Guest blog post by Anne E. Lynch, Executive Director, Three Rivers Community Foundation, and board member of Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities
Recently, I was asked to weigh in on a very special document – a proclamation to make a Sue Kerr Day in Pittsburgh. It was to be a surprise, but some of us argued against that, and the compromise was to inform her the day before the proclamation would be introduced to Pittsburgh City Council.
If you’re on this blog, you already know what a powerhouse Sue Kerr is. She’s the founder of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, where she’s been blogging for almost 17 years (most blogs only last a little over a year). She had diligently and compassionately recorded the deaths due to violence of our trans neighbors – every single one. That work is both difficult and gratifying – seeing the violence and anti-trans hatred that killed them, but also knowing that the person murdered is treated with dignity at least once in their life with a permanent memorial on the blog that uses their name and pronouns properly. Her blogging has garnered many awards on both the local and national level – including two GLAAD awards for Best Blog (2019 and 2022). She is a founding member and one of the first three co-chairs of the City of Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA+ Commission. She founded Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities in 2021 so she’d have some support (and official nonprofit status) for the work she does. She’s been making change for, well, her whole life, really, and not just in LGBTQ+ circles – she’s also a former social worker, a tireless advocate of justice issues, and an animal advocate, too, especially through fostering cats and kittens and being a colony caregiver.
In the spring of 2022, the City of Pittsburgh LGBTQIA+ Commission learned of an event of harassment of a Black trans teenager in the Northside – Sue’s own neighborhood. This launched the #ProtectTransKids campaign (through the auspices of Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities), which took off more than any of us involved expected. The campaign countered hate with love – a visual expression of trans support through more than 1,100 yard signs (and counting!), and then stickers and pens for medical and other professionals to indicate they are safe people.
In the late fall of 2022, Sue learned that she had been chosen as one of The Advocate’s 12 People of the Year. This is an incredible honor for someone from our region, as The Advocate is one of the longest-running LGBTQ publications in this country. Beyonce is one of the other recipients – yeah, it’s that big a deal. I remember when she called to tell me the news – I was speechless for a second, then terrified my cats by nearly shouting a jumble of congratulatory words at her.
I should point out that Sue is not just a person with whom I serve on a board – she’s a dear, personal friend. I had the honor of co-officiating her wedding. I adopted a kitten she fostered. We’ve had brainstorming sessions long before Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities was envisioned. She’s the first person I turn to when I have news about the local queer community that I want confirmed or explained, because I know she’ll already know about it. I’ve seen firsthand how she changes lives – including my own – and systems.
Backing up, though, so, BIG award. But crickets from the local media. Nothing from other LGBTQ organizations, local or not, congratulating her. No messages from Pittsburgh City Council or government offices or other commissions. Essentially no mention of it anywhere outside of The Advocate and Sue’s own blog. What was going on?
What was going on was a secret. Councilman Bruce Kraus worked with Sue’s wife Laura, another member of the Commission (Billy), and myself to craft a proclamation. There was a LOT to fit in. And then we had to pick a date. Sue’s birthday has already passed. The anniversary of the blog was coming up, but we really wanted the proclamation to be associated with more than that. What day to choose? The proclamation was going to be made on November 29, so it would be best to be tied to something after that.
I went to the community calendar I maintain for my day job, where we list all the various national and international days of recognition of social change work. World AIDS Day (December 1), Rosa Parks Day (also December 1), International Day for Persons with Disabilities (December 3)… December 10 popped up – the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. It commemorates the 1948 signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 2022’s theme is Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All. What could be more Sue Kerr than that? She gives trans folx who are murdered dignity. She is always working for true freedom and justice for all – workers, women, people of color, LGBTQ folx, and animals! I went with that. Little did I realize that December 10 this year also marks the 25th anniversary of Pittsburgh’s OUTrageous Bingo – where Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities already had two tables booked for celebration. Now, we get to celebrate Sue Kerr Day with 500+ people gathered for drag queen bingo! How much more festive could we get!
It’s been an honor and privilege to work on this now no-longer-secret proclamation. A Sue Kerr Day was much needed to acknowledge the amazing work she does!
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