Should (or could) this blog be more lesbian?

Earlier today, someone left a comment on an AMPLIFY post. I typically don’t allow comments on those posts because of the archival nature of the project. This comment was actually unrelated to the project so I decided it would be more appropriate to move to another place on the blog – this post.

Ann Brooks Shinall is from Ohio. I do not know her and do not believe we have mutual friends. I could be wrong. Here are her thoughts:

“I’m confused as to why PGH Lesbian is anything but lesbian. Everything I’ve read is about gay men and transgender folk. Why do lesbians always get the back seat?! Can we say male privilege?!!! Socioeconomic privilege?

When the HIV epidemic started it was the lesbians that kept the entire LGBTQ community going because too many gay men were dying, grieving, terrified. We attended funeral after funeral, brought endless casseroles, supported gay men emotionally, physically, spiritually. And yet gay men as a group have never given more than lip service to supporting lesbian issues, women’s issues.

Please rename your organization to be more accurate or actually focus on dykes!”

This isn’t the first time someone has expressed bewilderment that the blog content isn’t all about the lesbians. Except that it is. Here’s why – all three of the current bloggers (mainly myself) are lesbian identified. We write about how we engage the world and that is always tied to our identities, including our sexual orientation. But when we’ve had contributors who are not lesbian identified, it is still valid. Read on.

When I began the blog in 2006, I chose the name to tap into an existing ‘bit’ I was doing on local radio programs as Pittsburgh’s Lesbian Correspondent. It could easily have been LGBTQ Correspondents or Queer Correspondents or Dyke Correspondents. You can read more about that here.

But, as regular blog readers know, we blog about A LOT of topics. We always have. There’s never been a point at which I thought we would exclusively focus on lesbians and lesbian-centric topics. It is a blog by lesbians, not a blog exclusively about lesbians.

So, Ann, I think there is a lot of lesbian content here for you. All of the content, to be honest. But if you really are looking for lesbian-specific content,

The way WordPress is set up will guide you from one post to another one.

But let’s take a closer look at your allegations

“I’m confused as to why PGH Lesbian is anything but lesbian.”

Response – intersectionality, for one. Each of the bloggers has multiple identities and our very concepts of lesbian identity vary. We have opinions and thoughts and interests in many issues that impact our lives; blogging about them as lesbians is a strong act of visibility.

When local lesbian-centric groups and organizations share their information with us, asking for us to promote – we do. We’d love to have more lesbians submitting content.

“Everything I’ve read is about gay men and transgender folk.”

Response – To be clear, some lesbians are transgender women. So anything you’ve read on the blog about trans women *might* also be about lesbians.

But based on when you submitted you comment, I looked at the front page of the blog which always has the ten most recent posts in reverse chronological order and the sidebar for our AMPLIFY project.

  1. Joseph, 28, is a HIV+ queer and gay man in Pittsburgh #AMPLIFY ( AMPLIFY contribution from a queer and gay man living with HIV which is something all those lesbians who worked in the 80s wanted to see – a future for people with a diagnosis)

  2. Today, a Kitten Died. (my reflections on Trap/Spay or Neuter/Release work)

  3. The Return of #AMPLIFY  (our three year art project rebooted today after a hiatus while I had a hysterectomy)

  4. Winter, 18, Identifies as a Genderquestioning Bisexual Person #AMPLIFY  (AMPLIFY contribution from a genderquestioning bisexual woman who just turned 18 & is fearful of family rejection – a story for every LGBTQ adult to read and address?)

  5. Local LGBTQ Links We Are Reading – April 30, 2018  (round up of news links related to lots of LGBTQ topics, including lesbians)

  6. RIP Uncle Ron Keck (1935-2018)  (genealogy post as a tribute to my deceased uncle)

  7. Q&A with Lisa Boeving-Learned, Candidate for PA State House District 8  (Q&A with a lesbian running for state office out of Mercer County)

  8. Byhalia, Mississippi via Carnegie Stage: A Review  (review of a play about racial justice and interpersonal relationships with a distinct homophobic subtext albeit involving a black cisgender man)

  9. Fogo de Chão Opens in Pittsburgh; Here’s What I Experienced  (summary of our restaurant experience on media night. as lesbians)

  10. Q&A with Kareem Kandil, Candidate for PA State House District 30  (another Q&A with a candidate for state office albeit a Muslim-American heterosexual cis man)

So, I don’t know for sure what Ann read. But these ten post are not just about gay men and transgender folks. Not even mostly or a lot. The person specific posts include a lesbian, a gay & queer man, a bisexual young woman, a cis het man and my Uncle Ronny who was also cis het. There’s also a restaurant review, a play review, and a list of news links related to LGBTQ specific topics in this region. And a story about animal rescue.

Or to look at it another way, these posts include this lesbian’s review of a play, a restaurant, and a volunteer experience; my thoughts on the death of my uncle, and two interviews with candidates running for political office. A week in the life of a lesbian.

“Why do lesbians always get the back seat?!”

Response – Lesbians control this blog. Lesbians, as of right now, write every single word, make every single decision, do all of the work, hire all of the consultants, etc. The word LESBIAN is in every URL for every post and page on this site. The header image on every single post and page is our logo with the word LESBIAN. Most of our social media tools include the word LESBIAN. In the past two years, LESBIANS earned a ‘Best of Pittsburgh’ award and a finalist slot in a national ‘Outstanding Blog’ award.

We created our own front seat 12 years ago. Anyone can do it using free software.

“Can we say male privilege?!!! Socioeconomic privilege?”

Response – YES! And we do.  A lot. Probably more than most blogs in Western Pennsylvania. I did a keyword search of the term ‘privilege’ and found over 300 blog posts. I blog often about socioeconomic status of our two-female family and the impact of my being disabled on that status. It is one reason we fundraise to sustain the blog – my loss of income when I became disabled dramatically impacted our blogging resources.

“When the HIV epidemic started it was the lesbians that kept the entire LGBTQ community going because too many gay men were dying, grieving, terrified. We attended funeral after funeral, brought endless casseroles, supported gay men emotionally, physically, spiritually. And yet gay men as a group have never given more than lip service to supporting lesbian issues, women’s issues.”

Response – this hurt is real, I know. Misogyny and sexism are very real in our community, but the response is more visibility around those oppressions AND more visibility about the people who get it right. I think we can agree that no one blog could ever dismantle the patriarchy, but we are doing our best.

The #AMPLIFY project is one example of how we are trying to document that rich past so it is not lost to future generations. I would love to see more lesbians responding to that Q&A. 

The beauty of a blog is that there are no page limits, no word constraints. If more lesbians want to submit content, share their stories, offer feedback – there’s room. If other LGBTQ individuals wants to do the same – there’s room. If you want to start your own blog, it is possible for minimal $. If you want to donate to this blog so we can compensate someone on a specific ‘beat’ – we can figure that out, too.

What will not happen – we will not stop exploring the complexity and diversity that is the LGBTQ experience, the experience of feminism, and the realities of life in Pittsburgh and our region. We will never say that we need to tone down the stories about gay men and transgender neighbors to ensure there’s enough attention for lesbians.

I’ve been doing this so long, that I don’t know how to step away and put myself into the shoes of someone brand new who had expectations for this blog. I do know that if you don’t like the blog or don’t like me or what I have to say, you simply don’t have to read it.

But asking me to change a 12+ year blog to meet your personal needs as a lesbian? That’s a silencing tactic.

I don’t know if this is TERF territory or just frustration from someone who is searching for straightforward lesbian-centric content.

Best of luck to you, Ann.