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View Article  Speaking of LGBTQ Advocacy

Today, I had the pleasure of addressing a class of MSW students at the University of Pittsburgh.  The class focuses on policy and I used my work in the LGBTQ community to illustrate how advocacy can drive real social change.  It was an interesting experience.  Another speaker works for local government and a third is a private consultant on governmental affairs.  Three very different perspectives.

The panel gave me the luxury of revisiting some of my older posts as I searched for good examples of letters to the editors of local papers (and accompanying commentary I could distrbute to a classroom).  I also went back to the March 2008 Blog for Equality campaign which I think included 14 local bloggers and was the brainchild of local blogger, Bram from The Pittsburgh Comet.  Hard to believe it was just one year ago we were gearing off to beat back a Marriage Amendment.  Our Allegheny County Human Rights Ordinance may be stuck in committee, but at least we are focused on creating positive legislation instead of simply warding off another attack.  That's progress.

My presentation today focused on building relationships with and educating our elected officials, the media and the general public.  I discussed some fundamentals of lobbying and media relations, but I hope my key point was clear -- we must come out of our closets to create real social change.  We must come out as members of the LGBTQ community and as family and friends of the LGBTQ community.  I was reminded briefly today of the price of being out and, while regretable, we cannot allow bigotry to stand in the way of progress. 

Western Pennsylvania faces many challenges in the struggle to organize for this type of social change.  Someone asked me this morning why we cannot seem to get our act together and I just don't have an answer.  I have to take some ownership for my part in the breakdown because my patience has been wearing more and more thin as the years roll by.  I'm weary of the same broken promises and unfullfilled plans.  I'm also tired of being scapegoated for having an opinion that doesn't conform to organizational expectations.  Finally, there is just the simple exhaustion of defending systems and structures that aren't working. 

It is too tempting to wallow in self-pity and despair.  I still believe the fight is worth, well, the fight.  I still believe you deserve to know what is really happening behind the scenes so you can make informed decisions about how to join the fight.  And I still believe that I have the right to express my own opinion, not the responsibility to be the mouthpiece for others. 

It would be great to see some other LGBT bloggers begin to emerge.  For those of you wanting to do something for the community, give blogging some consideration.  You are your own boss.  You pick your agenda.  You'll get readers simply because there aren't many of doing it.  Blog a little each day and folks will come back to read what you have to say.  You might even change some minds.  NetRoots Nation is coming to town in August (national blogging convention) and I'm working with the LGBT Blogging Initiative and the LGBT Blogging Caucus to organize the welcome reception.  It promises to be a doozy.  I actually feel kind of guilty that my main queer activity for the coming months will be a party instead of "real" advocacy, but maybe the party will inspire some new people to start blogging. 

Here's hoping. 

View Article  All My Children Lesbian Wedding
View Article  oh those crazy wingnuts and their tribune review

this caught my eye last week ... the tribune review printed an interview with Ben Johnson, author of "57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving" and the forthcoming booklet "Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts"

see a theme? 

it is a ridiculous pandering interview, but here's how Teresa is advancing the gay agenda:

Q: You say the Heinz Endowments have been responsible for a wide variety of radical or offensive "art." What's an example of that?

A: The most outrageous example of this would be the 2006 Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which screened not one but two films that glorified same-sex statutory rape. One was "Loving Annabelle," which is a film about a Catholic school teacher who has sexual intercourse with one of her underage students. The other one is called "Whole New Thing," which is about a 13-year-old who was formerly homeschooled, raised by hippies, who tries to seduce his gay teacher in Nova Scotia. Both of them present the sex as something the student is actively pursuing and in their own terms justifying and glorifying what's going on. I think that's well beyond the pale.

Q: If someone says, "OK, so Teresa Heinz spent $10,000 or whatever on this film festival. She's basically wasting her money, but is it really hurting anything ?- and who cares?" What's your response to that?

A: I think anytime that we glorify pedophilia that feeds into the victimization of children. Anyone who does that should be ashamed of themselves. They are participating in the glorification of statutory rape. That is one of the most offensive things any human being can do. The fact that her money helped finance this and justify it to a subsection of your readers in Pittsburgh is absolutely indefensible and execrable.

Huh?  Well, yeah, the president of the Heinz Endowments didn't take too kindly to being identified as a funder of pedophilia. 

One example was Johnson's accusation that The Heinz Endowments fund activities "justifying pedophilia; screening films that are explicitly pornographic."

In these sensationalistic references to the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which has been running in this city for 23 years, Johnson manages to leave out other funders, including the Pittsburgh Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the McGuire Woods law firm and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, which the Richard King Mellon Foundation has funded -- hardly a group that would fund "pedophilic and pornographic projects."

Get the connection?  If you follow the money -- all the money, not just Teresa's --- you get to the Mellon fortune.  Hmmm. Nice riposte.  What kind of zealot spends their time writing a booklet about this topic?  Not enough material for an actual book, but just enough to distort the picture and feed into the maniacal fanaticism of Pittsburgh's wingnut contingent.  In the same interview, John characterizes the Three Rivers Community Fund as a bastion of Pittsburgh's left wing radical agenda.  Priceless.

Loving Annabelle -- here's the AfterEllen review if you are curious.  Here's one for Whole New Thing.   I have not seen either movie and it appears that they are explorations of the typical adolescent/teacher crush convoluted by the process of coming out (for the adults, too).  I'm not justifying teacher sleeping with the student, but I imagine that the added layer of cultural homophobia makes for an interesting series of questions about the adults.  Frankly, the teacher student issue freaks me out so I probably wouldn't see the movies, no matter how arty they are.  But I wouldn't characterize them as pedophilia based on a few paragraphs.  I sure wouldn't write a booklet about it.  I might twist it to fit my agenda, but hey that's just me.

This is my favorite sentence. Both of them present the sex as something the student is actively pursuing and in their own terms justifying and glorifying what's going on.

Students pursuing sex!  You mean like saddlebacking?  Ha!

View Article  Rock the Dome: Pennsylvania Equality Rally -- Save the Date!
The topic is LGBT equality. The date is March 17, 2009.  Buses will depart Pittsburgh around 7:30 AM and return by 8:00 PM.  Stay tuned for more details, but so far you've got a mini-advocacy training, free lunch, rally and a chance to meet with your state elected officials.  Take a day off, bring the kids and stay tuned for more details.
View Article  Our O. Henry Valentine's Day

Maybe it is a stretch, but when we exchanged valentine's gifts we discovered that our mutual fondness for K.S. Kennedy Floral had led to an awesome moment .... Ledcat bought me flowers and I bought her fancy vase filled with candy.  She didn't cut off her hair and I didn't sell my watch or die of pneumonia from painting, but it was like a non-tragic O. Henry story of our very own. 

And Kerry was like the puppet master who knew the whole story ... ha ha.

Actually, our holiday was low key which is always nice.  We went out to lunch at the Union Grill in Oakland and then for our traditional Valentine's walk through Phipp's Conservatory. They have a lovely exhibit about the Amazon Headwaters which was very interesting. Ledcat thought they needed some wildlife to make it more interactive. I always enjoy the bonsai.  Plus, the other tourists are always good for some entertainment.  It can be a little frustrating when people are oblivious to the crowd backed up on the narrow path behind them while they take 72 pictures of one particular view, but it wasn't so bad yesterday. 

Last night, we stayed in and tried to watch "Margot at the Wedding" which was just awful.  I refused to be that depressed so I turned it off and we read instead.  Oh, we did have cupcakes from Giant Eagle decorated with pink sprinkles.  That was festive! 

I think the best part of Valentine's Day is that we have a ritual we've kept for three years. Our Christmas rituals were shot to hell this year by unforeseen circumstance, but since Vday involves no one else we seem to be doing okay.  The flowers are pretty and the candy is tasty, but the walk through Phipp's together is where the real romance happens.  :-) 

Hope you had a lovely day, too. 


View Article  Jennie McNulty at Club Cafe

Last night, Ledcat and I popped over to Club Cafe to catch the comedy stylings of Jennie McNulty, an openly lesbian comedian. Her promoter contacted me a few weeks ago asking me to list the show which is the first time I heard about her.  (No cable = no Logo = poor lesbian pop culture awareness). 

I was determined to get a table so we got in line (yes, a line of mostly middle aged lesbians) before the doors opened at 6 PM and managed to snag a booth, which we happily shared with our new friend Bert and her Pittsburgh Passion cohorts.  The room was packed in less than an hour, packed with a slightly older (35ish and above) crowd of women I mostly did not recognize.  Most of the Passion were there, fitting as Jennie plays football for a California team.  I don't know the capacity of Club Cafe, but I've never seen it so full .... maybe 200 people?  Ledcat compared it to a Mary Gauthier show (another openly lesbian performer).  Don't get Ledcat started on her Mary Gauthier thing. 

You know one cool thing?  Women were giving up their chairs when older women came in the room.  I've never seen that before.  People were being kind.  At a club.  I wasn't kind.  I kept my seat and tried not to get annoyed at the seemingly new trend of femme lesbians whacking innocent bystanders with oversized purses.  If you don't wear a jacket to a club, you might want to think about a slimming down the purse.  Do it for the poor wait staff trying to wedge their way through a herd of lesbians without spilling the Merlot.  God Bless 'em. 

Jennie was pretty funny, but most of show was more banter than actual jokes.  She has Pittsburgh family and ties so she told some rather routine "I know a little bit about your city" stuff to connect with the crowd.  That was okay, but after like the 16th reference to the Pittsburgh Passion, it was a little stale.  Her actual jokes were funny.  And she had a joke about a joke which was pretty amusing.  Maybe if she had said something about reading this really amusing local lesbian blog, I would have felt differently.  LOL.  I suppose, on the other hand, it was cool that she mixed up a very specific lesbian focus with general funniness. 

McNulty has no problem claiming the mantle of lesbian.  She did some good material about the importance of being openly gay and wove good relationship stories into that theme, mocking the lesbian mythology that makes us all laugh.  I hope the large turnout encourages Club Cafe to book other openly gay performers.  Perhaps, other venues, might consider the same.  There's clearly an audience for queer comedy.  Lily Tomlin was just here. Margaret Cho is coming to town. 

I have to say that Club Cafe is a nice venue, but their panini was the saltiest sandwich I've ever had.  Ledcat sort of mocked me for ordering a panini at a show, but what can I say -- I eat an Panera a lot.  I won't make that mistake again.  The nachos were good.  The servers were pretty amazing and the booth seats definitely beat the tables.  The crowd was friendly, even if we were slightly trapped between the purses and the Passion. 

One other pretty cool thing about McNulty is that she uses her website to promote other LGBT comedians. 

All in all, it was a good Valentine's Eve.  Plus, we made it home in time to watch Numb8ers.  I heard many other, much older lesbians, planning to party after the show, but I was perfectly happy to come home and watch television in bed, chat on Facebook and just enjoy some comfort time with Ledcat. 

View Article  Consolidate? Save the Date! And Don't Shop at Blumengarten Flowers!

Governor Rendell wants to consolidate PA's school districts from 500 to 100.  Now that's ambitious.  After last year's despicable behavior on the part of East Allegheny and West Mifflin residents when it came to absorbing the displaced students from the Duquesne High School, this could become a nasty mess real darn quickly.

Today's PG editors propose a new twist on this plan of consolidation -- merging municipalities along the same lines as the school districts to realize the same savings from the recommended City-County merger.  It certainly makes sense from a fiscal point of view and mergers based on existing "school identities" could overcome the community identity based resistance. 

Still, the Lesbians want to point to one small but critical objection.  Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has not committed to ensuring that the civil protections and domestic partnership benefits available to City residents and City employees would be preserved in a City-County merger.  This is the question I submitted for the Town Hall Forum, a question that remains unanswered 28 days after I was promised a response in the "coming days" which I guess is sort of Biblical talk rather than a measurable sense of accountability on the part of an elected official. I digress.

Dan Onorato has not made a public commitment to support the Allegheny County HRC ordinance which would provide civil protections for LGBT residents, among others, in Allegheny County.  Dan Onorato has publicly resisted extending domestic partnership benefits, hiding behind the idea that somehow the County  budget cannot absorb the onslaught of homosexuals and their families emerging from the ranks of County employees.  Sadly, the ordinance is languishing in the Government Committee with no plans to bring it up for a vote because some of our County elected officials are capitulating to fear and hate, not to mention misinformation spread by the good Christians of Allegheny County.

Particular note:  the owner of Blumengarten Flowers in the Strip District testified that while he is willing to hire homosexuals, he does not want us renting a room in his house or having unsupervised contact with his children.  Keep this in mind when you make your Valentine's Day florist selections.

MR. LUDWIG:  My name is Jim Ludwig, 2938 Greenfield Road in Glenshaw.  I have a business in the Strip District.  I'd like to do something unusual and thank Anna and John Michael and the last person for testifying because I was unaware of some of the problems that may have existed in some instances.  As an employer, I don't look at sexual orientation when I want to hire someone.  There are lots --- I'm a florist.  There are lots of gays in my line of business.  I'm interested in how people conduct themselves, if they're honest and dependable, if they have the skills to do the job.  And I think that's the case for most employers.  If I had an apartment building, I wouldn't be looking at sexual orientation for who I rent to.  But now what I'm worried about is reverse discrimination.  What now --- I'm a homeowner.  I have an extra room that maybe I want to rent to someone.  I have kids.  Should I have the right to decide who I'm going to rent that --- based on a lot of different reasons?  One of them might be sexual orientation.

If I want to send my son to be a Boy Scout, don't I have the right to know that the troop leader is not going to be a homosexual?  If I want to send my daughter to be mentored in a Sunday School, don't I have the right to know that that teacher is not a homosexual?  So in general, I'd certainly --- these instances that the people testified that they lost their jobs, it's absolutely wrong.  But there are instances that it makes a difference, and I'm worried about reverse discrimination.  I'm asking if we're looking at this law because we're trying to solve a problem or we're looking at this law that may create a lot of problems. 

Fair laws should rise above ignorance illustrated in these comments.  This is exactly the same ignorance the residents started screaming about when a bunch of high school kids from Duquesne needed a place to get the education so critical to their future success.  At last count, West Mifflin has not sunk into the bowels of hell or driven away all the white people because of horrible tax rates. 

This illustrates the future and why we must continue to push for the county ordinance AND share our attention on the statewide law proposed by Representative Dan Frankel to expand the PA Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  YOU have a chance to literally jump on the bus as local members of the Value All Families coalition are planning a trip to Harrisburg on Tuesday, March 17 for a rally in Harrisburg on this very issue. 

You'll leave Pgh at 8 AM and return around 8 PM.  Children are welcome (check into the car seat issue if necessary).  I'll post more details as they become available, but save the date.  This is worth taking a PTO day or flexing your work schedule.  The PG editorial gives us a glimpse of the future, albeit one into which most Allegheny Countians and Pennsylvanians will be dragged kicking and screaming. We cannot miss this window of opportunity to put our protections in place NOW. 

March 17.   Save the date.

View Article  Onorato Hosts 2nd Town Hall Meeting; Lesbian Waits for Answer From First Meeting

Remember back when Dan Onorato got up early on morning to hold a pretend town hall meeting with questions submitted in advance by County residents?  I sent one in and it went unanswered.

On January 15, 2009, Megan Dardanell responded assuring me that I would get an answer in "the coming days."

Let's see ... it has been nearly 30 days and no response.

He's holding another meeting this week.  I emailed again. 

Do you think Dan Onorato has any actual concern for what the LGBTQ community thinks?  Really?

View Article  Lesbian Superheros

Mombian publishes the 2009 Rainbow list of books for children and young adults.

Abe Lincoln and marriage.

But it's not because of Lincoln's sexual orientation or other "stuff" that February 12, Lincoln's birthday, has for 12 years now been the centerpiece of National Freedom to Marry Week. Lincoln's strongest connection to the freedom to marry cause lies in the values he embodied in his life, and embodies in ours. He was committed to equality, freedom, and lifting people up. He called Americans to the "better angels of our nature," and he combined a deep moral integrity with a determined and strategic focus on achieving what is most important and right.

And here comes the lesbian Batwoman.


View Article  More on the County Ordinance

Adam has the story on the Government Committtee hearing on the local ordinance. There's not much to report, but check out his link to the official minutes.  The important thing is that you continue to follow this and make calls. 

And read Adam's blog.  The self-disclosure on the marriage "issue" is very heartfelt and definitely personalizes the issue for me. 

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