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View Article  Ancestry and the Census

A burning question for me has always been "Who else in my family is gay?" 

I'm an amateur geneaologist of sorts.  I've been working on the family tree for about 10 years and have close to 1300 individuals listed.  Mind you, a lot of these folks are sideways branches ... plus Ledcat's family and a few other really extended family members.  I'm not particularly fussy about being source oriented. I began with family tradition, found some online census records and went to town from there.  Sideways means I track the siblings of my direct ancestors.  It can be very helpful to find parents who go to live with an adult child, especially after being widowed.  It also gives me access to potential living cousins. 

I've made some interesting discoveries along the way.  I've bumped into all sorts of relatives.  This morning, I had an email from a man who may be my second cousin via adoption.  His great-aunt was adopted by her parents.  She's also my great-aunt by birth. The real intrigue is that her adoptive parents are somehow related to her, but the exact relationship was lost to the ages because people "didn't talk about it" back then.  So now we have a chance to maybe learn about it.  Fascinating.

I also have intriguing mysteries around specific relatives.  A great-grandmother who has no paper trail before she and her 3 siblings popped onto the radar in the 1920 Census.  A family (Lescallette) who immigrated to the US under mysterious circumstances that none of the family geneaologists can figure out ... where did they come from and why? 

Old census records are fascinating in and of themselves. The handwriting can have a big impact ... my great-grandmother is listed as Elisabeth, Elizabeth, Bette, Edna, and Elsa.  A great-great-uncle was William F, William P and William J on three different documents.  Pryor was Prior. You can imagine how Lescallette has been spelled! 

But there are fascinating tidbits.  Occupations, for example.  Very early documents were sparse, but around 1890 onward the details about jobs are there ... the job title and the employer. Sure, most everyone worked for J&L as we are a big Southside family, but not everyone was a laborer ... bookkeepers, store clerks, office help.  No one married into either the Jones or Laughlin family as far as I can tell.  LOL. 

Back to the gay question.  Of course, the Census doesn't provide specific insight, but there are bachelors and spinsters who remain in their parents' households through 1930 (the last year the Census is available for free at ancestry.com).  I can also find a few men still unmarried vis a vis their WWII Draft Cards.  That's suggestive, but certainly not conclusive.  Just like our "guesses" about my cousins continue to be guesses at best. 

I get a bit envious when LGBTQ friends talk about their lesbian sisters or nieces or perhaps a gay cousin or two. I feel I'm missing out on that dual connection:  family and "family" if you know what I mean.  The closest comparison is probably how an only child feels when people talk about their siblings.  There's just something about that shared experience which feels special ...

Speaking of counting families, it is Census time again.  While the instrument is not perfect, it has been one of the single most important measurements of the presence of LGBTQ individuals and families in the US.

Our Families Count is a website dedicated to the visibility of the LGBTQ community in the 2010 Census.

Here's an important excerpt from the website:

Why should I care about the census?

The census creates an essential portrait of our nation every 10 years. These data are used to determine the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives and provides key population numbers for Congress and the administration to determine how federal dollars flow to the states and cities for health care, housing, and English as a second language classes. Census information is also used in the enforcement of an array of civil rights laws in employment, housing, voting, lending, education, and the availability of bilingual ballots and interpreters at poll sites. The census has a big impact on our political power and economic security.

Since 1990, when the census added the ?unmarried partner? designation on its form, LGBT people in same-sex relationships have provided the first visible record of our partnerships in the history of our nation. These data have been very important in countering anti-gay lies, myths and misperceptions about the diverse LGBT community. For instance, the 2000 Census showed that same-sex couples live in nearly every county in the nation, and that black and Latino same-sex couples are raising children at nearly the rates of their heterosexual peers, while earning lower incomes. The average household income of Asian Pacific Island same-sex couples is more than $3,800 less than that of non-API same-sex couples and more than $8,800 less than that of different-sex API couples.

If I recollect properly, the 2000 Census showed that Pennsylvania was home to at least 25,000 same sex households and more than 250,000 heterosexual unmarried households.  That's a very important distinction because most marriage equality backlash efforts impact those quarter million families, too.  And while it is easy to say "at least they have the option of getting married" that may not always be the case.  There are plenty of situations in which economic survival makes marriage a poor option. 

Regardless, it is important that we be counted.  Now the regular census form doesn't ask about sexual orientation or gender identity.  The extended form sent to a subset of Americans does ask more specific questions. The Census has counted same sex partners since 1990, but this is the first year they will identify (and release) data on same sex spouses.  So it collects data on families.  There is advocacy underway to add the questions because it is important information to address federal level concerns, such as economic and health disparities.

Here's an interesting interview:


So perhaps some little Kerr descendant in the far off 21st century will learn that her great-great-great Aunt Sue lived with her same sex partner, Ledcat. 

And they all lived happily ever after.  The End.


View Article  Steel City Endorsement Meeting on March 28, 2010

If you care enough to read what is a significantly political LGBTQ blog, please care enough to help shape the LGBTQ endorsement.  Membership starts at $15 per person.  This is absolutely your best chance to make "one vote, one person" speak loud and clear about our community priorities. 

On Sunday, March 28th Steel-City Stonewall Democrats (SCSD) will convene its membership to vote on which candidates will receive the organization?s endorsement for the May 18th, 2010 Primary Election.
WHEN:  Sunday, March 28th from 2:30pm - 5:00pm

WHERE:  Hyde Park Restaurant in the Del Monte Bldg, 247 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

WHO:  Candidates running for elected offices in the Pittsburgh Region including candidates for Governor and the U.S. Senate, Steel-City Members, others who value LGBT equality and political empowerment

WHAT:  Meet and greet over some free grub and cash bar;  Hear candidate speeches and have a chance to ask questions, vote 

WHY:  Become familiar with your elected officials and strengthen the voice of the LGBT community in the political process

HOW MUCH: free for Steel-City members (only members can vote), $5 for non members

 To become a voting member of Steel-City Stonewall Democrats visit our website at www.steel-city.org


View Article  ACDC increases filing fees

From the Post-Gazette:

I live in the 22nd district which abuts the 20th.  I don't understand why one district jumps to $3,000 while the others are $2,000 (which is bad enough).  Is it a coincidence that Adam (Chet) Ravenstahl is running in that district?  Clearly, his connections guarantee a decent war chest so it seems ... obvious? 

View Article  Locally filmed AIDS tale premieres Saturday; Mt. Ararat Baptist Church partners with gay community

Why Us? Left Behind and Dying premieres in Pittsburgh this weekend at the August Wilson Center.  From Tony Norman:

"Why Us? Left Behind and Dying" [further described on C-1 of today's Magazine section] is a searing, heartbreaking look into the disproportionately high rate of AIDS/HIV in the African-American community. What makes this documentary unique among cautionary tales about this deadly plague are the voices director Claudia Pryor Malis recruited to tell a story most of us think we already know.

At the heart of "Why Us?" are teenagers from Homewood who interview men and women who have personal, often excruciating insight into the stigma of being part of the AIDS epidemic in a community that, as one subject ruefully observes, "is very good at keeping secrets."

Other than Homewood native Tamira Noble, 17 at the time she narrated the film, the Westinghouse High School students who are the film's primary interlocutors have their identities obscured with facial blurs and weird camera angles. (Students from Peabody High School evaluated the film when it was done.)

Tony goes on to ennumerate some of the topics -- sexuality, drug use, homophobia, religious bigotry, and social stigma -- which clearly fall into the taboo spectrum and about which it would be really interesting to hear a youth perspective. 

"Why Us?" isn't designed to make young people turn away in horror from images on the screen. It is a deeply realistic look at an ongoing AIDS crisis in African-American communities that many will recognize immediately.

The documentary features intravenous drug users and public health experts, gay men searching for words that honestly convey their isolation, teenagers expressing their own confusion and fear of the unknown.

Through it all, Ms. Noble, now a University of Pittsburgh student, provides a narrative voice that shapes the reams of medical and social data streaming at us into something we can sympathize with and relate to. It was a stroke of genius to have a young person at the helm.

"Why Us?" has already begun making the festival circuit. It has received rave reviews across the country. Black Pittsburgh owes it to itself to turn out for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. show at the August Wilson Center. Everyone involved in the production of the documentary will be on hand to talk about a problem that probably isn't going away anytime soon.

Still, there will soon also be another very interesting exploration of similar topics. 

Multicultural Social Justice Leadership Development Academy

This event, scheduled for March 19 at the DLC, is sponsored by the American Counseling Association.  The conference includes a partnership of the local LGBTQ community (PFLAG and the leadership of licensed counselor, Professor Dana Elmendorf) with the African-American faith community (Mt. Ararat Baptist Church). 

MSJLDA Press Conference

We welcome you to share in this experience and observe as we carefully craft a statement to the press to highlight the importance of Social Justice Leadership, through this powerful mechanism of public outreach and awareness.


Mount Ararat Choir

and Mr. Dwayne Fulton

The Mount Ararat Baptist Church, Ministry of Music and Fine Arts under the direction of Dr. Dwayne Fulton presents, Songs of Celebration and Freedom. Join us in a musical celebration of hope and optimism for the psychological liberation of the future of multicultural-social justice leadership.

The Press Conference will feature PFLAG and other local LGBTQ community leaders, standing alongside Mt. Ararat, to call for social justice, particularly within the context of psychological healing. 

Elmendorf. "The purpose of the conference is to offer skills and discussion to encourage people to think about their responsibilities to the world and what it means to think about and work toward diversity and equality. "

This was something far too infrequently discussed in graduate school when we were preparing to enter the world of professional social work so I think this is an especially appealling opportunity for persons from all disciplines.

Admittedly, I was intrigued by the participation of Mt. Ararat which is not known for openly embracing LGBTQ persons albeit those seeking to be cured or counseled back to heterosexuality.  Perhaps leaders in the faith community recognize that now is a time for healing and reconciliation for all persons, a time to move toward the idea of focusing on diversity and equality in a way that affirms all persons, not seeks to force them to conform or choose between different elements of their cultural identity.  The same could be said for the LGBTQ community, as well which often fails (myself included) to comprehend the experience of reconciling faith and sexual orientation within the context of Pittsburgh's African-American community. 

The AIDS epidemic is certainly not the only point at which our communities intersect, either in terms of people who claim identitiy within both, but also within the larger struggles we face here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the United States. 

I wonder if the Lesbian & Gay Film Society will be attending the movie premiere?  The discussion on homophobia sounds worth viewing.

So the timing of the two events might help us all make a slight shift away from our own worldview towards a better understanding.  I understand from Dana that a member of Mt. Ararat will now become chair of the Pennsylvania Counseling Association so who knows what might emerge as LGBTQ voices, such as Dana's, continue to work from within the organization to bring our voices to the table around discussions of diversity and inclusion as well as education for counselors in college and graduate school.

Information on the conference is attached.


2 Attachments
View Article  Doesn't it just make you crazy?

Rumors are flying about the impending snowstorm scheduled for Monday.  2-3, 4-6, 8-12.  Does it really matter? Ick.

I was trying to remember how I learned to drive in the snow.  Do you remember your first time behind the wheel in the snow?  Then I realize I've been driving for 24 years and start to panic about that stunner.  LOL.

Good news from New Hampshire which beat back a constitutional amendment and a bill.  Go NH! (h/t Pam's House Blend)

Sadly, Catholic Charities has shuttered an 80 year legacy in foster care rather than license same sex homes.  (h/t Bilerico).  Did you know in Pennsylvania is it legal for LGBT individuals and couples to become foster parents, but it is not required? So the various faither based agencies that do this excellent work can turn you away, but rest assured that there are plenty of secular organizations where you can pursue foster parenting.  Simply use the Google. 

Maria has the details on an upcoming fundraiser to help provide feminine hygeine products to area girls through a partnership of Planned Parenthood with various schools.  When I was working in social services in rural Kentucky, I was astounded to learn how many women used actual rags because they did not have the $$ to buy pads and tampons. I thought I had some understanding of poverty, but that was a pretty powerful moment.  I've talked with folks serving homeless women and others at the foodbank only to learn that this is not a rural problem, it is a problem associated with poverty and women.  If you can help, it is a pretty important cause.

CBS apparently refused to air a simple LGBT PSA.

Great read by Chris Briem on running for Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

To wrap up, please take a moment to read this story about a poor old dog that lived for 10 years without even a NAME of his own.  You can help with a simple $5 donation via Paypal.  A ten year old dog should have at least had a name.  There's something incredibly sad about that simple fact.

View Article  How I Spent My Tuesday Night

Tonight, I wrote down what other people had to say, carefully limiting my commentary to the occasional doodle on the edge of the page.

Tonight, and for the next two months, I volunteered to be the interim-secretary for the Steel City Stonewall Democrats Board meeting.  I am not a board member, just a volunteer.  Ledcat is the usual secretary, but she is interim vice-chair through April so I am supporting her by taking over the secretary job. 

I think she secretly derived far too much enjoyment of saying "Sue, go ahead and write this down," but I could be paranoid like that. Sort of.  Kind of.

Why did I spend a Tuesday evening scribbling away while the snow piled ever higher on my lawn chair back on the Northside?

Because it has to be done. The mainstream Democrats aren't moving things along very speedily are they?  Half of Congress seems to be quitting on Obama. The HRC is being called to task on DADT by the big gay bloggers. LGBT voices are calling leaders to take a page from labor and point out that the COMPLETE LACK OF POSITIVE ACTION will leave the LGBT voters at home in droves. 

The meeting was heartening.  There's a new volunteer (new to Steel City) who is going to be the social media editor and she's doing a great job.  I encourage you to follow @StonewallPGH and see some good stuff.  You'll like it, I promise. 

But, time is precious folks.  It is less than two weeks until you can come to our awesome coffee house party to learn about Joe Hoeffel and then a mere 4 more weeks until the Steel City Endorsement Meeting.  You can make an impact with a simple membership check (starting at $15) and a few hours of your time. 

Seriously, this is probably the most significant thing happening this spring.  If you want more funding for AIDS research, health coverage for LGBT families, food pantries, job security, funding for the arts, funding for homeless LGBT kids, more gay people on executive boards, more lesbians, more whatever ... you need to take action to make sure allied men and women are elected and you need to do this now. 

So I promised to take objective minutes and that is what I'll do.  I attend every meeting because I want to put my money/time where my mouth is, but I won't join the board (actually, I was on the board several years ago) because I enjoy the freedom of the blog.  I don't want to be constrained or taint the organization with my baggage.  Taint sounds so quaint, doesn't it?  :-)

So ... that's what I did tonight. I still have to transcribe my scrawl into something legible.  Plus, I have actual tasks.

But someone has to do it.

If you are interested in volunteering for Steel City, drop me a line.  There are things you can do from home and things that are way out there in public view.  Small commitments, big ones.  Lots of things.  Your country needs you. 




View Article  LGBTQ advocacy on federal hate crimes may assist in justice for Jennifer Daugherty

I was horrified to the point of weeping when I sat in my office and caught a PG tweet about the brutal violation of the life of Jennifer Daugherty. I've worked with adults with mental and developmental disabilities for several years so I got right away the depravity of how she was victimized and murdered.  It was a gut wrenching, hearthbreaking story and so incredibly awful to think about her suffering, that I was amazed at her sister's willingness to come forward and relive it over and over again.  Awed, even.

Yesterday, the Post-Gazette ran a piece about the potential to apply the newly expanded hate crimes protections to Ms. Daugherty.  This would allow for federal resources to be used investigating and prosecuting the crime, which could be a big help in bringing her sex alleged murderers to justice.  A fitting justice. 

Many of you might not realize that persons with disabilites were not protected on a federal level with regard to hate crimes. You might not even know that people with disabilities are targets of hate crimes.

Prosecutors must show the violence was directly related to the victim's disability in order for the act to qualify as a hate crime, Mr. Decker said. For example, he said, an attacker's animus might be revealed in epithets uttered during the crime.

In October, the U.S. Justice Department released what it called the "First National Study on Crime Against Persons with Disabilities."

The study showed that people with disabilities who were between the ages of 12 and 19 and 35 and 49 were more than twice as likely to be victims of violence than non-disabled people in the same age groups, and people with mental disabilities were more often victimized than people with other kinds of disabilities. Nearly 20 percent of victims interviewed said they "believed that they became a victim because of their disability," the Justice Department said

If you have friends or family members with disabilities, you probably are familiar with the fact that people are often targets. Predators look for perceived weakness. Ms. Daugherty trusted that these people were her friends.  They didn't just trick her into doing something stupid.  They brutally assaulted, tortured and murdered her because they were well aware (I believe) that her disability made her suceptable to them ... the media softens it with "used her trusting nature against here" language, but I read this as them using her disability to their advantage to carry out whatever sick pleasures they derived from the brutal attack. 
The expansion of the hate crimes legislation owes a lot of debt to the LGBTQ community which lobbied tirelessly to ensure that sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression where included in the protected classes. 
Our efforts got that bill passed and that bill might serve to help bring justice to a victim of a brutal crime because of another protected class included in the bill. Your advocacy might help Ms. Daugherty's family find some small measure of consolation in what is possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to a family.  I truly cannot think of anything more heinous to have to live with than wondering about the suffering she endured.  It makes me weep now to even write that sentence.
Thank you for being a part, in whatever way, of passing this important legislation.  Equal rights under the law should include everyone.  Protecting people who are targeted because they belong to a particular group fights evil and injustice. 
This is evidence of how those who are oppressed under the law have a moral imperative to unite in the call for justice. There's no way to parse out which advocates made the impact -- the important point is finding intersections for equality and using them to promote a most just society. 
View Article  Things you should know about today!

HuffPo has a good piece about Immigration Equality. Have you considered the impact second-class citizenship has on families where one parent faces the possibility of deportation?  Not because they are here illegally or have done anything wrong, but because heterosexual families can use a legal marriage to sponsor their loved one.  A documentary debuts today.  Check out the link for more information. 

A piece from the New York Times runs in today's Post-Gazette about Obama's plan to use executive power to "to soften enforcement of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military" along with other issues where Congress refuses to show leadership.

Soften enforcement is some pretty tough lingo, ain't it.  Sheesh.  Enforcing an unjust policy that hurts American defense is not the problem, Mr. President.  We don't want an American military where participants must lie about their identity to serve their country.  It isn't healthy, it is predicated on irrational fear and it is just plain wrong. 

It continues to amaze me how our allied elected officials just don't see that there are issues where they can show leadership -- do the right thing one might say -- without getting into big scary political fallout over marriage equality.  As long as we see it in the White House, we'll continue to see it locally where providing health insurance to gay people is considered "risky."

A minister from Tulsa is certainly not in that camp.  He's made a dangerous trip to Uganda to speak out publicly against the legislation which would sentence people to death for being gay.

Lavanhar left Tulsa on Thursday for Kampala, the capital of Uganda. For security reasons, news of his trip was withheld until he made it into the country, and the location of the "Standing On The Side of Love" conference will not be announced until Sunday.

He said he plans to offer encouragement and support to those who oppose the bill.

"There are times when the church colludes with injustice and evil, like in its support of slavery and racial segregation," he said.

"In those times, people must rise up to save the church as much as society. This is one of those times.

"There are moments in life when we have to take risks to support what we believe to be God's will for humanity, and it is my strong belief that God's will is for people to be free."

This is precisely why the United States has a moral obligation to give the LGBTQ community full equality across the board.  We should not allow ourselves to be an example to justify "separate but equal" as a slippery slope to "death penalty for gays."


View Article  Event - Be Steel My Beating Heart TONIGHT

This sounds like a good time.

Be Steel My Beating Heart - Variety Show and Dance Party

A Celebration of Non-Traditional Romance

Call for Variety!! Sing! Dance! Music! Poet! Drag! Skit! Read!
Demonstrate! Puppet! Pontificate! Ice Sculpture! You tell me!
5 minutes or Less!

Saturday February 13th

Belvedere's in Lawrenceville 4016 Butler Street

8 -11 Variety Show
11-2 am Operation Sappho Queer Dance Party!
DJ's Drop That, Equestrian, Mary Mack!!!

$5 - 10 sliding scale -BENEFITS HAITI Relief efforts! Organizations being researched.
$3 for performers
$4 if your dressed for the occasion (what ever that means ;)

A RECTL Production in Cooperation with Operation Sappho!
Revolting Enthusiastic Creators 4 Total Liberation
Pronounced Rectal not Recital. just sayin'

***Operation Sappho resumes at our new home, the Brillobox, on Friday March 12th. Mark yer gay calendars!***



View Article  Analytics

I just peeked at my stats.  Wow, Facebook is driving 84% of your visits.  Wow. Since I push links through to Facebook through Twitter, I'd say social media is really an important tool to bloggers. 

Another interesting result.  While combinations of "lesbian" and "Pittsburgh" in various forms are the most oft used keywords for search engines, a significant number of folks find me with the search for "priory bakery."  I don't think I've even written about them that often.  Very interesting.

It can be fascinating to see the unique search phrases that lead people to my site, especially the "Google Alerts" set to local LGBTQ folks names.  :-)  I guess we all search ourselves, huh?

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