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View Article  The Rally



Scary stuff. 

View Article  Pennsylvania changes gender ID policy

This is good news.

Under PennDOT's old policy, to change the gender on their licenses or state ID cards, people had to prove they had sexual reassignment surgery. The new policy that is effective immediately doesn't require proof of surgery. It does allow a change in gender on the licenses if people are living full-time in the new gender and it is verified by a licensed medical or psychological caregiver or social worker "whose practice includes helping people with gender identity issues."

Change. It does happen.  Even in Pennsylvania. 

View Article  I was felled by a twinkie

I have a new obsession. It is getting healthy. I've been using the Wii Fit Plus and a website http://www.sparkpeople.com to improve my fitness, nutrition and overall well-being.  The results have been great so far.

- no soda/pop since May (with the occasional ginger ale if my stomach is icky)

- I've lost 29 pounds

- I've consistently exercised 3-4 times per week and have graduated to a new Wii program, EA Sports Active that is REALLY HARD

- I have been very good about drinking 8 glasses of water a day

- I have faced down all sorts of temptations and managed pretty well.  Except for the twinkie, but I got right back on the horse. 

Change is difficult, but so rewarding.  Change also means sacrifices of time.  Hence, the lack of blogging.  Well, that's only partially true.  Yes, I have less time, but I have also enjoyed the break.  It has been like a mental health release to not be locked into a singular identity for a few months.  I admit that I created my own situation and I'm really proud of what we've accomplished, but this blog has taken a hard turn toward all politics, all the time which isn't a real reflection of who I am.

I'm certainly not going to stop blogging, but I am going to blog differently. I guess you'll have to tune in to see what that means. 

Now I'm off to read a book and relax before bed. I have to prepare myself to ache tomorrow when today's new workout kicks in.  Ouch.



View Article  Parking what?

I have no idea what to say about the parking debacle.  We were out of town for awhile and I am completely out of the loop except for Peduto's tweets.  I'm speculating that I agree more with Bill than I do with Luke, but I have to admit that with Ledcat as a City employee -- I'm concerned about pension stability. So I guess I have some reading to do.

I haven't heard much about local action on LGBT issues.  No word on domestic partner benefits. I know that every time I bring up the fact that Onorato hasn't done anything about this I single handedly contribute to the downfall of the Democratic party in Pennsylvania, but still ... gay people deserve health care for their families.  No word from the Mayor's Advisory Council, but I'm okay with that because they did help with the Dyke March. 

I understand there might be some sort of PrideFest Conference here in 2011.  That's good news. 

Any thoughts from your end? 

View Article  PG on Marriage Equality
Go read.
View Article  Stuff I Missed

Rob Rogers has a great cartoon on the recent pro-marriage equality court ruling.

Not up to date on the California ruling?  The Trib reprints a nice piece from the Washington Post on the ruling. This could end up at the Supreme Court level, but for now its nice to enjoy a victory.  The Trib also agrees with the ruling, at least their editorial board does.

Elsewhere, the National Organization for Marriage has been holding rallies (ahem -- 25 people attending) to support their cause againt marriage equality. Counter protests drawing dozens and sometimes hundreds of pro-equality advocates have been popping up at every site.  NOM has responded by labeling the counterprotestors as violent. 

NOM is coming to Harrisburg and Equality PA is not planning to counter protest and urging Pennsylvania advocates to avoid that tactic as well. 

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) kicked off their "One Man, One Woman" tour on July 14th. At each stop where there have been counter protests or attendance by pro-equality supporters, they have disrespected or mocked them and attempted to provoke them into screaming or yelling. Their goal in doing this is to make our side look foolish and hostile. We have also seen that they like to play a numbers game where if we have even a few less attendees than at their event, they will claim that the momentum is moving in their direction. We know from the recent polling numbers and the pathetic turnout their rallies have been recording, that this simply isn't the case.

We are working hard to advance equality and will continue to do so long after they leave town. While we may be upset by their rhetoric, we can't get caught up in retaliation when we need to remain focused on what needs to get done to win! Putting our energy into showing up at their event does not help to move us forward. What will help to advance equality in Pennsylvania is if we use them coming to town as an excuse to mobilize local activists and build our network.

So after NOM finishes their ranting and heads to the next town, we will be out there getting it done! We are holding a terrific event in Harrisburg on August 12, the night before they arrive, around a special showing of the movie "Stonewall Uprising" with a panel on youth activism afterward. We encourage everyone who can, to attend.

Click here for more information!

Not only is this a great movie, but this public conversation will increase our network and identify new volunteers and supporters. Please do what you can...attend, make a donation or just plain follow our activities. But please, ignore NOM when they come to town and don't interact. Attention is exactly what they want, and why should honest people who hold equality close to their hearts be tricked into supporting their sad little charade.


Again, Pam's House Blend for some analysis.  What are your thoughts? I personally understand their decision to stay focused on the issues near and dear and, frankly, possible to achieve ... HB 300, for example.  Still, Pennsylvania is decidedly lacking in activism. So many shun that identity in favor of the more palatable term advocate.  I'm a huge fan of advocacy, but as I've said repeatedly ... we are missing this critical link. 

Enough for now.


View Article  Lt. Dan Choi discharged from US Army; Continues to Serve

You may have heard by now that Lt. Dan Choi was honorably discharged from the United States Army under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.  Lt. Choi, fluent in Arabic, was serving as a linguist. 

Dan has also been an advocate for the LGBT community.  He was in Pittsburgh courtesy of the Delta Foundation in August 2009.  Most recently, he has been working with Get Equal to engage in civil disobedience, twice chaining himself to the White House fence while in full uniform.  His movement from fundraisers to political activism has been fascinating to watch and certainly parallels the failure of the Obama Administration (and the mighty gays) to repeal DADT. 

Even as the political will of the elite weakens, the will of activists like Choi grows. 

Still, discharge must have been a deeply painful moment.  It is certainly painful for the non-Arabic speaking soldiers who are now at even more of a disadvantage thanks to Obama's systemic policy of intolerance and discrimination.

In a powerful moment, Choi sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was addressing the NetRoots Nation conference.  It contained his West Point ring which he sent as a pledge of his ongoing service to the United States, asking for it to be returned when DADT is repealed. 

Courtesy of Pam's House Blend, please read the words of an American patriot.

July 24, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader:


Dear Harry:

My West Point ring has always symbolized an irrevocable promise: my commitment to serving America and my duty to defend freedom and justice. Today, with my discharge from the army for telling the truth, the ring takes on a new meaning, serving as a symbol for the enduring pain of broken promises.

America was founded on the principles of inalienable rights, equality, and the promise of justice for all. But today, Americans remain segregated from that promise.  Fired from our jobs, discriminated in the military, denied equal access to our own integrity and acknowledgement of our families, we cannot conclude that our country has manifested its own promise, over 230 years later.

You have also made personal promises to me that the senate would repeal military discrimination before the end of 2009. Indeed, you sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Gates, claiming that was the most you could do to save my career. You promised to lead on repeal of discrimination. I believed your promise because you are the most powerful senator in America. Truly, no one can do more. The false hope of your promise has been made real to me today with another letter: the letter terminating my military service.

But I present this ring to you, symbolizing my promise as a fellow citizen: my service continues.

I promise I will hold you accountable to your obligations to lead in the effort to end discrimination, both in the workplace and in the military. My promise is not merely written on a piece of paper or words alone, but in the hearts of every lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender American fired from their jobs because of broken promises from those who purport to be our friends. History will judge us and conclude that the greatest obstacles to justice were not the loud rants of bigots, but the quiet fears of those unwilling to stand firm in the fulfillment of their commitments. I refuse to allow my friends register themselves in history as obstacles to justice.

I commit to you my renewed pledge and continued service. To you and all those ?friends? who manipulate, deceive and exploit our community, I will serve as a reminder of the consequences we all pay when allegiance to political careers takes higher priority than allegiance to America?s promise.



Lt. Dan Choi

US Army, Discharged under DADT


View Article  The Lesbian Movie

Last night, Ledcat and I caught the opening of "The Kids Are Allright," the film about the kids of a lesbian couple seeking out their sperm donor.  The movie was well made and much more about relationships with this one happening to be lesbian, than a lesbian movie.  Annette Benning and Julianne Moore star and how cool to have two high profile actresses take on these roles. 

Our experience at the theater was interesting as well.  The showing was at the Manor in Squirrel Hill, known for being a bit liberal. 30 minutes before showtime, the line snaked around the building.  Surprisingly, the movie was packed PACKED with heterosexual couples, skewing heavily above age 50.  I'm sure there were plenty of lesbians sprinkled in the crowd, but I was a little stunned that I didn't recognize a single LGBT face in the crowd.  As we left, I could say the same about the line for the next showing. 

I sure hope all these allie who turn out for movies that normalize us are turning out politically to advocate for us in real life, too.

View Article  Gay Bashing in Pittsburgh - We Need a Liaison

You may have heard by now of a recent incident where a local gay man was assaulted while waiting for a bus. The community responded with two rallies and a lot of discussion about interaction between the LGBT community and the police.

This is an age old debate that requires self-examination on both sides and that seems to be a break down point.  Many in the LGBT community have had negative experiences with the police and are disengaged b/c there's no trust. To be repeatedly told "call 911" or "file reports" when your personal experiences are traumatic is not getting anywhere.  Add in the near constant media reports of negative behavior by the police department when interacting with minority groups and you hit a wall. 

On the other hand, if there is no data and no information being fed to the police their hand are tied.  People in the general public have unrealistic expectations of 911 and responses to emergencies.  If the police aren't there in minutes, the assumption is that they didn't care.  So when they do arrive two hours later to investigate, folks are unwilling to cooperate.  That's a catch 22 and doesn't help anyone. 

How do you get around this? 

Progress has been made.  This year's Dyke March finally had adequate police protection, but it took five years and a lot of pressure.  Tied up in that was a sense of disenchantment by some event organizers that the police truly didn't care if particpants were safe ... the same dynamic. Yet I had conversations with more than one officer at the event that showed they are gay friendly and willing to engage far more than simply guarding their street corner. 

There are systemic solutions.  The Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee is one such option, but we have to be realistic about their ability to effect the sort of dialogue necessary to bring about change.  Frankly, I've attended a lot of meetings with commanders and even the Chief where we just get lectured about reporting, reporting, reporting and a protective nature toward their team (with regard to community violence).  There's been no acknowledgement of systemic homophobia within the police force so I don't hold out a lot of hope.  I also think the disconnect I described above is mirrored within our community along socioeconomic/class lines so those who get access to these meetings aren't the ones getting bashed. 

City Council is another resource.  We need to insist our allies on Council take up this rallying cry. Several years ago, Bill Peduto repeatedly reminded Council that LGBT issues were part of the federal consent decree under which the police force operated for several years (essentially oversight by the Department of Justice).  Yet, we rarely see LGBT issues put forth by CPRB or other citizen groups in an organized manner.  That would bring us back to the lack of organization in our community and the lack of data due to underreporting. 

My recommendation is that we push for an LGBT liaison in the police department. This person would be our point person to discuss concerns and positive outcomes.  This officer attends our meetings, large and small, to address the issues being raised -- training, tracking, how 911 works, etc.  This officer gets to know us from Gay Inc to the everday queer so s/he can carry our stories and experiences back to the entire Department of Public Safety.  This officer is not just chatting with the Mayor's allies, but reaching out to the entire community. Many of us have his/her phone number. You see what I mean?  Not a token person assigned to come to one meeting, but an officer who gets invested in our community and diligently works to earn our trust.

It is about a relationship between our community and the institution which leads to a better relationship with the individual officers.  That core relationship will generate the reporting necessary to tackle the crimes.  It will empower CPRB to tackle the situations where police response is not according to procedure.

We also need a leader to step forward to push for necessary dialogue within the community.  Pittsburgh does not have an organized LGBT grassroots presence.  We have anarchists and philanthropists.  We've lost touch with that piece of our history, a consequence of assimilation. 

Just my $.02. 

View Article  Grocery store for Beechview

I don't pay a lot of attention to Beechview even though my neighborhood of Manchester is connected to it through both our State House and State Senate districts.  So I didn't even realize they had no grocery store until this little missive from Senator Fontana arrived in my box ...

Fontana Says Beechview Grocery Store Negotiations Underway

Responding to inquiries from community residents, State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today said that negotiations are underway to bring a grocery store to the Beechview neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh, but cautioned that any premature discussions on the project could jeopardize a positive outcome of the ongoing talks.

?I am committed to securing a grocery for the neighborhood,? Fontana said. ?I just don?t feel that it is productive to speculate or make premature public announcements about any proposals. The community should, most definitely, have an opportunity to weigh in on any plans and I have pledged to make that opportunity available as soon as it can be arranged.?

Senator Fontana has been meeting with a potential grocer and representatives of the Urban Redevelopment Authority since before the Foodland on Broadway Avenue closed at the end of June. He characterized the meetings as positive and productive, but he and the other parties to the discussions are bound by a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from discussing details.

?Growing up in Beechview in the 1950s, there was always a grocery store serving the community,? said Fontana. ?Although that has just changed recently, I still believe a new grocer can flourish in Beechview. Recent studies have indicated that a grocery can be successful here and I also believe that the community will support efforts because the residents understand how vital a grocery is to anchor their community.?

Senator Fontana said that a tentative date in early August has been set for a community meeting where residents will have the opportunity to obtain more information and ask questions of the new grocer. That information will be forthcoming as soon as it is available.

I'm sure many of Pgh's neighborhoods are underserved by grocery stores.  I should stop complaining about the Northside Giant Eagle, eh? 

And I need to get to Beechview sometime soon.


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