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View Article  Netroots Nation Call for Proposals

Netroots Nation is coming to Pittsburgh August 13-16, 2009.  Here's the call for proposals.

In the next 12 months, we'll be working together more than ever to push progressive policy into legislation. And there's no better place to discuss our priorities and plan how to make them a reality than at Netroots Nation, the grassroots event of the year.

In order to create the most well-rounded agenda possible, we need your input. Will you help us develop and organize the sessions that you?ll attend at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh?and help shape the dialog for progressives in 2009?

It's easy to get involved. http://netrootsnation.org/proposals ... The deadline for submission is March 31.

We want to see proposals on key issues like the economy, health care and energy policy. And we also want to include sessions about successful offline and online organizing tactics.    

But you are not limited to these topics. We want this year's agenda to reflect your interests. And your interests are best expressed by your proposal.

When you're brainstorming, here are a few things to think about:

* How does my idea help the broader progressive movement?
* How will it empower activists to take what they've learned and use it for the greater good?
* Do my proposed panelists represent diversity?of ethnicity, gender, geography, age and viewpoint?

Click here to read the full list of guidelines and submit your idea: http://netrootsnation.org/proposals

View Article  Dan Onorato's Silence is not Moot

Let me just say this.  If HB 300 becomes law and our community gains statewide civil protections in the areas of housing, employment and public accomodation, it will be a good thing. 

However, it is shortsighted to celebrate that avoiding a county vote on this issue -- especially any public commitment from our Chief Executive -- is some sort of auxillary victory.  It is most decidedly not, especially when Dan Onorato gets to run for Governor without doing anything for gay people. 

Electing a social conservative to follow in the footsteps of Ed Rendell is not going to be very good news if you aren't protected by the privileges of race, gender, sexual orientation or class (or any combination of those).  No human rights ordinance can protect us from that. 

Is it completely unrealistic to ask Chief Executive Onorato to make a show of good faith on any one gay issue over which he holds sway?  Just one, Dan.  It doesn't have to be the HRC.  Just do one thing.

My God, why is this so unreasonable? 

View Article  Dykes and Advocacy in Pittsburgh

Lynn Cullen. It is official.  Gay people, rejoice.

Interesting women's music show.

The SUNSTAR Women in Music Festival
(March 5th - 7th, 2009) features a full roster of independent music
artists and includes concerts, workshops and special events celebrating
emerging & world class music makers. Named in honor of our most
precious and energizing resource, the sun, the SUNSTAR
Festival intends to acknowledge, recognize and support the many women
who are creating phenomenal music and will present emerging and
established Pittsburgh based artists as well as nationally acclaimed
guest artists, Toshi Reagon and Bahamadia.


Also, coming up later this month is another Dykes on Bikes fundraiser, this to benefit the Pittsburgh Dyke March.

 Those leather clad biker dykes are back and hosting another fundraiser.  Join the Pittsburgh Chapter of Dykes on Bikes? as they host "The Butch Femme" party to raise funds to help the organizers of the Pittsburgh Dyke March.  All are welcome to attend and express their butch or femme identity.  Come dressed to the hilt in ties and suits or barely covered in thigh highs and short skirts.  All expressions of butch femme presentation is welcome from all those who support our GLBT community.

Music for this event will be provided by DJ Adele and the naughty DOB shooter girls will be selling their toxic jello shots.  There may even be some performances based on butch/femme expression and other activities to celebrate.  Come help support the Dyke March and party with the women of Dykes on Bikes?.

This event hosted by the Pittsburgh Chapter of Dykes on Bikes? www.pittsburghdykesonbikes.com or email us at info@pittsburghdykesonbikes.com

Where: Cattivo

When: Saturday March 21st

Cover: $3

Time: 9pm until close

Party Partners:



This might sound strange, but participating in this event is a good way to flex your political/advocacy chops this month.   The Pittsburgh Dyke March will be three years old this year and is a true grassroots effort to lift up voices that are not typically at the table. How many blue collar queer women sit on local boards or have any decision making authority in the local community? To beat my familiar drum, it would be a stunning victory to see someone who identifies as a dyke on the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee. The organizers stood up to those who pushed them to compromise their values and are a good example of how to get organized.  Last year, the Lambda Foundation stepped in to help the event and, this year, Dykes on Bikes picks up the charge to keep this important event alive and flourishing. 

You can influence advocacy efforts and empower dykes in our community to continue growing their influence.  And before anyone casts some anti-feminist stone, remember that Dykes on Bikes founder Miranda Vey came out in on a blistery cold day in January and spoke about her experiences as part of the Big Queer Rally. By organizing this event, she literally puts her money where her mouth is.

Mark the date on your calendar.

View Article  The "State" of PA politics - will we see anything through?

I received an email this week inviting me to the March 17 rally in Harrisburg and a telephone call from someone who wanted to discuss my concerns about the current state of affairs in gay politics.  The call was perfectly cordial, but I'm left feeling rather unsatisfied. Especially when they wanted my list of other bloggers. I went back and reread some of my recent posts and the comments to figure out the source of my unease.

I'm not sure that I feel particularly frustrated so much as just angry.  I'm angy that it is 2009 and we have very little to show for it in Pittsburgh and the larger metropolitan region.  Maybe it wouldn't be so irritating if we had some accomplishment in recent memory.  With all due respect, a domestic partner registry means nothing.  If the Mayor hasn't made the effort to register City Employees, it is clearly an empty symbol.  I can see why it is useful for businesses to have a vetting process for domestic partners, but I have yet to see how it helps us partners. 

A recent commented affiliated with one of the major players in gay advocacy said this:

I have come to believe that Sue isn't really interested in the very difficult & complicated work that needs to be done to achieve progressive change. Instead, she mainly seems interested in creating controversy & causing division in an attempt to garner attention for her blog.

Then he emailed me and said that there are no hard feelings.  Really?  Cause this is pretty harsh.  It is one thing to say I'm playing some sort of dilletante dance with blogging for attention and quite another to say I don't grasp the nuances of progressive change.  So, yeah, I have some hard feelings.  I'm not even doing such a great job of garnering attention given that my blog stats have been pretty consistent for over a year now.  Sure a scandal generates a little spike here and there, but really... the same few people come to read me.  I've had three prominent local folks tell me they read about my blog when I'm quoted on other blogs.  :-)

If you've been reading, you know the status quo with the Mayor's Advisory Committee and the County work on domestic partner benefits and the HRC ordinance.  Clearly, frustrating.  Not so clearly, anger inducing.  It makes me angry that organizers based in Philly and Harrisburg roll into Pittsburgh for a meeting or two and leave us with half-fulfilled promises.  Then they expect us to jump when its time to load up the buses.  It is tough to swallow when someone says you don't know what you are doing and then asks for your "list of bloggers" that you've compiled after three years in the trenches.  It isn't my responsibility to provide media lists for organizations that have access to computers, internet connections and blogrolls. 

It is tough to read on Facebook that people are going to gay roller derby, but don't have time to send out a press release.  Or be on the receiving end of a series of drunk emails because I refuse to toe anyone else's line.  Drunk emails are fun.  When you are 22, not 38.  It it tough that people who are clearly angry at me for having an opinion still talk with me and try to justify things.  I don't care if I know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, I care if you know at least some of the story.  My hands are tied by promises of staying "off the record."   (For the record, I removed people from my list of Facebook friends that insult me in real life, but want to network with me.)

It is just tough that I think I actually have something to offer, but I'm repeatedly slammed for thinking outside the box and asking uncomfortable questions. 

While a statewide non-discrimination bill is a great idea, I just don't think Pittsburgh wins by taking the pressure and resources away from local efforts and pouring them into the state.  We may get civil protections, but we also don't have domestic partner benefits in our County and I don't see any of the power players in Democrat politics doing anything about that.  Would it really be that hard to convince Dan Onorato to reconsider that one?  Really?  You can get the farmers from mid-state to protect me from employment discrimination, but I can't get a job at the County?  Come on.

It might just be nice if we could have one baby step here in Pittsburgh.  Just one.  If someone could follow through and get something accomplished before adding on yet another round of phone calls and letters and rallies and so forth then leaving us completely to our own devices for months on end while they "handle" the behind the scenes stuff.  Because we are apparently untrustworthy when it comes to knowing that behind the scenes stuff is happening. I mean I know it, but I can't tell you about it. 

Maybe the disaster that was the Proposition 8 campaign has taught us a few things about making sure our leaders are accountable to us.  Maybe not.

Either way, I'm still feeling uneasy about the convergence of all these non-accomplishments. I'm not sure that Rocking the Dome is the best way to go.  I could be wrong, but that's just where I'm at right now.

View Article  This is how a rally is done ...

Over 200 people packed a local church to support the Employee Free Choice Act.  Both our Mayor and Chief Executive were happy to speak out affirming labor, even while remaining mum on equality.  Sigh.  Good for Pittsburgh United and related organizations who are doing excellent work on an important issue. They make it happen.  We just make it look like something happened.  View from the BurghChair has the scoop:

If you don't know, the EFCA would change the law to allow workers to choose which form to use to create a union. They still could choose to use a private ballot election or use a card-check option. Right now, the company chooses which option and almost always forces a private ballot instead of a card-check. This is important because the private ballot allows time for the company to put together an anti-union campaign and use intimidation against employees who want to form a union.

Also, be sure to visit Pride At Work for more information on the intersection of labor and equality. An interesting  fact sheet is attached to this post.

To be clear, I am very pleased with the event (which I did not attend) and support labor. I wear a UNITE HERE button on my jacket.  I grew up with a unionized father and I wish we could find a way to unionize direct care providers in the human services as demonstration of the value we should have for people providing essentail services to people we should value.

It has been five days since I tried to follow up with Ravenstahl and Onorato on LGBT equality issues.  Onorato's people have not responded at all.  Ravenstahl's press secretary sent a non-answer.  I have to disclose to you that I've contacted my Council reps and that hasn't helped move them toward an answer.  A local Dem committeeperson informed me that he put in a word and that, too, failed to generate any response. 

Discrimination protection in the workplace is a labor issue, a perspective that labor unions get even if our elected officials do not. 

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View Article  Lynn Cullen is Back on the Air!

Uncomfirmed sources report that Lynn Cullen will be back on Pittsburgh's airwaves, beginning on Monday, March 9, 2009 during the 5-7 drivetime slot.  The station is WAMO  AM 860 right before the hugely popular Bev Smith Show.

WAMO management is expected to make a public statement on Monday.

Great news, kids.  Great news. 

View Article  What makes a family?


I have been an amateur genealogist for about 12 years and just discovered my first long lost relative via Facebook. I've found plenty of folks via ancestry.com and other websites, mostly very distant cousins.  My mother found my father's cousin at her hair salon.  I am using Facebook to connect with known relatives, which is surprisingly underutilized by my extended clan.

But Facebook to find someone?  I took a shot and typed in the name.  Up popped the person so I took a shot and it was him!

Who?  Well, it is a long story that boils down to my grandfather's biological sister being adopted by extended family after their own father died.  She and her children wove in and out of the family, lived a few blocks away but there was no real contact.  On Friday, contact was made when I called my Dad's cousin Dave and emailed him my family tree file later that afternoon. 

So in about 24 hours, I've added this whole branch and filled in some "missing pieces" of my Dad's life.  That's pretty cool. 

The image above is a button I found in my grandmother's belongings.  It apparently was a photo taken at a fair circa 1925.  The adults are my great-grandparents, Kelso and Edna Kerr.  The boy sitting on the ground is my grandfather around age 12.  The baby is my Great-Uncle Jimmy.  The older girl is my Great-Aunt Edna (Aunt Diddy) and the the younger girl is Great-Aunt Ruth.  Aunt Ruth is the only one still alive -- she's 90 next week.  This is the only memento of my grandfather's childhood I have ever found. 

(I have yet to discover any other gay relatives, but with 1200 and counting it can't be long ... quite a few bachelors in there!) 

View Article  Pittsburgh's Lambda Foundation Announces Grant Recipients

As you probably recall, Lambda recently celebrated 25 years of grant making, totalling nearly $1 million in support for Pittsburgh's LGBT community.  A few thousand at a time.  That's a lot of seeds, my friends. If you read through the list of grants, you'll see an interesting range in programs -- HIV prevention, social and recreational opportunities, youth oriented activities, queer women's health services as well as the arts.  What's so uplifting about this array is just the wonderful diversity of Pittsburgh's queer community.  We have a lot going on and there were other projects that weren't able to be funded.  How awesome! 


Lambda is shepherding Pittsburgh's queer community into the 21st century in a holistic manner which creates some concrete opportunities to forge connections with our heterosexual allies.  Thanks to responsible stewardship, Lambda has been part of nearly every significant LGBTQ initiative in Pittsburgh's history (and herstory). I personally took a greater interest in their inner workings when they stepped up with a last minute sponsorship of the 2008 Dyke March.  That was classy and quite essential to something we very much need in Pittsburgh -- investments in alternative voices. 


Congratulations to the recipients.




The Lambda Foundation exists to foster for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People- educational, social, cultural, health and artistic projects and programs in the Greater Pittsburgh area through grants and scholarships to organizations and individuals.


The Lambda Foundation was incorporated in 1983. The first grants were awarded in 1984. Over the past 26 years the Foundation has awarded nearly $1,000,000 back to the community.


These grants were made possible by the participation of our individual contributors, our Annual Ball participants, our corporate sponsors, UPMC and Merrill Lynch and our special contributors Scott Noxon, Paul Gitnik, Kirk Johnson and Henry Kravovsky.


The Lambda Foundation would like to thank the following organizations for the opportunity to co-participate in such worthy projects.


       Persad Center, Inc. $1925.00

       Persad, founded in 1972, is the nation?s second oldest licensed mental health counseling center specifically created to meet the needs of the GLBT

       Community. Funds will be used for the Closing the Gap Afterschool Project.


 Renaissance City Choirs $1925.00

 The Renaissance City Choirs is a non-profit organization comprised of the Renaissance City Men?s Choir and the Renaissance City Women?s Choir.

 RCC?s artistic vision is to be recognized as a cultural institution in the greater Pittsburgh area.  Funds will be used to enhance their website


             Dreams of Hope $1540.00

Dreams of Hope develop leaders within the LGBT youth community and promote awareness and understanding through the creative and performing arts. Funding will support their 2009 Season.


The Open Door, Inc. $1540.00

The Open Door, Inc.?s mission is to provide a supportive housing program that improves the health of the forgotten population of high risk, chronically homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Funds will be used for their operating budget.


Adagio Health, Inc. $1540.00

Funds will be used to provide breast and cervical cancer health education and screening opportunities at the GLCC to lesbian and bi-sexual women, with no cost services available to women who are under-insured or uninsured.


The Mattress Factory, Ltd. $1540.00

The Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary art that supports the creation and exhibition of site-specific installation art. Funds will enable the museum to permanently install ?It?s all about ME, Not You?, Greer Lankton?s (1958-1996) final work. This work documents Greer?s life and experience as a trans-gender person coming to terms with Midwestern values (which she embraced in a way) in contrast to the freedom of New York?s East Village in the late 1970?s and 1980?s.


Shepherd Wellness Community $1500.00

Shepherd Wellness Community offers a program of support and assistance to people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Funds will be used for purchase of equipment.


Women?s Law Project $1155.00

Funds will be used to expand efforts to educate and enlist women?s organizations and other allies in the struggle for LGBT rights.


Charles Christen, Med, LPC $1000.00

Funds are to be used to fulfill the requirements for a doctoral degree at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, as well as further the research related to gay men?s health. The overarching goal of this research project is to explore and describe the motivations, attitudes, beliefs and intentions (MABI) related to sex partner acquisition of men who have sex with men between the ages of 18 to 39 years old and with either a low number (1-2) or high number (over10) of sex partners in the past year. A secondary purpose of this study is to explore MABI related to acquisition of sexual partners and the possible association of these MABI with HIV transmission.


Steel City Softball League $1000.00

The purpose of the Steel City Softball League is to provide and protect the opportunity for individuals who support the bonds of fellowship, to play softball in an atmosphere of friendly competition, free from discrimination on the basis of adult age, race, creed, sex and ability. The league will foster and maintain the spirit of good fellowship and true sportsman ship. Funds will be used to keep registration fees down for their members in the face of a fifteen percent increase in expenses.


GLSEN, Pittsburgh $1000.00

Funds will be used to expand GLSEN, Pittsburgh?s ?Unified! Safe Prom for All?. ?Unified! Safe Prom for All? is a program designed in response to the findings of the latest school climate survey conducted by GLSEN National and Harris Interactive. Of the 6,209 middle and high school respondents 9 out of 10 (86.2%) experienced harassment at school in the past year. GLSEN Pittsburgh?s ?Unified! Safe Prom for All? allow local students a venue to meet others, gather information, enjoy themselves and have a truly grand experience in a safe environment.





View Article  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Office Responds

On December 10, 2008, I sent a series of follow up questions to Deputy Chief of Staff Kristen Baginski, who had promised to procure some information for me during the Q/A meeting about the Mayor's GLBT Advisory Committtee. See earlier post for details.

On February 25, 2009, I received the following response from the Mayor's team.  Note that the name has changed:  it is now the LGBT Advisory Panel. 

The change to LGBT is an understandable attempt to be more culturally sensitive.  The change from committee to panel?  Just another question to be answered. 

Sue ? There is nothing new to report re the LGBT advisory panel. We?re getting ready to choose the panel - once that happens we will have the inaugural meeting.  Charles Morrison, the head of the City?s Human Relations Commission will be monitoring the process to make sure the panel is representative of the community.


Joanna Doven

Press Secretary

Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

414 Grant St. Pittsburgh, PA15219


(cell) 412-475-2387



I never asked if there was anything new to report; I was interested in the old questions from December about the selection and nomination process.  The information about Charles Morrison is interesting and I immediately sent him an email.  His hands are probably tied, but it is interesting that he's been brought in to ensure representation. 

I'll be frank with you.  It will be fascinating to see how far the progressive elements working on the campaign have managed to push the Mayor in terms of breaking up with his gay white male business owner trifecta.  If the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force is going to give the Kerry Stoner Award to Peter Karlovich and Steven Hereforth (see comments in previous post -- it has been confirmed), there is clearly no real fallout or accountability for "pay for play" or potential criminal conduct. So why not include them on the advisory panel?  These men are untouchable. He has nothing to lose.

Pure dazzlement, dahling, and merely a hint of the excitement in store on March 4, 2009, when the Pittsburgh Public Theater rings up the curtain on "The World Goes 'Round," a knockout revue of the music of Kander and Ebb, whose Broadway blockbusters have lit up the Great White Way for decades. All to benefit the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, which continues to provide medical, legal, housing and other vital services to those battling HIV/AIDS.

The hot numero of chic wining, dining and showtime will also bestow the Kerry Stoner award on long-time PATF supporters Peter Karlovich and Steve Herforth, the great guys who've turned their magnificent Mt. Washington manse into Party Central for countless fundraisers.

At the very heart of it was the indomitable Dolores Bold who's chairing the Broadway bash with dear friends (and cocktail party hosts) Dr. Elliott Kramer and Bill Modrak -- a threesome who define all that is elegant; PATF director Kathi Boyle; Robin Fernandez; Richard Parsakian (he designed the gorgeous ambience!); Joe Salandra and Jennifer Grafe; Nachum Golan and Steve Hough; Dr. Larry Leahy; Faye Sampson and Dennis Huber; Dr. Paul Hennigan and Colleen; Jan and Ernie Meade; Joanie and Sam Kamin; Stacy Weiss and Will Carpenter; Judy and Katherine Krause; Mary McVay and son Tim; Beth and Michael Kuhn; Violet and Judge Bob Gallo; Colleen Travis; Stephanie Bozic; Sue Zitelli; Kitty Gleason; and Gordon Fisher with Wes Scott.

Board of Directors 2007 - 2008

Peter J. Ennis, Esq., President
Mary Frances Dean, Esq., Vice President of Development
Reverend Brenda Gregg, Vice President of Programs & Board Development
Regina Vercilla, Secretary
Vernon H. Carter, Treasurer


Kevin J. Altomari
Jay Blackford
Gwyn Cready
Chip Eagle, Esq.
Steven Herforth
Mary Irwin-Scott
Clarisse Jordan
Robert Kmetz
Elliott J. Kramer, DPM
Rob LePre
Daniel Mathews, CPA
Rev. Dr. James McLemore
Timothy McVay, Esq.
Janice Meade
Thomas Mills, MD, MPH
Erika Mullenbach, Esq.
Neil Parham
The Honorable Tonya Payne
Christopher Robinson, MSW
Wesley B. Scott
Ruth Smith
Richard J. Voller

View Article  The Mayor, The Chief and the Unanswered Questions

Just as a follow up, I called the offices of Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and that of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to inquire about my previously ignored questions.  I opted not to confront them at the Steel City Stonewall Meeting which was probably a mistake on my part, however given their ongoing broken promises on these questions, it would probably have served no purpose.

Remember this from Rich Lord's article about the Club Pittsburgh pay for play?

It's our prerogative to meet with who we want to meet with," he said. "We want to try to help businesses grow here, stay here, expand here, and that was no different" for Club Pittsburgh.

"Nothing was done for those individuals that wouldn't be done for someone who sent a random letter to our office,"

I guess it is their prerogative to not meet with me and avoid answering my questions.  Still, it is worth the ask. 

In case you forgot:

My LGBT related question submitted for Onorato's cyber town hall meetings was not answered.  I was informed by his staff that they would send me an individual response.  To the best of my knowledge, no one who submitted an LGBT related question received a response.  Bram from The Pittsburgh Comet reported that he did receive an individual response to a question on an unrelated topic. I have tried to contact the Chief's office repeatedly with no luck.

My follow up questions on the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Council were submitted to Deputy Chief of Staff, Kristen Baginski, and Press Secretary, Joanna Doven.  Baginski promised at the meeting to get me one specific answer.  Doven asked for my cell phone number and never called. She recently told me she would be in touch when the "woman in charge" of the project returned to the office.  No follow up.

Folks, if they sent me unsatisfactory answers or answers I disliked, that would be one thing.  IGNORING our questions suggests that the pay for play suspicions are right on the money. 

Nobody wants to play with me.  Sigh.

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