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View Article  Obama extends some domestic partner benefits to federal employees

Well, incrementalism pays off for some federal employees. They can still get sick and die without health insurance, but at least their partners can visit them in the hospital.

Today President Obama signed a presidential memorandum extending more benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees: family assistance services, hardship transfers, relocation expenses.  In addition the memorandum requires federal departments and agencies to extend to same sex partners any new benefits to employees? opposite-sex spouses ?to the extent permitted by law.?

The president said in a statement that he ?continues to be prevented by existing Federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.  That is why, today, I renew my call for swift passage of an important piece of legislation pending in both Houses of Congress?the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act? which ?would extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees the full range of benefits currently enjoyed by Federal employees? opposite-sex spouses.?

Does the "my hands are tied" sound familiar?  If we accept this justification on a local level, of course it legitimizes it on a federal level.



View Article  Local papers cover 2010 Pittsburgh PrideFest

Check out this nice piece in the Post-Gazette.  It is a nice article and a nice festival, but I have to admit some sadness that the political/activist edge of Pride has morphed into a celebration of assimilation.  I know that's the trend and it certainly isn't the fault of anyone local that Pride has lost some of that bite. Still ... it seems less than stunning when three white men are the symbols of progress.  All three are accomplished certainly, but I'm just reflecting the disillusionment women and persons of color have been sharing with me.  It is "nice" but not really telling all of us that we belong , isn't it? 

And then there is this column from the Tribune Review.  Again another nice piece.  I like the Mr. Rogers references ... he was known for being a gay advocate in a quiet appropriate way for a preschool rock star. 

Still, Pride coverage hit both papers proving once again that the local media is paying attention to LGBTQ issues. I'll be at Pride and admittedly would like to see a Kip Williams moment when the ahem, elected advocates take the stage. Maybe I'm naughty, but I'm sucking it up for the good of the cause.  I do deserve a little snark here and there, though.  You wouldn't believe me if I extolled Onorato's LGBTQ credibility anyway, would you?

I don't really care. I care about Ricky Burgess not putting his photo in the Pride Guide. What's up with that?  Who is working on it or are we supposed to once again let the behind the scenes folks take care of it? That didn't work out so well for Cue Magazine's coverage of the homo-donut shop and it won't work here.  Well, let me correct myself, it will work for the time being but at some point ... do we all belong if a significant leader in the African-American community bitch slapped the Pride committee?

View Article  Pittsburgh LGBTQ Families - a Blog Post

Today is the fifth annual blogging for families today.

Here's my question -- when is the last time an LGBTQ event in Pittsburgh offered childcare? 


View Article  Guess which City Councilor Did Not Opt to be in the 2010 Pride Guide

So much work still to do ...

View Article  John Kerr, soldier

Like many veterans, my grandfather remained intensely private about his military experiences. My childhood memories are limited to stories handed down from my father and the only fear I ever saw in John's eyes -- when the fireworks exploded on the 4th of July. He would try, but always failed to remain outside. Even as a pool drenched six year old shivering under a beach towel, my excitement about the festivities was dampened by that look and his eventual retreat inside. 

John grew up to work in the steel mill. It was his destiny as surely as the four generations of mill workers who had come before, to continue the legacy of the Industrial Revolution.  He went into the mills in 1932 after graduating high school and started a family. 

Then, in 1942, he was drafted into the US Army Air Force 305th Signal Division Company.  (I may have the wording wrong b/c of conflicting documents.) He did his basic training and eventually ended up in the Philippines and then ... well I'll get to that.  He was a radio man, a fascination that stayed with him throughout his life. Always a transistor radio at his side. 

The few things I know either from family lore or his discharge papers.

- He survived a tsunami in the Philippines.  It just reminded me that he went to the beach every year, but never swam. Hmmm. His records don't list this stop along the way, but my father assures me he somehow ended up there.

- He was sent to Puerto Rico and then Okinawa.  Yes. I know what that means. 

- He was on Ie Shima when the Japanese formally surrendered.  We have some photos (I can't post them b/c they are somewhat racist) of the surrender. 

- He earned a Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Service Medal and Asiatic Pacific Medal.

I also have letters, dozens of letters he wrote to my grandmother from 1942, throughout his years overseas and ending with his last six months of service when we was stationed in New York. Her letters are lost to history, but I think she saved every scrap. Cards, notices about financial matters, post cards, military camp PR materials and memorabilia from her trip to visit him in San Francisco.

In the letters, he makes very little reference to anything military related except for mundane things like laundry, food and the boredom he experienced. A few times, he apologized for interruptions due to "being in the field" or away from paper and pen.  The overwhelming emotion in the letters is loneliness. While stateside, he describes going out with friends and the occasional homecooked meal from a friend's wife. Once he left the US, it was all about a craving to recreate the every day lives of his family through written word. 

This is what remains of his military service.

Once he was home, that was it. Obviously, he shared some with my father and I believe his brother, our Uncle Jimmy, had some stories to tell as well.  Jimmy was in Africa and Europe flying airplanes.  That's an entirely different story.

I really don't know much about the military history prior to the WW II generations. My great-grandfathers and great-great uncles signed up for the draft for WW I, but I've no evidence they were ever called up.  One great-great uncle disappeared, so I assume the worst. My aunt's husband was in the Navy. HIS uncle was a fighter pilot for Kaiser Wilhelm II and left Germany before WW II, eventually settling in Canada. My great-uncle worked on the Manhattan Project (allegedly). My uncles both served in Korea, but also never speak of it. My father went to sign up for the draft for Vietnam, spoke fluent French and was turned down for medical reasons (Thank God).  Since then, no one in our family has enlisted, at least in my immediate family. We do have a slew of engineers who work on all sorts of projects they can't discuss, but who knows why?

I'll never know the experiences my grandfather had. I'll never know what it was like for him to live with the memories, good and bad.  I'll never know what he would think of desegregation, women enlisting and things like DADT.  None of that really matters.  He did what he was asked to do.  Then he came home and did what he needed to do.  The every day story of men all over the world whom we remember, along with their fallen comrades, on this day.

John and his sister Diddy on Decoration Day 1942 (now known as Memorial Day)

History is filled with accounts of heroic actions, daring escapades and sacrifices. It is important that we remember the everyday women and men whose quiet sacrifices are oft overlooked.

The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected- Sun Tzu, the Art of War


View Article  A little more on GetEqual and activism in PA

From Pam's House Blend, a guest post on the increasing presence of GetEqual in the LGBTQ advocacy/activist scene. 

Distraught by recent delays, LGBT activists turn to civil disobedience to encourage the passage of the Employment Non Discrimination and repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell".  Groups like GetEQUAL are making their voices known though direct actions like chaining themselves to fences, organizing sit-ins at congressional offices, and interrupting political speeches with calls from the audience.

Some believe these actions and the increasing visibility of the community's discontent played a role in the House vote on DADT. 

Now they've turned attention to visibility around ENDA.  Recently, GetEqual organizer Kip Williams disrupted a speech by President Obama to show that not everyone in the LGBTQ community is willing to patiently wait for leadership.  The President was not amused and continues to cover his lack of leadership by deflecting attention to the "real" opponents.  This redirection is not unfamiliar here in Southwestern PA, but that's a topic for another post.

Such direction action by individuals are not without precedent.  From the Washington Post

Nineteen-year-old Mark Segal became angry when he and a male friend were thrown out of a television dance program one August afternoon in 1972 after the program's host saw them dancing together. In retaliation, Segal barged into the studio of Philadelphia's WPVI a few days later during its evening newscast. Startled studio personnel wrestled him to the floor, tied his hands with a microphone cable and called the police.

Segal became a walking terror with his "zaps," as they were called. In 1973, his targets included "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and "The Mike Douglas Show." He and a friend staged their last and most notorious zap when they posed as college students and obtained passes for the "CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite." Midway through the broadcast on Dec. 11, 1973, as Cronkite began a story about Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Segal darted in front of the camera with a sign reading "Gays Protest CBS Prejudice."

My favorite part:

Cronkite may have been more startled when Segal's attorney tried to serve him with a subpoena to testify. After CBS attorneys blocked repeated attempts to deliver the document, Segal's lawyer informed the network of a little-used New York law that made photocopies of a subpoena as valid as an original. He threatened to make copies available to the Hells Angels, with a reward for anyone who served the subpoena. Faced with the prospect of having Cronkite stalked by gay activists and bikers, CBS lawyers relented.

The tactics worked.  Segal had a face to face with Cronkite to explain how CBS News was censoring the increasing gay activism.  Cronkite paved the way for on-air coverage and Segal went on to found The Philadelphia Gay News

Hmmm. The argument against direct action as a viable tactic has not only historically, but currently proven wrong.  Segal has gone on to play a significant role increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.

Impact on the legislative process requires a multitude of tactics from letter writing to direct action. It is all about visibility. The emergence of groups like Get Equal demonstrates our potential to delve into the rich history of LGBTQ activism to tackle issues like DADT and ENDA. 

I do need to point out that what we are missing in Pennsylvania is that activist/direct action middle link. I've written recently about the workings of the insider/Alist advocates who have embedded themselves into the system and work for change from within.  I've also written about the tactics of groups like Bash Back who are at the other end of the spectrum. What's missing is the visibility of those in between -- those who are losing patience and seeking leadership to openly channel that frustration and disillusionment. 

Telling us "I've got it" isn't enough.  Vandalizing property out of anger with the system is also not working. I believe neither approach resonates with the average LGBTQ person without the in between, the actions that connect with our lives and our experiences. 

In my case, I experience the tension of the in between most days. I don't trust those who say they've got it because the results of that approach are not changing lives or meeting the promises of the politicians making the decisions. I am dismayed when people believe the damage to property has any positive impact other than to announce they are angry. 

Finding the leadership for the in between is the key. 

The old joke is that Pittsburgh is 20 years behind the curve in most trends.  Let's hope the slight forward momentum finds inspiration from the national scene to defy those odds.


View Article  Bash Back - Latest Pittsburgh Actions

Bash Back, a radical transfolk/queer group, has had two recent actions in Pittsburgh.  One involved an evangelical church that promises to cure homosexuality.  The other involved our favorite bakery, Peace Love and Little Donuts. You recall a recent favorable review published in Cue Pittsburgh?  Here's the response from people who care about these things.

In the May issue of Cue Magazine- a local mainstream GLBT magazine- a favorable article was printed about PLLD and Razete?s business. The author of the magazine apologized profusely when contacted and said he had no idea about the shop?s owner- showing that more visibility is needed. He plans to write a follow-up article that will show more truths about Razette?s character. But for local queers, this was another conniving move by Razette to use queer communities to obtain more capital.

In response, queers revisited his shop in May 2010. His locks were glued and ?QUEERS BASH BACK (A)? was painted in large letters covering the front of his shop. Businesses run by queer bashers will continue to be exposed in our city, especially when they use queer communities here to further their capitalist agenda.

Now, I am not in favor of vandalism.  I don't think its constructive, but I also think the mainstream community's refusal to explore the underlying anger and engage the participants is equally not constructive.  We just go round and round. 

The unknown factor at this point is whether Cue Pittsburgh will print the retraction or the promised follow up article. It did not appear in the June issue.

From Facebook:


Do the readers of Cue care enough to raise their own ruckus?  More to the point, do they care enough to stop buying the damn donuts?

Speaking of caring, I am searching for info on the promised meeting with City Council regarding the gay bashing incidents in Bloomfield. I've been encouraging elected officials to get off Grant Street and meet queer folks out in the community to ensure they have information (and solutions?) from diverse points of view.  I'm hoping they respond soon. 

Stay tuned.


View Article  Pride!

Gosh, I've been so caught up in DADT, work and wrestling with my bike that I haven't given very much attention to Pittsburgh PrideFest. 

It is right around the corner. 

This coming week, we'll see a political rally with Cleve Jones, the Dyke March and the GLENDA Diva's for Diversity.

The official pride site.

The official Pride Guide 2010. I like that its up now so you can check it out before the event. 

Perspective?  Moscow Pride is thrilled they managed to march for five to ten minutes.  Pride is illegal in Moscow.

Love, love the guy using his smart phone while marching!  Such a me thing to do.  I usually live tweet the Dyke March and inevitably trip over something. 

I'm curious which politicians show up.  Onorato, I'm betting.  Sestak, I'm hoping (especially because protocol dictates he goes first, eh?).  State folks are trickier because "GET THE BUDGET DONE"  Ahem. 

Any thoughts?

View Article  The question about Adam Ravenstahl ...

will he have an office with a working phone?  Does ALCOSAN provide email addresses?

The PG on the Peduto and Shields letter to various Ethics Boards.  Maria weighs in here.

View Article  Trib on DADT repeal - At least they quote PA Congressman Patrick Murphy

The Trib ...weighing in on Congressional vote to authorize DADT repeal. 

During an all-day House debate on the bill approving more than $700 billion in spending for defense programs, Republicans repeated statements by military service chiefs that Congress should not act before the Pentagon completes a study on the impact of a repeal.

Congress going first "is the equivalent to turning to our men and women in uniform and their families and saying, 'Your opinion, your view, do not count,'" said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

What we don't see is any commitment or promise from Republicans to support the repeal if the Pentagon report gives a thumb up.  Because they are counting on?

The chief sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., who served in the Iraq War, said that when he was in Baghdad "my teams did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay if they could fire their assault rifle or run a convoy down ambush alley and do their job so everyone would come home safely."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that of the 13,500 members of the military who have been discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," more than 1,000 filled critical occupations, such as engineers and interpreters.

Once again it seems the personal bigotries of homophobic soldiers carry more weight than the best interests of the nation's defense. 

So we wait to see (assuming the Senate takes action) how these "what the Pentagon report finds" folks respond if that report creates a reasonable implementaton process.  Hmmm.

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