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View Article  Text of Bruce Kraus' Address Upon His Swearing In

Speech given by Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh's first openly gay City Councilmember, upon his swearing in on January 7, 2008.

?All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don?t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.?
Robert Kennedy

 These words, spoken by Robert Kennedy some 40 years ago, are still significant today, in what they can teach us.  We are not the first to have lived through turbulent times.  

The recorded journals, safely housed within our City Clerks? office, are filled with the transcripts of thousands of past Council sessions, and tell the story of the challenges and opportunities we have faced in our 250 year history.

But, through these difficult times, and because of the strength and character of the people of this great City, our resiliency in the face of adversity, and by the grace of God, we are here, today, to begin recording the journal of this new Council.   One which will tell our story of the challenges we will face, the opportunities we will seize and the celebrations of our strengths and accomplishments, as we set Pittsburgh on the path to another 250 years filled with promise. 

The stories we tell speak of the journeys we take. And as it is with many of life?s journeys, ours was one shared by friends and loved ones alike, too numerous to mention by name, and yet in your hearts, you know who you are. Your love, unwavering support and unshakable belief in me, now brings us to this final step of our first journey together, and onward  to the first step of a new and exciting adventure, full of the hope and promise of everything that can be. Without you, I would not be standing here today, and so from the deepest parts of my heart, I say ?Thank You.?  You have entrusted me to be your voice and to carry your cause. For that, I am genuinely humbled.  I pledge to use this confidence you have placed in me, to help lead this great city of ours into the future, with integrity, grace and compassion.

Once in a lifetime, a great leader comes along, whose courage and moral compass will not allow them to stand idly by, while fear and prejudice remove thousands of American citizens from having a voice, in our democratic process. Such a man was, City of San Francisco Board Supervisor, Harvey Milk, who on November 27, 1978, paid the price with his life, so that one day, some 30 years later, ones orientation would no longer be a factor in determining their ability to serve as an elected official.  And so today, I honor his memory and I thank him for his courageous and selfless sacrifice that cleared the way for so many of us.

Pittsburgh?s history is filled with leaders who faced daunting tasks, and yet found the courage to answer their ?call to action?. David Lawrence led a coalition of government and business leaders to build the Golden Triangle and, in the process, forever transformed Pittsburgh?s ?smoky city image.? Richard Caliguiri provided the stable and effective stewardship that laid the groundwork for Pittsburgh?s renaissance, into one of our nation?s most livable cities.  Sophie Masloff and Tom Murphy had the vision and foresight to see the value in the revitalization of our North Shore and our riverfront properties. And, after the much too early passing of ?everybody?s mayor?, Bob O?Connor, Luke Raverstahl accepted the challenge to lead us into a new renaissance, as Pittsburgh is, once again, named as our nation?s most livable city. 

And now, how will we, this new council, answer our call to action?

It is my belief, that our greatest strength and most valuable resource is our diversity. Pittsburgh is this wonderful hodgepodge of humanity.  We come from every segment of society and culture, and yet share in one great commonality; our deep love for, and desire to safeguard and nurture, the neighborhoods in which we live. Our ethnic heritages, deep spiritual traditions and unmatched work ethic are an immeasurable wealth of riches. Our varied neighborhoods, world-class cultural venues, winning sports teams, lush parks and internationally acclaimed universities and hospitals, are all assets that are the envy of many metropolitan areas, and provide us with the tools to continue Pittsburgh?s transformation, into one of America?s truly great urban centers.               

So with all of these resources at hand, what will we choose to make the signature achievements of this new council, now so full of promise and endless possibility?  What will history record about the time we will serve the people of this great city?

My hope is that we would work to provide an open, transparent and public process that reestablishes trust and confidence in government.  That we could envision for our future, a city where even the most vulnerable among us are safe and well provided for.  A city that sets the standard, for what a clean city can be. One where parks and recreation facilities flourish, and our commitment, to leading the nation in Green building, and responsible management of our natural resources, is stronger than ever.  Where our children attend first-rate schools and have every opportunity for the very best education possible; whose futures are financially secure, because we have been responsible stewards of the people?s money.

I see a city where every neighborhood will see the fruits of real economic development, and with it, have access to living wage jobs that will sustain home ownership and provide for young families.

But mostly, my hope is for a city, where all people are invited to our great common table, to share in an equal voice and have every opportunity to participate in, the stewardship of their futures, and have access to every resource that will lift them and their loved ones up, to their very highest quality of life.

And so, once again, I will find my voice within words, so eloquently spoken, by Robert Kennedy and put forward this challenge to us, this new council of the City of Pittsburgh for the year 2008, by saying:

 ?Some men see things as they are and say why.  I dream things that never were and say, why not.? 

View Article  Peace be with you, but not you.

Dolores S. Jarrell of Peters takes umbrage with a PG Op/Ed critiquing Pope Benedict's priorities of peace.

Michael Kerlin's "In Search of Peace?" (Dec. 30 Forum) was filled with more than its share of animus. He reported trembling at the "implications" of the pope's peace message, "The Human Family, A Community of Peace"; suggested parallels of genocide and secret informers; and mentioned those hair-raisers: inquisition, torture and paranoia. It sent me scurrying to the text.

Scurrying, huh?  Well, that's an interesting word.

Mr. Kerlin's major discontent, however, has to do with his perception of the pope's "implicit" anti-homosexual agenda. True, Pope Benedict's message does speak of the natural family as a community of love and life -- of the love of a man and woman whose union produces children. Schoolchildren know that conception or fertilization is the result of the union of egg (female) and sperm (male). To call pointing to that reality homophobic defies reason.

The union of male and female, alike but different, points to the creative force, the yin and yang of life. Achieving that integration of differences is at the heart of harmony and peace. Anything that circumvents the ability to learn to integrate those differences undermines the ability to learn to live in peace for the entire community.

It is kind of amusing that she references schoolchildren and sexual education to defend the Pope.  I doubt His Holiness was resting on a fundamental biological arguement; there was plenty of "sacredness of life" infused. 

Here's my question Dolores.  The Catholic Church has had, let's say, 1200 years to integrate the male and female differences and, thus, generate harmony and peace. 

How has that been working out?  I mean this is the City which had to publicly debate how to protect the womenfolk connected with a predominantly Catholic police force, is it not? 

Peace that is achieved without the trials and tribulations of finding that convergence is hardly worthy of the name. At best it is acquiescence; at worst -- apathy.

What the heck does this mean?  I can speak only for myself in saying that stepping away from a life trying to force myself into convergence with men has brought me more peace than anything else in my life. I can also speak only for myself in saying that when I was struggling with poverty and illness, it was pretty clear what would have brought me some peace.





View Article  Cat Specter: Different Picture, Same Beret

My good friend Cat Specter has photoshopped herself from girl-next-door-in-jaunty-beret to come-hither-girl-in-jaunty-beret.  It is like watching Betty Crocker's image change in fast-forward.


Her obsession with the 'go girl attitude' has mellowed a bit, but she still comes across as a woman trying to hard to be relevant, witty and wise without breaking a nail.  It is probably a trap any 'advice columnist' would struggle to resist, especially in a City this size.  I just feel kind of sorry for this woman because I read her as trying to get the cool girls to like her.  Tony Norman likes her, so there must be some substance underneath all the family connections and privilege and Sarah Jessica Parker worship. 

Is she ever revisits the awful advice she gave about witnessing racism, I'll know she's making some progress.

I suppose we should be grateful she's not wearing a pink Steeler man-dress and waving a "I Heart PittGirl" banner.  <Yes, I referenced coopting PittGirl as a symbol of the distorted you go girl attitude.  Yes, I read PittGirl.  I'm relevant.  Whatever.>

View Article  Lift them and their loved-ones

Here's something.  Today, Bruce Kraus was sworn in along with other new City Council members Patrick Dowd and Ricky Burgress.  Doug Shields was reelected as City Council President without the vote of Tonya Payne.  Maria of 2 Political Junkies called Kraus' speech "very inspirational."

Mr. Kraus, who is openly gay, cited gay rights icon Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978 "so that one day, some 30 years later, one's orientation would no longer be a factor in determining their ability to serve as an elected official."

He called for "a city where all people are invited to our great common table, to share in an equal voice and have every opportunity to participate in the stewardship of their futures, and have access to every resource that will lift them and their loved-ones up [to] the very highest quality of life."

That's lovely. The phrasing "life them and their loved-ones up" is so inclusive and respectful, especially when you consider how many heterosexual families don't fit the mold.  I wish I could have seen it, but we don't have cable.  People should put this stuff on YouTube.  I like how he folds his groundbreaking election into a call for inclusiveness throughout the City. 

I wonder how many openly lesbian committeemembers have served Allegheny County's Democratic Party? 

View Article  There's a new slur in town ...

From the PG's Morning File comes word <ahem> that the American Dialect Society has deemed the phrase "toe tapper" as a synonym for homosexual the most outrageous word usage of 2007.

Cool.  Toe tapping, you might recall, references Larry Craig.  Chalk up another notch on the giant belt of American homophobia.  Larry Craig isn't even gay.  Duh.

Runner up was the phrase that got Don Imus fired.  I don't know about that ... seriously, I think the racist and sexist phrase he used was far more outrageous than people making snide remarks about toe tappers. 

View Article  Manchester Spawns Yet Another Proud Yinzer Moment

If I could pick the one place even more politically ridiculous to live than West Mifflin (Jabbour, Olasz, Ruffing, Chief Diener...), it seems that I innocently have stumbled onto it ..ridiculous, thy name is Manchester.

From the Post-Gazette, courtesy of 2 Political Junkies ...

A spot airing today on the city of Pittsburgh cable TV channel -- number 13 on your urban dial -- raised a few eyebrows in city government today.

The segment showed a series of interviews of people milling about the Carnegie Music Hall after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's inauguration. Those interviewed include Judy O'Connor, widow of the late Mayor Bob; state Sen. Jim Ferlo; city Councilmen Jim Motznik and Jeff Koch; and many others, telling the camera how much they like the just-sworn-in mayor and wishing him well.

Several expressed for the camera their hope that he has not just a great two-year term, but a four-year term to follow. A few went a good bit further, like Gloria Sheffield, a Democratic Committee member from Manchester. "I am sure you will do a good job as you have been doing for the past couple of years since Bob O'Connor died," she told the camera. "I wish you many, many more years as mayor, and hopefully we will help you get in when these two years are up."

Gloria, I mean seriously, hon. It would be great if I knew who you were.  If I had seen you at the polls handing out pro-Lukey literature.  Or maybe if I had met you at one of the interminable community meetings sponsored by the Manchester Citizens Corporation.  If I even ran into you at the 7-11.

I didn't want our first encounter, four years after I moved to the City, to be like this.  You, infatuated with a nubile young lad.  Me, wondering if Manchester committeefolk actually exist. 

Gloria, if you are going to help anyone get in ... could you help me with the dead tree that's looming over my car?  Or convince PennDOT to maintain their property without exposing innocent children to unnecessary toxins?  Maybe you could give us some advice on why One Vision, One Life helps residents when a teenager is dead, but not when he's a living breathing minor felon?

Ah, Gloria, in truth, you inspire me to run for a Committee position.  How hard could it be?  Seriously ...


View Article  Pittsburgh Dish on Angry Leathermen

Members of Pittsburgh's Leather community aren't pleased to be stereotyped and the Pittsburgh Dish has the scoop (courtesy of Pittsburgh's OUT).

All chuckles aside, the complaintant - one Colin Morgan - seems to be upset that individuals in the leather community are civic-minded individuals, not just solely focused on sex.  There's tolerance for ya.  I've always had a very positive impression of our leather community, first for that very civic minded responsibility so many clubbing fliggergibits seems to disdain and second, for the their willingness to be out and proud about who they are.  The two go hand in hand in breaking down stereotypes. 

In fact, I would venture a say that a lot of "groups" in Pittsburgh's community are more civic minded than one would normally assume.  Gay bowlers have been staffing the OUTrageous Bingo concession stand for years and donate the proceeds.  All sorts of segments of the community volunteer to serve meals at Shepherd Wellness Center.  Members of the leather club provide security at PrideFest to keep things orderly.  On the Queer Events list, hardly a day goes by without someone posting about fundraisers, both large and small, to benefit LGBTQ individuals or organizations.  And for individuals who don't bowl and aren't into leather or just want to try something new, there are plenty of opportunities available through GLENDA.

That being said , 'tis true we are a cliquey subset, a quality more reflective of our Pittsburghishness than our queerness IMHO.  We fall into self-defined lifestyle groups just like any other folk --- the lesbian mommies, the hip/queerster vegetarians, the partiers, the softball -n- riverboat cruisers, the schenley oval set, the second wave womyn born womyn lesbians, the former board members of the GLCC, the cat lovers, the DIYyers, and so forth.  I guess there's a new category of "lesbian bloggers," huh?

While I can appreciate Colin's disappointment b/c he didn't get what he expected, shame on him for carrying the stereotype into the bar with him.  My empathy is tampered by the wretched experiences of trying to break into the local lesbian scene via the most cliquish potlucks in herstory.  Now that's worth a post or two someday ...

View Article  The Advocate: 2007 was so gay ...
Following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, 2008 promises to be a perilous year for LGBT people and everybody else. But before we look forward, let's revisit the gayest moments of 2007.

1. Among the many scandals Republicans faced in 2007, U.S. senator Larry Craig of Idaho was the center of the storm. He was arrested in June for lewd conduct after an undercover police officer claimed that Craig tried to tap-dance his way to sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and as of now appears set to stay in office through his term, which expires in 2008.

2. At a September visit to Columbia University in New York, Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad wowed the crowd with this whopper: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." Saturday Night Live stars Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen parody accordingly.

3. Logo and the Human Rights Campaign hosted the first presidential forum concerning LGBT issues in August. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson tripped up during his turn in the hot seat when he said that being gay is a choice. He promptly visited The Advocate's office the next day to apologize for his blunder, which he attributed to fatigue.

4. After much revision and debate, in November the House passed Rep. Barney Frank's version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which does not include protections for transgender workers. Not only will the bill come up against a tougher vote in the Senate, President Bush has vowed to veto it if it lands on his desk.

5. Gay marine Eric Alva, the first American service member wounded in Iraq, urged Congress in February to lift the ban on gays in the military.

6. In the same month, former NBA center John Amaechi released the book Man in the Middle, in which he announced he is gay.

7. In June, Cyndi Lauper launched a 16-city tour benefiting HRC featuring other acts, including Erasure, Debbie Harry, the Dresden Dolls, and Margaret Cho.

8. In January, following a Golden Globe win for Grey's Anatomy, star Isaiah Washington brought up the f word, claiming to reporters that he?d never used the word back in October 2006 to describe costar T.R. Knight during a spat with fellow actor Patrick Dempsey. Washington was given his walking papers. Knight came out and became a new gay hero.

9. Lesbian-bashing Penn State basketball coach Rene Portland resigned in March, two months after the university settled a suit with former player Jennifer Harris, who accused Portland of "humiliating, berating, and ostracizing" her because Portland perceived Harris to be gay.

10. Finance guru and media favorite Suze Orman came out in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, explaining how she and her partner would lose half of their shared earnings at death because they cannot legally marry.

View Article  PA Supreme Court Reverses Sperm Donor Child Support Ruling

Men who donate sperm to women who promise they won't have to pay child support don't have to worry about the women renegging in part due to today's 3-2 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (365gay).

The 3-2 decision overturns lower court rulings under which Joel L. McKiernan had been paying up to $1,500 a month to support twin boys born in August 1994 to Ivonne V. Ferguson, his former girlfriend and co-worker.

"Where a would-be donor cannot trust that he is safe from a future support action, he will be considerably less likely to provide his sperm to a friend or acquaintance who asks, significantly limiting a would-be mother's reproductive prerogatives," Justice Max Baer wrote in the majority opinion issued last week.

Arthur Caplan, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said the decision runs counter to the pattern established by similar cases, where the interests of the progeny have generally been given great weight.

"It sounds like the Pennsylvania court is trying to push a little harder into the brave new world of sperm, egg and embryo donation as it's evolving," Caplan said.

The lower court ruling would have had a chilling effect on sperm donations, argued the lawyers for McKiernan.

Impact for our community?  Certainly one for lesbians and other gay women who utilize sperm donors to conceive children (and take legal precautions).  Also, for gay men who donate so another may parent a child. 

This is Pennsylvania, after all, land where the legislators try to say who can utilize surrogates and who can't.  Guess who falls into the those who can't category? 

But I'm of the opinion that a few more folks interested in adopting children right here in our fair Commonwealth rather than going overseas or spending $50,000 on IVF would be a win win for everyone. 


View Article  My new blog

Happy New Year.

Last night, we participated in the festivities on Penn Avenue at the First Night Celebration.  We had a really wonderful time:  dinner at Six Penn, an entertaining stroll up and down Penn and Liberty, two delightful comedy shows and the company of my best girl, Ledcat.  The Amish Monkeys were very cute, if a little uneven.  Gab Bonesso showed a wonderful, family-friendly side that was endearing, further confirming my impression that the title character in Juno could be played by Gab (minus the pregnancy bit).

In the spirit of a gentle New Year, I'll refrain from snarking about the absence of the Mayor, the horrific litter contrasted against the environmental theme of the parade and the literal parade of Yinzer stereotypes we encountered throughout the night.  Oops.

I'm not settled on my resolutions just yet, but I do have one in place.  I've blogged a bit about my girl Mona and the sad resurgence of her lymphoma.  I had an epiphany last night and realized that while I cannot capture her final months through any craftsmanship, I can blog about it.  So, she now has a blog, Miss Mona's Tails From the Backyard.  It is pure sentiment and purely for my own satisfaction.  I dread not only her looming death, but the horrible death of a lymphoma patient.  It is so hard to fathom that this vibrant, otherwise healthy dog will die soon.  I have no idea how I feel about it.  Hence, the blog. 

We are off to return some clothing and enjoy lunch.  I hope this New Year's Day brings you appreciation for the love that fills your life, human and otherwise. 

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