Sunday, January 4
by Sue on Sun 04 Jan 2009 07:48 PM EST
Big Queer Rally -- 6 days away. Are you ready? Got your signs? Pulled out your long johns in case it is chilly? Got your chant ready to go?
Latest updates: Unfortunately, Lynn Cullen cannot attend but she sends her best wishes. On a bright note, State Representative Chelsa Wagner (and newlywed spouse of longtime LGBT ally Khari Mosely) is attending. Chelsa is a co-sponsor of HB 1400 which takes anti-discrimination protection to the state level. Other speakers to be announced. I also had word from a group of local women that they are planning some advocacy efforts during the event, so that's all exciting.
People are asking about the hearing. ANYONE can speak at the hearing if you register in advance. You do not need to get approval from anyone in the LGBT community. You are a resident - you get to talk. To do that, In order to speak at that hearing, one must register with the County Clerk, John Mascio: via e-mail(JMascio@alleghenycounty.us), or by phone (412-350-6495)
It is great that people are interested. Make the call and get on the agenda. Share your story by all means.
Speaking of stories, I received this via email today in the promotional materials for the Delta Foundation's Spark fundraiser set for Friday night.
This is at best an exaggeration and at worst ... well, you know. Pittsburgh's original PrideFests were actuallly held downtown along with the parade. The rallies were at Point State Park. They moved up to Mellon Park, to Schenley Park and then to Shadyside. Then, under the leadership of the GLCC, the event was held on the North Shore for several years during which time the parade moved right back downtown and through the heart of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
I was dismayed when I read this. PrideFest is the culmination of the hardwork of many, many people over the past 30 odd years. No one person or institution can lay sole claim to that rich heritage. Delta should be more careful and accurate when describing our activist legacy in order to raise money for their future projects. It is fine to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, but it is ill-advised to take credit for their successes.
I hope Delta will issue a statement clarifying the very hard work of hundreds of anonymous volunteeers that have dedicated themselves to PrideFest in the years before Delta took it over. To acknowledge their triumphs takes nothing away from the accomplishment of the Delta Foundation and to do otherwise, tarnishes the organization's credibility.
So when you are being thankful for PrideFest's current level of success with your LGBTQ donations, be sure to thank the GLCC, the Lambda Foundation, the Pittsburgh Leathermen, the Softball League, GLENDA and many, many other organizations that have been part of our Pride history.
Here's to the next phase of PrideFest. And a thanks to all of those who have made it possible.
by Sue on Sun 04 Jan 2009 12:10 PM EST
My name is Sue Kerr and I plan to keep on blogging. I know, I know. This comes as a great shock and will undoubtably send tidal waves plowing through the Burghosphere. Epic poems will be composed by the likes of Tony Norman, Sally Kalson and Mike Seate. Mighty political entities will tremble in their offices at the implications that an average of 100 people a day, mostly bloggers, will read my opinion on their doings. They will continue to ignore my requests for comment. The continuation of the blogosphere as we know it bodes well for Pittsburgh. People with hip monikers like David, Maria, Bram, and Christopher (and Potter) will get their own tee shirt lines and maybe some stickers, too. Gatherings of powerful bloggers in the secret recesses of Finnegan's Wake will plan conquests and strategize the takeover of the MSM.
And some day, the Cutting Edge will remember that a lack of pseudonyms does not make for a lack of interesting and relevant local blogging.
Friday, January 2
by Sue on Fri 02 Jan 2009 12:50 PM EST
Just received confirmation that City Councilman Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh's first openly gay elected official, will be speaking at the rally on January 10 and addressing County Council on January 15.
I also see the email notices starting to spiral out and about. I hope you have those dates circled on your calendar. We need you! Spread the word.
And email your Councilperson.
Thursday, January 1
by Sue on Thu 01 Jan 2009 10:31 AM EST
We caught her latest comedy show the other night. It was called "The Mentally Ill Comedy Show" and I'm not sure if I violated my social work code of ethics by attending, but the biting social commentary and zippy anti-hate-fest jokes balanced it all out. For me. Plus, I actually got a table and my beverage was refilled three times (it was Coke, calm down).
Host John McIntire demonstrated why off-the-cuff suits this well-dressed fan of the local homos. He handles hecklers, admirers and sloshy drunks with aplomb and moves on. Plus, he was nattily dressed in a suit with a pink tie and had some good new material (new to me at least). My personal opinion is that John is at his intellectual and funny best when he is directly playing off other people (a la talk show or cabaret) because he is so friggin fast on his feet. I miss John the talk show host even as I enjoy laughing along with John the comedian.
Davon was new to me comedian. I don't know where he came from, but his timing and delivery indicate lots of hard work. He was the token non-gay comedian. I would pay to go see him headline. He is also now BFF's with Ledcat because of the snappy Batman baseball cap I picked up for her. At Target. You are welcome, Davon. Does BFF mean you'll friend us on Facebook and invite us to your next show?
Stoopid works the dayshift at The Square Cafe and serves a mean glass of juice. His delivery was the perfect juxtaposition to Davon ... more laid back and slow and very funny. I was impressed at his deft delivery on the gay material. He wears controversial material well and I'm looking forward to seeing him again.
John Pridmore is one of my new Facebook friends. What I like bestest about John is that he responded to my call for people to contact their County Councilpersons about the upcoming ordinance vote. Then, I discovered he can imitate Edith Bunker. Imitate in a sick, perverted way. Plus, he was fine when I corrected his 1970's pop culture reference (Edith was not raped on the subway. She was nearly raped in her house. She saved herself. Edith's friend, female impersonator Beverly Lasalle, was murdered during a mugging on the show in one of the most powerful TV episodes ever). I believe that John is the reincarnation of my deceased friend (also gay, also named John) because the first time I saw him, I was blown away by the same energy they share. My John would never get on stage, but he was sidesplitting with impersonations. So, John, you are on my radar. :-)
What can I say that hasn't been said before about Ms. Gab Bonesso? She's real funny. She's going to emcee the upcoming Big Queer Rally. She made me squirm in my seat. I'm hoping for a chance to see more of her gay themed material although someone who tells abortion and labia jokes is pretty up there on the charts of edgy humor. Plus, she did Wolverine which should be on YouTube it is so fucking funny. YouTube it, Gab. Keep putting these shows together and make sure you do full sets because I like seeing your new stuff. Go to http://www.gabbonesso.com for a daily update on the life and times of Gab Bonesso, her BFF Phinny the great white shark and the other members of her motley crew, including lover Joe Biden. Yeah, Gab hooked up with Joe Biden. It seemed weird at first, but he looks kind of cute carrying Phinny around.
In short, a great show. I left feeling slightly violated but in a good way.
by Sue on Thu 01 Jan 2009 10:02 AM EST
That title reflects exactly how creative I feel this morning. I had weird dreams all night in which I was a character in the soap opera, The Young & The Restless only the other characters included a ghost, Jim from Taxi and Freddie Prinze, Sr. I kept asking everyone to marry me (they all wore red pullover sweaters over a white tee shirt) and nobody would. I did help find the missing little girl who had built herself a snow cave with the help of the ghost (help with the cave, not the finding). Then Ana woke me up.
So ... Happy New Year, correspondees! :-)
In the Post-Gazette, there's a warm-intended letter to the editor from Amy Bucciere of Center "reframing" the issue of gay marriage.
Amy's intentions are noble, but I'm not she has been paying attention as I think the church-driven anti-marriage group is very much in favor of religious social structures being fused into the American legal system. It is how they want to continue to exert power and control, especially over people who don't agree with them.
I think there should be a distinction between partnerships and marriage. Some people live intentionally without the institution of marriage. They deserve a word, too, as much as they deserve the freedom to marry. I also deserve a word and that same freedom. Marriage comes bestows more than 1,000 federal and state rights on a couple. That's the kind of equality I'm talking about.
Speaking of partnerships, the PG's Rich Lord takes a look back at 2008 in terms of City functionality. He uses the following as a soft example of one success of Mayoral/Council partnership. Ahem.
How sad that this sets the tone for City triumphs for the year. The office of Bruce Kraus told me that six couples, four LGBT and two heterosexual, have registered but perhaps Rich and I checked into this at different times. What Lord probably had edited from his story by some snippy editor is the sentence explaining that the City Personnel Department did not inform couples previously registered with the City (as employees) of the new opportunity. There's the lack of "follow through" as cited by City Council President Doug Shields. The Mayor signed the bill, got the carefully orchestrated photo op (just the right balance of white gay male supporters) to enhance his queer street cred and then proceeded not to renounce his opposition to civil unions. Meanwhile, he sets up plans for an Advisory Board but refuses to answer any questions about it. Quite a triumphant moment for our City in terms of political achievement (not) and gay rights (ha).
Over at the City Paper, long-time supporters of the queers (in a fair and balanced way), Marty Levine writes up the latest goings on at the County level. As reported earlier, the County is facing some an opportunity to provide basic civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community. Levine focuses in on efforts by the wingnuts and their head wing, Ms. Diane Gramley, to undermine support of the ordinance based on fear and ignorance. The quotes from County Councilman Michael Finnerty and Matt Drozd do not give me much hope for the power of logic and reality to persuade.
OK, as I'm quoted saying later in the article, Finnerty is just WRONG that existing law is good enough. And Drozd ... when exactly does human rights become a high priority --- when the tanks rolls? I mean, WTF? People are losing their homes, but there are plenty of gay people who can't get a home in the first place.
Here's what Drozd probably meant to say, but just got so excited that anyone from a newspaper called him that he forgot. "I'm concerned that my constituents who are part of the LGBT community (he probably wouldn't include Q so I'm just trying to be accurate) may be experiencing discrimination or treated unfairly when they seek the same basic rights as any other family -- the security of employment, a safe place to live, etc. Discrimination - in any form - hurts the fabric of the entire community and I think this issue warrants close attention from my colleagues." <this is a made up quote in case you didn't get that>
So, the glove has hit the floor my dear friends. Do we wait until the tanks roll and all the bridges are fixed to get on Matt Drozd's radar or do you get yourself down to the Big Queer Rally on Saturday, January 10 from 2 - 4 PM to make a statement about what's on your radar, especially come election time?
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 31
by Sue on Wed 31 Dec 2008 03:28 PM EST
Reverend Janet Edwards has just confirmed that she will be speaking at the upcoming rally on January 10, 2009. As you may recall, Janet was the target of a church trial because of her decision to preside at the wedding of two local lesbians. She was cleared of those charges.
I believe she will prove to be a powerful voice in the call for equality of all persons who are LGBTQ whether it be in terms of the freedom to marry or the freedom to work without fear of persecution for being gay.
I hope that the rally will be well attended by persons of faith, particularly as Ms. Diane Gramley has been utilizing religion as a weapon in her quest againt any gay rights in Pennsylvania. Please stand up for faith experiences grounded in equality, fairness and peace.
Also, please note that I've added a little countdown clock to remind you of the upcoming rally. Look in the right hand column.
by Sue on Wed 31 Dec 2008 02:47 PM EST
Today's Post-Gazette features a strong statement from State Senator Jim Ferlo on plans to expand Pennsylvania's Hate Crimes law to include additional protected classes, including ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. These were part of a 2002 amendment which was recently overturned on procedural grounds.
A hate crime makes certain crimes more serious when their motivation is based on .. well, hate toward a class of people. In Pennsylvania, those crimes include harassment, assault, murder, trespass, criminal mischief and arson.
If you burn down someone's house because they are Latino or Jewish, there is an understanding that the violence is much deeper than the arson itself.
Being targeted because you fit into a certain class of people sucks, period. It sucks whether it is being the target of verbal taunts or assault. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of said motivated attacks can attest to what I'm saying.
There has been opposition to expanding the protected classes because of the inclusion of the LGBTQ community as a protected class. I guess some folks think its okay to kill a woman because she is a lesbian, but not because she is Jewish. Hmmm. OK, I'm exaggerating for the sake of my argument because there really are some people who fail to see that the underlying motivation of a crime can increase their impact on society. Any murder is an assault on the entire community. A murder motivated by group hate sends an especially chilling message to that particular strata in the community, but please don't forget that it has an impact on all of us.
Let's be clear. The wing-nuts in Pennsylvania don't want to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in any way, shape or form. They want unfettered access to pray away the gay even when their freedom to express their religious beliefs interferes with my freedom to, well, exist. Hence, their cries of foul over the 2002 legislation drag out every possible tired excuse about impinging on their religious and speech freedoms. They have been working overtime to spread misleading messages about this legislation, including claims that it will create "thought" crimes. The mislogic goes that hate is a thought, not an action. Punishing someone for a thought is unconstitutional.
Well, that's bullshit. The violence perpetrated under Jim Crow could not be reduced to the loss of the individual life of the man hanging from the tree. Lynching was an intentional act, intentional in the sense of sending a very clear message to others in that class of people about the societal expectations of the dominant culture. The psychological damage was deliberative and reverberated far beyond the lives of the family members who lost their loved one.
That's hate. Pure, unadulterated hate. It doesn't make it any less so when other groups that are outside of the dominant culture are targeted simply for the "crime" of existing. Expanding the law to include more groups goes a long way to countering that message, reminding the entire community that we are all valued and should not be singled out based on some characteristic. The claim that the current law is good enough is patently untrue for we already factor in motivation when measuring charges ... the law recognizes that murder committed by accident is different than a deliberately planned out murder, even if both actions result in the loss of life.
Still, I am very conscious that there is an important distinction between expressing your opinions a la Diane Gramley in a lawful manner and deliberately harassing people. This is a distinction that we count upon our law enforcement officers and the courts to uphold. Frankly, I have some expectation that Ms. Gramley will uphold that distinction, too. I despise her message and her tactics. I do believe that she is culpable for sowing the seeds of intolerance toward gay people that leads to acts of hatred ... see thoughts do lead to actions ...yet, I am still willing to acknowledge her right to devote her entire life to her twisted little mission. Just don't infringe on my rights. She sends her minions into Allegheny County to stir up opposition to gay rights. That's not a crime. And it is an action we can resist, fighting fire with fire so to speak, by rallying our own troops.
Members of our LGBTQ community are the targets of hate crimes here in Pennsylvania. They are beaten up because they are gay - it happens in high schools every single day. They are harassed in public. They are accosted when trying to participate in a lawful activity such as festival or celebration. These things happen and kudos to Senator Ferlo for putting this legislation on the front burner instead of behind the scenes as an attachment to some other bill. A message against hate requires a public airing, not a furtive nod.
So what can you do? Well, for starters, you can "join the impact" by attending the rally on January 10 and the County Council hearing on January 15. We have strength in numbers. Make no mistake, my friends and allies, if we turn out many hundred folks for both events, our state elected officials will take note even though it is a County issue. Your attendance at both events will give Senator Ferlo, Representative Frankel and their allies the statistics they need to persuade their colleagues to vote in favor of the hate crimes legislation.
The more often you come out, the bigger the difference you can make.
Tuesday, December 30
by Sue on Tue 30 Dec 2008 03:46 PM EST
Here's the scoop ... there's going to be a BIG QUEER RALLY on Saturday, January 10 from 2 - 4 PM at the Schenley Quad in Oakland (near the libraries). This is a follow up event to the Join the Impact rally in early November which turned out nearly 500 people.
The focus of the rally is twofold. The national goal is to bring attention to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a tie-in to the Proposition 8 issue. Locally, however, we are much more concerned about the upcoming public hearing to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in the Allegheny County Human Relations Act. That hearing date is set for January 15, 2009 and has been the focus of vigorous attack by the rightwing (see previous posts).
So please spread the word about the big queer rally. Tell your friends and family. Bring signs. Bring the kids. Bring your grandma. Just be there and be present as part of the message that EVERYONE deserves equality and fairness.
The event emcee is local comedian and actor Gab Bonesso. Confirmed speakers include long-time LGBT ally and media pundit, John McIntire. Other leaders from the faith community, the political world, the local business community and individuals who wish to share their stories of being discriminated against in the workplace, in housing or in public because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. If you would like to be a speaker, please email me sue @ sitnscoop.com and I'll hook you up with the appropriate folks on the organizing committee.
We cannot sit back in our comfortable, warm homes on January 10 and let other people stand up for us. We cannot be "Prop 8ed" here in Allegheny County. Be there and be part of the solution.
by Sue on Tue 30 Dec 2008 10:24 AM EST
Wow. Big 24 hours. My story about Diane Gramley and the Allegheny County Anti-Discrimination Legislation was picked up by several national sites and my domain expires! Can you believe that luck? My "guy" is on it, though. And thanks to all of my wonderful blogging friends in Pittsburgh who sent me assorted "creative" messages informing me of the situation? Next time a sex shop appears on my website -- text me please! :-)
So, happy 3rd anniversary to us here at Lesbian Central. I'm a fairly fickle person so it is peronally interesting to me that I've been doing this with fair consistency for three years (with the occasional much needed break). We've had a lot of fun with all of the creative directions this project has generated, including opportunities to participate in Pam's House Blend, DailyKOS and LezGetReal even if we are very far down on the page. LOL. And PageOneQ has been great about picking up our local stories.
Highlights, you ask? In no particular order.
- Doug Shields' letter to Sally Kerns. I love it when the calvary arrives and he did it with vigor and style.
- The conclusion of the trial of Reverend Janet Edwards. I don't think we've heard the last of this incredible woman and leader in the community.
- Participating in the Bloggers Summit in DC. What an energizing weekend. I was agog with groupieness.
- The election of Bruce Kraus to Pittsburgh City Council. Bruce is the first openly gay member of this body and the second openly gay elected person in Western Pennsylvania. (A regret is being unable to track down the first, a council member from tiny Wilkinsburg)
- The first ever Blog for Equality in Western Pennsylvania. This brainchild of local straight blogger Bram Reichbaum, this brought together nearly 2 dozen local bloggers around one topic: equality for everyone.
- Celebrating 25 years of our own Lambda Foundation, the cornerstone of Pittsburgh's philanthropic community. They've generated nearly $1 million in grants and been a part of every major and minor initiative in the community, sometimes as a catalyst and sometimes to keep vital services flowing smoothly.
I'm sure there's much more, but I have to turn my attention to other things. Our little story about intolerance v equality in Allegheny County is getting big play in the gay media. Did you call you Councilperson yet?
Monday, December 29
by Sue on Mon 29 Dec 2008 09:11 AM EST
c/p at Pam's House Blend
Surprise! Diane Gramley, self-proclaimed spokesperson of the Pennsylvania hatefest known as the AFA and resident of Venango County, is bringing her show on the road to Allegheny County in Southwestern Pennsylvania to challenge legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of classes including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Allegheny County is home to the City of Pittsburgh which already has such protections in place. Statewide, legislation has been introduced and proponents hope to see movement in late winter/early spring.
The Allegheny County legislation originally garnered 13 co-sponsors (out of 16 councilpersons), but Gramley's agitation efforts have been successful in driving three co-sponsors to jump ship. Conventional wisdom is that the three conservative-leaning districits have been targeted by Gramley, but there is still reason to believe that the erstwhile sponsors may in fact vote for the legislation.
The legislation establishes (and funds) a county Human Relations Commission with a goal to educate business owners, landlords and employers about the legislation and provide recourse and investigation to those who believe they have experienced discrimination.
Gramley is using the typical weapons of hate: misinformation and fear. Her arsenal includes false claims that companies will be "required" to hire gay people (at the expense of good Christians). She also purports that this threatens this could prevent the Boy Scouts from using government parks and buildings, building on the anger over a situation in Philadelphia wherein the Boy Scouts lost their government-subsidized rental property because of their ongoing discrimination against gay scouts and scout leaders, neatly ignoring all the efforts the Philadelphia elected officials made to minimize the fallout of this on the children themselves. And, you won't be surprised to read, she brings out the tiresome threats of men invading women's bathrooms to lounge about in women's clothes and terrify the poor hapless Christian women who enter unknowingly.
In short, Gramley's message is based on ignorance and fear. But she's effective and not to be underestimated. She uses email and a daily radio program to drive attention to this very specific issue. She testifies as an "expert" with no identifiable source material, trying to deflect questions with vague references to health encyclopedias that don't exist to defend her demonization of LGBT people as disease ridden hedonists. She follows Pennsylvania's Human Relations Commission Chair, Stephen Glassman, like a mutant "fag hag" tramping all over the Commonwealth to challenge him at every turn.
The best response? Truth. During a planning meeting last night focusing on how to connect this ordinance (the public hearing is set for January 15, 2009) with the upcoming national DOMA/Join the Impact rally, I kept flashing back to the film "Milk" and Milk's pleas for gay people to come out and be real and present to everyone in their lives. Allegheny County is not some backwater movie set filled with unfeeling human beings. Quite the opposite. I have found that most people are caring and encouraging and, even when they aren't 100% comfortable with homosexuality, still agree that homosexual people deserve to keep their jobs and live in decent apartments and get a table at Applebees. These aren't special privileges and when folks know real life people suffering the indignity and dehumanizing impact of these discriminations, they care.
So the best response is a response laced with truth and honesty. Let your friends and family and neighbors and coworkers know what is going on and ask them to contact their County Councilmembers with your story and theirs as someone who loves and respects you. Start talking about those discriminations we've all endured -- I have a 'good story" that was surprise, surprise resolved by a former employer in a positive way, but the resulting cultural shift was minimal. Still, I was lucky because even though I had to implicate my immediate supervisors for failing to take action, I had a lot of support from my (lawyer) partner and friends. And there was fallout and I carried some worry with me for the next three years about my job security given that I was now a troublemaker and could be let go at any point because there was no legal protection for me. It weighed me down and I was really angry for a long time for being the object of a stupid degrading joke.
So, all you who read this, if you have family and friends in Alllegheny County, Pennsylvania (Go Steelers!), contact them and ask them to make this call today. Remind Councilman Finnerty, Drozd and Ellenbogen that LGBT people live in their districts, along with people who love them, and ask them to vote for the legislation. Share your stories. I have information up here on how to make those contacts and which neighborhoods are part of these council districts. It doesn't hurt to ask those who live in other districts to call, too, and shore up support by reminding our elected officials that this legislation is about equality of opportunity to employment, housing and public accomodations and fairness for their LGBT voters.
Diane Gramley is not from Allegheny County. She doesn't vote here. She represents some shadow members who can't be bothered to show up to testify themselves. We need to turn out a good sized contingent of LGBT folks and allies at the public hearing on January 15, 2009 to demonstrate that there are thousands of us living in the County and we won't be silenced by her fear mongering ways.
This is your "recruitment" moment, folks. Sure, County Chambers are a long way away especially during rush hour and with all of the parking and what about the kids? But does the tally for parking, gas and a babysitter (or a favor from a family member to watch them) = the peace of mind of not worrying about someone at work finding out you are a lesbian or being able to get a table at Eat 'n Park regardless of your gender identity? Bring the kids! Show the County Council that your family is part of their voting base. Show them in an up close and personal way the real impact of discrimination on your life.
Equally important, my friends, is that you show them the positive impact YOU have in their district. The you work, pay taxes, shop, dine, coach soccer, shovel snow for elderly neighbors, attend worship services, and ... vote.