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View Article  Has Pittsburgh's PrideFest become just another Strawberry Festival?

Three years ago, the Post-Gazette's Ervin Dyer wrote a half page story on the growth of PrideFest. Two years ago, Caitlin Clearly wrote a short, vapid piece about gay flash.  Last year,  Anita Srikameswaran wrote a thoughtful story about Governor Rendell's participation in PrideFest and the issue of gay marriage.

This year?  PrideFest merits a black and white photo with a caption indicating that 300 people participated in the parade and then went to the festival.  It is not even online so I have to tell you to turn to the Region section and look for it. 

This is the same thing they do for the Strawberry Festivals and Pumpkin Patch events.  Cute picture, little caption and ... next.  What the hell does this say about PrideFest -- that we are just a fun little festival with nothing newsworthy happening?

Well, actually, that's not far from the truth.  It was a very nice event, but nothing exceptional happened.  The parade grand marshall was this very cute older man that I had never heard of who apparently was instrumental in launching funding for AIDS services.  He gave a little speech about how great the older gay white men are and how us young folks should respect them. The parade was charming and a little zippy, the vendors did a brisk business, old friends reconnected ... overall, a nice afternoon. But nothing significant really happened.

The big news seemed to be an "adult" street party on Liberty Avenue.  I guess that's okay, but the level of hype, IMHO, plays right into stereotypes about our community so I pretty much ignored it.  If you want to get drunk and dance on Liberty Avenue, fine.  Just don't make it the hallmark of PrideFest. 

Maybe PrideFest has become mainstream enough that it serves its purpose of providing a celebration and that's all.  Because, frankly, there wasn't any more substance to it. I was astounded at how so many politicians could be in one place and not say anything political.  Let's do a quick review of who was there -- Bill, Doug and Jimmy M. from City Council, City Council candidates Bruce Kraus and Patrick Dowd.  Luke.  Jack McVay.

Let's do a not-so-quick review of who wasn't there. Dan Frankel.  Chelsa Wagner.  Wayne Fontana.  Rich Fitzgerald.  Tonya Payne.  Dan Onorato.  Michael Lamb.  Brenda Frazier.  Heather Arnet.   I'm sure some had good reasons, but it is absolutely noticeable when some of your biggest allies don't attend the biggest event of the year.  Allies, perhaps you should let those of us who are paying attention what happened.

Here's my problem.  None of them said anything political.  They wished us a nice day, lauded the gays that they do know and made some other rah-rah comments.  Only Steve Glassman, chairman of the PA Human Relations Commission, even mentioned political issues.  I was stunned.  Where was my friend Bill's mojo?  And what happened to the County Council's promise to work toward consider domestic partner benefits?  I guess if no one from County Council shows up, you don't have to talk about that.

So what does this all mean?  Have we as a community arrived to the point that PrideFest is benign?  After all, our mayor understands our struggle for acceptance.  If that's not apocalyptic, I don't know what is .... hey, do you think Luke has gay friends?  Do you think he'll ever invite Ledcat and me over for dinner? 

Consider this.  A week ago, the Post-Gazette ran a very lengthy story, complete with three sidebars, about gay parenting.  I was braced for the ire filled letters of protest, but none appeared.  In fact, only one letter has been printed and it applauds the article (thanks to Dr. Michael Marshall of the University of Pittsburgh). 

In fact, the Post-Gazette and the Trib run gay oriented articles year round.  When newsworthy things happen.  Maybe PrideFest just isn't newsworthy.

The problem I have is that we can be lulled into a sense of complacency.  Sure, life for your average white middle class gay couple has improved dramatically, but many of us still face huge barriers in finding housing, at the workplace,  even just walking down the streets.  The fact that none of the local fundies show up with protest signs doesn't mean that the anti-gay rhetoric isn't spewing about the faith communities this morning.  And I'm sure more than one parent rushed their children past the festival or the drunkfest for fear of gay exposure. 

For the first time in a long time, the General Assembly is considering legislation to help us by extending discrimination protections to include sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  We aren't fighting back marriage amendments this time.  We are fighting for something.  Something that our good friends Dan Frankel and Chelsa Wagner are actively supporting.  Something that has a chance to pass. This is the time to stand up and be counted, not merely bask in the sun at Riverfront Park or frolic on Liberty Avenue.  It is a shame that not a single state legislator could make the time to rally the troops.  Dan, Chelsa and Wayne missed a hell of an opportunity to promote this legislation.

Maybe now that Pride is on solid financial footing, they can continue to move forward. Bringing in nationally known comedian Poppy Champlin was refreshing.  We liked Eric Himan.  Continuing to pump that up and professionalize it is a good step.  More Pride events would be nice, too.  I know the age old issue is that they can only do as much as their small volunteer crew can manage.  So more people need to get involved to make it happen. 

We aren't picking strawberries, after all. 

ps:  if strawberry picking has any sexual connotation whatsoever, I am unaware of it so don't mock me. 

View Article  Guess what Luke Ravenstahl said at PrideFest?

Quick post about 2007 PrideFest.  Luke showed up.  Point for him.

Then during his speech, he said something to the effect that as a 27 year old mayor he, like gay people, understands what it is like not to be accepted. 

No exact quote because I almost choked and dropped my pen.  I asked around and the impression was clearly that he implied that the struggle for acceptance of a 27 year old, upper-middle-class, white, college-educated, Catholic, married, son of local prominent fathers, and, uh, heterosexual man is pretty much the same as the struggle we here in the gay community face. 

He made Jim Motznik's annual "I love my gay brother" speech seem positively enlightened. 

There's more, but I'll save the rest of my disssection for tomorrow. 

If anyone knows why Dan Frankel and Chelsa Wagner didn't show, please let me know.  They are both signed onto the legislation expanding discrimiation protections to the LGBT communities, so I was surprised they didn't show.  Especially Frankel.

View Article  Chris Potter on the Year in Homosexuality

This week, the man who is slowly creeping up the list of men the lesbians love (McIntire, Peduto, Dayvoe, Lamb and Norman) takes us down the rainbow brick road and shows us that things just might be a little better. Chris Potter of The City Paper writes ...

Pittsburgh will have a lot to celebrate when it holds its annual Pridefest march this weekend -- not least the fact that we helped remove a certain gay-bashing U.S. senator from office in last November's election. Now the Senator Who Shall Not Be Named is the Senator Whose Name We Can Try to Forget.

But in recent months, some of the most notable advances have been the least noticed. And that may be among the best things about them.

He points out a few:  the absence of hate-legislation in Harrisburg, Kennywood's revision of homophobic content, the primary victory of openly gay Bruce Kraus (with a saucy sidebar on the meaning of openly). 

As for our opponents, he has this to say:

[T]hose tactics are catching up with conservatives. Ocean levels and crime rates are rising, along with casualties in Iraq. And those families that conservatives were supposed to be protecting? They're being crushed by health-care costs, which have ruined more families than any number of gay couples down the street.

If there's an upside to the mess we're in, it's this: We no longer have the luxury of indulging in our petty hatreds as if they were all that mattered. George W. Bush and his cronies may have been uniters after all, it seems ... allowing us all to take a big step forward.

Well put, Mr. Potter. 

ps:  I'd like to see how many Pittsburghers can identify 5 openly gay people who aren't in entertainment or politics. 

View Article  We're headed for PrideFest this weekend (and FLUX, too)

PrideFest.  Our annual celebration of our community pride.  Saturday, June 16, 2007.  Riverfront Park on the North Shore.  The march kicks off at 12 PM.  The festival itself begins at 1 PM.  We like to watch the march at the beginning (5th and Ross) and then hop in the car to drive down to the North Shore. 

Visit the official PrideFest website for more details.  I will warn you that it's really wordy and texty, but after a few peruses you'll get the gist of it all.  Apparently, they ran out of bullet points at the GLCC. :-)  

I always enjoy PrideFest because I like visiting the vendors, eating a hot dog and catching a squat while visiting with old friends.  I like the entertainment.  I simply like being surrounded by thousands of gay people.  I hope a lot of people turn out.  In fact, I expect a good turnout.  It may only be a giant party, but it is proof positive of just how significant the LGBT community is. 

That evening, a block party has been planned on Liberty Avenue.  We were tempted to go for the kitsch of seeing Tiffany perform, but the prospect of hanging amidst a large group of streetsy drunken gay people isn't really appealing. 

Thank goodness for FLUX which is being held downtown on Saturday evening.  We went to FLUX in Braddock and it was really nifty.  Performance art, installations, music, cool usage of spaces, interesting people and a really lively vibe.  For $10, you get all that.  It is at 610 Smithfield Street above Brooks Brother.  Be there!

I miss the days when we had a PrideMonth with workshops and discussions and pancake breakfasts and all that wonderful stuff.  It was great.  Perhaps someday ...

View Article  PA House Introduces LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

Courtesy of the Value All Families Coalition and Equality Advocates Pennsylvania...

(Harrisburg, PA) ?Legislation prohibiting discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in housing, employment, and public accommodations was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives today. A press conference was held in the capitol to announce the bill?s introduction.

 The bill, HB 1400, was co-sponsored by a record 70 members of the House. Similar legislation, SB761, was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate in April with a record number of 22 co-sponsors. The Senate bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House bill is expected to go to the House State Government Committee where it has been assigned in the past.

 The Value All Families Coalition worked with legislative allies to gather support for this amendment to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Alleghany) and Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh, Monroe, Northhampton), the prime sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the bill, spoke about the importance of this non-discrimination legislation in Pennsylvania. Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), the Chair of the House State Government Committee, addressed the need for education and hearings on this issue.

 ?This legislation is critical to thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians who are trying to work and have a roof over their heads. I urge the legislature to move this legislation forward. It is needed. It is fair. It is time,? said Stacey Sobel, executive director of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania.

 Current Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protection against discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog.Thirteen Pennsylvania municipalities have already enacted civil rights laws including protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. These municipalities are Allentown, Easton, Erie County, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lansdowne, New Hope, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Swarthmore, West Chester and York. State College also has an ordinance that only covers sexual orientation discrimination in housing. Approximately, seventy-five percent of the state?s twelve million residents live or work in communities that do not provide these protections. Twenty states in the country have similar laws, including our neighboring states of New Jersey, Maryland and New York.

In response, the fundie wing-nuts at the American Family Association of Pennsylvania have released their unique brand of hate-laced made up shit.

Homosexuals are once again pulling the victim card and trying to seek the normalization of their destructive lifestyle.  They have never been required to sit in the back of the bus or drink from designated water fountains.  Furthermore they have never been denied the right to vote or considered less than human as African Americans once were.  Homosexuals want special rights simply because of the sexual activity in which they engage, noted Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA. 

Well, Diane, its good that you so tidily sum up hundreds of years of civil rights struggles in a few sentences.  Why everything is just fine and dandy for your average Pennsylvanian African-American.  Your "message" clearly shows that you have no clue what life is like in the Commonwealth's African-American community and shame on you for hoisting that flag for your own agenda of hate. 

Stand up to the hate spewed in the name of Jesus.  Contact your House Rep and State Senator today. 

View Article  Going to Pittsburgh and We're Gonna Get (re)Married ... Homos, too!

The Post-Gazette reports that as part of our city's 250th anniversary, we'll be host to the "World's Largest Wedding Vow Renewal" in February, 2008.  Organizers hope to attract 1,000 wedded couples to renew their vows.  Why?

Two of the themes of the 250th celebration are attracting reunions and homecomings to the city and underscoring family and community ties. Getting a thousand couples to reaffirm their vows is a way to do both.

"It's something that comes straight out of the word 're-union.' I was surprised no one had thought of it already," said Kitty Julian, marketing director of Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, who came up with the idea. "Pittsburgh is all about love of family, tradition, nostalgia ... This is exactly in that neighborhood."

Something about the phrase "straight out of the word 'reunion'" got me thinking -- would event organizers welcome LGBT couples who are legally married, albeit not in Pennsylvania?  Would they recognize couples who are domestic partnered and civil unioned?  So I dropped Ms. Julian a line to find out. 

Turns out, they will!  Here's what she had to say via email:

Wedding vow renewal isn't a legal event, but is a celebration of love
and family. We'd be honored to have LGBT couples participate. Since this
is a Guinness World Record breaking attempt we are following their
requirement that, "all couples must provide a copy of their original
marriage certificate." They don't seem to specify that it must be from a
specific state. So, as long as people have such a certificate, and
pre-register they are in! I don't know what Guinnness says about civil
unions or even if one gets a certificate in that situation, but we'll
contact them to find out, and will report back what we learn.

So that means all you crazy gay couples who married in Canada, Massachusettes, Europe and beyond ... you get to participate.  Does anyone who has been civil unioned know about the certificate thing? 

After the Guinness ceremony, there will apparently be a mass blessing (no pun intended) led by leaders from multiple local faith communities.  Now that could get interesting...

The date of the ceremony is Sunday, Feb. 10. Those wishing to preliminarily register for the event may contact Carnegie Museums marketing assistant Leigh Kish at 412-578-2571 or kishl@carnegiemuseums.org.

View Article  Where are Pittsburgh bloggers on the fire in Larimer?

Luke Ravenstahl acted like a fool and lied to the public.  Sad, but predictable.  Hundreds of words have piled up around the Burghosphere calling him to task for his shameless disregard for truth (and his job). 

Meanwhile, five children in Larimer were killed in a horrible house fire.  Someone blamed a non-existent teenage babysitter.  Now it appears as if the two mothers of the children left them home alone.  Actually, they left seven children under the age of eight home alone.  The oldest two escaped and had to witness their siblings' screams and pleas for help, a memory they'll carry with them to the grave.  Police believe these two boys were playing with matches, another thing that will haunt them. 

No arrest.  Yet.  But well-known criminal defense attorney Jim Ecker is on the scene, representing one of the mothers. (Ledcat called that one last night). 

Is this political?  Does the intersection of race and poverty have anything to do with this horrific tragedy or can we simply lay it at the feet of two African-American women and call it a day?  We have no way to know until more information comes to light.  But I'm saying that a 25 year old mother of four and 20-something mother of three need some support to parent well under the best of circumstances.  What kind of supports did these women have that they chose to leave their children alone?  What kind of supports even exist in Larimer?  Last time I checked, no retired Steelers are building restaurants in Larimer.  Last time I checked, East Liberty morphed up into Eastside. Last time I checked, the agencies who came to a local community event brought abstinence brochures while the Army seduced kids with personalized dog tags. 

It may not be sexy political like Luke chasing after Tiger Woods or Bill Peduto taking on self-styled anarchists.  But five African-American children died in one of the worst fires in Pittsburgh's history in one of the region's poorest neighborhoods.  It deserves some attention.  The political future of Pittsburgh is as much tied up in the lives and deaths of these five children as in Luke Ravenstahl's dereliction of his duty.

Those children, all of region's most vulnerable children, need someone to hold the higher ups accountable for their welfare and their lives.

Bloggers, where for art thou?


UPDATE:   One Pittsburgh blogger covered this story.  Her name is PittGirl and she is a self proclaimed non-political blogger.  Still, she captured a moment of the underlying human aspect. 

View Article  Peduto and POG

Caught a story in the PG this morning stating the Peduto won't retract his accusations that the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) is responsible for vandalizing several Shadyside businesses. Peduto claims they fit the profile, given recent acts of vandalism at a military recruiting station and Carnegie Mellon University.  The most recent acts were tied to opposition of the G-8 Summit,

POG representatives vehemently deny responsibility for participating in or organzing destruction of property.  They don't condemn it either.

I have said before that I am no fan of POG's.  Two years ago, they protected a member who had assaulted a cameraman from arrest, leading to a semi-violent confrontation with the police. They then turned that into a media frenzy. It may not be a popular interpretation, but it is consistent with the video evidence.  I think POG  and like minded grops do damage to the peace and justice movement, but they are usually their own worst enemies.  Anybody remember Antifa from the anti-Dobson rally? However, in March, POG organized a protest at CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center that was, IMHO, excellent. 

It makes me sad to drive by The Quiet Storm each morning and see the plywood in the windows.  It makes no sense to vandalize two independent small-businesses as a protest of the G8 (the East End Co-Op was another target). 

It is hard to think that members of POG would do this to businesses they probably frequent.  I can't wrap  my mind around connecting the Co-Op with corporatism.  It doesn't make any sense.  POG claims that they get blamed for any act of anarchy, in spite of the hundreds of anarchists around the region.  They perceive this as an attempt to minimize the scope of anti-war movement.  Hmmm. 

But why would Bill Peduto make this up?  What does he have to gain?  He claims he has received threatening calls.  What's up with that? 

What's going on in this part of the world when G8 protests involve anti-war anarchists, a vegetarian coffee shop and Bill Peduto -- on OPPOSITE sides?  Geez.

Your thoughts?

View Article  Pittsburgh's Slant on Kids of Gay Parents

I am really, really tired tonight so I will definitely not give this justice.  However, I've already had two inquiries asking me if I'm going to post about the Post-Gazette article on gay parenting.  So here is my post.

Click here for the article and wonderful sidebars.

A few points of interest ...

    * The existing research does not suggest children are harmed growing up with gay parents.

    * There is not good research comparing children of heterosexual parents versus children of homosexual parents. 

   *  The existing research focuses on upper-middle class white homosexual families, most of whom have adopted their children or concieved their children within their domestic partnership.  The intersection of race and class have not yet been accounted for in the research.  

 Census figures show that about 45 percent of same-sex parents are either black or Latino. And most of those same-sex couples with children have household incomes below that of their different-sex married counterparts.

It stands to reason that when you factor in race, socioeconomic status, blended families, etc things would get dicey --- just like they do in heterosexual families. 

This is an important article because it reveals that, yes, Pittsburgh has all sorts of families, including homosexual families.  Check out PrideFest this Saturday and you'll see many strollers amongst the crowd. And  I'm really proud of the young people who agreed to be interviewed, although I am very curious why their respective parents declined. 

Some of my Kennywood compatriots were betting how long it will take until the right wingnut letters are published.  Stay tuned b/c you know I'll cover them.


View Article  City Paper Reader Ire Over Kennywood DeGaying Pirate Show

Woe to she who gets on the bad side of Janice Milliner of Buena Vista.  Janice got herself all worked up in response to news that Kennywood had changed homophobic content in their pirate show, thanks in large part to the efforts of one Mary Hawk

You may recall that Mary viewed the Kennywood show and took action at the content she found offensive by contacting management.  Management informed her they would need to hear from more folks.  So Mary took care of that.

Janice Milliner thinks Mary is a gossip on a "delusional crusade" because she, Janice, did not find the content homophobic:

I've seen the very show she protested. Her self-perception as a righteous advocate for what amounted to a humorous skit is really rather pathetic. My "gay" friends who viewed the show didn't even take offense to it!

If someone can explain that second sentence to me, I'd be thrilled.  Advocate for the skit?  Huh?  And what exactly is a "gay" friend -- effeminate men who walk around making the little quote signs with their fingers when they make witty comments?  Or should I say self-perceived witty comments.  Or self-perceived friends.  Or self-perceived ability to write a coherent letter to the editor.

So Janice disagrees with Mary that the content was homophobic.  Janice found it funny.  And she disagrees with Mary's tactic of spreading the word about an issue in which she believes.  Janice finds that gossipy.  She thinks Kennywood removed the content to appease homosexuals.  Janice finds that sad.

This is probably the most poorly written letter to the editor published by any local paper in the last six months.  Perhaps Janice should get some "literary" friends or maybe a "dictionary" instead of spending so much time at Kennywood gawking at gay pirates. 

Besides everyone know Johnny Depp's pirate is bi.  Whatever.

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