Thursday, February 21
by Sue on Thu 21 Feb 2008 08:50 PM EST
In honor of my new friend Kris Rust, here's a look at what some prominent queers are saying about their support for Obama. It is an interesting read. But note that all three interviewees are men.
I"m still looking for input from lesbian Obama supporters.
by Sue on Thu 21 Feb 2008 07:59 PM EST
This week, intrepid City Paper reporter and friend to the average queer, Melissa Meinzer explores the ramifications of Rebecca Hare's rescue from a rising river and the media free for all around her gender identity.
While it is fairly self-evident that Pittsburgh's media botched coverage of this story and that Rebecca's gender was not relevant to her rescue, Meinzer explores the connection between her status as a trans woman and her decision to live under the Convention Center.
Well done. Check out the full story for more details.
Wednesday, February 20
by Sue on Wed 20 Feb 2008 10:22 PM EST
Guess who is rolling into town? Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his posse of homo hatin' legal eagles. Moore, you may recall, wanted to slather Alabama Courthouses with the 10 Commandments. Ironically, he's narrowed his focus to homosexuals, a group noticeably absent from said Commandments. Hmmm. I guess he's moved on to Leviticus.
Anyhoo, The Foundation for Moral Law is coming to Pennsylvania to posit that our hate crimes law violates the state constitution. The issue centers around the provisions amending the hate crimes law to include sexual orientation. This led to the arrest of homegrown religious wing nut Michael Macavage who was protesting at Outfest in Philadelphia.
Macavage filed suit and the Commonwealth Court agreed with his claim that the *process* by which the original ethnic intimidation law had been amended was flawed. The process included an attachment to an agricultural bill.
Moore and his minions of hate celebrate the impending demise of the thought police.
See this is where it gets interesting. Moore and Macavage hide behind claims that this is about controlling their thoughts or their religious beliefs, but they aren't challenging the law on those grounds. They are challenging it on procedural grounds. Why? Because they know the law doesn't interfere with their hate thoughts.
They neglect to point out that Macavage and his Repenters were arrested for their actions. They were not peacefully protesting or handing out tracts or carrying some "homos are demon spawn" signs. They were intentionally disrupting a lawful gathering of the gay community. Their actions were disruptive, belligerent and intentional. Their free speech does not give them the right to tramp all over the rights of the objects of their protests.
So, I wonder why the legislation was part of the agricultural bill? If it is overturned on procedure, does that mean it can be reintroduced on its own merits? Assuming we can take care of this pesky marriage amendment and get our human relations definitions expanded. It would be like the trifecta of legislative years. Or something.
(h/t the man called Potter)
Sunday, February 17
by Sue on Sun 17 Feb 2008 11:06 AM EST
It is back. According to Equality Advocates, the legislation to start the constitutional amendment process roared back to life on Valentine's Day.
This legislation would embed anti-gay marriage protections into the constitution of our Commonwealth by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Pennsylvania, as you may recall, has existing legislation which does that very thing and there are no attempts on the horizon to challenge that legislation. To my knowledge.
We had a bitter struggle over this in 2006. Many Southwestern Pennsylvania Democrats in the House voted in favor of the amendment. The Senate did some fancy footwork by introducing a watered-down version of the amendment (would not outlaw civil unions), counting on the fact that the Repubs would never go for it and they were right. So everyone walked away claiming they voted for it and against it. It all boils down to the fact that very few of our legislators were willing to publicly stand up against discrimination and homophobia.
Fast forward to 2008. Legislation in the House and the Senate to expand the Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation are gaining momentum and co-sponsors. Pittsburgh elects an openly gay City Councilperson. PA Human Relations Commission Chair Steve Glassman, an openly gay man, is reappointed in spite of attempts by the AFA of PA to oppose the appointment. Philadelphia is not allowing tax payers to foot the rent for the openly discriminatory Boy Scouts. Presidential candidates participate in a televised debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.
We have made progress. We cannot afford to let this push us back to the "I voted for it because I was against it" political survival mentality.
Here's the sponsorship breakdown, courtesy of Equality Advocates. I've noted the Western PA folks and the two Democrats. Note that no Democrats supported this legislation last time it was in the Senate. Let's ask ourselves who is making the most contacts in those districts.
Brubaker Musto (D), Gordner, Scarnati, Kasunic (32nd - Fayette, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland counties AND a D),
The good news is that four co-sponsors last time around have opted to NOT co-sponsor the legislation this time.Three of those individuals are from Western Pennsylvania. If you live in their districts, call them or email them and affirm that decision, asking them to focus on issues more important to your district than marriage protection overkill. Tell them about the economy and health care and road infrastructure and taxation issues that are having a real impact on your family right now.
The 4th individual is Senator Rafferty from the Berks County region.
So, three Western Pennsylvania Senators have opted not to participate in a fear-driven attempt to scapegoat homosexuals while residents of Pennsylvania struggle with actual problems like the Birmingham Bridge suddenly breaking or the inability of multiple rich people to get a decent grocery store into an urban, predominantly African-American community or the shooting death of two teenagers due to gang violence. Oh hey, how about this one -- the media is filled with analysis on how to help mentally ill people stop killing college students, but once again there's no cost of living allowance in the state budget for mental health providers. Nice. How about fixing that little problem?
Truth be told people, your family is much more likely to drive across a failing bridge and fall to the river below than to suffer a single consequence of my relationship with Ledcat. Hey, we are actually going out to spend money buying a new vacuum cleaner today -- we are putting money into the economy. Isn't that what all good citizens should be doing? Then, of course, we'll come home to modify it as part of our plan to destroy our neighbors' marriages - oh, wait a minute, we live by two single mothers, an unmarried hetero couple, a single man, a widow, a grandma raising three grandkids and a gay couple. Well, there goes that plan.
Here's the final rundown of what you need to know and what you can do about it. The legislation is in the Judiciary Committee. There are several local Senators sitting on that committee. If you live in their districts, please pick up your phone and ask them not to vote this legislation out of Committee (see all reasons above).
Senator Jay Costa is the minority chair. Senator Wayne Fontana sits on this committee. Senator Stout (Washington County) sits on this committee. Senator Earll from Erie County sits on this committee. Senator Orie sits on this committee.
Equality Advocates should have a link up by the end of the day Monday so you can just click and email. Be careful when forwarding email alerts because they sometimes contain your personal information --- I discovered that when I clicked a link someone sent me last time and her address popped up in the "auto-fill" box on the webpage.
In summary, please take action in these ways. The links take you to contact information for each Senator.
1. If your Senator co-sponsored the legislation, please contact them and share your displeasure.
2. If your Senator sits on the Judiciary Committee, please contact them and ask them not to vote the legislation out of committee.
3. All others, contact your Senator and ask them to vote against the legislation.
More scripts and talking points will be coming. But I trust that you, homo and hetero alike, can eloquently identity at least three or four other issues that are more immediately pressing for your family (especially the voters!) than defending heterosexual marriage.
Please don't wait for someone else to make the call.
Saturday, February 16
by Sue on Sat 16 Feb 2008 10:20 AM EST
Here's further evidence of the "Pittsburgh is a good place to be queer" mantra that I've oft repeated. In response to the recent media coverage of the rescue of Rebecca Hare, longtime trans advocate Dr. Emilia Lombardi shares her thoughts with the readers of the Post-Gazette. Lombardi praises Pittsburgh's first-responders for their sensitivity to Hare's status as a transwoman.
I agree that Holman and his crew should be lauded for exemplary work and, hopefully, Public Safety Director Michael Huss will take note of this when reviewing the performance of other first responders. There's room for improvement, but we need to recognize when things go well.
As noted in this blog, media coverage of the entire rescue was abysmal. Clearly, the major outlets should put in a call to Mr. Potter (and presumably Mr. Scaife) for some guidance on responsibly covering the LGBT community.
Lombardi's letter also appeared in the Trib.
On a related note, I like to highlight letters to the editor pertaining to the LGBTQ community as I believe it is important that we stay abreast of the messages being put out by John Q. Public himself. When I first began writing this blog in 2005/2006, I was kept busy nearly every day analyzing letters to the editor from the PG, the Trib, the Beaver County Times, and others related to the attempt to "protect" heterosexual marriage by amending the Pennsylvania commonwealth. That attempt failed, but another battle is on the horizon.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to move from grumbling about an issue to taking action. Our legislators do pay attention to public sentiment and it does make a difference when they get a feel for the sentiments of their constituents. You can have an impact by contacting your legislators and by writing letters to the editor. If your letter isn't published b/c another similar letter is, rejoice that at least two peole cared enough to write in the first place. Then write again on another issue. Don't be discouraged.
More details on the impending amendment push soon.
Wednesday, February 13
by Sue on Wed 13 Feb 2008 08:42 PM EST
Now is the time to get involved. Go to www.steel-city.org for information on how to join so you can vote for the new members of the Board AND the slate for 2008. I just like to rhyme slate and 2008. It has been a long day. What can I say?
Here's the press release for the Board elections. I personally know only one of these people and can say without hesitation that I fully endorse Dr. Emilia Lombardi for a seat on the Board. Ledcat knows Toeknee Bailey and plans to vote for her. The rest of the crew is a pretty diverse bunch, always a good thing. So check them out here, let me know if you have any insight and plan to be there on Sunday, February 24, 2008.
the 2008 Board Elections & Democratic Primary Endorsement Vote
Sunday, February 24
3 ? 5:30 PM
First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
605 Morewood Avenue in Shadyside/Oakland.
This event will serve to elect candidates to the Steel-City Stonewall Board of Directors and to endorse Candidates running in the Democratic Primary.
3:00 - 3:30 Informal Meet & Greet.
3:30 - 4:00 Nomination & Introduction of Candidates for Board, Introduction of Candidates for Public Office, Explanation of Voting Procedures.
4:00 - 5:30 Informal Meet & Greet.
5:00 Voting for Board of Directors will close.
5:30 Voting for the Endorsements will close.
Board elections ? The out-going Board will present a slate of candidates for the incoming Board. Write-ins and nominations from the floor will also be allowed. Biographies of the slated Board Candidates are listed below and will also be on hand at the event for all to review. Individuals nominated from the floor will be allowed to speak briefly at the meeting.
Endorsements for political office - Candidates for a variety of state and national offices are expected to attend, including the Pennsylvania Legislature, the United States Congress, and surrogates for the Presidential Candidates. Questionnaires from the candidates will be posted in advance at www.steel-city.org and will be on hand at the event for all to review. This is a great time to ask questions of both the Board Candidates and Endorsement Candidates. For a full description of rules and procedures for voting, please visit our website: www.steel-city.org
Light refreshments and beverages including beer and wine will be served. Members in good standing will be admitted free of charge. Non-members will be required to pay a nominal entry fee of $5.00 to help cover costs of the event. Non-members will not be eligible to vote in either election.
In order to insure your eligibility to vote in our Board Elections and the 2008 Primary Endorsements please join SCSD or renew your membership for 2008 in advance of our Board and Endorsement Votes. Family Membership, which includes votes for two individuals, is $50.00. Individual Membership is $35.00, and a student/low income membership is $15.00. Membership in Steel-City Stonewall Democrats includes membership in National Stonewall Democrats.
You can renew or join via PayPal on our web site: www.steel-city.org , or by sending a check and contact information to:
Steel City Stonewall Democrats
5032 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15289
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you on February 24, 2008.
Biographies of Board Candidates
Toeknee Bailey ? A native of Pittsburgh, Toeknee has served on the boards of Persad, PAAR, and the Renaissance City Choirs. She currently works as a legal assistant for Neighborhood Legal Services and is a drumming performer and instructor. In addition, Toeknee enjoys writing, singing and theater arts.
Joanne Bostjanick retired from teaching in the Pittsburgh Public Schools where she taught at the Elementary Gifted Center and at A. Leo Weil School in the Hill District. Prior to teaching in Pittsburgh, Joanne taught in Butler and in Houston, Texas. She worked on the campaigns of Judge Kathryn Hens Greco and County Councilman Jim Burn and has served as Judge of Elections in Shaler for the past few years. Joanne enjoys yard work and traveling with her partner Lee Marcuzzi. Some of their favorite destinations have included Alaska, the Panaman Canal, the Mediterranean, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Michael Braxton is a major gift officer for Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon in 2004, he practiced law for 8 years in Pittsburgh law firms. Michael has served as a member of the board of directors of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and as that organization?s two-term president. He was a vestryman of Calvary Episcopal Church, a member of the board of the City Theatre, the Pittsburgh Symphony New Leadership Board and Blind & Vision Services of Western Pennsylvania. He was also involved locally with the Howard Dean campaign ? volunteering in Iowa prior to the 2004 Iowa caucuses and helping to organize with fundraising. Michael currently sits on the board of Conservation Consultants, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting efficient energy use in homes. Michael is a graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School where he was a notes editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & Society.
Nachum Golan is a native of Israel, but has lived in Pittsburgh over 40 years. He is active the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and was instrumental in bringing to the Jewish Community Center an exhibit about homosexuals in the holocaust. In addition, he has been involved in the Persad Center, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, the Sheperd Wellness Center, and Bit Tikvah.
Mike Haye has worked in health care administration for the past 25 years, after earning his master?s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Originally from Virginia, Mike did his undergraduate work at Clemson University in South Carolina. He now enjoys Pennsylvania and has lived and worked in the Pittsburgh area for the last 15 years. He has been involved politically with campaigns in Texas for governor Ann Richards. In Pennsylvania he worked for the ?get out the vote? effort for Gore and Kerry through Move On and participated in the Casey campaign for Senate.
Emilia Lombardi, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, Dept of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her degree (in sociology) from the University of Akron in Ohio in 1997. She had served as the principal investigator of a study entitled "Substance Use and Treatment Experiences of Transgender/Transsexual Men and Women.? She currently works on a project studying HIV-prevention, and she is currently working on a research study that will examine the social and medical process of transitioning from one gender to another. Dr. Lombardi is also a member of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Health and Sexual Orientation. She has been a transactivist for over ten years and has been involved in many groups focused on transgender issues (Akron, Oh; Los Angeles, CA, Pittsburgh, PA). She has also chaired the West Hollywood Transgender Task Force.
Jay Molluso is a 63 year old lawyer, formerly a senior deputy attorney general, who now services as general counsel for a private tax collection company. He and his partner of 15 years Bill Volbrecht reside in Mt Washington. Jay has volunteered for PERSAD as well as the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force over the years and was previously a Stonewall board member.
Kris Rust has been a member of Steel City Stonewall Democrats for several years and served on its board as interim Co-chair since August 2007. In the past he has been involved with MoveOn.org and the judicial campaigns of Kathryn Hens Greco and his partner Hugh McGough. Kris is musician and teacher. He has been involved with the Renaissance City Choirs, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association and the Western PA Conservancy.
Janis Williams, a Democratic Committee woman in the City of Pittsburgh, currently serves as the Steel-City Stonewall Political Director. Engaged in politics since 2003, Janis was very active in the Presidential Campaign of John Kerry, organizing outreach and voter registration drives. She went to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 as a member of the Platform Committee, and has been the Political Director for Steel-City Stonewall since 2005. The Stonewall National Convention, featuring DNC Chairman Howard Dean, was held in Pittsburgh in 2005, and Janis worked extensively on the Organizing Committee. Janis believes that Steel-City has unlimited potential to make equality a forefront issue and to give a voice to the GLBT community. Further, she feels that the organization needs to set aggressive goals for 2008 in order to bring focus, and to rally around the issues that are most crucial to our members and their families.
Sunday, February 10
by Sue on Sun 10 Feb 2008 06:35 PM EST
Just got word from a reader that the Tuscany Cafe, a Southside gay mecca for a decade or so, has unexpectedly closed.
He reports that he stopped by per his usual routine on Saturday afternoon and found a note taped to the door thanking patrons for their business and indicating they (the owners) would see them at Rehobeth Beach.
The phone number has been disconnected.
Tuscany combined a coffee house front with a quiet bar tucked into the back of the space. The sandwiches were delish as were the desserts.
Ledcat and I have frequented the Tuscany often when we venture out for dinner or a cultural event on the Southside. I was, in fact, planning to stop by tomorrow when I attend an event at City Theater. We had been pleased with recent renovations and a very friendly staff.
What a loss.
by Sue on Sun 10 Feb 2008 06:14 PM EST
In his brand spanking new blog, Slag Heap, the man called Potter critiques media coverage of the recent rescue of Rebecca Hare from being ensnared in the Allegheny River. Rebecca, who is homeless, had been staying along the riverside of the David Lawrence Convention Center and became trapped. She was rescued thanks to an astute convention center worker who heard her cries for help.
Thankfully, she was unharmed in the ordeal.
What's yet to be determined is how the ensuing media focus on her identity as a transwoman will impact her well-being. As Potter puts it:
The ensuing media hue and cry ranged from idiotic (referring to Rebecca as both a man and a woman in the same article) to the oh-so-obvious stupid (WDVE cackling about the price of a sex change versus the price of a home).
What I think Potter missed is a pretty critical point, namely that Pittsburgh media outed Rebecca Hare as a transwoman. However inadvertant, the bungling on the coverage of a story involving a person who happens to be a transwoman resulted in the entire region being informed of pretty intimate details of her life. Details that, on the face of it, have pretty much nothing to do with the story of saving a person who was living alongside the Convention Center.
Or do they?
A research study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force indicates that LGBTQ kids -- yes, kids -- are disproportionately present among the general homeless population. It is not a big stretch to imagine that coming out to your family as trans might lead to being unwelcome in your home.
Similarly, an adult transitioning might experience unwelcomeness at the workplace or even the loss of a job in states that don't protect people based on gender identity or gender presentation. Loss of a job is a factor leading to homelessness.
An adult might experience similar unwelcomeness among family, even spouses, who aren't receptive to the news about their loved one. Loss of a support system is a factor leading to homelessness.
An adult might also cope with societal transphobia by turning to drugs and alcohol, also factors leading to homelessness.
My point is that the reasons Rebecca Hare ended up living alongside the David Lawrence Convention Center may very much indeed be connected to her identity as a transwoman, but none of the media coverage was intended to explore that connection, was it? Any follow up stories on the trans-friendliness of local homeless shelters, especially those administered by faith based organizations? Nope. We just get stupid jokes reducing gender transition to a sex change operation and comparing it with rising property rates.
What if Rebecca's family doesn't know she's living as a woman? What has happened to her since her rescue -- is she okay? Is she somewhere where she's being treated well? Is she okay with the repercussions that everyone in the tri-state area knows she is a transwoman?
One almost thinks the Post-Gazette should pick up the tab for a safe place for her to stay.
ps: I have been in touch with people that have connected with Rebecca to ask if there's anything we can do to help her. If you want to help, email me.
Thursday, February 7
by Sue on Thu 07 Feb 2008 10:04 PM EST
I am seriously flummoxed by the decision to be made -- Obama or Clinton. A lot of my progressive friends are very pro-Obama. And I find that I *want* to be on his team, too.
But I just can't make the leap. Thanks to Steel City Stonewall Democrats for links to some comparisons on LGBTQ issues, courtesy of the HRC and the Gay Men's Health Crisis. There aren't a lot of differences.
It really comes down to a few issues for me and they are all from my gut. First, the people trying the hardest to convert me to Team Obama are men who in their critique of Hillary veer a little too close to the "assertive women are divisive mentality" for my comfort.
Second, Obama had ex-gay fringe christian Donnie McClurkin on his parade o' supporters and that scares the livin' hell out of me. I am afraid that Obama is going to get caught between appeasing the homophobia of some (I say some) African-American churches and defending the civil rights of gay Americans. That's just as unappealing as Huckabee pandering to the evangelical, homo-hatin' base. Not everything can be as neatly finessed at City Councilman Ricky Burgess handling of the recent pro-gay resolution. Not that I'm okay with being finessed, but I can sure as hell see a point at which there is a clear moral line on which President Obama is going to have to stand.
You know from whom I have not heard? Progressive women supporting Obama. Women that I actually know. Progressive women who believe in a trans-inclusive ENDA and gay marrriage (the real cahuna). Are you out there in Pittsburgh, blog-reading land?
I am really sorry that the rich white Southern guy -- the one who talked about poverty -- dropped out. I hope he makes a fine Attorney General (minus the prayer circles and pro-torture memos).
by Sue on Thu 07 Feb 2008 09:34 PM EST
I haven't blogged about the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh in a long while. Their next meeting is on Valentine's Day at 7 PM at the United Cerebal Palsy space in Oakland. Follow the weblink for more specifics.
This is a nifty little organization that hangs in tenaciously to ensure that pro-LGBT (among other) issues are promoted among candidates, across the party line. It goes hand in hand with Steel City Stonewall Democrats EXCEPT for the allegiance to the Democratic Party thing. The smart gay politico has their eyes on both groups.
Stonewall has some stuff coming up. Most important among those is the 2008 Board Elections (and Candidate Reception) on Sunday, Feb 24 from 3 PM - 6 PM at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh on Morewood Avenue in Shadyside. This is your chance to meet the exciting new slate of board members and probably meet the 75+ Democrats throwing their hats in the ring for Lisa Bennington's seat. And a few other other candidates as well. :-) There's a bunch of little barsy/fundraiserish type things happening involving guessing games and a lot of complicated details that lost my attention. I know that sounds bad, but I'm waiting for local gay politicos to get out of churches and bars into a new environment. I spend very little, if any, of my time in bars or churches so come meet me where I'm at. Target. Kidding.
Speaking of Bennington's seat, I'm a little pissed that I'm going to lose a strong ally in my County Council Seat as Brenda Frazier resigns to run for the state seat. That completely sucks, especially as there are 16 million other progressive candidates in that race and it has no bearing on me whatsoever. Yes, I would love for Brenda to move ahead, but I have enough problems getting a response from her office with regard to my never ceasing unhappiness with One Vision, One Life. Imagine how much an appointee will disregard me. Maybe we'll get lucky and someone will appoint a progressive woman to fill the vacancy. One can only hope.
I like that three out of the four folks who represent me are women (Frazier, Payne and Wagner). I don't always agree with them (or even like them), but it is a cool situation in which to be a woman.
You can be damn skippy sure Gertrude Stein won't waiver on the issue when it comes to Luke "Catholics don't like civil unions" Ravenstahl or his boss, Danny "DP benefits cost too much money" Onorato. Gertrude Stein stood up to attempts by the Tavern Guild to censor them, even going so far as to ban them from the local bars. Steel City has its hands tied by affiliation to an imperfect party led by Luke and Dan, but finds solace in the leadership of Dan Frankel and the emerging inspiration of Chelsa Wagners of the region. Hence, the need for both organizations -- sometimes a home needs a little hands tied up and sometimes they don't. :-)
So, while the field for President whittles itself down to McCain and Clinton/Obama, get off your duff and toddle off to the church or the bar or the street corner and join the revolution. I'll be in the corner of the church taking notes about the candidates who aren't running for Bennington's seat.
I wonder how Ledcat would respond to a polital meeting on Valentine's Day? Hmmm ...