I spent Saturday afternoon tabling for #ProtectTransKids projects at a local arts event. This meant I repeatedly described the anti-trans abusive behavior of the neighbor who targeted the young Black trans teen at the heart of the project.
People shared their own stories – their personal experiences, their family members, grandkids, nieces.
In the midst, I saw an alert on my phone that someone had left a comment on my blog and it needed to be approved. Here’s what I found
“Joe Union” of the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org” had some thoughts about a recent post I shared.
“Whoever wrote this article must have the wrong person Philip Ameris has more integrity than anyone especially this uninformed person who wrote he married into money go munch some rug n leave the most loyal guy in the world alone shame on you”
About ten minutes later, this message popped into my DMs
I’ve messaged you because of your blog for Pittsburgh lesbians and your comment about Philip ameris is completely wrong and why would you even post something about one of the best and loyal presidents to the Union? Do you even know who he is ? Born with money ? Are you kidding me ? For you to talk about one of the most respected and loyal man in Pittsburgh you must be CRAZY 💯 SHAME ON U CAT LADY !! WHY DONT U PUT ON A HARD HAT AND GO WORK AND BUILD THE BRIDGES AND ROADS AND SEE HOW IT IS 🤷♀️ SO EASY FOR YOU TO JUDGE AND TWIST COMMENTS AROUND YOUR BLOG WILL BE REPORTED 💯 and you have no idea what your talking about and you call yourself a advocate for lesbians ? PLEASE get your story straight before you blog and your showing your true colors 💯 YOU HAVE NO CLUE !!
So my critique of Phil Ameris was a response to a comment he made to the media and to my knowledge has not retracted. He said “I don’t think people in the South Hills are interested in affordable housing.”
I did Google his salary and feel confident enough to say that he’s not worried about affording housing. That’s based on Google, not some secret insight into his finances. I have no idea if he was born with money or married into money. My point is that he has money now and isn’t struggling to pay his rent. If he comes from humble beginnings, that’s even worse especially for a man described as the most loyal Union boss. Loyal to whom?
This sorry little defense is filled with inaccuracies and almost histrionic claims – my blog is being reported? To the Department of the Interior? That’s a little joke, some wordplay that will make sense in a minute.
Why the references to how/where Phil Ameris got his money? I finally found this sentence in my OP that might be the source of that misunderstanding “Smarmy, entitled, thinks he’s the smartest person in the room, and firmly wedded to money and power.” Being wedded to money and power is not about being married to either, oh never mind … most of you know this. It is a weird little thing, much like Trump acolytes desperately clinging to the delusion that Trump is a successful billionaire businessman. At the end of the day, our community values tell us that we are all responsible for things like affordable housing and that we all benefit when working families can access it.
But the comment also features the inevitable slurs. In this case, this individual chose to launch an ad hominem attack on my lesbian identity. Does it bolster her claims? Or just make my case about the reason this original comment is so problematic?
The slurs “carpet muncher” which is what I assume “run muncher” references is often used in a pejorative way to describe lesbians aka women who engage in oral sex with other women. When I Googled “rug muncher” I read that it is actually a slur against people with disabilities, especially learning disabilities – the implication being that someone in that category eats carpet and licks windows. Joe Union labels me as crazy so who knows if they mean one or both types of slur.
With regard to the lesbian bashing, it is a rather dated slur. I can’t even think of the last time I heard it either lobbed at me as a grenade or in general conversation. But I do know the intent of a anti-LGBTQ slur, no matter how trendy: to silence me.
Either way, after reading this, I have to go back to tabling and talking with people about #ProtectTransKids and listening to their stories and offering resources. And the whole time, I’m thinking about the reality that even at 52 years of age and all these awards and accomplishments, I’m still dealing with 7th grade slurs from someone who disagrees with me.
Now I do not for a minute think Phil Ameris encouraged this specific person to defend his honor by attacking my identity, my mental health, my reading comprehension skills, and my fondness for cats. I suspect he barely registered my concerns if at all. But the repeated references to loyalty stand out. If he actively cultivates that level of loyalty as a union value, what is he going to do now? Will he apologize to me for inciting the slurs? Will he apologize for the original comment? Does he know I’m a member of the National Writers Union? Would that matter?
Demeaning lesbians to make your point is part of a larger social trend. And it is a concern. No matter your age or education level, you have the capacity to “not” engage, to refrain from the nasty jab or the cutting remark, whilst still making your point, defending someone’s honor, or disagreeing.
My main thesis was that Philip Ameris does not seem concerned about the realities of affordable housing for his members or the general public. My other thesis is that he was taking a shot at the other candidates in that race (County Chief Executive), particularly two of the women – maybe all of the women – with ties to affordable housing advocacy. My final other thesis was that Phil Ameris is not in touch with the South Hills if he is unaware of the impact of unaffordable housing and other economic barriers on many, many people who live there. You could argue that he does in fact know those realities, but thought it was still okay to kick those working families to the curb to make a point about his candidate. I suspect that’s the case – he leaned into a regional stereotype to make his point. The labor history of the South Hills coal mining alone is enough to prove that affordable housing has always been a concern.
This coarsening of discourse is a significant issue, something we saw play out during the recent State of the Union address by Republicans. It is exactly the same mentality that led a woman to taunt a 15-year-old Black trans girl with a giant handmade sign pointed in her bedroom window. It is the same mentality that truly believes that no middle class working families live in the South Hills and worry about affording their housing. Or believes that instead of just supporting your candidate, you have to take shots at other candidates while mocking the working people of this region who have historically struggled to find decent housing.
Phil Ameris owes Allegheny County voters an apology. And it might be the case that he owes his own union members an apology for leading them down this path with Marjorie Taylor Greene and her buddies. Before he begins to look more like Kevin McCarthy and less like a compassionate, confident leader of a modern labor movement.
What Joe Union does not realize is how intractable I can be when someone attacks me about an important topic. As a matter of fact, I do have educational and professional experience with affordable housing and elections, too. So I do know what I’m talking about. And I know that I hit a sore spot because the number of people reading that original post has skyrocketed, meaning either someone is sharing the link or someone is trying to shame the link.
Phil Ameris can fix this. He can apologize for his comment about affordable housing to set the right tone as a labor leader. He can donate to an organization working on affordable housing issues in the South Hills such as South Hills Interfaith Ministries. He can do some listening sessions around affordable housing and labor. He can even do something to offset the anti-LGBTQ slurs used to defend his honor. And he can remind his union members that lesbian bashing is not a LiUNA value.
Or he can just ignore it on the principle that something truly outrageous will happen in the next news cycle to blow this off anyone’s radar. And we all know what silence equals.
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