Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Blog ... out'n proud in the Burghosphere.

Bookmark and Share
Year Archive
View Article  Marriage Equality Update

Good news from Maryland.  

The fight for marriage equality in Maryland took a giant step forward tonight as the State Senate voted to approve a bill that extends legal marriage to same-sex couples.  The  legislation now heads to the House of Delegates for debate.  If it wins approval in the lower chamber, Maryland Gov. Martin O?Malley has vowed to sign the bill into law.

The bill?s openly gay co-author, Sen. Rich Madaleno, was a leading force in persuading his colleagues to support the measure.  Madaleno told Gay Politics last year that an increase in the number of openly gay and lesbian state legislators would have an impact on their straight colleagues.  ?Just by having out people there to participate in the conversation fundamentally alters the discussion.  The tenor of the conversation changes.  It humanizes it,? Madaleno said.

Maryland has seven openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers, six of whom serve in the House of Delegates.

Obviously good news, but also note the role that electing LGBTQ legislators on the state level played in changing the conversation. In Maryland, LGBTQ legislators "humanize" the rhetoric around the dialogue --- "gays" suddenly become your colleagues leading lives probably similar to the other electeds. 

While we don't have this dialogue on a state level, a positive step forward is electing local leaders who are openly gay and willing to have those significant conversation.  City Councilman Bruce Kraus, for example, changes the dynamic on the regional level simply by being at the table as a peer to those who might otherwise not really know an openly gay person.  Electeds don't have to preach, they simply need to be themselvces as they work on budget, parking and gas drilling issues. 

Meanwhile, Hawaii has embraced civil unions.  The legislation was signed by the Governor and goes into effect in January 2012.  This makes civil unions available to both same sex and opposite sex couples.  Read what Hawaii Equality has to report on how the legislation moved forward and what sort of impact this step toward marriage equality will have for resident of Hawaii.

Pennsylvania has legislation for both civil unions (House Bill 708) and mariage equality (SB461 ) on the table. It will be interesting to see how these bills progress through a very Republican controlled state government. 

View Article  14th Ward Independent Democratic Club sponsors Impact Video Contest

This looks interesting ...

GOT MESSAGE? Would you like to add to the progressive message and maybe win a few hundred bucks? The Pittsburgh 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club is holding a contest for best visual - film, video, slide show, performance art, stand-up, whatever you can record - that inspires people to action toward progressive goals.

START NOW! (You can enter something you've already done, too

Sounds interesting. The winning pieces will be part of the Club's annual fundraiser.

For more details go here

View Article  "Fagbug" is back in the region

I first learned about this story at Pridefest a few years ago.  Erin Davies has her vehicle vandalized, including homophobic graffiti and the always original tag "Fag."  Erin took action and began driving the vehicle around the nation to educate people about homophobia.  Sure enough, she drove in the Pride March that year. 

Erin is back in the region, speaking in Fayette County and showing the documentary she made during her journey around the nation.  She speaks on Thursday, February 24, 2011.

Instead of letting the incident deter her, Davies decided to take her car on a 58-day road trip. Her goal was to capture people's reactions to her car on film and turn it into a documentary titled "Fagbug."

Davies' presentation will include a viewing of the documentary and the telling of the story of her transformation from hate crime victim to hate crime activist. People will also have the opportunity to see the "Fagbug" automobile at the campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I love that she claims the title activist, too. 


View Article  Santorum and "santorum" ... the devil is in the Google analytics

Dan Savage is incredibly naughty and wonderful in the same breath.  Thanks to his creative and intrepid readers, the Savage definition of Santorum remains at the top of the Google search for Rick's name.  Rick's wikipedia entry is third. 


The Post-Gazette reported that Savage's readers have clicked away to put the santorum definition to the top of the search engine in light of Santorum's hope for a presidential bid.  Santorum's staffers tried to "do something" about it, but the Google does not lie.  So now there's the spin of Santorum being persecuted by homosexuals.

?The site?s completely gross. But I don?t think it?s a problem politically for Rick running for president. Quite the opposite,? he said. ?If you?re Rick Santorum and you?re making an argument that there?s certain people that wish you ill, there?s exhibit No. 1. You say: ?You want to see my battle scars? Google my name. You don?t think I?ve been in the trenches for years? I?ve got the scars to prove it.??

Fortunately, Santorum's polling does not impress.  However, I keep giggling when I reread the sentence "I've been in the trenches for years" with regard to the frothy, fecal matter reference.  Ask me not why it makes me laugh, but I just get all sorts of amusing photos of the "man on dog" variety running through my head, minus the poor dog. 

Ah, Google, we bow before your mighty algorithims. 


View Article  Stuff

Blogging has been a bit sparse of late.  Chalk it up to some time constraints, lack of inspiration due to information overload and other stuff.  Blah, blah, blah.

It is still tough when I sit down in front of a crisp, fresh post opportunity and draw a complete blank.  Stuff is happening ... stunning protests in Wisconsin, local rallying for women's rights and LGBTQ stuff all over the nation.

But I got nothing.  I could toss up some links of the "What we missed" variety, but I'm sure you are reading the national LGBTQ blogs.  Aren't you?  You should. 

Here's what is on my mind today

- Why is my cursor jumping around so much (I think it involves drivers and will require a large amount of time to repair)

- Will the anti-public union movement come to Pennsylvania?  Since many LGBTQ folks in the unions are closeted, what does that mean for them and for domestic partner benefits?

- Planned Parenthood gets defunded by the House of Representatives.  WTF?

- I'm going to do some volunteer work today which is a refreshing change. More on that later.

- I have scary medical tests on Tuesday.  Of course, I don't get results for 3-4 weeks so pray for me, okay? Nothing life threatening, but one of those "let's rule some stuff out" sort of tests. 

- Tomorrow I get to go to cool UU church, engage in a 90 minute discussion on philosophy and history and then get an organic facial.  Plus, there will be Ledcat's famous meatloaf for dinner.  Big day of awesome. 

Hope your weekend goes well.

View Article  Transphobia in local media

The Pittsburgh City Paper's Lauren Daley provides excellent coverage of a story on transphobia in the local media and the ensuing community response.

In short, WPXI covered the arrest of two female identified individuals who were allegedly engaged in prostitution.  Outrage arose over the station's bungling of gender and trans terminology during their story.

Online they allegedly advertised as women. In police reports, their genders are listed male, and they are referred to as transvestites. And one television news reporter referred to Nakala Jackson and Tamika Jones as "two men" who were "posing as women and operating as prostitutes."

Daley goes on to detail the WPXI coverage.

I first learned about this story from the Queer Events List an email community of 700+ individuals.  A few members who caught the broadcast quickly jumped online calling for a response from the community.  Several people, myself included, contacted the station.  I heard nothing back.  Others reported hostility when they called the news editor to complain. 

The thread throughout the discussion was the responsibility of Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community to educate the media about these and related issues to ensure fair and accurate reporting.  In that spirit a group gathered at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center to do just that. One organizer, Rayden Sorock, sent out this planned approach a few days after the meeting.

1. Send around a petition for people to sign showing that members of the community will not stand for such ignorant coverage of trans and gender-variant people. We want to educate WPXI and other local media about the appropriate way to talk about transgender people.
2. Compile a list of reactions to the news story to send to WPXI. Please email me any submissions. They can be anonymous, but it would be most effective if you gave your name and affiliation if any.
3. Connect with other members of the community who want to work on creating a positive media image for trans people. For example a YouTube video campaign.
4. As a long term goal: to develop a relationship between the LGBT community of Pittsburgh and the police & Allegheny County Jail to ensure that LGBT people are treated with respect and remain safe from harm if they interact with the police or are arrested.

Viewer feedback to WPXI is a good idea, especially if the numbers are substantial AND a solution is proposed.  As of now, there is no central go-to place for a coordinated LGBTQ media response.  I get all sorts of requests for comment and I know there are a few other folks who are oft quoted, but it is more about being a contact/connection with certain media outlets than a coordinated effort.  This is a weakness in Pittsburgh's community and it would be a gap well filled by the GLCC should they have the resources to do so. 

The YouTube video campaign is intriguing and a creative solution.  The relationship with the jail is another positive goal that would address systemic change.  It is an issue that has arisen many times over the years I've been part of the community.  Perhaps a fresh perspective generated by a grassroots movement will spur action.

The group has a Facebook page. if you'd like to get involved.

Sorock also commented for the City Paper story

"This whole story is treated as a totally insensitive joke and is extremely offensive," says Rayden Sorock, a Lawrenceville resident and a fellow with the Initiative for Transgender Leadership at the Regional Internship Center of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Using terms like "transvestite" or "posing," Sorock says, "create the idea that someone's gender they present is a lie or only a transition."

The good that comes out of this story is the big picture thinking.  The women who were arrested have departed the scene, but their experience transcends the community.  If this group of motivated trans advocates can mobilize a systemic approach to the broader issue, they'll create a more respectful community for everyone.

That's a big "if." Last year's gay bashing incident in Bloomfield galvanized scores of folks (including moi) to turn out for a vigil near the scene of the alleged incident.  Folks struggled to control the message and conflicting reports on the incident soon leaked out, disillusioning both the allies of genuine gay bashing victims and the community at large. Details are still murky. What didn't happen was a meeting of those minds to sit down and talk about the realities of gay bashing in Pittsburgh.  Opportunity lost which is a reflection on the divides permeating the local LGBTQ community ... but you've heard me expound on that before. 

Both situations present the complications of more vulnerable members of our community enduring homophobia and transphobia.  The fact that these women are alleged prostitutes and/or the decisions of the Bloomfield folks on how to interact with the police only serve to highlight that the issues disproportionately impact folks who may be already marginalized even within our community. 

The grassroots response is heartening.  In Bloomfield, a group emerged to provide safety in numbers approach to reclaiming safe spaces in their neighborhoods. It isn't a 501c3 and has no website, but they do represent an approach to the problem as well as a potential voice at the table. 

Are those at the table ready to make room and open themselves to alternative points of view?  For the sake of women like Nakala Jackson,Tamika Jones and nameless other victims of discriminatory treatment, let's hope so. 

View Article  Rally Thursday to Defend Women's Lives

A message from longtime activist Jeanne Clark.

Dear Friends, (please excuse the potty mouth - I'm too mad to be polite)

 Legislation in both DC and Harrisburg is moving  that will put women's lives at risk. Cuts to all family planning funding. No abortion care in health insurance reform even if you pay it yourself. (And in South Dakota, they are considering making killing abortion doctors "justifiable homicide.")

 We must go Egyptian on this bastards and let them know we won't go back to those bad old days when women paid with their lives for their basic human rights.

 Rally on Thursday, February 17 at 4;30 p.m. at the Old Allegheny County Morgue, Bring coat hangers, lye, Drano -- all the "medical care" we had to use in the old days.

 We must make this issue so hot that these ass hats back down immediately.

 We've done it before when we stopped the Senate from sweeping Anita Hill's experience with Clarence Thomas under the rug, and made them reconvene the hearings. And in the next election, we replaced many of the bad guys -- Republican and Dem -- with strong women.

 The longer we let these guys go on, the stronger they will be.  JOIN ME ON THURSDAY AT 4:30 PM AT THE OLD ALLEGHENY COUNTY MORGUE

 Jeanne Clark

Strong language from a stalwart leader who has been a longtime defender of women (and men and children and humanity) in the face of increasing attacks from cowardly control-freaks who -- when you get down to it -- don't trust us to make decisions about our own bodies, our own lives.

I don't remember a time when women resorted to lye and coat hangers to end unwanted pregnancies, but it scares the hell out of me.  And it really pisses me off.  Get your hands and your minds out of my uterus and focus on the friggin economy. 

542 Fourth Ave. 

View Article  Two presents in one day

Today was a good day.

My friend Anne gifted me with a huge bag of gently used clothing.  She's been following my weight loss saga and set aside items she thought I would like.  It was very unexpected and very sweet.  I have my eye on a plaid skirt for an upcoming date night.  Now I need to indulge my tight fetish ...


When I returned home, I found a package from South Carolina which had my friend DeeDee's handwriting all over it. I ripped open the envelope and found a book. The Art Book!  She's an artist and I've been sharing with her about my journey through The Artist's Way and the need to do a weekly artist date.  So she gifted me with a lovely book and a gift card to a coffee house that she was regifting.  I was delighted with the unexpected surprise. 

I am very lucky to have such lovely friends. I'm also inspired to finish cleaning the spring /summer clothing I shrank out of and passing it along now rather than waiting around for the ground to thaw.  Pay it forward, right?


View Article  Learning compassion

I've always considered myself a compassionate person.  From my days of campus service projects to my years in social service ministry right through my social work graduate degree to my various jobs, I always just took for granted that I had compassion for, well, everyone.  It wasn't something I examined too closely and I rarely took the opportunity to contrast my self-belief with the way I lived my life, the manner in which I experienced my life.

I am guilt of many self-indulgences, but having compassion for myself is not one of them.  Like many of us, I can be both brutal on myself and stubborn about things I don't want to change.  I am somewhat keenly focused on the suffering of other people, but self-righteous when it comes to my own.  I'm quick to tell you when I've felt discrimination, such as when the man downtown called me a f*cking dyke last year.  I wag my finger and shake my fist at the injustice of it all, but sometimes I get so caught up in the "gay emergency" that I lose sight of the fact that compassion should extend beyond my comfort zone.

I recently had some feedback that I had indulged in some discussions about being gay that I would "crucify" someone else for having.  I was taken aback at that language.  When I was inside my own perspective, I could *get* why I might be having that conversation?  Am I really so unforgiving that I would crucify anyone?  At what point did my quest for equality become a lynch mob? (my words)

Here's where we circle back around to compassion for myself.  The conversation I was having was in the midst of a deep personal crisis and I was hurting.  I've probably criticized other people for indulging in similar thoughts, but the best I can do now is practice what I preach, remember my own frailties and not be so quick to judge other people who don't meet the gay perfection standard. 

But I also need to give myself permission to miss that standard. A lot.  Often.  Many times.  Sometimes. 

One of my goals for 2011 is to infuse this blog with more personal insight, not simply regurgitating and analyzing LGBTQ news.  The truth is that it is hard to blog out loud without exposing some of your warts.  The tendency to cover those warts with snark and self-righteous whatever is very tempting, but it does lessen my credibiliy as a compassionate human being.  I can't undo past experiences where I've crucified anyone, but I am glad to have an opportunity to be more mindful of that flaw. 

Let me be clear.  Holding people accountable for their choices is not crucifying them.  Failing to put myself in their shoes for few moments,  failing to consider their point of view is leading me down that path. 

compassion - the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.

As wise woman recently told me that once you can have compassion and love for yourself, you will have a twofold ability to give it back. It would be superficial and insincere to suddenly become the font of compassion for people I typically pick apart.  It would be healthy and constructive to start with myself. 

Oh, boy.

View Article  Lucille Prater-Holliday: City Council District 9 candidate

I worked in City Council District 9 for nearly five years as a social worker, doing everything from financial literacy to recruiting foster parents.  I worked on community projects, interacted with community leaders and watched East Liberty Station morph into The Village of Eastside. (Read that as metaphor for the slide of East Liberty into the gentrified made-up neighborhood of Eastside). While I'm by no means an expert, I do feel confident saying that there are gay people in District 9.  There are people with gay folks in their extended families.  And like many folks in this "disadvantaged" community, there are plenty of low and moderate income gay folks struggling along with their neighbors to be heard and empowered.

My take is that the LGBTQ residents have not been well represented by their current Councilman, Ricky Burgess.  His voting record on LGBTQ issues is almost non-existant because he doesn't vote.  He doesn't co-sponsor equality legislation.  He doesn't support PrideFest.  He uses subterfuge to discredit Councilor Bruce Kraus as just another rich white gay man (proving he's willing to toss down a stereotype to defend himself). He routinely postures as the voice of the disenfranchised and oppressed, except for those of us who happen to be oppressed because we are gay. There is no room in his vision of equality for people who are legally second class citizens because of whom we love.  That's a sad fact.

The joyful news is that Councilor Burgess has a promising challenger in his upcoming reelection race.  I had the chance to meet with her last week and let me assure our conversation was not at all limited to "gay" issues.

Lucille Prater-Holliday is a lifelong Pittsburgh native with real life experiences that resonate with the lives of the people she hopes to represent.  Lucille was born into a family of 9 children and lived in foster care until the age of 12 when her siblings were reunited with her mother.  She grew up in Beltzhoover and then Homewood after reunification where her family continued to struggle to meet basic needs.  As she bluntly puts it, Lucille was "living the social problems so many poor people live."  

She attended local schools, graduating from Westinghouse High School and attending CCAC in Homewood.  Lucille probably shouldn't have succeeded; she readily admits the card were stacked against her.  She credits the intervention of two adults in the school system who nutured her with food when her stomach was empty and with emotional care she didn't receive at home.

At age 34, Lucille found herself a widow with two young sons.  She continued to work in the social services field while she pursued a bachelor's degree from Geneva College. 

Throughout these years, Lucille has lived in several East End communities including East Liberty, Shadyside and Homewood as well as the East Hills.  She's been a community advocate with ACORN, Action United and social justice issues.  Her mantra is "don't talk about it, be about it."

I asked Lucille why she was running and she shared the story of me of her experiences of walking into "downtown" Homewood when she returned at the age of 12 .  She was overcome with the vibrancy of the community, the lively business district, the sights and sounds that overwhelm a child with possibility even when she isn't sure there will be a meal on the table that night.  She then described for me the destruction of the riots after Martin Luther King was assassinated, a wound from which she believes Homewood has never recovered.  Her hope is for other children growing up in District 9 to have that same feeling of wonderment, that they "deserve to live in an environment that allows them to grow and succeed."

Prater-Holliday's story is compelling, but her energy and focus on issues is equal parts compelling and sort of a "yes we can" energy that has brought so many fresh new voices to the City Council table.

She's passionate about public transportation, leaning across the table to emphasize the waste which cripples riders in the most vulnerable communities, then leaning back when she acknowledges that is a county issue.  But her ardor to lead her neighbors out of second-class citizenship is fervent. 

Other issues:

- Piloting a "Neighborhood Council" model used in California with community council members having a formal line of communication with their City Councilor.

- Housing blight.  Prater-Holliday states there are over 1,000 abandoned buildings in Homewood alone.  She'd like to partner with the Housing Authority to revitalize empty houses and utilize a shared equity home ownership model.

- Education.  She's concerned about the shifting plans for Westinghouse and believes the City Councilor should be more proactive advocating for children in this district.

- Employment.  She's eager to tap into green iniatives to create job opportunities in her district.  She'll be contributing to a Women & Girls Foundation of Southwestern PA project to highlight the accomplishments in the "green community" in 2011.

- City Pension.   She's glad City Council took a leadership role in crafting a solution.

Gay issues.  Yeah, so I asked her about it.  I told her about Burgess' record.  She showed me a photograph of her now deceased sister who was a lesbian and very much part of the family.  She told me about seeing Dreams of Hope perform at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater on Martin Luther King Day.  I asked her if she would sign a resolution in honor of PrideFest or in support of gay rights legislation on the state level.  She looked me right in the eye, put her hand on her sister's photo and said "I would be proud to sign anything to support the gay community." 

Prater-Holliday has a lot of questions for Councilor Burgess, mostly about where he's been.  She claims she's been at dozens of community meetings and events without site of him.  She claims he doesn't send staff in his absence.  She exhorts that District 9 needs a public servant, not a politician. 

"I've lived the life" of her neighbors is her hallmark along with dozens of years of grassroots work on social justice issues alongside her neighbors. 

Prater-Holliday positions herself as a neighborhood girl with the community organizing skills that transfer into public service, rather than the family credentials that transfer into politician. She sees District 9 as a unique community of neighborhoods that have a long history of oppression and repression, but believes that the solutions lie within the district -- within the strength of those who live there and know what they need.  Prater-Holliday isn't asking anyone to save Homewood or Larimer or East Hills.  She's asking for the resources so the communities can save themselves and she believes she is best suited to make that happen.

Lucille Prater-Holliday is clearly a better candidate for the District 9 LGBTQ community than Councilman Burgess.  Her grassroots experiences could translate well into an enthusiastic, hard-working new Councilwoman.  I think this is a race worth watching as we have the chance to learn more about this unique woman.  I like that she admits what she needs to learn, but has confidence she can learn it.  That's the sort of moxy we need ... her grasp of how public transportation issues -- even the bus renovations -- impact her neighbors demonstrates a quick mind able to grasp the micro and macro level of systemic challenges. 

Prater-Holliday's campaign kickoff event is Thursday, February 10, 2011, 6 PM at her campaign HQ 712 N. Homewood Avenue, across from CCAC. 

You can reach her campaign manager quadirah (at) lucilleholliday (dot) com

Let's see what happens. 

Follow PghLesbian24 on Twitter

The Correspondents