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View Article  Who Holds a Breast Cancer Fundraiser in a Hookah (Smoking) Bar? She Does ... and her name is Girl Weapon X

At first, I honestly thought this was a joke.  No one in their right mind would organize a cancer awareness event at a hookah bar, right?  Wrong!  Because coming up next week is Pittsburgh's first ever Mammogram-Jam held right in the heart of Pittsburgh Southside at HKan Hookah Bar & Lounge. 

First, let me explain about a hookah bar.  Its an ancient Middle Eastern practice involving smoking tobacco through a water pipe or hookah.  This practice has become quite the rage across the United States with hookah bars popping up all over the place.  The use of tobacco becomes the cultural activity at hookah bars. 

Doesn't really strike you as the most appropriate place to promote cancer detection, does it?  Let's take a look at the facts.

* According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use accounts for nearly one-third of all cancer deaths. 

* Lung cancer is the number one killer of women followed by breast cancer.

* The US Surgeon General recently released a report suggesting that secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast cancer. 

* There has been no proven link between smoking and breast cancer. 

Here is what the Susan G. Komen folks have to say about the smoking/breast cancer issue (courtesy of their website).

?Understanding the role of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure in the risk for breast cancer could provide us with another piece of the puzzle in our fight against breast cancer. If the evidence that supports a link between secondhand smoke and an increased risk for breast cancer is proven, this will give people another factor with some level of control, another way to help reduce their risk for developing breast cancer. Until that happens, there is no doubt that smoking is bad for your health and [that] is a good reason to stop or never to start smoking. A close review of the data and additional study is now warranted because of the future implications for breast cancer risk if this information continues to be supported by additional research,? said Cheryl Perkins, M.D., senior clinical advisor for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Now, let me very clear that I certainly am in favor of promoting awareness of early detection for breast cancer and for raising money to support the good work of the Susan G. Komen folks.  I just think there have to be some boundaries.  So intrepid blogger that I am, I contacted the event organizer Girl Weapon X for more details on why they planned this event at a  hookah bar.

First, I figured that they were using the space but making it a smoke free event for the evening.  It seemed the logical solution.  I was wrong. Girl Weapon X's response:

While there are certain ideals within any event, simple logistics must not be forgotten.  The HKan has generously donated the use of their venue free of charge for the entire eventing.  Additionally, the floor plan for the Mammogram Jam requires that all the tables be removed which will eliminate the restaurant aspect of the HKan.  In response, the management offered to cater a buffet of appetizers for our guests - again free of charge.  All that is on top of donating protions of the drink specials to the evening's totals as well.  It's clear that the Mammogram Jam's locale is one that cares about the community which has helped it thrive.

That doesn't explain why it cannot be a smoke-free event.  If they aren't planning to make any money from beverage or food sales, why would they object to losing money on tobacco sales?  How is that caring about the community?  Its really not clear at all. 

Then I asked her more pointedly about the connection between smoking and cancer.  She responds:

Am I claiming this event as perfection?  No.  But I am confident that I have done what I am capable of, and that is success in my eyes.  Yes, lung cancer is a serious problem.  My reasearch on breast cancer has revealed that it is the second greatest killer amongst cancers in women - second only to lung cancer.  However, this event is NOT for lung cancer.  It is to aid in early detection of breast cancer, as studies have shown that annual mammography can bring the five year survival rate to ninety-five percent.
If my coice[sic] is between having the event at a smoking facility or not having the event, I'll choose the smoking facility every time!  And I cannot make any apologies for my decisions.  As I stated in my first reply, the HKan has been more than generous in their support of this event, and I'm proud to host the Mammogram Jam there.  It isn't as easy as you'd think to find local businesses that care so deeply about its community! 

She probably doesn't stop to think that I, too, might have organized an event or two, but never mind that ...

I also asked her if she would have accepted sponsorship monies from a tobacco company.  She replies:

Well, your question is very interesting...  For this event, I would not have accepted a donation from a tobacco company.  However, not for the reason you're aiming for.  This event centers around local culture -- including local musicians, local artists and local industry.  Since there is no local tobacco company, a contribution from such an entity would take away from the theme of this event.  If, however, a local tobacconist had taken an interest in donating a gift certificate to this event, I would have gladly accepted the contribution and offered free advertising on our web site.

She'd accept money from a tobacco company if it was local?  Did I read that correctly?  Huh ....

And the gay theme ... I pointed out that as a lesbian blog we are especially interested in the topic since smoking rates in our community are nearly four times as high as in the general population, especially among our young women.  I think she misunderstood and thought I wanted to bring a group of lesbian teens to the event:

And while I can see the concerns relative to your cause, I'd ask you to remember that perhaps your cause and mine differ.  This event is not for teens as it is only open to those twenty-one and older.  Also, while we are not by any means excluding the lesbian community, we are not particularly reaching out to them any more than we are to all aspects of the community.  However, I can very much see how this issue is important amongst the lesbian community.  My research has also indicated that certain facets of the lesbian lifestyle place such women at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and so I hope that this event will arouse your support.

LESBIAN LIFESTYLE?  Oh, honey, you had to play the subtle homophobe card.  I took a look at your MySpace page (really I had no choice) and would note that certain aspects of your lifestyle (quasi-Christian bar wench) aren't exactly the healthiest.  Plus, you freakin' event is KILLING my sisters.  What the hell kind of Christianity is that?

To give her credit, she does seem REALLY enthusiastic about how fun the event will be and quite taken with her own ability organize a fundraiser.  So taken that I think the issue has become subordinate to the event, a frequent pitfall of special event planning. 

While I can understand your concerns, I must maintain my position as follows:  It is very easy to sit in judgement of others, but very difficult to take the initiative required to plan an event like this.  This "planning committtee" you refer to doesn't exist...  It's simply me, with the help of close friends who share my desire to improve the community we call home.  I am fairly well-known and have many connections within Pittsburgh, and I've pooled my resources to create an event that will not only raise money for an incredible cause, but provide a lot of fun for our guests.

You know, this is perhaps the most ridiculous thing that's come across my email box in a long, long time.  Holding a cancer awareness event/fundraiser in a hookah bar makes as much sense as moving Gay Bingo to the Penn Hills house formerly occupied by Santorum.  Or inviting Mary Cheney to serve as Grand Marshall of the Pride Parade.  It is a marriage conceived in some distorted version of hell. 

Before the Girl Weapon X posse pull out their taunts and barbs, you should know that I was very clear with Zoe that I was covering this issue in my blog.  No nasty little taunts about my motives.  I have two sets of motives - my boobs and my lungs.  Neither wish to be sacrificed so I can have a good time inhaling your carcinogens.   

View Article  GLENDA "Dining for Diversity" fundraiser - is it the afterprom?

Each fall, the Gay and Lesbian Neighborhood Development Association (GLENDA) holds their "Dining for Diversity" event which features small invitation-only dinner parties (dining) throughout the city followed by a large open-to-the-public dessert reception and silent art auction. 

GLENDA is a wonderful organization - they offer volunteer opportunities for LGBTQ individuals and families which create opportunities to socialize and meet new people as well as do something meaningful.   And I have used GLENDA volunteers at my agency.  I cannot say enough good things about their mission, their volunteers and their structure.  When people are coming out, I always send them to GLENDA as the most low key way to meet some new gays in a non-threatening environment.

But I never really liked the Dining for Diversity event, primarily because of its exclusive nature.  You had to be invited to someone's house for dinner which creates a sense of being "in or out" of the party.  Being invited to the dessert reception w/o dinner was like going to the afterprom party even when you didn't get invited to the prom.  It just isn't the same.  For an organization focused on breaking down barriers between the gay and straight communities, it felt odd to raise funds vis a vis an event that excluded people. 

This year GLENDA is focusing on "Just Desserts" with no dinner parties in sight.  Yeah!  Putting everyone on an equal footing is a step in the right direction. 

Dining for Diversity

Saturday, September 9

7:00 - 10 :00 PM

Society for Contemporary Craft

2100 Smallman Street

Make a point to stop by and support an organization which distinguishes Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community.  The dessert was fabulous last year and the location is very cool.  Be there!


View Article  It takes 2 Political Junkies and Tony Norman to replace 1 Lynn Cullen

Be sure to set your dials for AM 1360 tomorrow morning when our favorite PG columnist Tony Norman brings along David and Maria of  2 Political Junkies for his three hour stint substituting for talk show host maven Lynn Cullen

I've been kvetching that all the planned substitute hosts are men, albeit progressive liberal-minded men.  Nothing wrong with some mantime on the air, but its very difficult to believe that the station cannot rustle up some engaging progressive women to fill some of these slots. 

Boys -- you have to share the resources or you lose your token feminist cards!

But give Tony, David and Maria a listen as I'm sure it will be informative, entertaining and amusing ....


View Article  Pittsburgh woman helps end trans-discrimination at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

Emilia Lombardi, Pittsburgh trans-activist and good friend of the Correspondents, made history this year as one of the first trans women to openly participate in the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.  As we've reported in the past, the Michigan festival has historically excluded those who are not woman born, inspiring trans women and their allies to establish Camp Trans outside the festival to promote awareness of trans inclusion issues in women only spaces.

Their years of dedication paid off.

Organizers of Camp Trans, the annual protest across the road from the
festival, say that every year at least one trans woman at Camp Trans walks
to the festival gate with a group of supporters, explains that she is trans,
and tries to buy a ticket.  In past years, the festival box office has
produced a printed copy of the policy and refused.

"This time, the response was, 'cash or credit?'" said Jessica Snodgrass, a
Camp Trans organizer and festival attendee who spent the week reaching out
to supporters inside the fest.  "They said the festival has no policy
barring any woman from attending."

The woman purchased her ticket on Wednesday and joined supporters inside the
festival.  Another trans woman, Camp Trans organizer Emilia Lombardi, joined
on Friday to facilitate a scheduled workshop discussion on the
recently-retired policy.

"This kind of discussion has happened before inside the fest," said
Lombardi. "But for the first time in years, trans women were part of the
conversation.  Over 50 women shared their thoughts about what the inclusion
of trans women means for the Festival and how we can move forward."

"We didn't expect to change anyone's minds in the workshop - but in the end
we didn't need to. The support we found was overwhelming."

Both trans women say they were moved by how friendly and supportive other
festival attendees were.

Camp Trans will continue with the goal of continuing to promote awareness and provide supports for trans women attending the festival as well as working with camp participants to educate future attendees on transphobia.

I must say I am delighted!  The Correspondents have differed over this issue with regard to attending the festival.  And I think this is part of a larger shift in dynamics in the queer women's community.  This past weekend, the New York Times featured an in depth look at the receptivity (or lack thereof) of the "lesbian" community to transgender women.  Women have intensely personal reactions, especially to women born women transitioning to men.  The complexity of gender and sexual orientation is a struggle, tapping into old insecurities about the reality of being a woman in our society.

I suspect, however, that its also a generational issue.  Just as younger generations are more comfortable with the mere existance of multiple sexual orientations, I believe the younger queer generation is more comfortable with the fluidity of gender and less threatened by the paradigm shift.

But, as one Camp Trans organizer puts its, this isn't about winning a battle. 

"This is not about winning," said Snodgrass. "It's about making our
communities whole again.  The policy divided people against each other who
could be fighting on the same side.  We want to be part of the healing

That's where the dialogue needs to go, most especially here in Pittsburgh where there is a huge generational divide in the queer women's community.  As recent events in City Hall demonstrate, women cannot afford this divide.  Obviously, Jim Ferlo and Bob O'Connor find much in common with a 31 year old so surely we can find ways to connect our 40 and 50 something lesbians with the 20 somethings queer women.  More on this later.

Back to Emilia.  She rocks and does a lot of good stuff here in Pittsburgh for the queer community as a whole.  We are very lucky that the University of Pittsburgh snatched her up and brought her to us.  And how very cool that she used her access to Michigan to get down to work on education and awareness.

Definitely a woman who rocks!

View Article  Desperate Opponent Paints Murtha as Fey "San Fran" Politico

This was very amusing from today's Post-Gazette:

Even Diana Irey, his Republican challenger, acknowledged in an interview last week that she's facing "an uphill battle."

But Ms. Irey added: "The war issue has made people raise an eyebrow ... and given us an opportunity to tell people who he really is." She mentions Mr. Murtha's opposition to a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage: "Jack Murtha acts more like he's representing liberal San Francisco than conservative southwestern Pennsylvania."

Diana, honey, both my eyebrows are raised in skeptical disbelief that you actually spew this ridiculous crap in front of people with notepads and cameras.  Its so very predictable to trot out the tired old gay-by-association references.  And very sad that you attempt to counter Murtha's pragmatic stance on the war with the old homo thrust and parry. 

Check out Chris Matthew's smackdown of Irey here ....

View Article  Pittsburgh Gay Women's Choir Holds Auditions

Calling all women who love music!

The Renaissance City Choir Women are starting our 12th season with a NEW director and we are very excited. If you have ever sung in a choir before or if you have always wanted to but didn't get the chance, now would be a great time to join!

We have three goals

- to join together in a community to impact the broader community to effect positive social change.

- to grow in our musical skills and broaden our and our audience's musical horizons

- to have fun together with like-minded LBT & S women

Auditions are Tuesday, August 29th, but please don't be scared off by the word audition. It literally means to be heard, and we have singers of all backgrounds and levels of experience.

For more information or to schedule a time, contact Marcia Smith at

412-871-5388 or gundysmith@earthlink.net.

View Article  Homo Round Up

After a whirwind tour of our nation's capital, we are back here in not-so-sunny Pittsburgh and glad to be home.  We visited my alma mater, stopped by the National Zoo to see the pandas (only saw the papa), toured the Museum of American Indians (wow) and strolled through Georgetown and Chinatown.  Ledcat went to the Holocaust Memorial which I've seen several times while I was at my workshop.  We stayed in a ridiculously overpriced hotel -- the most significant difference between this one and a regularly overpriced hotel seemed to be the down comforters.  ...

But back to the homo news from here and around the globe ...

First, a follow up.  You may recall the fine upstanding Philadelphia couple, Joseph J. Catto and Shawnita Armonstrong Catto, who wrote in to their local paper expressing their disgust that homo-marriage is compared with interracial marriage.  Just a quick mention that a fellow reader, Vanessa Burk of Medford, NJ, took a few moments to slap down the Armstrong-Catto hypocrisy:

It's sickening to know that even a couple of interracial status cannot understand that all minorities are in the same boat and should work together.

Who are they to judge anyone, seeing as if they were to have fallen in love in 1940, they would have had a very difficult time trying to live for love. Do not judge other people's feelings. The two of you getting married was a choice you made, being gay is not.

Here, here Vanessa.  The mighty-white wingnuts have done an excellent job sowing discord among American minorities.  Its sad how frequently we step on each other in our scramble to reach the pinnacle of acceptance among the MWW.  The sooner we realize their agenda and work together for human rights, the sooner we might realize they ain't ceding an inch of ground to anyone outside of their club.

Some good news from the Bush Administration ....the Prez signed the Pension Protection Act which includes provisions protecting two aspects of the financial interests of same-sex partners.  Check out the Advocate for more details. 

A gay porn star is heading to Israel to provide a live sex entertainment show for the Israeli troops ... how is it possible that they object to Gay Pride, but permit a live gay sex show????

A New York women's wrongful death case dismissed because she has no legal standing as a spouse.  Even after 18 years together and coparenting two children.  Sigh.

Cincinnati gays will be protected from discrimination in housing and employment now that their homegrown hate group has withdrawn its petition to force a voter referendum on the matter (the non-discrimination policy was previously passed by city council).  Or more precisely, now that the gay-affirming residents have proven that the referendum petition was fraudulent, containing hundreds of false signatures.  Ha!

Well, that's it for this morning .... off to try out my new coffee grinder and unpack.  Uggg.

View Article  Will Ferrell man smooch generates more letters to the Post-Gazette

Remember David Smith, the guy who threw a hissy fit because his precious family was exposed to some manly lip lock in the new Will Ferrell movie?

A few PG readers wrote in to share their thoughts on this homegrown version of wingnut values ---

Dick Marshall of Crafton ...

If only the characters would have done something more acceptable such as blowing someone's head off with an AK-47 instead of being ... you know ..." one of those sick types."


Susan Kaminski of Sewickley who enjoyed the movie herself ...

rather than rely solely on newspaper reviews to warn them of scenes in movies that the reader's family might find offensive, they should use a resource such as www.kids-in-mind.com. There they will find in great detail a listing of every kiss, touch, comment, obscenity, name-called, punch, car crash, cigarette, and drink occurring in the movie.

Yours truly ...

Just a kiss

Perhaps David A. Smith should keep his man-kissing worries focused on the ones that really matter (President Bush and Joe Lieberman) instead of those that don't (Will Ferrell and the "French guy"). Smith frets that the Post-Gazette failed to adequately warn him about gay content of "Talladega Nights" ("Family Film Guide fails us," Feedback, Aug. 10).

Apparently, he didn't have similar qualms about taking his family to see a movie you did identify as containing crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and comic violence. Rather than a sincere attempt to protect their children from inappropriate content, the Smith family values are primarily about intolerance, bigotry and hatred.

What good company!

View Article  AFA of PA aghast that PA Congressmen support gender identity equity

Our girl and mistress of family-values flavored hate, Diane Gramley has mounted her high horse again and that's never a good thing.

Seems Big Mama D has figured out that three Pennsylvania Congressman have signed the non-discrimination pledge sponsored by Gender PAC.  She believes this opens the door to all sorts of hell ...

Three PA Congressmen Allow Men Dressed as Women to Come to Work . . . .

At least that's what their signature on the Gender PAC/Human Rights Campaign
Diversity Statement will allow!  

It has come to our attention that Congressman Robert Brady (D - 1st),
Congressman Mike Doyle (D - 14th) and Congressman Jim Gerlach (R - 6th) have
signed onto a Diversity Statement from Gender PAC and the Human Rights Campaign.

  These groups are two radical homosexual rights groups. 

You'll recall that this is the very same document our very own Rick Santorum signed and then unsigned, blaming the original signature on the work of someone in his office.  I'm sure he can count on Diane's vote.

Here's the source of Diane's concerns:

You may want to remind them that there was a situation in Carbon County, PA
where a male prison guard decided he was transgender and began coming to work
dressed as a woman.  He was fired, but because of the prison union being from
Allentown (which had added 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' to their
Human Relations Ordinance in 2002), the guard sued and was reinstated.  Our news
release brought up the questions of strip searches, locker room and restroom

Diane must be hanging out in the same circles of some of my more saucy friends b/c those are frequent topics among them as well ...

View Article  Young Yinzer Takes PG to Task for Dissing Young People and Lack of Issue Coverage

Here, here to Liz Carrier of Squirrel Hill. Her letter "Campaign Comment" in today's Post-Gazette roundly boxes the ears of both Rick Santorum for running a negative campaign and the Post-Gazette for reporting on to the exclusion of covering actual issues. 

Liz points out that telephone polls follow the grand old Pittsburgh tradition of ignoring young people who are much more likely to use cell phones than land lines.  (I'm sure the white yuppie Repubocrats who aspire to nestle under the wing of old white men hedge their bets with both a landline and cell phone). 

She continues:

It is not enough to tell us who is "winning" the election (according to a not necessarily accurate poll); I want to know why I should or shouldn't vote for either candidate.

These seem like a reasonable request, Liz.  Coverage of issues.  Inclusion of young people's perspectives.  Where have I heard that before?

Liz seems to have done her homework on the issues without the help of the Post-Gazette.

And to my fellow young voters, I say this about Sen. Santorum: I will not be voting for him, because of his votes in Congress against increasing the minimum wage, against increasing funding for Pell Grants (which provide federal financial aid to college students), against expanding Head Start, against expanding federal after school programs, against the EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule, to say nothing of his continued support for the war in Iraq and his blatant homophobia.

Those are sound reasons to vote against Rick Santorum.  I guess his spokesfag didn't fool you into thinking he's a homolover deep in his heart, huh?

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