Yesterday, someone asked me to compare my ‘national’ content to my ‘local’ blog content. I was a bit flummoxed because it rarely seems to be so neatly parsed. My life and the lives of all LGBTQIA+ folx in this region are regularly defined by the collision of the local with the national. Our lives are intersectional and that includes geography.
We live in a Commonwealth with no statewide nondiscrimination protections, where about 30% of our neighbors have some protections because of hyperlocal action and most of us have some protections because of administrative interpretations by the Governor and the President. There’s no national/local distinction when it comes to civil rights, when it comes to our families.
At least that’s the case for LGBTQIA+ folx. Perhaps people who are cisgender and heterosexual (cishet) take the luxury of dissecting local and national for granted because it isn’t something that often happens ‘to’ them.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled that some discrimination against LGBTQ people based on religious belief is legal. A Christian web designer does not have to offer their services to same sex couples who want a wedding site designed. The case is odd because it doesn’t involve actual clients, it is based on a mythological wedding client. But we cannot afford to take it lightly. President Biden says it well
“More broadly, today’s decision weakens long-standing laws that protect all Americans against discrimination in public accommodations – including people of color, people with disabilities, people of faith, and women.”
I’m a queer person who owns a blog with 18+ years of content. It is absolutely the case that I will be hiring web designers and content curators and others specifically offering original content to customers like me. Many years ago, I hired a webhosting company owned by a person who was part of the Salvation Army. It bothered me deeply that they could potentially disrupt my blog and my work based on their spiritual beliefs, I found a new host.
So now I live in a state without statewide protections in a country where national court rulings give some businesses license to discriminate. Where companies owned by anti-LGBTQ people of faith can make my already complicated journey through the day even more difficult.
National issues are intrinsically tied to the local blog’s existence because I’m a queer person, a woman, and a disabled person who needs web design services to keep the blog running. Do you think for a minute someone who won’t design a wedding website will welcome the chance to work with me on my blog?
I’ve shared this before, but it suits the occasion. When my wife and I drive north to visit her mother, we leave the protections of Allegheny County as we cross into Lawrence County and eventually Mercer County. There’s a Sheetz in Lawrence County where we stop to get gas and use the bathroom, maybe buy a cold drink or a snack. That is the exact spot where I pivot from my usual Pittsburgh lesbian blogger affect to general middle aged white lady. I see too many Confederate flags and Trump bumper stickers to take any risks with my safety. Or the safety of my wife. Sheetz has nothing in place to tell me I am welcome, affirmed, and safe. We rely on our own privilege to protect us not anything afforded to us by any government. It is a deeply uncomfortable part of our reality.
The national/local dichotomy factors into many other aspects of our lives. And the lives of our readers. Pennsylvania has a ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ law on the books so if the Supreme Court rolled back marriage protections, same sex marriage is not recognized by the law of Pennsylvania – the General Assembly has to repeal the DOMA and they have not. Second parent adoption rights were part of a 2006 court case, but Pennsylvania never codified it so LGBTQ families are LITERALLY all over the map when it comes to establishing and protecting their families, having to factor in where children were conceived, who are the biological donors, who are the legal parents, did parents cross state lines, etc.
I’m glad that question was posed because it certainly has value. Most media outlets have a defined region they cover. As resources are more constrained, that territory shrinks. I remember when gun violence incidents involving two different young trans adults unfolded in Mercer County in 2016. Very complex and nuanced situations involving important newsworthy elements, but that’s not in the Pittsburgh media market.
In 2019, a local affluent businessman erected electronic billboards in Worthington, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. Again, this is out of the territory of regional mainstream media. There is single traditional publication in all of Armstrong County (Kittanning) that was behind a paywall. It certainly isn’t my territory so to speak geographically, but it is my territory in terms of reporting on a significant story that was hurting the community. And I’ve continued to track the story because the owner of the billboards bought more in nearby Butler County while efforts by local Democrats to post an affirming sign was squashed by the billboard company. That’s a story that warranted more coverage.
I do think my perspective is skewed by the fact that I am not a trained journalist, I am a social worker and a community organizer. I am not earning a living from this blog, I pay out of my pocket each month to cover the bills. I work for myself so I can assign myself anything. I spent hundreds of hours on the stories mentioned above simply because I believed they were worth telling, even at a personal cost to me. Isn’t that sometimes the point – the stories that cost more than they give us?
I believe we are inherently better off as a community when we are informed by credible and reputable sources representing different points of view. One of the better things I experienced in my childhood was growing up watching my parents consume multiple forms of media – two daily papers, the noon/five/eleven pm news, the national news, magazines, etc. When they got cable, they added CNN to that mix.
As I grew into my own politics, I learned the value of adding to my news consumption – I use the Feedly app to have daily access to sites like Indigenous Media Action, Angry Asian Man, Latino Rebels, Teen Vogue, The 19th, The Root, Autostraddle, Holy Bullies, Mombian, them, and more. My local feed includes 2 Political Junkies, New Pittsburgh Courier, Next Pittsburgh, Observer-Reporter, Butler Eagle, Pittsburgh Business Times, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, Beaver County Times, 1 Hood Media, and more. We watch the local news every day, seven days a week. We watch the national news and a lot of MSNBC. We listen to NPR. Then there are podcasts and magazines. We subscribe to the New York Times and Washington Post.
Sure there’s a liberal/moderate skew here and outlets that are heavily steered by white cisgender men. That’s an important conversation – one I actually blogged about recently. But there’s value in many directions to work with what you have.
Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ population is very small – a 2015 study by Gallup found that Pittsburgh ranked 49 out of 50 in terms of the percentage of LGBT adults. That’s another reason to set aside the local/regional/national framework. The local ‘us’ is not very large. It is the sort of issue I wish a media outlet would explore especially alongside the new trajectory in hundreds of hyperlocal pride events. Or the neverending demand for lesbian bars. Or the lack of representation.
While it is a traditional framework for media outlets, the national/local dichotomy is not useful or necessary for LGBTQ media outlets. Taking a national story like the SCOTUS ruling on nondiscrimination and asking some local folks what they think is not interesting unless you include followup questions about their plans to vote in upcoming elections or their understanding of how Congress can respond. Not to embarrass them, but to inspire all consumers of the media to be curious.
If we could rely on the traditional framing of media, perhaps we would have more representation in mainstream media anyway.
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