Friday, April 24
by Sue on Fri 24 Apr 2009 12:19 PM EDT
I received the following response from the Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff.
From: Baginski, Kristen [mailto:Kristen.Baginski@city.pittsburgh.pa.us]
We are contacting those who expressed interest in the Committee and when we have received confirmation from them with regards to their participation the names will be released.
This message is to ask when the Mayor plans to announce the launch of his LGBT Advisory Committee and release the names of his appointees.
So I guess we'll see more details forthcoming.
Thursday, April 23
by Sue on Thu 23 Apr 2009 07:39 AM EDT
As I've reported, the Mayor's office ignores me or pats me on my head and sends me on my way.
Kristen Baginski and Joanna Doven won't return my calls or respond to my email messages about the LGBT Advisory Council. I haven't tried Yarone because I'm not a campaign contributor or a City contractor. I'm not a member of the mainstream media or the alternative media. No power, no money and no leverage.
I'm just a constituent with a question.
From: Sue Kerr [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
This message is to ask when the Mayor plans to announce the launch of his LGBT Advisory Committee and release the names of his appointees.
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents
by Sue on Thu 23 Apr 2009 07:26 AM EDT
You can read the nice write up from Marty Levine here.
If you read my summary of the recent Valley New Dispatch article, you won't be surprised that there really isn't any more news on the legislation. It is sitting in committee with about 100 million amendments to protect religious bigots and is under assault from the highly organized right wing.
The left wing is struggling. There have been no recent missives with targeted calls to action. There was a meeting this past Sunday, but no communication about the meeting has been shared (I think that's where Marty got his information). I have no idea which legislators are wavering so I can't tell you if you need to ramp up the momentum in your district. I am trying to get that information.
My call? This legislation stands no chance in hell of passing without the public support of the County ordinance by Dan Onorato. The two bills are inextricably intertwined, especially in terms of the public support of the SW block of Democrats. Without high profile public support, such as what Onorato could bring to the local franchise of the party, it won't go anywhere. That's painfully evident in that the primary sponsor and champion of the statewide bill is a local Democrat (Frankel). The contrast of Frankel to other local elected Democrats illustrates that there is work to be done right in our own backyard.
That's a shame for those in our community who are not protected by local ordinances. Clearly, a statewide protection is in the best interests of everyone, including heterosexuals. Equally clear to me is that we need to be better oganized. But we haven't done the heavy lifting here in SW Pennsylvania to generate the groundswell of support necessary for forward movement. We need more champions at the County level and that's not going to happen if information is not shared with the general community. No, inviting people to a meeting in the middle of a Sunday does not count. Sorry. It may be useful, but in an era with tremendous technological options, it is not enough. There's no use of twitter on this issue. There's very little use of Facebook.
I'm clearly not on board with a statewide agenda because I think it is diverting attention and energy away from a more practical focus on the local level. That's a very unpopulat position to take, but my experiences with the organizers have convinced me that we simply don't have the infrastructure to make it happen. Frankel is smart to keep the statewide bill in committee and avoid an unfavorable floor vote b/c it does give our community a chance to tout the progress of being voted out of committee in the first place.
I'm in an unusual position of being in the middle of an oddly liberal area of the Northside. Our reps on the City, County and State level are a smidge left of center so that they are all pretty much on board with this issue. I don't have to convince Tonya Payne or Amanda Green that gay people are people, too. We're good.
I've still think Onorato and Ravenstahl are both going to use PrideFest to grandstand, costing us more than six more weeks of the rightwing chipping away at LGBTQ legislative support in this region.
So my call to action is for you to call the Mayor's office (412-255-2626) and the County Chief Executive's office (412-350-6500) and ask them when they will go public (Mayor on LGBT Advisory Council and Onorato on endorsing the County ordinance) in support of the LGBTQ community.
Wednesday, April 22
by Sue on Wed 22 Apr 2009 08:03 PM EDT
Wow. 24 hours without access to my blogging admin site has been torture. Thankfully, no significant breaking LGBTQ news in Pittsburgh. Someone did post a comment accusing me of being part of the anti-technology problem which is pretty funny to post. On a blog. With Twitter updates right next to the comments. I got a good chuckle out of that.
There is news in the Angie Zapato trial. Allan Ray Andrade was found guilty of 1st degree murder and other charges relating to the brutal murder of 18 year old Angie Zapato. Andrade murdered Angie because she was a transwoman. Go to Pam's House Blend for a specific feed dedicated to Angie's death and the trial. Or follow the hashtag #zapato.
I just got off the phone with my blog guru down in Dallas, Texas who was overjoyed at this verdict. A few years ago, a group of men bludgeoned two gay men to death. The friends got off with no charges and the actual murderer was sentenced to five years because the judge equated being gay to being a prostitute. As if either of those identities means you deserve less justice than people who are not gay or not prostitutes.
What else is going? Tomorrow night is Lesbian Spa Night courtesy of Adagio Health, the GLCC and the Lambda Foundation. Ledcat and I are attending and our friend, Joe, will be there with his delicious GLOW facials. Plus, massage!
I can't reveal the details, but I'm helping in an investigation related to naughtiness. Not that kind. Stay tuned for details.
That's it for tonight. Rest easy knowing some justice has been given to the memory of Angie Zapato and her loved ones.
Then get up tomorrow and remember that our elected officials here are waffling on something simple as not being fired for being gay. The message Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl send by sidestepping LGBT equal rights issues is very powerful. If our highest ranking elected officials cannot get their minds around equality, how on earth can we expect the high school bully or the landlord or the keeper of the bathroom keys to treat us with respect.
People hate us and cowardice shores up that hatred.
Monday, April 20
by Sue on Mon 20 Apr 2009 08:26 AM EDT
I titled this as if I do this and that every Monday. I wish I had the dedication to any particular regular feature, but that's not how my mind works.
The Tribune-Review brings us Pat Buchanan's latest column in which he bemoans the collapse of Catholic Institutions such as Georgetown University. He blames it on the feminists and homosexuals.
Wow. Criss-Cross Day is bringing down the Catholic church. I'd actually be interested in transgender Biblical heroes. And I applaud Mr. Buchanan for using "transgender" in lieu of the less accurate "transgendered" (one is a state of being in transition, the other a description of a fait accompli).
If you are looking for a daily glimpse into the most current LGBTQ news, I suggest you visit PageOneQ. I went looking for something interesting to share and ended up spending far too much of this early morning time reading all of the articles. Check it out.
The HRC posted an interesting transcript of a discussion on LGBTQ financial and legal issues. Given that those of us who just ponied up a chunk of change to pay taxes on Domestic Partner benefits are probably still fuming, this is timely.
Locally, the Post-Gazette takes a look at the heated City Council District races. They briefly explore the whole family feud that drives Democrat decisions which I referenced yesterday. While I don't agree with all of her positions, I don't get the claim that Tonya Payne fails to show leadership. She's much more visible here on the Northside than her predecessor and I've found her to be warm and open-minded. She's marched in the PrideFest Parade which is much different than a few minutes in front of a microphone. She works on homeless issues. And frankly, her staff make things happen. I have no real opinion on her opponents who I am sure are perfectly nice men, but a return to the status quo on the Northside is just ludicrous particularly in Manchester. This is another area with a mythological patronage around Stanley Lowe that I just don't understand. I'm all for Tonya.
I will say the coverage of District 2 is pretty shallow. The article dismissed contender Rob Frank which seems more about the excitement of a two woman race than anything else. Again, I'm sure Georgia Blotzer is a lovely woman, but I just didn't feel it in my heart at the Stonewall Endorsement meeting. Maybe I was too bedazzled by Onorato's five minutes speech in which he said nothing, but Rob Frank seems to warrant more than a sentence of two. Is his lack of entrenchment in the political family feud a bad thing? Or just not headline grabbing?
I have no opinion about District 4. Pat Reilly worked for Chelsa Wagner and seemed very earnest in trying to address the perennial issue with PennDOT's property in our neighborhood. He was frank with me about the limitations of his position, but I give him credit for trying.
Here's where I have to stop and remind PennDOT (I'm sure they read this blog every day!) that the lot is just starting to bloom past acceptable. This latest round of rain is going to warrant a mow soon. I would love to avoid another series of relentless phone calls to legislators who can't leverage any action in spite of their best efforts. And speaking of neighborhood politics, last year I had worked to have our State Rep come out to take a look at how the Commonwealth is blighting Manchester when another community member swooped in with a larger agenda and completely undermind me. I know her intentions were good, but it is frustrating when someone wrests your plans away from you. I know there are larger issues, but her actions were very disrespectful. I'm already plotting what I can possibly do this year since the best reaction I get from PennDOT is a begrudging appearance after endless prodding.
If they would just schedule routine maintenance, it would be such a positive step. I would stop hating them. I'm hoping someone in a media outlet would take a look at the various properties owned by PennDOT or other state entities in this region and explore their maintenance schedules. I just can't imagine that these huge clean up efforts are cost effective.
Sunday, April 19
by Sue on Sun 19 Apr 2009 11:33 AM EDT
Pam Spaulding nails the Democrats on their social conservative bull.
Amen (pun kind of intended). Pam's talking about a New York State Senator Ruben Diaz organizing against marriage equality. Now here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we've got a little different issue -- Dems capitulating on a general equality from discrimination. What's worse are Democrat leaders like Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato remaining SILENT so as to have it both ways. Insert Catholics and AFA of PA wingnuts for evangelical Christians and you get my point.
The local Democrats, even the gay Democrats, won't challenge him or others who waiver on fundamental issues of fairness and equality. Someone tried to explain the scary mafioso-like which Dem family hates the other Dem family and which current elected official used to work for whom or who ran whose campaign. It made my head spin.
Let's not forget that other "la la la I can't hear you" Democrat, Luke Ravenstahl who is rumored to be "disappointed" over not getting the gay endorsement in return for his appearance at PrideFest. There's apparently a mad scrambling to appease his Administration. What the hell is up with that? He hasn't DONE anything to warrant an endorsement except hang out with a few gay male business owners who have a vested interest in appeasing any Administration because of their business, not necessarily their sexual orientation.
Don't hand me the baby steps ideology.
Ravenstahl has attended two PrideFest in a row. Check.
He signed a symbolic piece of legislation last year. Check.
He has been dallying with the LGBT Advisory Committee for nearly a year. Check.
He rides the coat tails of legislation passed over a decade ago before he was old enough to vote. Check.
What other sort of baby step can you squeeze in there until he actually commits himself to equality? He cannot continue to appease his Catholic constituents and pat his gay constituents on the head.
What do I want him to do? Start the damn committee and fill it with actual leaders. Keep his private advisers private and give someone else a chance to have his ear. Don't use PrideFest as a showboat. And he can give the Domestic Partner Registry some teeth by actually informing City employees about it. That would require a simple memo. He might even ask his Economic Development folks to put out some feelers to urge local employers to offer domestic partner benefits. Publicly commit to abstain from any further City-County merger plans until the issues of domestic partner benefits and anti-discrimination protections are resolved.
If he gets the gay endorsement for the general election, we'll know the Machine is well-oiled with LGBT blood, sweat and tears. And money.
Homophobia is alive and well in the Democrat party here in SW Pennsylvania. Passing statewide legislation is a pipe dream until we deal with the stuff in our own backyard.
Saturday, April 18
by Sue on Sat 18 Apr 2009 09:35 AM EDT
Madeline Chandler is receiving an award from the ACLU for her advocacy to change the sexual education curriculum for the City Schools. She sounds like a woman who rocks.
Let's all do our best to convince Ms. Chandler to come back to Pittsburgh after graduation and bring some of that energy into our community and allies.
by Sue on Sat 18 Apr 2009 09:05 AM EDT
Last night, Ledcat and I volunteered to staff a Steel City Stonewall table at a Dykes on Bikes event at Cattivo. Also at Cattivo were the Dykes of Hazard comedy troupe.
The evening was good; we collected 62 signed letters in support of HB 300 and distributed a bunch of Steel City information, plus secured one membership on the spot. The crowd was really nice: laid back, relaxed and actually interested in what we had to offer -- information and opportunity. A LOT of the women were informed on the issues and even eager to sign a letter. To me that flies in the face of conventional wisdom that LGBTQ people in bars don't care. There was a lot of caring going on last night. Someone even tipped me $1 which I made Ledcat stuff into the bustiere of one of the Dykes on Bikes. :-) More than one women came up to me when I was away from the table and told she appreciated me giving up my Friday to help the cause and/or blog. And I ran into a few readers so shout out to y'all and thanks for introducing yourselves to me.
The awesome vote for the night goes to the Dykes on Bikes. They promoted the Dykes of Hazard tour for the owners of Cattivo to pay back the owners for being so good to their organization. The crowd was not huge, but I haven't been there on a Friday for comparison purposes. I have to admit that when people complain about there not being anything to do and fail to show up for a queer comedy performance ...we have some PR work to do! (P.S. They are performing Saturday might in Greensburg.) I'm sure it didn't help that the extremely popular Lez Liquor Hour was scheduled on the same night.
The Dykes of Hazard are part of the DIY trend and the brainchild of Kristen Becker of Buffalo and Shreveport. She had me at hello. She hosted the event and was terrific at playing off the crowd jubilant in a Penguins victory. Nothing threw her and she had tons of lesbian material, but plenty of universal stuff as well. Because of my table duties, I didn't get to see the other comedians but they weren't as strong with the off the cuff comments which seem necessary in a bar filled with drunken lesbian sports fans. The crowd watching the show sort of ebbed and flowed. but appeared to be having a good time. The last performer (whose name I missed) I caught a few minutes from and she was getting pretty funny. If we didn't have plans tonight, I might like to see them again.
It would be great if PrideFest would bring them back for a Pride show.
The true shout out for the night goes to Dykes on Bikes founder, Miranda. She was personally responsible for at least 40 of the signed letters. She approached every person who came into the bar and convinced them why it is important to flex those democracy muscles. She also had a well thought out response to those who aren't comfortable putting their personal information on a letter -- support indirectly. Buy a shot or a rose or make a donation to Dykes on Bikes so they can continue to subsidize letter writing events. Donate to Shepherd Wellness or, anonymously, to Steel City Stonewall. Volunteer at the GLCC. She was very sincere about the fact that there's no reason every single LGBTQ person shouldn't be involved in something, big or small. She's very persuasive and sincere. Do not underestimate what the Dykes in Bikes might accomplish. They are organized, dedicated and passionate.
Another big shout out to the DOB membership who also gave up a Friday to support Cattivo and Steel City Stonewall. Yes, there were breasts and jello shots involved. Bring on the comments, but if you didn't spend your Friday afternoon preparing 100+ jello shots and baskets of roses to promote equality you really don't have a lot of room to point fingers. Plus, two experienced political tabling folks both said this is the biggest response they've seen, proportional to the crowd, at a Pittsburgh political bar event. No one crumpled up the literature on the floor. There were no slate cards dropped in front of the bar. The women who came to Cattivo last night cared and part of the reason they got to connect their personal investment in the issues with political action has everything to do with the Dykes on Bikes.
All in all, I am glad I went. I want to see more of Kristen Becker's comedy. I got to see a lot of belts and boots that were very cool. I met some nice people and learned a few things from the pool playing crowd. And we got 62 letters!
Friday, April 17
by Sue on Fri 17 Apr 2009 08:21 AM EDT
It is the Day of Silence. The Post Gazette reports on a new Pennsylvania study with startlingly sad stats on bullying experienced around gayness. It doesn't even matter if the kids are LGBTQ; just being picked on for the perception is awful enough. 98% of those surveyed report hearing "gay" used in a negative way. Surprised? I"m not. I hear it all the time from the lips of adults and the vitriol of folks like Diane Gramley and other Christo-bigots.
Is it surprising given that a LGBT leader think using the term "bipolar" as a descriptive of behavior rather than a clinical diagnosis is acceptable? As in a person's behavior being bipolar/gay even if the ignorant bully has no clue if the person is bipolar/gay. It doesn't matter after all because the slur hits home. Bullying. It is the same damn thing.
These folks could use a few lessons from the 271 students who would probably recognize that as a bullshit argument.
These kids are heroes. Not the kind on TV, but the kind you hope will stay in Pittsburgh to go to school and go on to join boards and take leadership roles. The kind who learn from the experience of being bullied and channel that into constructive advocacy. The kind who acknowledge the painful process of growing up gay and deal with it by fighting back.
West Mifflin Area High School was a tough place to be gay in the 1980s. Some coped by never, ever talking about their LGBTQ identity. Some coped by being the gay class clown to deflect humiliation by laughing at their own stereotype. Some just survived by whatever resiliency they could muster. There were no GSAs. Even now, I know exactly four openly queer alumni and one of those died a year ago. Five including me.
Maybe we should have a Day of Silence in the workplace and places of public accommodation so the general public realizes how many LGBTQ folks live in Pittsburgh. I'm out at work so it might not be impactful there, but I guess the whole point is to give voice to those who remain silenced every day by bigotry. That's happening right now in Allegheny County.
Sad. Kudos to these kids.
In another item in today's Post-Gazette, syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman reminds us of how DOMA looms over state sanctioned marriage, denying federal benefits. We get hit with this every year when our "income" includes my health insurance premiums because the federal government considers those taxable even as our married friends enjoy pre-tax health insurance coverage. It sucks.
Update: Error on my part. 271 Pennsylvania schools participated in the Day of Silence, not 271 students. Thanks for the catch. I met a teacher last night who told me about her students participating. Pretty awe inspiring stuff.
Thursday, April 16
by Sue on Thu 16 Apr 2009 08:02 AM EDT
The Valley News Dispatch offers up a discouraging "here's why our region is against this legislation" perspective. Not a single quote from anyone in their area who supports the legislation which is patently ridiculous. Obviously, someone needs to reach the gay folks and their folks living out there. Who is up for the task?
But, as I've been saying, we can hardly expect more when the highest ranked Democrat in the region has done NOTHING on gay issues. The City Controller has done more than that County Chief Executive and he wasn't even in office when he did it. If Dan Onorato is unwilling to publicly support the LGBTQ community, why should the Allegheny Valley?
If Western Pennsylvania is weak on HB 300, look locally and ask what happened to all that community investment and pressure on Onorato and Ravenstahl to do something. They may be waiting "for the right time" as one commenter protested, but every day that HB 300 looks doomed is one day too late. Showing up with a dashing pen to sign legislation at Pridefest is too late. It is the best we can expect, but it is too late.
The link is here.