Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Blog ... out'n proud in the Burghosphere.

Bookmark and Share
Loading
Year Archive
View Article  Metcalfe story picked up by Lez Get Real

Prior to 2010, I used to contribute to Lez Get Real and Pam's House Blend routinely.  That sort of fell to the wayside, but I have resolved to get back in the saddle in 2011. 

Here's my first step courtesy of Lez Get Real.

Happy 2011!

View Article  Allentown to be first Lehigh Valley municipality to offer domestic partner benefits?

From the Morning Call

Allentown may soon become the first municipality in the Lehigh Valley to offer medical benefits to partners of gay employees, whether active or retired.

Under a domestic partnership bill before council, partners of gay employees would be eligible for health benefits as long as the couple can illustrate they live together and are jointly responsible for household finances.

Many private companies and institutions in the Lehigh Valley, such as Muhlenberg College and The Morning Call, offer similar benefits, as does the city of Philadelphia.

It appears it might make headway with some support from the local council and a sort of generalish "no comment" from the Mayor

The bill, introduced on Dec. 15 and slated for a final vote as early as next month, has broad support among council members, who say gay couples deserve the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

"This is about fairness and equality," said council President Michael D'Amore, one of the driving forces behind the bill. "Gay employees' inability to get married in this state should not preclude them from getting health benefits."

Mayor Ed Pawlowski has yet to reveal his position on the measure, saying it's "under review."

This is the argument I've made over and over with regard to Allegheny County.  There are hard-working public servants who are treated like second-class citizens by our County government simply  because they are gay.  What's worse is that government is the bastion of health enforcement through the County Health Department so they should be setting the bar high, not cowering behind labor-management relations as a cover for a failure to act.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ persons will still be held to a higher standard of proof than heterosexual couples, many of whom are not even required to produce a marriage license for some employers.

In order to qualify for the benefits, the employee and partner must provide the city with at least three documents that show that they are living together and are jointly responsible for basic living expenses. Acceptable documents include mortgages, leases, utility bills and joint bank accounts, according to the bill.

This is a sore spot with me.  It can be challening to meet these criteria, based on the ignorance of the utility companies or simply the frustrating number of hurdles.  Verizon told me they had to actually literally disconnect all of our services, open a new account, CHARGE US to keep our number and come out to the house to get the DSL reconnected.  That's a lot of inconvenience (and expense) to meet a standard. 

I think one form of proof and a sworn affidavit is more reasonable.  Yes, it will be abused just like heterosexual couples abuse marital benefits every day in much, much greater numbers. 

Still, it is progress for Allentown. Here's hoping Allentown's leadership inspires Allegheny County. 

 

View Article  Rob Rogers on DADT

I love that you can get a little insight from Rob on his art. 

View Article  Happy Fifth Blogiversary to Us!

I've been mulling over this post for quite a few weeks.  I say mulling when I really mean typing, grumbling, deleting and wailing my lack of inspiration. I kept asking myself how relevant local LGBTQ blogging was, especially from a woman's point of view.

Then Ledcat said "why did you start blogging?"  Voila!  Let's take a look at my very first blog post (aside from a picture of the dearly departed Miss Mona).

The First Step is the Hardest

A little over a year ago, I received the coveted title of "Unofficial Lesbian Correspondent" for a local liberal talk radio program.  While it mostly entailed double entendres and Santorum bashing, it did give me a heady sense of unearned power and unabashed self-promotion.  And I parlayed it into a one-time gig judging a costume contest for a local AIDS fundraiser. 

So it wasn't a huge leap to starting a blog. 

So here we are .... two lesbians, high speed internet connections and puh-lenty of opinions on just about every conceivable topic. 

But we are sooo much more than smart mouthed lesbian correspondents.  We've got a full array of supporting cast members (including the requisite homophobes), an overwhelming amount of magazine subscriptions and a shared compulsion to read the local paper cover to cover on a daily basis. 

This is an interesting time to be a Pittsburgh queer.  The most important election of our lives is right around the corner (Santorum v Casey), our city is on the brink of financial collapse and we have yet to have a prominent community member identify themselves as openly gay. 

But the birth of our first niece is imminent and we've got our own blog.  2006 may turn out to be a pretty good year for grrrls. 

Bring it on ...

I was sort of delighted to read this.  Casey won, as you know.  However, we've lost the Specter seat to Pat Toomey, so it appears we head into year number six with pretty much the same cast of characters.  The City is in no better shape and our Administration has been ineffective <cough> at leading us out of disarray.  Or leading, period.

And we have the lovely City Councilor, Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh's first openly gay elected official who is up for reelection in 2011.  That race will shine a light on Pittsburgh's dirty homophobic underside.  It will be the election of the year for Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community.   The lesbians support Bruce and not because he's gay. 

But let's save that for 2011. 

Back to my original question.  How relevant is local LGBTQ blogging, especially when driven by a lesbian?  Well, it would be cumbersome to recount every major issue we've covered or brought to light, but we have provided coverage where the MSM feared to go and the coverage generated talk, sometimes on the radio and sometimes on other blogs.  So word got out, albeit indirectly.  I think consistently highlighting and demanding attention to LGBTQ issues has impacted the local MSM ... we are on several Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogrolls and I get more than a few media calls to offer perspective.

Yes, I fill a LGBTQ media void and that has created opportunities for me to bring LGBTQ issues and a lesbian perspective on all sorts of issues into the public square.  I also communicate with national bloggers which gives me a chance to put Pittsburgh in the national spotlight.  However, it also gives me a chance to inform local folks what's going on the queer community around the nation.  The repeal of DADT was high profile, but you may  not have known about the election of the first lesbian of color in a state thousands of miles away and what that means for Pittsburgh. 

I have my detractors, but I think that's a sign I'm doing the job I set out to do -- shining a light on our community for good and for bad.

I don't profess to be the voice of queer Pittsburgh, but I certainly claim my right to be heard. 

So keep bringing it on ...

View Article  Human kindness is overflowing and I think it's gonna rain today

Lonely, so lonely.
Tin can at my feet,
I think I'll kick it down the street.
That's the way to treat a friend.

Bright before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.

I spent more than six weeks raising donations of holiday gifts for vulnerable people. Our goal was to provide a gift for hundreds of people.  I had to do this around my primary job duties so I was up at 5 AM, on the computer all evening long and tweeting during any spare minute.  So many people helped, but there was just so much I had to on my own time. 

As the project drew to a close, I found myself feeling sad and a little empty.  I didn't shop for any gifts to give. I didn't decorate.  I ate, slept, exercised and did all the important self-care, but putting up a tree just didn't make the list.  I also lived "out loud" during all that time, cajoling people to donate, tweeting about events, sharing every moment to help people understand why it mattered. As Christmas Day drew near, I guess my sadness was palpable.  I kept telling myself that all the good we accomplished should be enough, but I also realized how much personal joy I sacrificed. 

Let me be clear, it was worth it because I had a warm home, a Ledcat and plenty of food. Feeling sad and lonely is not reserved for those who go without, but I am very aware of my good fortune. I have no reason to complain, simply to set the stage for my Christmas gift.  Hopefully, next year there will be more hands to help and I am confident that will happen.

On Christmas Eve, my friend Kerry called me to say someone had wanted to drop off a gift for me at his shop and would I come down. He didn't know them.  I was skeptical, assuming it was another gift for the holiday drive and thinking I would just get it after Christmas.  He insisted it was for me.  They had noticed my sadness on Twitter and wanted to do something for me.  I honestly couldn't believe that so I said I would get it eventually.

Actually, to be honest, I told him to give it to someone in need because I didn't think I needed a Christmas gift as I had just collected more than 500 of them.  He laughed at me and said it would be wating for me. 

I didn't go get it.  Monday, we took a walk around the Northside and stopped at the shop, obstensibly to visit Kerry but really to use the bathroom.  When I came back, an envelope was sitting at my place.  Then I remembered.

I opened it and found the following note:

Sue

For all the things you do for others.  This is for you. We're really just neighbors you've never met, but would like to share some joy for the holiday season.

Now I'm a little embarrassed to share this and I don't want to rhapsodize about holiday miracles or any such thing.  But the gift was very generous and something I really liked and had a profound impact on me. 

I believe when Randy Newman wrote the song lyric I quoted above, he captured the sense of being alienated so poetically.  I had just experienced a massive flow of human kindness after I had been "showing them the way" to help.  But, apparently, I kept stepping out of the way of the flow and into the shadows to avoid this being about me.

I didn't mean to share my sadness or any negative feelings during the holiday seasons, but a little part of me is really glad that someone heard me.

I want to thank my new friends for the lovely gift, but for something more precious.  I now know how the people who received gifts from my project feel.  I am very humbled by this whole experience and will carry that gift forward.

Merry Christmas. 

 

View Article  More on Metcalfe

I dialogued with Sue Frietsche of the Women's Law Project about the Metcalfe memo on "Marriage Amendment" 2011.  Her take on it is cause for serious thought ...

It's more radical than alternative versions because of the provision prohibiting 
recognition of any "identical or substantially equivalent" legal union.  So what 
is a substantially equivalent legal union?  Would it prohibit domestic partnership 
benefits, second-parent adoptions, joint checking accounts, reciprocal powers of
attorney, or what?  Because it's a proposed constitutional amendment, it speaks 
in broad generalities, not the specifics of a statute or regulation.  This version
failed last time because no one had any idea how it would affect all kinds of 
Pennsylvanians: would it harm heterosexual unmarried couples who had some 
equivalent legal structures in place to protect their interests short of marriage? 

This is going to require a serious education component to shake folks out of their complacency about adoptions and POA's.  I'm sure most people would be stunned to learn that an amendment that seems to be about "gay marriage" could impact the Power of Attorney documents for unmarried heterosexual couples.  Advocates have to find a way to connect with people who aren't at the table but have a vested interest in these issues. 

That message has to resonate as loudly as Senator "Gays Are Allowed to Exist" Eichelberger's infamous comments from last session. 

There are slews of LGBTQ adoptive parents and every couple has a second parent adoption.  That's hundreds of Allegheny County voters to be mobilized.  I'm not 100% sure of the nuances of second parent adoption for heterosexual couples, but the POA issue could be devastating.  People spend thousands getting those documents prepared along with other domestic partnership paperwork.  What about people traveling through Pennsylvania?  What if a LGBTQ couple with a child are involved in a car accident and the primary adoptive parent passes away?  Would the Commonwealth be able to deem the second parent adoption null and void under the federal DOMA statute?

I guess the point is, as Sue points out, that we just don't know.

We do know that there are a lot of things to be addressed, things even Dems and Repubs can agree upon so it might be better to vest energy in those topics.

We also know that time is on our side.  We have to fend off this amendment (year after year after year),  but equality is on the horizon. 

 

View Article  AP piece on Pennsylvania LGBT ordinances/legislation

Hmm ... I missed this yesterday in the Post-Gazette.

HARRISBURG -- Although his years-long crusade to enact a statewide ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity again died at the end of the most recent legislative session, state Rep. Dan Frankel sees reason for optimism.

Frankel's optimism stems from the long-term view (useful in politics, eh) that our cultural view toward LGBTQ people, families and issues has shifted.  Not IS. Not WILL.  It has shifted and the polling data shows that.  See my little riend's pronouncement that Ledcat and I cannot marry "stupid"   She'll be voting in four Presidential cycles.  That my friends is the long-term view.

The piece goes on to explore how state level inaction has generated much hubbub at the local level.  18 locals.  It has also fed into the hatefest such as in Lancaster which disbanded the Human Relations Commission to save money.  Really?  I'm sure the African-American residents feel real good that their experiences with housing discrimination got axed to save money.  Nice.

I can't resist posting this quote.

"It creates a policy, a public policy, and it puts those who disagree with that policy in the same footing as those who are, say, racial bigots," said Randall Wenger, lawyer for the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Family Institute, which lobbied against Mr. Frankel's bill.

"We call certain choices discrimination because we, collectively, as a people, determine that certain choices are downright bad, they're downright evil," Mr. Wenger said. "I think recently, with the additional of sexual orientation and gender identity, they are choices people make precisely because they are the moral choices they want to make."

Umm. I think there was a time when "certain choices" like owning people was Biblically sanctioned, not evil.  What would Mr. Wenger have argued if that point were brought up?  Is it the "calling" of choices discrimination that make them evil because that sounds a lot like moral relativism, not so much grounded in moral certainties.  He uses the term CHOICE four times in this quote which must simply be to downplay that people don't HATE gays, they just choose not to hire them.  It is a lifestyle choice not to associate with gay people, but it is just a matter of housing patterns that mean no black people live in your cul-de-sac.  Hmmm.

It hasn't taken long for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to galvanize advocates and increase pressure (probably on both ends to be fair)

Stephen A. Glassman, chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, said cost concerns can be overblown and have to be balanced against the cost of not actively dealing with discrimination complaints.

"If you can repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' at the federal level, you ought to at least be able to protect people's jobs and housing in the state of Pennsylvania," Mr. Glassman said.

I wonder if Tom Corbett will keep Stephen Glassman as chair?  That will be telling. 

I'm glad the discussion isn't around marriage.  We have to use building blocks.  We need to look inward at Western PA and focus on elections as well as hold our current electeds to some standard of doing something.  It is not 2009. We need to move on and see something happening. 

I'm going to go watch some lady slather honey on a ham. 

View Article  Of friendships lost and friendships renewed

It has been a long month. I could go on and on with the dramas, both large and small that have pervaded Lesbian Central.  Let's just say the highlight of the week was losing (and finding) my cell phone at the Waterfront and losing (and finding) our chihuaha in our back alley. 

Amidst the intensity and up and downs and blog posts and all that, one thing has been sad ... I lost a friend. It matters not who or how, but simply that it is what it is. Losing a friendship is a weird combination of heartwrench and zen.  Your mind is filled with a thousand little moments you want to share and another thousand moments remember that you can't or you won't or you just shouldn't.  You prepare yourself for the inevitable real life contact and feel confident that you can muster up the courtesy and human decency to be amicable, but you realize that you just aren't quite sure what the other person has in mind.  A thought that would not have crossed your mind before the friendship ended.

Faith, I guess is a casualty of being let down when you are most vulnerable.

On a related note, my faith in another friend has grown in leaps and bounds because of unexpected rallying to my side when she was let down and I tried to help.  It isn't nearly the same kind of friendship, but it certainly does give oomph to the door closes/window opens way of looking at the world. I don't think I buy it, but it is nice to have a little bounce.

I expect the worst and foolishly still hope for a gesture of kindness. A gesture to show that I'm not cast aside like a wad of wrapping paper ripped from a shiny new toy.  But it certainly happens.  I don't stack up so well against a Red Rider Rifle (or whatever it is called) or a gift card.  Do people wrap gift cards or is that just a lesbian thing?

I'll think of my former friend tomorrow.  I'll raise my glass to their holiday which I'm sure will be joyful.  Then I'll just not think about it again.  Or I'll try.

Maybe I should have saved this post for New Year's Eve? 

Well, Merry Christmas, to my lost friend.  I genuinely hope all your wishes come true.

View Article  Joan Clearly, an LGBT ally, resigns from Allegheny County Council

Buried not on the front page comes news that Allegheny County Councilwoman Joan Cleary has resigned her seat with no explanation.  Her replacement will be selected by the Dems on the Council and will include someone from Baldwin, Brentwood, Castle Shannon, Clairton, Jefferson Hills, Pleasant Hills, South Park, West Elizabeth, and Whitehall.

Cleary was chair of the Council committee on health and human services so it is particularly of interest to this social worker whom they select to fill her seat. 

So what does it mean for the LGBTQ community?

First, Cleary was on board the Allegheny County Anti-Discrimination/HRC Ordinance from the get go.  Rich Fitzgerald personally told me that fact.  Coming from a somewhat conservative swath of the region, it speaks volumes of her commitment to fairness.  It most likely speaks to the lessons she's learned as a nurse.  I'd like to think Ms. Cleary thought Allegheny County employees deserved health insurance for their families, even if they were gay, but I have no confirmation of that wishfu thinking.  What matters is who doesn't.  And ...pow ...wait for the smack downs on that little zinger. (I just can't let it go while people supporting Obamacare deny Onoratocare -- hey, I sort of like that).

Her role on health and human services is critical.  As a practicioner, she brough invaluable insight from the trenches.  Whether she worked in cosmetic surgery or on the streets, she surely experienced the best and worst of our health care system.  I can't imagine mastering the County's vast Departments of Health and Human Service as a PT councilor on top of the day to day work.  We are fortunate with a lot of resources and programs, but it is important to have a watchdog. 

I've had the privilege of working in the health, housing child welfare, mental health and mental retardation fields during my career.  I've worked with people living in poverty through all of it.  I want someone experienced, smart and committed to equality in this seat. 

I don't want to read this next year (Cleary voted against this -- she probably read it).

Amid the arguing, the members agreed that in the future they would not vote on amendments without reading them and possibly referring them to committees for consideration.

sdf

View Article  Equality Advocates PA Response to Metcalfe Memo

From Equality PA --

Friends:  Let the crazy begin.  Hopefully, this won't  ruin anyone's holidays but it appears from the attached memo that the battle will begin early in 2011.  What I am providing is a copy of a memo from one of our chief opponents, Rep. Darryl Metcalfe, calling on his legislative colleagues to sign on as co-sponsors of his soon-to-be-introduced constitutional amendment on marriage.  Of course, most of us knew this was coming.  However, we didn't think he would end-up as the chair of the committee that oversees this legislation though.  Yes, as an added bonus he will be taking over the Committee on State Government come early January.  A turn of events that will make the next few months an adventure to say the least.  

Rest assured that EQPA is preparing for this battle, and that we will need all your help.  Advice, manpower, donations, helping to plan strategy, all of these items will be necessary as we work together to protect our community.  The good news is that we have allies and the vast majority of voters have clearly stated time and again that people were elected to deal with the economy NOT social issues.  We intend to remind everyone who will listen on that point.  However, we know that we do not control the agenda.  

Sincerely,

Ted Martin

Executive Director

Equality Pennsylvania

sdf

IMHO, Pennsylvania is going to have to grapple with the grassroots v Gay, Inc issues pretty damn quickly to muster the forces on this one.  I clearly do not support this legislation, but neither do I support a gay agenda driven by insider monied gay men and I don't think I should have to choose.  Prepare for an ugly, ugly spring as the community wrestles with the meaning of all that went into the repeal of DADT and the fallout for LGBT organizing.  While we must rally, we must also have our eyes wide open that our own best interests may lay in our grassroots work, not just the work of Gay, Inc. 

Follow PghLesbian24 on Twitter

The Correspondents