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View Article  OUTcomes: Pittsburgh's Big Queer Rally

Yesterday was a complete blur for me.  One moment, I'm sipping coffee with Adam waiting for anyone show up at the rally site and then next I'm sipping tea with Adam waiting for anyone to show up at the post-rally dinner site.  In between, about 125 assorted folks showed up, set up and paid attention to over a dozen speakers. 

The event itself was a surreal fusion of rally and public meeting.  Most of the speakers were politicians, sharing their perspectives and pledging support on a variety of initiatives not necessarily on the agenda, such as the City-County merger.  The location boasted a large tent with plastic siding and a lot of chairs which folks set up in somewhat tidy rows, lending an almost revival feel to the whole thing.  There were a few signs, a lot of whooping and enough folks milling around to keep it just disorderly enough to feel genuine, but Reverend Janet Edwards leading folks in her version of  "We are climbing Jacob's ladder" definitely wasn't your typical gay rally activity. 

In fact, Revered Edwards message was very non-traditional as she urged people to reclaim their communities of faith by coming out and calling for social justice within those structures.  Her song caught the imagination of the Post-Gazette reporter covering the event and I promise to print the revised lyrics soon.  I've been saying all week that she's a rock star and her point that we cannot forge a true social justice movement without tapping into communities of faith is amply supported by the outcome of Proposition 8 in California. 

I was also struck by how many stayed for the entire event, especially the speakers.  The politicians who weren't there the entire time had told me in advance that they had other commitments, but for the most part -- everyone hung out in a 20 degree sleety afternoon to listen to people talk about LGBTQ rights.  It was cool in every sense of the word. 

Another one of many highlights for me was the tearful comments of Miranda Vey, who spoke very much from the heart about equality and fairness.  She bantered back and forth with emcee Gab Bonesso about the newly forming Pittsburgh chapter of Dykes on Bikes and really gave a lot of heart to a mostly intellectualized discussion.  She also demonstrated great class and maturity, putting the need of her specific group aside to focus on the larger issues and I was so very grateful to her for demonstrating leadership. 

Another shout out for the volunteers who worked the advocacy table -- Jess, Jamie and Ellen.  It took great spirit to sit still for multiple hours in that weather and they did a great job sorting things out, getting people what they needed and taking ownership of this very unglamorous task.  Someone commented to me that I had the "cushy" job of mingling with the speakers, but it was actually a pretty easy task -- everyone I asked was immediately on board. It was actually fairly simple as far as tasks go.  The actual on-site job was a bit like herding cats as the speakers mingled and chatted, but a very relaxed atmosphere made that work.  Plus, I got to stand up near the coffee and walk around to shake off the chill. 

The event was advocacy oriented, not coffee-drinking speaking herding oriented.  The folks who put together the handouts worked pretty darn hard to compile and disseminate the information.  All the speeches in the world won't necessarily translate into action if you provide useful information for follow up.  While it was awesome when Gab Bonesso led us in a group telephone call to Dan Onorato, the series of individual calls he hopefully receives on Monday and Tuesday are what matters.  So thanks to everyone who was part of making those informed calls happen.

Media coverage has been good.  Dana Elmendorf chatted with KDKA's Mike Pintek for an hour Friday night and deftly handled a wide range of national and local topics. WDUQ did a piece on their Saturday news updates.  WTAE was there. There was a pretty good piece in the Post-Gazette along with a lovely photo.  Rust Belt Radio was there.  And, of course, the City Paper.  And all these outlets set aside recent sensational events to focus on the advocacy agenda which reflects very well on the hard work people have been doing for years.

Ledcat wants the computer so she can share her perspectives.  I do want to say a very special thank you to our emcee, Gab Bonesso.  I believe Mr. Potter described her as "on her game" and that's so true.  She was a great sport about frigid temperatures, she was super prepared and she kept things rolling along in a very smart and funny style.  She is beyond a doubt a very much-underutilized talent in the queer community and I hope that shifts. 

Sorry for the lack of critical analysis.  It would hardly be fair since I was more occupied trying to figure out the identity of the "important looking guy" in the back of the crowd (Kevin Acklin) and all that good stuff. 

The important work begins now, my dear readers.  We have four days to drum up the attendance and testimony at the County hearing, but there's more work to be done.  If you are kicking yourself for staying home and missing all the fun, go to www.steel-city.org and get involved.  Make some calls, volunteer for the GLCC, do something. 

Finally, I do want to share my father's insight upon learning I was going to a gay rights rally in the sleet and snow.  "Do you have your Terrible Towel?" he asked.  That's so Pittsburgh.  So bring your Terrible Towel on Thursday and do all of our Dads proud.

 

 

 

View Article  Big Queer Rally Deemed Success.

Chalk one up for mainstream media as our very own Chris Potter stood in the freezing cold for several hours to film today's "Big Queer Rally" and then raced back to his office to be the first out of the gate in reporting on this event.

Me?  I went to Squirrel Hill and ate sushi.  What can I say?  I was rather cold.  And hungry.

I did post some photos to Facebook earlier that afternoon.  Ha.

The event?  Oh, it was great. I'll need to sleep on it since I have the luxury of being in second place.  I did not see other bloggers there so I think I'll have a few hours to compose my thoughts.  I suspect Gab and John might chime in on Monday. 

It can be sort of boiled down to this.  We counted about 125 people in attendance.  It was cold.  14 speakers addressed the crowd in less than 120 minutes.  Gab Bonesso is amazing.  WTAE and the Post-Gazette showed up along with folks from various alternative media outlets.  Important stuff was said.  The founder of Pittsburgh's Dykes on Bikes chapter, Miranda Vey, was the emotional heart of the event. 

It was a pretty inspirational, if ridiculously cold, afternoon.  Go read Potter. 

View Article  The Rally Dawns ...
The rally is still on, kids, weather be damned.  I'm sipping coffee and planning how many layers I need to wear while I figure out my morning schedule.  See you there! 
View Article  The Rally is Saturday!
View Article  Weather for Saturday
Saturday 10 

Snow Shower
Snow Shower
High33?F
Low21?F
Precip:   40%
details details
Snow showers. Highs in the low 30s and lows in the low 20s.
View Article  Big-Queer-Rally

It has been a tumultuous week here at Lesbian Central.  Backstage drama, frontpage drama, workplace drama and I think I burned the back of my throat swallowing thai tea to be polite while waiting for my takeout. 

The ordinance is losing steam, my friends.  We lost another co-sponsor, Bob Macy from my hometown area of West Mifflin.  No word on why he withdrew his sponsorship, but this is really personal now.  I could actually show Councilman Macy the dents in the lockers at West Mifflin High School where the gay kids were shoved on a regular basis.  I can take him on a walk through the Waterfront and recreate the night we were harassed by a group of young men.  I could take him to my parent's living room (a house financed by the credit union where he works) and have a man with 40 years in the mills, many Republican votes and a regular attendence at Mass explain why his daughter's partner is part of the family.  I could do all of this. 

What can you do?

Well, I hope you are still planning to come out on Saturday for the Big Queer Rally.  Emcee Gab Bonesso is working on some great stuff for you.  Speakers and guests now include State Representative Chelsa Wagner, City Council President Doug Shields, City Councilmen Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto, City Controller Michael Lamb, and the sponsor of the County ordiance, Councilwoman Amanda Green.   Unconfirmed possibilities include US Congressman Mike Doyle and State Representative Dan Frankel. 

Even more cool than our awesome elected allies.  Reverend Janet Edwards.  You may have read a thing about her on this blog.  Political pundit John McIntire.  He likes gay people.  Reverend Deryck Tines.  Had an exhibit about drag queens.  Sandra Telep.  Did you know the AFL-CIO has a whole gay thing going on?  And a few words from leaders of local groups that you need to know about, including Steel City Stonewall Democrats. 

We might have some entertainment from the Renaissance City Choir and/or a local singersongwriter.  There is a strong possibility of FREE coffee donated by Starbucks.  Plus, we've got a contingent of every day folks who volunteered their entire Saturday afternoon to make this event a big advocacy success. 

What we need is you.  Join this impact so we can get mobilized to tackle the damn ordinance.  I know it is probably going to be cold.  So its Pittsburgh.  Wear layers.  We aren't on the river.  We are surrounded by tall buildings.  And there will be a tent with a heater if your toes get too cold.  Diane Gramley will be sitting at home, sending telepathic messages to her minions to pick up the phone on Monday and chip away at this ordinance. 

We don't have that luxury.  On top of everything else, Ms. Gramley gets to wave a frontpage Post-Gazette story involving sex, drugs, death and allegations of "pay for play" as proof positive that we are the hedonistic, sex fiends she so often describes in her diatribes.  Great.  It doesn't even matter to her if it is true.  She is gonna use it to her advantage.

So, we need you to show up on Saturday.  It is really important that you come in from the suburbs, find a place to park in Oakland and bring your family to this event so we have ample evidence that Gramley is wrong about our community.  We need to generate the kind of media interest that lands us on the front page in Sunday's Post-Gazette in a positive story.  A photo of hundreds of gay families and individuals braving a cold winter's day because they --- YOU --- believe that we deserve equality.  We need people to come home from church and make the connection between what they profess to believe and our lives when they read a quote from Reverend Edwards.  We need the labor movement to recognize that yeah, it is worth a phone call to a former steelworker (Councilman Macy) to remind him that a fair workplace is good for the economy. 

The thing is ... what can I say to convince you to come out? 

How about this.  Today, my blog generated more visits than ever.  Today, I counted more than 30 comments posted on various threads which is pretty big for me.  A lot of those were voyeurs, sure, but a lot were new to this blog and they poked around more than a usual visitor.  They looked at photos and read old stories and it really became about more than the "big scandal' that drew them here.  It was kind of like they were getting to know our community through this one small prism.

So, you have an opportunity to help them get better acquainted with our community.  There will be laughter and solemn moments.  There might be a soap box.  We might recruit some people. 

In the end, there will be you.  Please. Join the impact. 

See you Saturday.

View Article  Above the Fold: Prominent Pittsburgh Gay Owned Business Questioned by PG Investigators

UPDATE:  I'm deleting comments.  If you have an opinion, fine.  If you can prove wrongdoing, contact the MSM or email me privately.  Otherwise, stick with opinions not unsubstantiated accusations.  If you see something that needs deleted, email or call me --- I'm trying to keep up with it.

*********************************************************************************************************************

Even though I had a call about this story last night, I have no idea what to say about this.  I really don't.  From above the fold on Page A-1 of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A racy Strip District club at which a man died Sunday was threatened with closure by the city of Pittsburgh in August but it was allowed to continue to operate after its politically connected owners approached city officials.

Although Club Pittsburgh is zoned as a health and fitness center, the city initially ordered it to close because of other adult-related activities that didn't comply with its operating permit. The club's Web site has pictures of nude and partially clothed men in erotic poses and a complaint filed with the city claimed there was open sexual activity at the club.

Those owners, Peter Karlovich and Steven Herforth, hold political fundraisers at their Mount Washington home, including one for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in May 2007. When the Bureau of Building Inspection threatened to close the club, they appealed to Council President Doug Shields, and then to the mayor's Chief of Staff Yarone Zober, who connected them with city lawyers.

After talks with the club, the city lawyers told building inspectors to let it stay open pending discussions that never occurred.

Sadly, none of the owners or their representatives expressed regret over the fact that someone died on their property.  That's pretty tactless, especially when you are claiming people hate you for being rich (which is probably true).  Even one sentence expressing condolences to the family of Cleophus "Jaylin" Pettway for his death would have been classy. 

Ironically, this article demonstrates that the gay community has reached some level of equality.  The police raided the Stonewall Inn.  The Bureau of Building Inspection sent a letter to Club Pittsburgh.  Stonewall patrons and owners fought back using direct action.  Club Pittsburgh fought back by placing a call to the Mayor's Office and changing their website. 

They did exactly what any other heterosexual owned business would do when facing a threat to their business. They made a few calls and there was no need to take the streets to get BBI to back off. 

Sources tell me that there is some sort of "Save the Bathhouse" committee forming in an attempt to turn this into a gay civil rights issue. 

So, we have a lot of gay issues on your menu.

* a county ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression under siege by the right wing.  This ordinance is losing more sponsors and is being threatened to be stripped of the trans inclusive pieces.

* a statewide battle over Hate Crimes and Anti-Discrimination legislation

* the inevitable attempt to pass another Marriage Amendment in Pennsylvania

* federal battles over an inclusive ENDA, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and DOMA

* the need for a new home for the GLCC

* the Mayor's GLBT Advisory Council (too bad on that whole campaign contribution issue transparency, huh?)

* funding struggles for human service providers like Persad, PATF, Shepherd Wellness and more

* saving Pittsburgh's Bathhouse from zoning and ordinance inspections.

Sadly, the last item makes the front page of the Post-Gazette which has barely mentioned any of the other issues.  And they pretty much like gay people.  Sigh.  We get on the front page because of the implication that gay money is compromising the ethics of Mayor Ravenstahl.  I wonder where I've read that before?

I have no idea if the City looked the other way any more than they look the other way for heterosexual business owners.  Was this just an attempt to sensationalize the unfortunate death of Mr. Pettway?  Sex and ethics scandals sell papers, especially if they involve gay sex and Mayoral ethics.  They don't even have to be true.

I've never been to Club Pittsburgh so I have no idea what kind of business they run.  I only know the philanthropic side of Steve and Peter and have been a guest in their home one time.  If they bought off the Mayor, shame on them. 

Now do you see why I kept harping on the need for full-disclosure on the campaign contributions for anyone associated with the Mayor's GLBT Advisory Council?  I'm just gonna finish my coffee and know that my gut instincts and those of many commenters on this blog were right. 

I do have a pretty reliable source telling me that the digging isn't going to stop here.  I sincerely hope there's nothing more to find. 

View Article  Yes, There's More on the Big Queer Rally

Can you believe that "Big Queer Rally" wasn't an overwhelming hit as the official title for Saturday's rally?  I think it is pretty catchy myself.  It certainly has been drawing in the visitors using various fundie, wingnut search tems.

Anyway, we had a meeting tonight.  Here's the latest scoop.

City Council President Doug Shields is on the agenda.  I have him lined up to knock the message out of the house.

There will be several opportunities for you to get involved right there, including signing petitions and contacting your County Councilpersons RIGHT THERE about this upcoming vote on January 15, 2009.  So bring your cell phones, PDAs and Blackberries. 

There may be free coffee.  Courtesy of Starbucks.  It is what they do.   Because they care.  If you want to donate something free for 300+ people, bring it on.

Big Queer Emcee, Gab Bonesso, is prepping some good stuff for you.  She plopped herself down at the meeting and demanded a "warming tent" (which she got) so you know this woman is ready to kick some ass for gay equality.  Be prepared to be amused.  And pissed off. Apparently, she's bringing a shark and a 90 year old imaginary British woman as props.  Only at a Big Queer Rally does that seem entirely appropriate.  Almost necessary.

The best thing about tonight?  These seemingly random people came to the meeting to help.  Because they care.  They are angry and they care enough to do something about it.  I've been blabbering on about them all night long. People care. 

If you'd like to do a little something extra, show up at 1 PM to volunteer.  We need folks to handle the advocacy table, make sure the guest speakers get to where they need to be and be a time keeper. Someone has to watch the coffee table.  There's stuff to handout and directions to the bathroom that need to be circulated.  Someone has to guard the warming tent.  You don't have to talk or know anything about politics or be part of any formal group to join this impact, baby.  Just care.  Bring your anger and yourself down to Schenley Plaza on Saturday. 

View Article  Stop the Presses: Ms. Mon to keep blogging and permit comments

Things will continue to be the same in the Burgosphere.  Click here for more.

 

View Article  Even More Big Queer Rally Updates! and Al Franken!

Allegheny County Councilwoman Amanda Green will be attending the Big Queer Rally on Saturday to address the crowd about her proposed ordinance to extend civil protections in housing, employment and public accomodations to LGBTQ residents of Allegheny County.

Good news.  That makes the County (Green), City (Kraus) and the State (Wagner) heard from.  Hopefully, our other allies will attend. 

A group of folks who attended the recent advocacy training have taken the initiative to promote advocacy to the attendees by distributing postcards.  That's an awesome grassroots effort.  I hope you'll be there to fill out a postcard and be part of the difference.

Speaking of awesome, I just saw a KDKA report that Al Franken has been certified the winner of his Senate race. 

 

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