A Troubling Anniversary for the Pittsburgh LGBTQ Community
One year ago, I received my first tip about the transphobic ads running on local Pittsburgh radio stations. I spent a lot of hours trying to track down the ad, figure out the FCC information, and encouraging people to contact the stations.
All in all, eight of the regions nine major stations aired the ad. It was a greedy, reprehensible decision that created significant trauma for unsuspecting listeners, both in terms of hearing the ad content but also by the ways in which the ad reinforced ignorant and intolerant views by some people in the community.
One by one, they succumbed to pressure from community partners to pull the ad. The only holdout was our alleged holiday family values station, 99.7.
Ran the Ad for Full Contract
- 99.7 WISH
Ran the Ad but Pulled It
- 105.9 the X
- KDKA AM
- 96.1 KISS
Did Not Run the Ad
- 96.9 Bob FM
I Heart Media, Audacy, and Renda Broadcasting are the parents companies of these ads. Renda owns WSHH 99.7 and 17 other stations around the country. Audacy owns KDKA AM & FM, 93.7 The Fan, 100.7 Star, Y108, B94 and 10 total stations in the region, more nationally.
In the end, Renda didn’t budge, but the others did thanks to the community outrage and allies like the Pittsburgh Public Schools holding their broadcast partner accountable to uphold school policy.
The Ad Video and Transcript
This is rough transcript of this ad. Note that the first few seconds were not recorded.
” <Intro> To make it easier for boys to take estrogen to appear more feminine. They wanna make it easier for girls to take testosterone so they grow facial hair. Biden and the New Left want to let kids take puberty blockers to keep them from developing into men and women. These drugs can leave you sterile, infertile, impotent. Biden and the New left even want to make it easier for teens and young adults to get surgery to remove breast and genitals. They would allow boys in our daughter’s bathrooms and sports teams, and now the Biden administration is planning to issue new rules that will push doctors to prescribe dangerous drugs and worse, to facilitate these changes on fake charges of discrimination, tell President Biden and left wing leaders across America hands off our kids paid for by America First Legal Foundation.”
This ad was purchased by the American First Legal Foundation
The Response of One Black Trans Man
One piece that resonates with me is an essay written by Jam Hammond on February 24, 2023 for Public Source. He and I had spoken previously about his experience hearing the ad while inside a rideshare with a stranger. Jam identifies as a Black trans man. I am glad he shared this because it is important to understand the impact from the vantage of trans neighbors, but it would be cruel to ask trans kids and parents to relive that experience. Not that it was fair to ask Jam, but his willingness to offer that testimony was very immportant.
Sitting in the stranger’s car, listening to the advertisement shaming trans youth and their parents for supporting them, I was gripped with the same fear: Am I safe? As the driver made a few more turns, I thought about the fact that this stranger, whose sentiments I could only guess at, would know where I live. As we finally got to the Liberty Bridge, I started to release myself from fear. The radio played on, bringing a bewildering mix of oldies, but no new horror.
A hateful anti-trans radio ad brought flashbacks to dark moments and places — but also motivation February 24, 2023
Jam has since moved away from Pittsburgh.
Can We Expect Better from Pittsburgh Media?
What has Pittsburgh learned since this happened?
Some steps such as defining Pittsburgh as a Sanctuary City are positive. Others such as the decision by the University of Pittsburgh to host anti-trans proponents in the guise of free speech are a shame on us. It is not really my place to determine if Pittsburgh has become more trans friendly.
But has it become less likely for something like this to happen again? That’s debatable. The radio stations themselves have taken no action to offset the harm they caused. Our largest newspaper remains intractable with regard to their obligation to their workforce while many employees have added scab to their resume, suggesting that they cannot be trusted to tell stories fairly moving ahead. Our NPR station is bargaining with unionized employees, but canceled the only local talk and news program. The City Paper is a shadow of itself with regard to actual news coverage. Smaller outlets haven’t made headway in growing their circulation. Even associations and collaborations simmer and brim with anti-LGBTQ bias.
So, yes, I do see this happening again. Pittsburgh has much work to do creating a more intersectional, equitable community that there is plenty of room for bigotry and ignorance to worm its way through the doors of capitalism to plague us. Our media is not consistently on the side of fairness or justice when it comes to coverage of the stories of the oppressed, marginalized, and vulnerable neighbors among us.
Personally, I’ll never shake the comment from a local parent driving her children, including one trans child, to school when the ad came on the air. She could not free her hands to change the dial or mute it. She was devastated and told me that she would never listen to commercial radio again in the car. And I don’t think she has.
Thankfully, the trans community leads the way forward.
Warning: Pittsburgh Radio Stations Airing Vicious Anti-Trans Ad October 16, 2022
Update on Pgh Radio Stations Airing Anti-Trans Ad Targeting Children October 20, 2022
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