Johnstown City Councilman Attacks Pridefest, LGBTQ Youth Prom

Johnstown’s Pride Celebration is the latest battleground for rightwing attacks on the LGBTQ community

Organizers of the May 2 Pride dinner and related events sought a proclamation from Johnstown City Council. The gathering serves as a prom for LGBTQ youth and an awards dinner for the annual Reader’s Choice awards. The dinner is held at a local Holiday Inn.

Enter Johnstown City Councilman Frederick Mickel. He objects to the proclamation because alcohol will be served while minors are present. His other objections stem from what might be generously described as a misunderstanding of the LGBTQ community. Or bigotry.

“Among the awards to be presented is Dancer of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, the nominees for which are mostly strippers and exotic dancers,” Mickel said.

“They also advertised that they will have an open bar at this event. In my humble opinion, I don’t think stripper awards and drinking should be part of a prom. Therefore, I would state that we, as the city, should not be endorsing this event or present any proclamation at the event on behalf of the city.”

First, the outrage over youth being present while alcohol is served is absurd. Ask any organizer of a wedding. The state has strict rules on who can serve alcohol and how people should be carded, rules that an establishment like the Holiday Inn is well-versed in following. That’s an overt attempt to tap into stereotypes about LGBTQ events being unfit for innocent youth.

Second, this bit about entertainers being strippers and exotic dancers is also a bigoted comment. Most of the nominees are drag performers. Drag performers are not strippers. Keystone Alliance Gaylife Newsletter President John DeBartolo has a clear explanation

The nominees for Entertainer of the Year are not “Strippers”. In fact, Billy Porter, a local Pittsburgher, is the star of the hit Broadway musical, Kinky Boots, Sharon Needles and Alaska Thunderfuk are national tv stars of LOGO’s hit tv show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, (Sharon was awarded a proclamation by the City of Pittsburgh declaring June 12, 2012 Sharon Needles Day for her contribution to the community), Fortune Feimster is a well known comedian, Mona Lottinbed has been a tv star on local Pittsburgh cable for 30 years being covered on Entertainment Tonight for her contributions to the industry, Mark Robert Cash is a singer from Maryland, Winifred Adams is a Radio Show Host in Los Angeles and a writer, among the other nominees who are all entertainers.

Councilman Mickel and the hate group he represents can classify gay people as strippers and wrongfully stereotype them to fit their agenda of hate but that does not change the fact these people are not strippers and do not deserve to be attacked. They are all upstanding individuals deserving of respect from a local lawmaker and the City of Johnstown. 

I would add that those who are strippers also deserve respect because they are human beings, but the point of the misleading accusation is clear enough. The event does not include adult entertainment which should be the only concern. And I strongly suspect that if Billy Porter came to Johnstown to accept the award, they would change their tune.

While not very nuanced, this is the sort of attack we are going to see more of in the future – hate rhetoric guised as concern for children, mischaracterization of members of our community, and the ever-present threat of sexuality in any form. From harassing the trans community about using public restrooms to insisting that “gay pride” should be broadly reformulated as “diversity pride” – the community groups hiding behind these fears and insults. And it is nicely tied up as a “different opinion” by groups like A Change for Johnstown.

I applaud Keystone Alliance for taking a stance against this bigotry. As a nominee in nine categories, I am quite proud to be included in the event and have no fear associating myself with notorious LGBTQ entertainers. I am sorry that my neighbors in Johnstown can’t simply enjoy Pride season without being targeted. I take confidence in knowing that Johnstown represents – they come to almost every rally and vigil in Pittsburgh and beyond to show their pride in their community.

You can read more about this situation at the Keystone Alliance Gaylife Newsletter website.

Johnstown Pride
Johnstown community banner Photo: Pgh City Paper



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