Pittsburgh: Gay-friendly, or “anti gay” friendly?

"Double rainbow over Pittsburgh" by Jon Dawson, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.
“Double rainbow over Pittsburgh” by Jon Dawson, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

I am very amused by all of the national (and international) media attention that has tabbed Pittsburgh as a hip, happening city.

If we’re so hip and happening, why do we seem to breed crusaders against the “homosexual menace”?

There are calls for the CEO of the Mozilla Foundation (developers of the Firefox web browser) to resign because he donated to California’s anti-gay marriage campaign. According to his Wikipedia biography (which may or may not be accurate—after all, it’s Wikipedia), he was born in Pittsburgh.

When I saw that I thought, “Well, of course, he was.”

After all, the ex-Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh has been one of the leaders of a schism in that denomination over the ordination of openly gay, partnered clergy. And Robert Gagnon, associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, who’s written some things about gays and lesbians that have—appropriately enough—made me “gag.”

I don’t know. Maybe other Northeastern cities have these people too, and I just don’t notice them, but Pittsburgh seems to get more than its share.

I guess that’s why I’m amused when Pittsburgh gets raves from LGBTQ publications—like this completely random and unscientific list that rates Pittsburgh as the eighth-best “gay friendly” city in the U.S.

Pittsburgh is gay-friendly? Maybe the city is. How about Pittsburgh’s near suburbs? Those are hit and miss. Being openly gay in Sewickley would be OK, but I’ll bet you could face some hostility as part of an openly gay couple in, say, Aleppo or Leetsdale. No offense, Quakers.

How about Pittsburgh’s outer suburbs? Would you want to be out and proud in those parts of Westmoreland County where it’s still OK to use the N-word as a punchline?

When I was a kid in the Pittsburgh suburbs, not that long ago, “smear the queer” was a common playground game. It might still be.

Pittsburgh is more than the city limits, and it’s certainly more than Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and the East End. This is still a very racially segregated area and an area which seems to breed open hostility to LGBTQ people.

Or at the very least, Pittsburgh seems to be an area where people who are hostile to civil rights for LGBTQ people still feel like they’re welcome to be loud, proud and unshamed about their bigotry.

If Pittsburgh is really so “hip and happening,” we’d better start wondering why that is, and start figuring out what we need to do to fix it.

*correction—Edited to fix Gagnon’s title.


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