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View Article  Deconstructing Jessi - Why Pgh's Lesbian Community Owes One Woman an Apology

For the past 24 hours, I've mulled over the best approach to this post updating you about the discrimination experienced by Jessi Seams, a local transwoman, when she attempted to audition for a women's variety show.  This week, the City Paper's feature article is thoughtful exploration of this specific incident in the context of larger debates over gender identity, trans-inclusion and the LGBTQ community.

A prominent local gay male told me he was unhappy the story was being published because it aired "the dirty laundry" of the community.  While I get where he is coming from, this is problematic thinking, even dysfunctional -- the problem isn't that we have dirty laundry, it is that people know we have it.  That perspective doesn't help those who are oppressed within our community. Well, now the readers of the City Paper know that all is not right in the land of the homos.  Surprise!

I'm struggling to find the right words.  I am very angry with some of the women in the local lesbian/queer women's community.  Angry and disappointed at their narrow-minded, bigotry and amazed at the vitriol they spew in Jessi's direction.  These chicks have mounted a self-righteous attack based on the supposition that Jessi wants to have her cake (live part-time as a man) and eat it, too (live part-time as a woman).  They are so absolutely fucking terrified that anyone even associated with a penis might invade their woman only space that they've elevated this one particular transwoman into some sort of spy for the patriarchy (h/t to Jess Snodgrass).

It all comes down to these particular lesbians and their circle of small-minded cohorts having the privilege of self-determination (as lesbians) while women such as Jessi and her male-born counterparts do not.  Period.

Here are a few examples:

We'll call this one "Double Amen"

I'm curious...I read the article in the City Paper and Emilia is quoted as saying,
"You're Jessi, period," Lombardi says, gazing at her. "She's my girlfriend."
 
However, Jessi does not live as a woman at work or even around his own family according to the article.
 
So, my question is this....If you say someone is your girlfriend during the "night hours" or when you're in a bar, etc...yet they live as a man when they are at work and when they are around their own family, are they then considered your boyfriend?
 
Just curious is all....

That is probably the most ridiculous and disrespectful statement I've read all week.  If this sensibility reflects the CTN fan base, perhaps Jessi is better off (as are the rest of us). 

In another stunning example of uncritical thought, one woman thinks the City Paper and Jessi are *creating* fissures in the local gay community.  In one long rant, she condemns Jessi for taking advantage of  the economic benefits of being male in her work life, demonstrates total ignorance of the reality of life as a transwoman or transman, and continues to blindly defend CTN without even remotely addressing the very real questions many, many women have been asking.  She does make use of lots of hyperbole.  At least, I think this is hyperbole.

Furthermore, the consequences are deadly. United we stand,
divided we fall.

For example, I have never seen a trans-janitor at any Celebrate the Night
event! This kind of slanderous attack puts the ONLY women-centered,
non-smoking, non-alcoholic event in the city at risk.

         However, s/he has chosen to slander the community that I hold dear in    attempt to elevate her own position and that is inexcusable


It is preposterous to claim that these fissures around gender identity and inclusion have just somehow appeared in what was previously a harmonious, united community.  I guess if you dwell in the land of white, middle-class gay male and lesbian privilege, perhaps it was.  One needs only take a look at the composition of the board of our own community center to recognize that inclusiveness is not our strong suit.  For a lot of reasons that are much bigger than the current individuals serving on that board.  I used to be one of them and making those types of institutional changes wasn't an easy challenge to tackle.  I left so I have to shoulder some of the responsibility for not achieving institutional change.

So what do you think?  Does Jessi get to determine her own gender-identity?  Should CTN conduct background checks on performers?  Would your own history on the Internet stand up to scrutiny?  Could you, perhaps, be found less worthy because you don't conform to rigid norms of behavior, sexual or otherwise?

More importantly, of course, can Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community successfully navigate the fallout from illuminating our failure to include transwomen and transmen in our institutions, social and otherwise?  We can't even admit it!  We can't even admit the possibility of it!

I just truly do not understand how lesbians who have lived partially closeted at work, with their family (extended or not), in the bowling league, at church, or wherever --- how can these very lesbians be so damn judgmental of Jessi living part of her life as a man.  How can they not see any parallel? 

I'm perplexed. I'm angry.  I'm frustrated.  I've been invited to participate in a podcast discussion on the topic and I'm looking forward to exploring these issues in a context where people can at least muster up the respect to use appropriate pronouns.  I suppose I shouldn't condemn people for being disrespectful when I myself have contemplated slowly strangling any lesbian who ever again whines about the demise of Bloomers, CJ's or any other lesbian bar all the while hoping a new woman-only establishment would magically fall from the sky and not require female-born female loving patrons to buy anything other than a free-refill coke to be financially viable.  Strangling in a purely hypothetical sense, of course.  Ledcat does not approve, being a fan of Bloomers herself. 

That being said, if you still want to hang out and eat Asian food with Jessi, Emilia and some other cool chicks a week from Saturday, email me and I'll give you the specifics.  It won't be a lesbian owned establishment, but the food is great and cheap. 

 

View Article  The Awakening

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

View Article  Gay and single in Pittsburgh?

Forbes ranked Pittsburgh low on the list of places good for a singles scene.  I read this little article, including the sidebar profiles and thought "whine, whine, whine."  On a bright note, they even included a token homo in their list. 

What really gets me about all this whining is the sense of entitlement -- the expectation that if you sit back and wait (like a good girl) -- the wonderful world of exciting dates and social connections will magically flow to your feet. 

I know it is difficult to meet someone decent, kind and trustworthy.  But there's only so many bars you can crawl out of before it must occur to you that you've turned over all those rocks and it is time to move on.  Life is not like "The Bachelor" where the beauteous babes are paid to fawn all over you. 

When I got fed up with being single and meeting a series of unhealthy people, I made a New Years Resolution to try one new lesbian activity each month.  I figured it would get me out of the house, expose me to new people and expand my circle of friends.  The only rule is that I had to try something new each month.  At my first event (lesbian potluck), I met someone.  It didn't work out, but it was a promising start.  I tried lesbian brunches, PFLAG meetings, volunteer orientation sessions, IT teams, more potlucks, picnics, church services and it was all great. Except for the Cajun dancing in Homestead which sent me home in tears, clutching the comfort pint of Ben and Jerrys, but we can't win them all ...

In June, I went to a women's discussion group at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center and that's where I met Ledcat.  The rest is ourstory.  Along the way, I accumulated quite an assortment of great friends.

My point is that a lively social life is something you MAKE, not something you are given.  If the places where you spend your time aren't meeting your social needs, then you can either blame the place or move onto something new. 

Worst Pittsburgh dating hang-up: Men don't approach women anymore. "I can't seem to find a man who understands the concept of picking me up at the door, taking me to dinner, a concert, or a museum. I would love to have a date who doesn't call me and say, 'Meet me at Bar Louie around 10.' "

Well, if you spend your time with the men who do that, how are the other men gonna stand a chance?  Just don't go.  Do something else and hold out for someone who meets your expectations.  OR offer to pick him up and take him to a museum.  Sheesh.

I like this guy.

Worst Pittsburgh dating hang-up: "When someone says they're not finding the right kind of people that's because we're all spoiled. People are used to immediate gratification and if we don't get it, we go home and watch the Steelers. ... If we found the right person right away, it would be too easy and we'd think something was wrong with them."

This was my favorite comment.

Why isn't Pittsburgh a good place for singles? "It's young everywhere you go," she says. "And if it's [an] older [crowd], it's way too old. When all you keep hearing is, 'You've got great teeth. You have really beautiful teeth,' it's just too old."

Teeth.  Reminds me of when my fomer neighbor wanted me to go with her to some Holiday Inn bar because the old men would buy us dinner and all the drinks we wanted.  Ick, ick, ick.

My biggest hang up is people thinking there's some theme bar god up in the sky that's going to drop a club right into Pittsburgh that meets your exact expectations.  The lesbian they interviewed was rather articulate, but she longs for a nice LGBT bar/club that isn't a hole in the wall.  Sounds reasonable ... but there was such a place called True on the Northside. It was predominantly male, but women have to show and spend their money to be customers.  The owner isn't going to toss out the gays to make ways for the lesbians. 

I hear this "lesbian bar" stuff all the time. Lesbian bars do not appear to be financially sustainable in Pittsburgh or else there would be one.  I wouldn't go b/c I don't like bars, but I'd be fine if one opened.  It would certainly stop a lot of whining about the good old days when we had "Bloomers" and such nostalgia.  While I appreciate the sense of loss, for those of us under 40 it starts to get a little tiring hearing this over and over and over.

There are plenty of places to go to have nice conversation with other people -- it is the bar theme that seems to get people hung up.  You can't have it all.  Do some volunteer work, make a few friends, have lunch and expand your horizons.  Go to church and sign up for a committee. 

I think Pittsburgh is a good place to be single because there are so many affordable activities to pursue, activities which create the opportunity to expand your social network. 

You could even go Cajun dancing.  I'll have the Ben & Jerry's in the freezer for ya.

ps:  while I appreciate someone taking a cab rather than driving drunk, I have to say it made me laugh out loud when people said public transportation should be expanded to give them the opportunity to hook up with their latest drunken conquest ... now that's the kind of thinking that's gonna revolutionalize the City ...

View Article  End War Fast Brokers Deal with City; Potter Chimes In

Some satisfactory news on the civil liberties front here in Pittsburgh - the City Police have reached an accord with the Pittsburgh Organizing Group and individuals participating in the "End War Fast" protest outside of the Oakland military recruiting bastion.  These groups had previously filed a lawsuit against the City claiming police officers were violating their First Amendment rights to free speech. 

Today comes word (courtesy of the PG) the two have brokered an accord (fancy term) that identifies two specific areas for the protestors along Forbes Avenue.  So the fast can proceed free of police harassment.

I'm still wondering if the expense of allowing the permit for the fast in the first place would have saved us some tax dollars. 

Apparently, the police were concerned about Port Authority buses mowing down pedestrians b/c pedestrians are just that stupid:

Police Cmdr. Kathy Degler of the Squirrel Hill station said one of the major concerns was that there is a bus lane right next to the sidewalk where the protesters have gathered.

"The buses come flying out that lane," she said. "We don't want pedestrians to feel the need to avoid the protesters by going out in the street."

My sources tell me that there has always been plenty of room for pedestrians to pass by the protestors.  Ignoring things they don't want to see is an American speciality - things like poverty, infant mortality, hunger, homelessness, injustice, etc.  What should cause more fear - a young man fasting with some anti-war signs or a well-fed man in camoflague bribing poor young adults to throw themselves into the war machine for a few thousand dollars? 

Maybe Commander Degler could focus some attention on the side-by-side gigunda strollers that block sidewalks throughout Squirrel Hill and Oakland.  If anyone is going to make me throw myself into the bus lane, it would be an oblivious yuppy mama and her trifecta of WASP offspring plowing down Forbes Avenue for a Starbucks fix and some shopping on Craig Street.  Offspring that will nev-ah set foot in public schools or a military training facility (maybe not even a Giant Eagle).

Seriously, Degler's excuse is pathetic and just another attempt to undermine the purposefulness of these men and women by portraying them as unruly, pedestrian hating children who need a good tasering to keep them in line.  What Degler doesn't address is the refusal of her muckety mucks to issue a permit and get things started on the right foot (or the left foot?).  Of course she doesn't. 

The point, however, is that the protestors should be free to proceed with their fast in peace.  And that's a good thing. 

Not so quickly, says the man called Potter. 

It was one thing to lose political battles a few years ago, back when war skeptics were in the minority. It's somehow worse to know that most Americans now agree with us, yet we still can't get anything changed. Before, the political system was against us, but at least we could believe that it worked. Now we no longer have even that illusion.

Years of large-scale marches have changed nothing. Voting seems to have only made things worse: Democrats took control of Congress last year thanks to concerns about the war, and the result was more troops in Iraq.

I got depressed just reading these paragraphs.

You'd almost call the situation intolerable, if it didn't seem so easy to tolerate. Except for those with loved ones in the military, the war asks for nothing but our complacence as we go about our daily lives. "It is one thing to endure abuses and to carry on in spite of them," writes Garret Keizer in the current Harper's magazine. "It is quite another thing to carry on to the point of abetting the abuse."

Are we enabling the war?  Do you feel complacent?  I've been reading some novels set in Kabul and Tehran under less than peaceful times and it has given me pause at how easy it can be to just shut your mind down to something you believe you cannot tolerate.  It is easy to delude myself that my day to day existance hasn't changed.  Except it has b/c I know something and that knowledge changes my reality.  It forces me to blog about this stuff that has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community, even when I know I'll be criticized by the protestors for not going far enough and by whacknuts for supporting terrorism. 

Is it enough? Nope.  Do I feel content b/c "hey I blog"?  Nope.  I feel angry and frustrated and disheartened everytime the military recruiters show up at an event I'm attending.  But I can't say my existance hasn't changed.

So while the rest of us prove there's almost nothing we can't stomach, Butler has stopped eating. At this point, there may be simply nothing left to do. Keizer himself proposes that Americans go on a general strike, refusing to come to work on Election Day this November. When the only way to support the war is to go about your daily routine, perhaps withdrawing from that routine is the only way to oppose it.

I have my doubts. But as Butler talks in the late-afternoon sun, he doesn't seem at all dispirited. Maybe it's just the light-headedness that comes from not eating, but he seems less downtrodden than the people who mutter at him as they pass by. He's the one who has gone two weeks without eating. So why is it the rest of us who seem anemic?

I doubt a general strike would work and end up disproportionately hurting those least likely to bear it (and already bearing the greater amount of death and dismemberment to their children) -- working poor families. 

Do you think the anti-war movement is going to grow?  We participated in the March in 2005, but then I discovered my foot was broken so my doctor said no more marches for me.   I could still go and be supportive, but I don't.  Why not?  I haven't been down to the fasting site, mostly because everytime I think about it I'm with Ledcat and she can't go with me b/c of her job. 

So what do you do to shake up the complacency? 

(I know this is sort of rambly and disjointed so thanks for bearing with me.  We are out of caffeine and I have given up drinking pop ...)

View Article  How I made recycling just a little bit easier

Again, nothing to do with the gay.  Still, I think it is interesting.

I'm bringing in the PA Resources Council to give a presentation to my consumers and during our planning chats, I told them that I had several recycling questions which I was invited to submit.  More on that in another post somewhere down the road.

ANYWAY, I'm dwadling over the list during my lunch and can't get past "Why aren't there any large blue bags for recycling made out of recycled materials?"  The only large bags we can find are Hefty newish bags which seems completely ridiculous to use for recycling.  Rather than wait for an answer, I called the Co-op.  They have large trash bags made from recycled materials that are biodegradable, but they are not blue. Hmmm.  So I suggested they investigate blue bags.  Then I called Whole Foods.  Whole Foods also has biodegradable recycled bags that are also not blue.  However, the Whole Foods guy told me -- no one ever told me this before -- that I can tie a blue bag around the neck of the large bag which holds my recycling.  I did not know that.  It still seems like a waste of a bag.

Then, I asked him if blue bags were available.  He told me that he's going to ask his manager about it b/c he gets multiple calls EVERY WEEK about this very issue.

So I am on the cutting edge of recycling innovation.  Yeah, baby.  I made two phone calls and got results.  Well, I got two people to tell me that they might possibly consider taking action on something I suggested, but whatever.  It made lunch so much more interesting than leftover Chicken Tikka Masala alone.  Even with jasmine rice and string cheese.

Anyway, pick up the phone and ask your recycling questions.  Get those answers.  Be the change. 

 

View Article  I'm dressing my dog up as a pea and I don't care what you think

Last night, I was shivering as I trudged alongside Ledcat back to our car.  We had spent a fun evening rabble rousing and cavorting with the GLENDA folks' "Dining for Diversity" event.  We attended a dinner party in Highland Park with great food and a lovely opportunity to catch up with some friends.  Then we headed downtown for a dessert reception ... the most to-die-for red velvet cupcakes in the friggin' world ... I had two.  I left my bag in the car or I might actually have taken a few for later.  I'm not embarrassed to admit that desire.  They were that good ...

So, the shivering puts me in mind of autumn which brings up my two favorite autumn events -- Halloween and my birthday (37 this year).  If I could have red velvet cupcakes to celebrate my birthday ...too good to imagine.  Anyway, so I propose to Ledcat that we have a Halloween party this year.  We did it four years ago and it was grand.  Everyone had to enter through the musty passageway underneath the houses (we let the pregnant women in the front door) which was all decked out by our Halloween enthusiast friend - Brenda.  It was great even if our friends were still in the yours/mine/ours phase which forced us to sort of run back and forth tending to people. 

Fast forward four years and I think we have the making of another party.  For one, we hav cleaned out the passageway once again.  Then there will be our hopefully completed renovations to show off to everyone.  And, finally, Miss Mona will have a second opportunity to show off her pea costume.

You see, Miss Mona and her human friend Faith are going to the Animal Friends Howl-oween as the princess and the pea.  Faith gets to be the princess because she's 4. Our friend Michelle is making Mona a pea costume.  With a little green hat.  She's going to be very precious.

So I'm going to throw a party to show off my dog's Halloween costume.   I would like to dress the boys up as peas, but they would look more like giant green meatballs and that's just too digusting to contemplate. 

The only other thing of interest that happened this weekend was the completion of our DIY disaster with the IKEA bookcase (thanks, Brenda!) and our thwarting of breakins of Steeler Nation cars parked illegally in the PennDOT lot behind our house.  Because we are vigilant.  The dude even came over to tell us *he* was watching the cars as a volunteer service to the community.   At that exact moment, Xander slammed against the fence barking his head off ... the guys facial expression, now that was truly funny.   I was like "tell it the police dude, cause we just called your ass in ..."  Actually, I thought that in my head and let Ledcat do the talking. 

Maybe I should dress Xander as a pea and patrol during Steeler games ...

View Article  City Paper's Best Of Pittsburgh -- Vote for a Blog!

Check it aht ... the annual Best of Pittsburgh survey and YOU can participate with a few clicks.  Vote for your favorite Asian restaurant (Cambodican Kitchen), best newest restaurant (Muriel's), record shop (Paul's CD's) even your favorite blog.  :-)

You get to write in a category. I wrote in Best Exercise of Civil Liberties and nominated the End War Fast.  I tried to think of something LGBTQish but nothing came to mind. 

View Article  Gay Straight Alliances have positive impact on schools; Pittsburgh 92.9 not so much ...

A GLSEN study on the impact of student Gay Straight Alliances found that schools are generally less tolerant of homophobia, while LGBTQ students are less likely to hear gay slurs, more likely to perform well academically and feel safer in the classroom. 

Wow, a supportive environment makes a difference for the well-being and academic progress of gay kids.  Who would have thunk?

Not Gay and Beth of WLTF FM 92.9 and their parent company, Steel City Media.  As I blogged last month, this morning duo allowed a caller to make a joke about a "dissing" tee shirt that read "If you aren't gay, why is your girlfriend calling me?" They ended the call and moved on.  No comments repudiating a gay slur, nothing. 

So, I complained using the form on the website, directed to the Program Manager.  A few days later, PM Chuck Stevens told me would investigate and get back to me. The, I received an response from "Gary "

> in regard to your email...you had to be listening to someone else.

> there is no way you heard that with us. first of all, while it is

> impossible to meet the standards of every listener, i can assure you

> such a remark would not get by. if by chance you were listening to

> us, then it was taken out of context.

>

> i agree, such a remark is insensitive. it just didn't come from gary

> or beth. we value all our listeners and appreciate your input.

Huh.  So, I took it out of context, even though there was "no way" it happened in the first place.  I hope someone scripts this guy's witty banter, because wits are not his strong suit.

Note that I never said Gary & Beth MADE the comment -- simply that they allowed it on the air and that they didn't put it into context with any comments of their own.  There is no way on God's green earth they would let a comment about a dissing shirt that was racist or anti-Semitic on the air.  But it is okay for a grown adult - a parent -  to mock gay kids. That's the message from Gary & Beth in the morning. 

I complained again to the program manager. In essence, he refused to take responsibility for the call.  He claims that Beth's statement that she doesn't like those shirts is the same thing as saying that mocking LGBTQ teenagers is wrong.   I don't like your shirt = picking on gay kids is wrong.  I missed that in my thesaurus. 

I proposed that Gary & Beth invite GLSEN onto the show to talk a little bit about the impact of intolerance in the schools.  Mr. Stevens disregarded my suggestion.  Shocked, are ya?  WLTJ just wants me to shut up and go away.  They have no intention of highlighting gay anything on their programs.

It is disappointing that Mr. Stevens didn't recognize an opportunity to undo potential harm caused under his watch.  If he can't allocate one small segment to the message that all kids deserve a safe learning environment, what does that say about his station's priorities?

Gary & Beth.  Homophobia in the morning.  

View Article  Condi Rice Shares House and Line of Credit a/another Woman -- Does it matter?

Yesterday, I received 8 kajillion email messages informing me that public documents reveal that Secretary of State Rice has been co-owner of a house with documentary maker, Randy Bean (Rice and Bean -- imagine the hay McIntire will make with that one?).  Does this mean she's a lesbian? Maybe, maybe not -- but it does legitimately raise the question.

Condi has been known to have close gay friends and publicly acknowledge the gay partner of her appointee as Global AIDS Coordinator.  Meanwhile, she remains silent while the Bush Administration and their family value lackeys systemically attack and repress the entire LGBT community, most visibly under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on which Condi has made no public statement.

It is another stunning example of the hypocrisy of this entire Administration (and the wingnut dupes who truly do hate the homos).  Mary Cheney and her privileged ilk waltz with the elephant to their hearts desired, encased in the protection of money, power and privilege.  The Bush twins have a gay hairdresser, gay individuals are permitted to work on campaigns, Santorum let Traynham near his kids ... all actions which fly in the face of the twisted public rhetoric they direct toward the gay community. 

So Condi has an intimate financial entanglement with another woman, one that if based on "helping out a friend in need" could have ended long ago given Condi's financial situation.  To those of us familiar with such situations, it looks like a duck.  Does it matter?

Here's Mike Rogers from PageOneQ and BlogActive.com blogging on the Huffington Post

Is the person who is fourth in line to the presidency, right behind the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, in a relationship with a woman? Well, certainly a financial one. And as she sits silently by, the very men and women who carry out our foreign policy are hounded by their country and stand to lose their livelihoods for exactly the same thing.

After all, Condi Rice is the highest appointed official in the Federal government -- discounting Bush v. Gore, of course.

Yes, Condi, it is relevant.

Quack.

View Article  End War Fast and Arrest

As expected, the CP covers the ongoing End War Fast targeting the military recruitment center in Oakland.  As you can imagine, the police are being less than cooperative and, apparently the protestors are depriving Oaklanders of greasy fast food, photocopies and overpriced bandaids.  Darn them!  Imagine the exercise of civil rights getting in the way of commerce and industry (and the low paying jobs without benefits that come along with those fries/burritos). 

So, here's my question ... from the CP article:

By Sept. 8, Butler and picketer De'anna Caligiuri had each been cited for remaining on the sidewalk -- Butler while seated at 5:10 p.m. on Sept. 7, and Caligiuri while sleeping there the same day. Her citation notes that she was "obstructing public passage of pedestrian traffic" -- at 3:40 a.m. She was briefly jailed and released.

You may know Ms. Caliguri from previous protests.  While I'm not a always a fan of her tactics, I'm impressed with her moxy.  I think she was our waitress once at a local Thai place, but I'm not sure about that.

Anyway, I thought that the police were not supposed to haul folks off to jail for these types of offenses .. they are just supposed to issue citations.  How does sleeping on the sidewalk without a permit warrant an arrest (no pun intended)?  Wouldn't all that effort and the tax payer resources have been better invested in GIVING THEM A PERMIT to sleep politely on the sidewalk? 

Good grief, the "free speech zone" crap is just getting annoying.  Don't protest at the church, don't protest at the private residence, don't protest at Rite-Aid, don't protest on the Reform Pittsburgh Now website ...tell me this ... does anyone with any power or authority in this region actually believe that dissent might occasionally entail more than a pretty banner and a polite march down the street? 

When a person tries to act in accordance with his consience, when he tries to speak the truth, when he tries to behave like a citizen, even in conditions where citizenship is degraded, it won't necessarily lead anywhere, but it might. There's one thing, however, that will never lead anywhere, and that is speculating that such behavior will lead somewhere. V?clav Havel 1990.

Mike and De'anna and friends aren't speculating.  They've leapt into the possibility of "might."  Good for them. 

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