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View Article  Why is Snickers going nuts over claims of homophobia?

I read in the PG that Snickers has pulled an ad running in Britain which features Mr. T telling those silly Brits to "Get Some Nuts."  In this one particular ad, Mr. T confronts a speed walker and makes him run like a man by pelting him with Snickers bars. 

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation cried foul and complained that the ad uses stereotypes of gay men?

See for yourself:

 

Since when is speedwalking a gay stereotype?  Granted there's a lot of swish going on, but its a result of hip movement not sexual orientation.  I viewed the ad as parody, not insult.  I can't imagine a "Get Some Nuts" campaign running in the US -- using an obvious sexual reference (even metaphoric) about men in print?  Ha ha ha.  Never.  We don't have the capacity to be that ironic or self-deprecating. 

IMHO, this is silly.  The ad made me laugh b/c its just so funny to try and sell candy bars by making them macho.  There's also the additional irony that both this and the first ad center around men engaging in athletic/fitness activities, rather than eating candy bars.  It is delicious. 

 

View Article  Gab Bonesso and John McIntire: Tasteless and Talented

Go see this. Please.

View Article  GLBT Insurance, Employment Protections and Advocacy Frustrations

I promised myself that I would not be blogging politically for the foreseeable future b/c my frustration with the state of LGBT advocacy in Western Pennsylvania is just off the scale.  I have little objectivity b/c it is my actual life and livelihood and living conditions that have been cast aside in favor of bigger and better, suburban fried fish to fry.  And, yes, I resent that.  Quite a bit. 

Here's a good example of why I now think that HB 1400 is probably a waste of your time.

My employer began offering AFLAC last year.  My company offers domestic partner benefits across the board, from medical to family leave.  So I asked the AFLAC rep about a family policy for unmarried, domestic partners as our agency has many such families, both gay and straight.  She first said yes, then later told me that Pennsylvania insurance regulations prohibited AFLAC from offering me the same policy as a married couple.  Instead, I could purchase two individual policies at a higher combined price.  I declined.   I had no reason to disbelieve her.

Fast forward many months and we are meeting with local financial advisor, Deborah Hughes.  She hooks us up with some insurance brokerish dude who can get us a similar policy.  I ask him about the insurance regulations.  He looks into it.  He won't give me a straight answer because he's trying to sell me a different policy that he claims is better.  At this point, my curiosity about the so-called regulations is much stronger than my interest in the policy so I decline.

I contact State Representative's Dan Frankel (former insurance guy himself) and Chelsa Wagner (my rep).  Their staff do some digging and discover that PA regulations do not prohibit AFLAC or any insurance company from offering coverage to unmarried couples. Nor, however, do the regulations require them to do so.  So the decision is up to the company.

I passed the information along to my employer and ask them to investigate.  We'll see where that leads.  I also emailed AFLAC and received no response thus far.

Then I start to think.  Does non-discrimination in the workplace promised by HB 1400 mean that employers have to offer access to the same benefits at the same price?  Would it force employers who want to offer AFLAC to make the coverage universal regardless of family type? 

I asked.  I emailed Frankel's staff.  I was given this information:

HB 1400 would simply require that employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identification. Therefore, if one employee is offered benefits, the company cannot refuse to offer benefits to an individual based on his/her sexual orientation or gender identification.

And advised to contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission for more information as the Human Relations Act is what will be amended by HB 1400.  So I dutifully looked up their website which I must say is very under-impressive and kitschy.  I finally figured out who I could call.  The woman who answered the phone kept asking me if I wanted to file a complaint.  I explained that I wanted to get some clarification on the impact of HB 1400 in my workplace.  She transferred me.  Then I was told that they can't answer my question until the bill passes and some sort of period passes.  Then I was told I should consult a lawyer.

Huh?  I should consult a lawyer to get information on AFLAC?  The attorney fees would mitigate any financial benefit to purchasing the policy.

So I've consulted with a HR department, an AFLAC sales rep, a financial advisor from Edward Jones, a rogue insurance broker type guy, two State Senators, the PA Insurance Commission, AFLAC HQ, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.  To what end?  No answer. 

So why bother?  If it takes this much energy to get exactly nowhere on such a small matter related to employment, should I have confidence that any of these people will really be in my corner if I experience more significant discrimination (again, not sure if the AFLAC thing is discrimination)?  I've been discriminated against in the workplace because of my sexual orientation (and my gender).  It is an ugly, diminishing experience and I was grateful I did not need to go to an external source for redress (my employer was in the City limits).

Now, I'm doubly grateful.  My lord.  Such energy for such a simple question. 

I'm beginning to suspect that our allies in politics are quite happy to get the glory of setting up these legislative victories, but not concerning themselves with implementation.  Such is the case with the Pittsburgh Domestic Registry.  We've learned that despite landmark legislation extending workplace protections to homosexuals and the extension of domestic partner benefits to City employees, only five same sex couples (and 65 common law married couples) have applied.  Five.  That seems really low given that we are one of those five couples.  So how groundbreaking was the whole effort in the 1990's if so few people choose to access that particular benefit?  (The City offers AFLAC, too, but let's not go there.)

According to the US Census, more than 60% of the City's African-American residents are not married.  Nearly 58% of African-American families headed by an unmarried female were below the poverty level in 2000.  That's a lot of folks who wouldn't qualify for AFLAC if their lover, boyfriend, fiancee, whatever doesn't put a ring on their finger.  Add in the fact that lower income families are more likely to have marginal or poor credit and unable to meet the requirements for the Domestic Registry, at least at first blush ... and you have a problem that is going to hurt a lot more than poor queer people.

Who is looking out for these folks?  I emailed Doug Shields, Tonya Payne and Bruce Kraus about this situation.  Shields emailed me back, but I don't think he understood my point -- that could be on me.  I called Kraus' office.  Staff was nice, but had no answers.  Bruce hasn't called me in the six weeks since then.  Tonya Payne's office just blew me off.

So, I guess one noisy lesbian doesn't make much of an impact.  Who will?  Who is looking out for folks impacted by these City matters?  The gay advocates have turned their attention elsewhere. Do local poverty advocates care?  That's one group I haven't networked with on this.  The State can't even resolve the AFLAC issue.

Everyone is so concerned about electing The Incarnation on the national level that they've forgotten that politics is local.  I guess.  Maybe? 

No wonder Bill Peduto is getting in touch with his inner Al Gore.  HB 1400 is just going to provide a new level of distraction away from all the current promises and policies and programs that aren't working.  Why bother? 

View Article  Final Update on PA's so-called Marriage Protection Amendment

Final nail in the coffin.  For this round. Courtesy of Equality Advocates:

The Pennsylvania legislature adjourned for its summer recess in the first week of July without any further action on the proposed Constitutional amendment, SB 1250. The legislation attempted to prohibit legal recognition of non-marital relationships in Pennsylvania including marriages of same-sex couples and civil unions. In order for the legislation to be validly passed, it must pass two two-year sessions of the legislature and it must be passed at least 90 days before a statewide election. Since the legislature is not scheduled to meet until mid-September, it cannot be passed 90 days prior to the November statewide election. The session ends in December.

Amen. 

Now if someone would turn their attention to the City of Pittsburgh's yet-to-be-appointed LGBT Advisory Board and the yet-to-be-named LGBT Mayoral Liaison, a few more loose ends would be wrapped up before bounding onto the newest and coolest LGBT advocacy flavor of the month issue. 

Or we can just wait to see in what new direction we are led, write our email messages and get on with not paying attention.

View Article  A little bit more on the GLCC

So I asked Vice-Chair, Kat Carrick, how the everyday Pittsburgh queer can help with the relocation of the GLCC.  Rest assured the organization has been working for many months on this very issue -- we all know they've planned to move even if we weren't aware of the impendingness of the whole situation. 

There's something very concrete you can do in the immediate future to make an impact -- help convince your City and County Council reps that the GLCC is important. 

how the community could help....one thought is to attend the august 7th squirrel hill urban coalition meeting at 7 pm in the JCC and let the developer and city council know that the programs and services that the glcc provides are necessary for the health of our community.

We are providing more programs than ever - including a new medical screening program that I'm wicked excited about --will provide free gyne exams, std tests, and basic health care screenings at the glcc....that program is due to start in september.

Those are Kat's very words.  August 7th it is folks.  Show up and be heard.  If you want to stick with posting Anonymous neighborhood bashings, you aren't really part of the solution.  If you want to make sure all of our Council reps understand the importance of this organization and that the entire community -- gay and straight -- benefits from its healthy existance, then go for it. 

Let's hope organizations like Steel City Stonewall, Gertrude Stein, Delta Foundation and so forth step up to speak up for the GLCC. 

View Article  Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Family Requests

Today, my brother's wife asked me to change my profile picture on Facebook.  You can't see my profile unless you are my friend so there's no sense my posting a link (you can search for me if you want to be my friend).  However, the image is the logo at the top of the blog.  I chose it because I think it is beautiful.  My friend Harry, himself a 20-year relationship celebrant this September, created it for me. 

It isn't the first time I've been asked to do a "don't ask, don't tell" move by someone.  Heck, I make that choice a dozen times each day -- each time I take the easy way and allow the assumption that I am heterosexual to remain unchallenged. Sometimes it is for my safety, sometimes for my comfort.  It doesn't phase me as much as it used to, but I admit that there is some small plink in my heart and/or soul each time. 

Last year, I blogged quite often about the comparison between that hetero-assumption and the gender identity issues at play in Pittsburgh's lesbian community.  None of us are above asking someone to not ask or not tell.  If Jessi Seams had been content to let assumptions about her gender identity go unchallenged, we would have lost a very important debate in our community.  I continue to think Jessi is one of the bravest people I know for acknowleding that there is an in-between gender identity during her City Paper interview.

So I told my sister-in-law no. I tried to be respectful in making my point.  There's an in-between in coming out -- that fine line between bashing it over people's heads and being true to yourself. 

The true blessing is that my little niece who is 2.5 years old does not see anything unusual that Aunt Laura kisses Aunt Sue.  It is all she has ever known and her little brother will be the same way.  I'm not sure about my brother's son.  I hope he will grow up to know and love his lesbian aunties, not his aunt and her friend.  That remains to be seen.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is noxious.  And it hurts a little bit.

View Article  New development will raze GLCC building

Rumors circulated last week that the building housing Pittsburgh's Gay & Lesbian Community Center would be razed as part of a planned new development on the prime intersection of 5 roads in Squirrel Hill. 

They were right.

According to Saturday's Post-Gazette, a $50 million residential/retail development mix is slated for the corner of Murray and Forward, home to the former Poli's building along with other smaller retail establishments.  Including the GLCC, too.  And the Squirrel Hill Theater.

Called Forward Square, the development by R.E. Crawford and Cambridge Venture Partners is proposed on a 150,000-square-foot site at Murray and Forward avenues. The nine-story project would include a six-story hotel, 20 condos on the three other floors, a restaurant similar to Sonoma Grill, several retailers and a two-story water plaza.

Sales agreements have been reached both for the former Poli property on Murray Avenue, including its two parking lots on lower Forward, and with Alderson-Forward Properties, which owns an adjacent building at 5800 Forward now housing five businesses, including the six-screen Squirrel Hill Theater.

Wow.  What exactly is a two-story water plaza?  The article described plans for the martial arts facility to move a few blocks up Murray into the plaza housing Starbucks (now there's a combo), but no plans for the relocation of other businesses.

We just went to see The Dark Knight at the Squirrel Hill Theater last night.  What a shame if it doesn't reopen elsewhere in the community -- they just began accepting debit cards!  For those moviegoers who prefer to avoid the hyper-manic, teen hormone drive experience that is the Waterfront, the Squirrel Hill theaters are good choices.  Our experience last night was only slightly diminished by the self-conscious cooing of college students sharing their wordly experience as they slowly trickle back into town.  Slightly.

And the GLCC?  Plans are underway to purchase a building in the future, but I've heard no significant announcements regarding a capital campaign.  So I assume they relocate and rent.  Board vice-chair Kat Carrick indicates that moving can actually be progress for the Center:

 you know there is a future for the glcc!
 
the only question is where we are relocating
 
this is an opportunity to acquire a building we identified in our 5 year strategic planning work -- one that is handicapped accessible, with better parking and on the bus line ....in order to  better serve the community
 
we will be working with city and county officials to ensure we have a smooth transition to a new space

Where would you like to see the GLCC relocate?   I think East Liberty or the Northside would be ideal, assuming space is available to meet the requirements outlined by Kat.  The dated notion that queers are afraid to come to the City went out the window with the advent of some hot new eateries and Whole Foods.  East Liberty is probably unaffordable by now as it continues to morph into East Side.  What's available on the Northside?

And would this be a great chance to partner with the Squirrel Hill Theater owners to redevelop the Garden Theater into something, well, functional?  I have no idea how all that development stuff works, but there's more parking over here than near the current location and plenty of bus lines on North Avenue. 

One can only hope the GLCC remains in Pittsburgh proper.  Squirrel Hill has been a good home and it is a shame that all of the recent renovations will be for naught, but this could be an opportunity to propel our community forward. 

Take a moment to check out the very well-done GLCC website http://www.glccpgh.org Now is a good time to step forward and pay attention.  Attend a board meeting to hear relocation plans for the horses' mouths.  Volunteer.  Donate. 

Stay tuned.

View Article  Happy Anniversary to Ledcat and Sue

Friday marks five years for us.  Celebrate with us!

Anniversaries can be tricky when you are in a relationship that has no legal status.  There's the day we met, our first date, our first kiss, the day we became exclusive, the day we moved in together, or even the day we had our domestic partnership officially registered with the City to tap into those benefits.  Soon, we'll have the day we become part of the Citywide Domestic Partner Registry. 

Lots of days to pick from.  All of them important in their own way, but none of which has any social recognition anywhere near the degree that heterosexual marriages receive.  No one in our mutual families can name our anniversary and none of them have ever asked, even as we've participated in celebrating theirs.  No cards or gifts or registries.  No vowel renewals.  Just the occasional question if we plan to go to California and the odd reference to events that took place before we coupled.  That's it. 

I'm spending our anniversary at Kennywood.  We'll have some fries and some funnel cake, then hold hands in the scary rides.  Our real celebration will come with a fall trip to Cleveland.  Ledcat gets to tour the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  I get cable for three whole days.  And room service. 

Five years of happiness and love.  No acknowledgement needed.

View Article  He closes Lawrenceville Giant Eagle and now plans to run North Side Giant Eagle?

Giant Eagle entrepreneur Bill Bricker is quite the guy.  He is closing the Giant Eagle in Lawrenceville because it isn't profitable and has purchased our corporate owned store on the North Side.  Huh? 

The North Side store had to cost a pretty penny b/c corporate has invested a ton of money to make it well, decent.  It is clean and I have almost gotten to the point of purchasing produce and/or deli meat.  Not yet, but they almost had me with the self-scan registers. 

Now here comes Mr. Bricker with a track record of closing another store in a struggling community after a 4 1/2 year commitment.  What makes our struggling community any different?  Could it be the opportunity to cut corners and take us right back to the days of yore when chaos, nastiness and general upheaval ruled the day?  If the arrival of a nearby Shop n Save made him uncompetitive, why?  What happened?  Why couldn't he keep up?  What happens to us down here when another corporation rolls into the Northside with a grocery store? 

Listen, Mr. Bricker, we want a clean store.  A lot of people depend on that store and most of them are the low-income folks you just screwed in Lawrenceville.  If, to remain profitable, you need those of us who used to shop at MacIntire Square and Camp Horne to continue patronizing our local store, you have to continue the improvements.  I still just come in for quick things, not my major shopping.  And the first corner you cut, I'm out of there. 

I don't hold out any high hopes for Mr. Bricker's plans.  We on the Northside are his "rebound" investment.  I guess he thinks spillover from the NorthShore is a better bet than from Children's Hospital.  Clearly, Mr. Bricker isn't a "community" investment kind of guy.

 

View Article  Good doggies!

Tonight, Ledcat and I moseyed up to Riverview Park for the first lesson in our outdoor dog training class.  The goal is to help dogs learn to deal with distractions in public places.  Since Xander and Deus are big scary dogs that bark at sources of fear, it seemed like a good idea.

The class is being held in this nice quiet grove.  The boys were very well-behaved and earned lots of treats for being obedient.  Our trainer laughed at us because our biggest challenge was keeping the boys from becoming jealous of each other when rewarded. 

We did look mighty silly wearing our makeshift treat aprons aka Home Depot tool aprons with "clickers" velcroed to our fingers and waving wooden spoons covered in peanut butter.  But it worked.  First, the ignored the deer that walked through the grove.  Xander finally learned to cope with Nico, the dog in the space next door.  He even did well with the folks walking around the upper ridge. 

Best of all, Xander proved useful in staring down the stupid and selfish idiot who showed up with his little yappy dog ... off leash.  I hate that more than just about anything in the world.  Our trainer - who is a badass Northside livin' connoisseur of coping with poor behavior -- told him off and ordered him to leave (she has a permit for private usage).  He started arguing about being a tax payer and FU and all that good stuff.  So I walked Xander closer to the edge of the ring and secretly instructed him to bark.  Which he did.  Very loudly.  The guy then made a point of driving right up to me (I didn't flinch b/c I knew Ledcat had my back) and turning his car around with a flourish.  Proving what, exactly?  That he's an asshole who might run over a lesbian and her dog?  I got his license and know the Pgh dog cop.  Ha. 

Put your dog on a leash.  It is never cute to those of us who follow the rules and want to enjoy the public spaces, too.  It is never cute.  Roll your eyes and sigh and rationalize away.  While your little yapper (I have a yapper too) dances around being adorable, my much better behaved large scary dark dogs have their pleasures curtailed because of your inconsiderate, thoughtless choices. 

I just want to walk my dog through the park without having to contend with you running daintily toward me yelling "he won't bite" as your miscreant heads my way.  Yes, he will bite in the right circumstances.  Because he is a dog and when I spray him with repellant to avoid a confrontation with my properly leashed dog, he's gonna get pissed.  I would.  Technically, he should bite you for not being more careful with his precious self, but that's between you. 

Leash your dog.  Please.  I don't want to give Xander the secret command to scare you away.  But I will. 

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