Q&A with a March for Our Lives Pittsburgh Student Organizer #MarchForOurLivesPGH

March for our lives Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is one of more than 800 cities hosting sister marches with the National March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 24. Pittsburgh’s march will kick-off at 11:30 AM at the City County Building on Grant Street. The march route will take you down Grant Street to Fifth, then Fifth to Liberty and then into Market Square for a rally.

I asked one of the organizers who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community to answer a few questions. Julia is over 18, but I am keeping her other identifying information private. Her responses have not been edited.

Your Name: Julia

Your Pronouns: She/Her

Your Affiliation: March for Our Lives Pittsburgh

How do you describe your identity? I identify as bisexual, as I am attracted to men and women; but I do not place boundaries on the term like some might, in that I am open to attraction to all gender identities. Some may say that qualifies me more as being pansexual, but I view myself as bisexual and identify accordingly.

Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure who the first LGBTQ+ person I met was. I want to say it was a neighbor of mine, or I suppose it may have somebody who did not yet realize at the time that they were LGBTQ+. I am lucky in the sense that my family was rather accepting and didn’t make much of a fuss of anyone being LGBTQ+, so I never really realized that there was much of a difference between LGBTQ+ people and the rest of the population. By the time I realized the significance, I had already met multiple LGBTQ+ people, and they were just like anyone else I had met. I hope that answer makes sense.

You are part of the organizing team behind the March for Our Lives in Pittsburgh on March 24. Why did you get involved? Gun violence in America is a crisis that I have grown up with; my parents never shielded me from the news. I remember watching specials on Columbine, I remember watching coverage on the Aurora theater shooting when I was eleven. I vividly remember Sandy Hook, and so on, and on and on. To me, gun violence–whether it’s mass shootings or police brutality or whatever kind–is Americana in every sense of the word. It shouldn’t be, and our government has failed us. I have never been one to be able to push the world’s issues out of my mind or sit back when there is action to be taken; I can’t stand to stand idle. So, this was no question to me. I am sick and tired of lawmakers not doing anything to stop this plague of domestic terrorism that is growing like a cancer. Children are dying, and if I can do even the slightest thing to help stop it, I will.

You identify as bisexual. How does the March for Our Lives and related organizing efforts address the unique experiences of LGBTQ students as part of this larger message around school safety? While it’s clear that all minority groups– LGBTQ+ and others–face heightened stakes in the issue of gun violence and school violence, the efforts of the March for Our Lives are currently focusing on the broader issue of mass shootings. Hopefully, once progress is made in that arena, we focus in on the larger threats of violence that some groups face. In the meantime, organizations such as ACLU have the resources to address targeted violence, and I encourage everyone to support them and other related organizations.

Visibility of LGBTQ student leaders like Emma Gonzalez, a Latina bisexual woman, from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been front and center in media coverage. How does her visibility resonate in Pittsburgh and with your experiences? In my eyes it is only fitting that a woman belonging to several minority groups leads this movement that is taking the world by storm. She represents who this country is comprised of and where the future is headed. It’s old white men in Congress that fear this movement because the NRA is filling their wallets, and it is a Latina bisexual woman with a shaved head that is leading this charge to take them down. It’s a beautiful and fitting representation of the hope for the future. People like Emma Gonzalez are the ones that will change the world.

I went to public school in West Mifflin from 1975-1988. Violence was part of my school experience, something I took for granted as a kid and see more clearly in hindsight. I remember teachers assaulting students in the name of discipline, including dangling them out windows as well as merciless screaming humiliation in our faces. I remember girls being regularly sexually assaulted long before we had words like #MeToo to describe our experiences. LGBTQ students were routinely brutalized. But we didn’t have semi-automatic weapons. I remember someone bringing a gun to school to show it off and getting suspended, but we had no real fear en masse that he would use the gun or that it was even usable. My own brother called in a bomb threat to his school as a prank and I definitely remember that long drive home with my seething parents. But we didn’t have these weapons. So when people talk about the way things used to be in schools, I remember a different type of violence that lacked the gunfire. I also remember lots of experiences that contributed to an unsafe environment and were considered typical at the time. There were more fists, but they often belonged to parents or teachers or coaches as well as other students. How did we get from that experience 30+ years ago to where we are now? I think society’s ideals have evolved since then, condemning acts of violence such as those that you described, while allowing American gun culture to grow. If you look at the 25 deadliest mass shootings in America since 1949, the top 5 deadliest have been in the past 11 years. Perhaps it’s the accessibility to weapons of mass slaughter, pop culture, or something else entirely; most likely, it’s a combination. I’m not sure I can answer what exactly got us to where we are now, but the change is apparent.

Are any local LGBTQ organizations or businesses involved in your March planning?  Unfortunately, there are not. Since we had relatively limited planning time we stuck with contacting organizations more directly related to the issue, in part because many organizations don’t have the clearest stances on issues unrelated to theirs, and we didn’t want bother unaffiliated organizations.

What are you looking for from adults like me (I’m 47) on March 24? All adults are welcome and encouraged to attend the march; support for the cause is appreciated from anyone of any age.

What about on March 25? There are plenty of ways for everyone to contribute from here on out, and we strongly encourage adults to vote and to promote voter registration, as well as contact public officials. There are certain advantages that adults have, and we greatly appreciate them being utilized for this cause. You can also sign the March for Our Lives petition here: https:// marchforourlivespetition.com

Is there a way to donate financially to local efforts? Unfortunately, there is not a way to donate financially to the Pittsburgh march effort itself, but, the national March for Our Lives Campaign led by Stoneman Douglas students accepts donations at https://marchforourlives.com/ donate/

Where can we find March for our Lives Pittsburgh on social media?

Facebook: facebook.com/M4OLPGH

Twitter: @M4OLPGH

Instagram: @M4OL_PGH

The Hashtag: #MarchForOurLivesPGH

Our website: http://www. marchforourlivespgh.com/

Thank you, Julia.