One Year Anniversary of Pittsburgh MasQue ProjecT

Today marks one year since Lyndsey Sickler and I spoke the Pittsburgh MasQue ProjecT into existence. Dramatic, perhaps.

But this year has taught me that it is up to us to save ourselves. We are the calvary. Mainstream institutions haven’t shown up or acknowledged the realities of our lives during the pandemic, especially media outlets and foundation. They see mask distribution as charity, not a revolution or social change.

Unfortunately my own vaccine side effects derailed some of the data collection for this anniversary but I can share this
– we distribute masks monthly to over 600 people in 140 households
– we distribute masks regularly to community groups, events, LGBTQ owned bars, vigils and more
– we’ve distributed at least 15,000 masks, plus wipes, hand sanitizer, and more
– YOU raised the money to fund our operational expenses through 2021

This year, we launched MasQueerade, a weekly zoom gathering to address social isolation. And we do need to raise funds for that to provide stipends to the co-hosts and performers who themselves are also struggling financially. We need to do our own advertising because no media will cover us. To help pay tribute to what we’ve accomplished, please consider donating to what we can do next

Venmo @Pghlesbian
CashApp @Pghlesbian

Mail a check payable to Pittsburgh Masque Project to our fiscal offices c/o Pittsburgh Equality Center 5840 Ellsworth Avenue #100 Pittsburgh, PA 15232 – please be sure to clearly indicate this is for the Pittsburgh Masque Project with a note or on the memo line.

More information here.

Special thanks to our leadership team – Diane Pittman Gina DeAngelo Dr. Amy Fiore Garrison F. Dok Harris Alistair McQueen Lyndsey Sickler and our newest member Michael Caligiuri. (Amy and Dok have rotated off, but their contributions are indelible.)
Special thanks to our donors, investors, sewists, drivers, volunteers, cheerleaders, supporters.

And thank you to each person who had the courage to ask for a mask.

I’d write more but I’m exhausted from the vaccine. Still, get the vaccine because if this is a taste of what COVID-19 is like, I’m grateful to just have this much.

The social isolation effects of the pandemic are real and present a genuine threat to our collective health.

Data from UCLA’s Williams Institutes shows that the Pittsburgh Metropolitan region population is about 3.3% LGBT. 10% are unemployed, 12% lack health insurance, and 22% are food insecure compared with the general population.

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In late 2020, Harvard University and the Movement Advancement Project released national research showing 66% of LGBT household reporting financial disruption compared to 44% of non-LGBT households. The impact among BIPOC households in the LGBT community are even more stark. A whopping 95% of Black and 70% of Latinx LGBTQ households identify serious financial disruptions. LGBTQ households are also twice as likely to report access to healthcare during the pandemic.

“As we anticipated, the barriers are there,” says Sue Kerr. “Job and income loss, lack of transportation, child care, the hostile political climate, and the very targeted transphobic attacks on Dr. Rachel Levine are just the first things to come to mind.”

Kerr explains that when she approached potential partners or larger donors, one of their first questions was to identify a specific local incident where a trans or queer person had been denied a mask because of their identity. In spite of the deluge of media coverage of the transphobia targeting Dr. Levine, they were still in disbelief that gender identity or sexual orientation might impact the typical trans and queer person. She points out that in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, cisgender heterosexual students sued their school district to prevent trans students from using bathrooms and locker rooms, trying to get the case in front of the US Supreme Court.

“They didn’t believe us because we wouldn’t drag someone into the limelight to talk about a traumatic experience,” says Kerr. “We were trying to minimize traumatic experiences and lift up our resiliency after all. How much more evidence do foundations and the media need?”


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