  I tossed out the idea to Justin about a panel on diversity in Pittsburgh's blogosphere.  Then I tried to think of who I would ask to participate in that type of panel discussion.

I came up with Greg from Pitt Rehab.  I know a handful of other queer bloggers, but they aren't blogging regularly and often focus on personal issues.  I can certainly turn to the 40+ women blogging at The Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society

Is that it?  How can I have been blogging for almost three years (December) and not be connecting with a more diverse group of bloggers?  That's pretty embarrassing. 

Or is that the point -- our burghosphere is pretty homogenous.  Michelle Massie's piece in the Forum section of the Post-Gazette gave me pause.  My world has shrunk dramatically since I came back home to Pittsburgh.  When I was in Louisiana, for God's sake, I had friends from all over the world.  What the hell happened? 

Would this be an interesting discussion?  I don't want to get into a battle about the digital divide; I want to find ways to heterogenize the burghosphere.  It would be great to see more queer bloggers b/c my perspective is always limited by my own experiences.  It would be great to have an honest discussion about gender-based hate and how a quiet project to amplify women's voices has attracted so many different women.  It would be wonderful to have a group of bloggers make the commitment to do something.  Change the venue of the blog gatherings to be more attractive to a different group.  Invite new voices to join your blog.  Other ideas? 

Worth pursuing?  Or will it be Greg and I having a surely enlightening but limited conversation. 


View Article  Events to watch out for

Good information to have:

In Sisterhood

Pittsburgh has a long history of producing entrepreneurs, philanthropists, artists, and musicians. What is less well known is that the region was also the birthplace of some influential leaders of the women's movement and was home to several pioneering feminist organizations during the latter part of the 1900s. In Sisterhood: The Women's Movement in Pittsburgh is an oral history project designed to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of this inspiring aspect of the region's history and to highlight how progress was achieved through the hard work and determination of a diverse group of local grassroots activists.

Exclusive Preview Event with Eleanor SmealSunday, Sept. 28, 2008
4:00 PM ? 6:00 PM
Rodef Shalom Synogogue
4905 Fifth Avenue (near Morewood Avenue, in Oakland)
Reserve tickets for $75 each by Sept. 15 by phone at 412-621-3252 or by email at

This sounds like an awesome event, but it way way way out of my price range.  I would love to hear Eleanor Smeal.  Ah well, ....

Celebrate the Night

> 7TH Annual Celebrate The Night Women's Variety Show & Dance!


> Bringing some FAVorites from the past

> & some FABulous new performers to our stage


> Saturday October 4th, 7 PM @ Eddy Theatre Chatham University (doors




> Dance with D.J. Adele after the show, in Chatham's gym.


> CTN tickets are available for $20 on line & at Pleasant Present!

> (CASH ONLY) Or at the door for $25 (CASH ONLY) Last day to get tickets

> on line & have them mailed is September 30th Last day to get tickets

> on line and pick up at the door is October 2nd


Also, coming out in October is Gab Bonesso's Gayest Comedy Show ever Saturday, October 11 at 9:00 PM at the BrilloBox

Tickets will cost $5 and the show is for people ages 21 and over.  The show will feature some of Pittsburgh's premiere gay, part-gay, gay-friendly and "gay as in odd" comedians.  The event will be hosted by WQED's John McIntire (in drag).  Comedians slated to feature are Stoopid, John Pridmore, Jason Kirsch and Roxie.  Comedian Gab Bonesso is scheduled to headline.  Audience members will enjoy material about topics such as Jason Kirsch growing up gay in Amish country or John Pridmore discussing his "Lesbian Mother" or Gab Bonesso ripping into Fred Phelps or Roxie just being odd.  If you've come out of the closet or have known someone who has come out of the closet or you're just a huge fan of the song, "I'm Coming Out" then this show is for you!  Special Show Surprise: One local comedian will be coming out of the closet on stage for the first time ever!!!  Don't miss this event! For more information regarding the Brillobox call: 412.621.4900.  For more information regarding the show contact Gab Bonesso at gab@gabbonesso.com.

I having a heck of a time with my font tools so you'll forgive the erratic typeface you must endure to get through this. 

View Article  Local Women Organizing Palin Protest

If you are interested in channeling your anti-Palin energies into something productive, check out this grassroots efforts emerging from Pittsburgh's feminist community.

WHEN: THIS SUNDAY September 28, 2008 HIGH NOON

> WHERE: The Quiet Storm 5430 Penn http://www.quietsto rmcoffee. com/

> WHAT:You are being invited to the very first organizing meeting of the

> Anti-Palin Satire Rally being planned for November 1st, 2008, where

> both "Palin" and "Cindy McCain" will be making an appearance.

> Please come bring your input and ideas and join the few women who are

> currently trying to make this a national media event and also

> hopefully tip the scale to Obama in this proclaimed "dead heat" for

> PA. Creative ideas esp welcome.

> WHO: Regular people who need a way to creativly express thier outrage

> and make a difference.

> FINE PRINT: YOU MUST RSVP BY Saturday September 27, 2008 at 7:00 PM to

> nothankspalin @gmail.com

I have telephone numbers if you want to contact the organizers, but I don't want to put those on the blog.  Email me if you need them.  This sounds very intriguing. 

View Article  Trib Article on Comics who are Women is Trite

William Loeffler's take on local female comics was more predictable than the fat joke he included in the sidebar.  You know you are in for the typical male bullshit interpretation of women's lives when the opening grafs focus on Gab Bonesso's looks.  Not her comedy.  Not her success.  Not her challenges, barriers, issues, personality, education, resume, etc.  None of that.  Bill recycles a joke he used in a previous article and zeroes in on her "tomboyish appearance."

Then he labels Nance Marshall as "sweet."  Cause she's the really nice fat lady who makes fun of herself to put people at ease.  Bill doesn't stop to consider why the audience needs to feel comfortable laughing along with a fat lady.  Or why Gab or Subhah don't make jokes about their weight. 

He also tosses in the tidbit that the other Gab has a kid.  He doesn't contextualize that as in considering how her career impacts her family or does she tell mom jokes or anything that I have seen when Rolling Stone interview Chris Rock about his kids.  No.  It is just there because if women have spawned, you should know.  Just like fat women have to make fun of themselves. And Indian woman need to go ethnic with their jokes.  And that crazy Gab can talk about genitalia and getting stoned cause she's kind of boyish. 

To his credit, Bill does contemplate the challenges female comedians have been taken seriously.  He asks some men what they think about it.  And gives one of them the last word.  I guess Gab, Subhah, Nance and the other Gab were in the ladies room checking on their makeup. 

View Article  Untitled

Chris Potter shares a fascinating glimpse into Carpatho-Rusyn culture in this week's City Paper. Two things struck me.  First, there's the notion of an ethnicity without a nationality as the Rusyns aren't really from anywhere.  Kind of like the Roma.  Minus the hate.  Second, there is the idea of building "postmodern culture" which balances tradition with innovation ... like creating a Rusyn pop culture.  Not as silly as it sounds when you consider how much of the cultural identity of this people is rooted in the Internet and other forms of media. 

This sort of story is right up my alley as I have been working on my genealogy for years.  I have more than 1,200 people in my family tree.  I was brought up to believe I was primarily Irish Catholic with a little German Catholic thrown in for good measure.  Imagine my surprise to discover that most of those "Irish" people were really German and not Catholic.  Most of the Irish were Protestant, too.   The German Catholics remain untainted by my research.  They were just cheap, mean and long-lived. 

I also discovered that my Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania roots run really deep ... I have one great-great-grandmother who came to the US circa 1870 from Glasgow and she was the most recent arrival.  My Dad's family has been in the Pittsburgh mills for at least five generations and my Mother's family worked farms and oil rigs in Butler County going back to 1800.  I even found a third cousin once removed who has evidence qualifying me for the Daughters of the American Revolution if I should be so inclined to join. 

I've also found some intriguing ethnic/identity mysteries.  My paternal grandfather's mother's family were named Lescallette and appear to have migrated into Allegheny County/Washington County around 1860 from Maryland.  I've found other Lescallettes, but no one knows from where they came to the U.S.  It seems to be a big mystery and the older folks indicate that it was very hush, hush.

Also, my father's maternal grandmother, Jane Rice, seems to have just appeared circa the 1920 Census along with her siblings and their children.  No record of them prior to that.  No record of her in the Catholic Diocese even though she attended Mass faithfully (her husband was a Methodist).  No one recalls her telling any stories of her childhood or her family.  She was obsessed with moving up the social ladder and distancing my middle-class newspaperman great-grandfather from his working class relatives. 

I can make educated guesses about the poverty and trauma, either personal or political, that would drive someone to eradicate their roots.  But I want to know.  I'm seriously considering DNA testing.  My grandmother is still alive and its not invasive so we could tackle the mother's mother thing that way.  The Lescallettes are a problem.  All the men died without male heirs.  At least, they disappeared from the historical record -- probably killed in WWI. 

What could the secrets be?  Pogroms?  Criminal behavior in the motherland?  Poverty?  Ethnicity that wasn't considered "white"?  -- this is the most popular conjecture amongst my relatives because my father, his brother and their mother have some physical features that appear to be non-Cacausian.  One time a woman walked up to me and asked me about my African-American ancestors -- she descended from African-American and Italian families.  She just asked me out of the blue.  It was disconcerting to say the least. 

What's most fascinating to me are the individual stories.  My mother's grandmother's sister lived 5 blocks from my current home, prompting my mother to recall childhood afternoons spent in Northside bars keeping her great-aunt company while her great-uncle (not actually married) worked. And their brother was a priest!  My father's great-grandfather was born out of wedlock, kept and raised by his mother.  The migration timing suggests she was impregnanted while on the boat.  One can only sadly speculate how that came to be.  He died young, leaving a widow with four children to raise.  She farmed out the kids and got a job on the tugboats.  In 1906!  My grandfather's brother created a whole separate identity for himself, including a social security number.  Everyone thinks that is kind of nifty, but I suspect there's more to the story. 

No word on who are my homosexual ancestors.  I have a few suspicious, but that's probably all I'll ever know. 

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