Leaving Pittsburgh

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. We leave one job to start another; we quit cities, countries, or continents for a fresh start; we leave lovers and begin new relationships. What was the last thing you contemplated leaving? What were the pros and cons? Have you made up your mind? What will you choose?

So many things come to mind – leaving my last paid FT job, closing The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, changing therapists, dabbling in political campaign work, and even my blog. This blog.

But the most honest answer is – Pittsburgh.

I’ve been talking with Ledcat about moving out of the region, out of state and spending the rest of our lives in a state that values us as full citizens. It is the first time I’ve given serious thought to that sort of move. I’ve always been of the mindset to stay and fight for what’s mine, knowing that I’ve been a Pittsburgher long before many others.

In fact, my family came to Pennsylvania (Lycoming County) around 1730, another branch emigrated to Butler County around 1800. To the best I can tell, my first Pittsburgh dwelling ancestors arrived around 1860. They faced their own degrees of prejudice – most were poor or working class, some were Irish/Catholic/German and certainly the women never had it easy.

My life was forged from the farms, the oil fields and the mills. Butler, the Northside, the Hill District, the South Side, Allentown, Brentwood, Bethel Park … and that’s just a few of the spaces my ancestors resided.

I want Pittsburgh to be a better place and I realize that I’m impatient for it to happen – for there to be some inclusion of the LGBTQ community in #NextPgh. But I’m not 30 anymore. We have to be serious about how we’ll support ourselves in retirement and I don’t mean pay for vacation trips. I mean pay for medications. I have no illusions that we’ll retire to anything other than an Eat-n-Park lifestyle because the City is never going to give employees raises or promotions because of its own financial distress.

Even if we marry, it could be decades before the state inheritance tax issue is resolved so I can live in our home if something were to happen to Laura. And I might lose some of my own disability benefits in that exchange which isn’t fair. LesbianUhaul

Mind you, I’m grateful. Laura has a good job with great benefits and some hope of a pension. I’m able to still be productive and navigate our home without too much hindrance. We have a home, a yard, two functioning if old cars, and so many other blessings. But we also have fear and concern about the next 15-20 years.

I’m not sure that I feel hopeful or that I have enough privilege in Pittsburgh to sustain myself until I can find new hope. Pennsylvania is 400 years old and I don’t have a single statewide right. There are two openly gay statewide elected officials, both white men. There are no high-profile hires or appointments of LGBTQ persons in either County or City government (thus far.)

Good things are happening and I could fill this post with a list, but I am big enough to admit that I’m not sure I’m up to the task of waiting. I’m not young. Two of my grandparents developed early onset dementia and one developed Parkinson’s. The fourth died in his 50s. So I’m a little worried about what my long-term prospects might include healthwise. That’s not very helpful when I’m also worried about which doctors I can see next year if UPMC and Highmark aren’t dealt with.

It would be refreshing to live in a community that says “yes, right now – we value you!” rather than “hang tight.”  And maybe it is just a dream – to live in a place where we see ourselves in the community leaders (out, not quietly out) and we are welcome and affirmed and valued. Where we can see a brighter future for these amazing young queer youth who are demanding acknowledgement for their lives.

We have it pretty good right now, but I don’t see any signs of what might happen – just the incessant battle for resources between marriage equality and non-discrimination with little mention beyond that – as we prepare for our older years. I went through a nightmare with my grandmother’s end of life care and I definitely have legitimate fears about the LGBTQ sensibilities of the aging service providers.

Where would we go? Maybe Western New York. Maybe Delaware. Somewhere adjacent to PA, but a state that has made the leap to recognize us as full citizens.

Will we do it? Mmmm. I don’t know. It requires finding a new job, selling a house in a still weak economy, etc. And so it might just be a pipe dream.

Maybe things will change – maybe our elected officials will take some dramatic action to say “Hey aging LGBTQ folks, we want you to stay and help us build a better Pittsburgh.” Or maybe not.

But let me be clear – considering leaving doesn’t lessen my investment. It isn’t about quitting, it is about making mature decisions based on concrete facts like the fact that lesbians make less money than white gay men and that we don’t have children to care for us in our senior years.

It is not a decision made lightly and likely would take several years to execute. But since I refuse to make this a “rah rah Pittsburgh” blog, I’m going to be honest – sometimes leaving seems like the only way to have some peace in our final years.



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