Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Blog ... out'n proud in the Burghosphere.

Bookmark and Share
Year Archive
View Article  Protest Planned for Target's Shareholder Mtg in Pittsburgh

Target is holding a shareholder meeting here in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.  This is the first such meeting since the corporation donated $150,000 to support an anti-gay candidate in their election bid. 

There was immediate backlash.  It is a terrible contradiction to tell us you want our shopping dollars and support us, then try to elect someone who denies us our basic equal rights.  More on the donation specifics here.   These donations are tricky, but understand that this was from the actual company.  Executives within the company also made personal donations (including one from the CEO to Michelle Bachmann) which are troubling, but there's a little more gray when it comes to choices made by employees.  The $150,000 donation came from the profits WE generate by shopping at the store, not the salaries of the employees. 

Groups have united to plan a protest at the meeting on Wednesday, 12 PM at the new store site in East Liberty (you can't miss it).

Participating organizations include: Keystone Progress, Common Cause, Action United, Delta Foundation, We Are One Pennsylvania. 

So why does this matter?  Here's the perspective from Common Cause

As a giant retailer, Target is more susceptible to customer feedback, especially in an environment where sales have been slumping. The shareholder meeting is an opportunity to send a message that when companies try to buy our elected officials to do their bidding, we the people will be watching.  The protest is the beginning of a national effort to urge corporations to stop spending their profits to influence our elections. This spending distorts our public policy to only benefit a select few. We need to take a stand now before the 2012 elections are completely flooded with corporate money.

The LGBTQ community should take heed of this.  It is not a coincidence that they chose to support Tom Emmer, a State Rep running for Governor of Minnesota.  It was a calculated decision that probably had to do with business, but conveniently overlooked Emmer's strong stance against marriage equality, LGBTQ parentings, and his affiliation with an "incendiary" Christian group.  This man was much more Darryl Metcalfe than Tom Corbett if I can make so bold a continuum. 

If you work in the East End or can get away for a bit mid-day, please make an effort to head to East Liberty and send a message.  Let them know you are paying attention.  We can't stop corporations from making huge financial donations to the 2012 elections.  Do you want Target funding anti-equality candidates in Western Pennsylvania? 

My post on personal choices around boycotting Target and other companies ... another time.  It is constructive to know we can participate without the interminable inner struggle about where we spend our dollars.  So let's take advantage of this opportunity, queer Pittsburgh, and send a message.  We are paying attention.

View Article  The end of an era: the closure of A Pleasant Present

The rumor is true.  A Pleasant Present, the wonderful gift and pride shop in Squirrel Hill, is closing its doors after 16 years in business. 

I stopped by yesterday to chat with owner Michael Ferraro. He explained they will continue the close out sale (40% off!) through mid-July and close their doors forever.  Ferraro is very matter of fact about his decision, but has many fond memories of his 16 years. 

A Pleasant Present has been a real community hub.  From Pride merchandise to LGBT flyers, Michael has been a part of almost every single LGBT group, event and activity in the past decade.  He sold tickets to events, distributed flyers and has been a true champion of progressive political values in his own kitschy way with all sorts of delightful bumper stickers, magnets and paraphenalia.  He always had a smile, a bit of news and something new to show me.

I've purchased dozens of gift baskets, lots of presents for children, scores of cards and all sorts of unique items I'll never find agan. I'll miss that, but ... most of all, I will miss Michael.  His joy, his service to the community and his kind heart are the real presents.

Rest assured, he will remain in Pittsburgh and will be making his signature gourmet gift baskets.  I asked about the rainbow flag that flies proudly on Murray Avenue. It would be a great item to display in the GLCC, perhaps framed and labeled.  That flag has been a beacon for many an lgbt person in the region.

View Article  American Eagle takes a page from BP ...

... and not in a good way.

We've all heard about the ridiculous/offensive/hateful decision of BP to spend millions ($50 I believe) on a PR campaign, $50 million that would clean up a lot of dying birds and sealife.  Or lost compensate people for lost income.  You get the point.

Here in Pittsburgh, we have a mini-version of corporate bullshit that values public relations over the welfare of human beings, namely their employees. American Eagle, thy name is corporate meanie.

AE was the corporate sponsor for a childcare center on the Southside to the tune of $200 K.  Imagine how wonderful it would be for a corporation with lots of below-living-wage employees to have access to quality childcare! 

Then imagine a 90 day notice saying it is closing! My friends on Facebook have been frantic to find a substitute. But still, this cost cutting move saves jobs, right?

What a slap in the face this little tidbit must be ...

American Eagle Outfitters announced Thursday it won the right to name a new North Shore entertainment complex and the venue's Ohio-based developer said apartments and condos could be its next project.

Construction on the $12 million indoor-outdoor complex dubbed Stage AE began in April. It's expected to be completed in the fall with enough outdoor seating for up to 5,500 people and indoor seating for 2,400 people.


State taxpayers will chip in $2.5 million to build the entertainment complex, or about 21 percent of the overall construction cost. The Steelers declined to discuss the terms of American Eagle's contribution.

"I can't disclose those to you. We made an agreement with all of our parties not to do that," said Mark Hart, the Steelers' director of business.

An American Eagle spokeswoman also declined to disclose how much the company paid the Steelers for the naming rights. She said the multi-year agreement is the first time the company paid for naming rights.

So naming rights = good PR. Closure of daycare = unessential PR?  Even if enrollment of AE employees has been declining, how does that justify 90 days notice? Clearly, some AE bureacrat didn't even have the compassion to allow the parents enough time to find decent substitutes. 

Or they just don't care. Screw working class parents and their Target outfits.  There's money to be made from folks who have disposable income for concerts, not diapers.  Imagine when they roll out the Black and Gold bedazzled AE baseball caps? 

I wonder if the "state taxpayers" realize the costs of daycare closures. Inevitably, people are going to leave the workforce because they can't find childcare. I'm sure productivity is almost zero for the harried parents. And what about the actual AE employees who have just been completely bitch slapped by heartless overlords that were lured to the Southside Works with public money in the first place?

Maybe they'll get to stand outside the new concert venue and listen to the music?

 I wonder if this new "NorthShore" complex is going to employ Northside residents? 

Major suckitude failure, American Eagle. You are the worst company in Pittsburgh right now.

View Article  Bash Back - Latest Pittsburgh Actions

Bash Back, a radical transfolk/queer group, has had two recent actions in Pittsburgh.  One involved an evangelical church that promises to cure homosexuality.  The other involved our favorite bakery, Peace Love and Little Donuts. You recall a recent favorable review published in Cue Pittsburgh?  Here's the response from people who care about these things.

In the May issue of Cue Magazine- a local mainstream GLBT magazine- a favorable article was printed about PLLD and Razete?s business. The author of the magazine apologized profusely when contacted and said he had no idea about the shop?s owner- showing that more visibility is needed. He plans to write a follow-up article that will show more truths about Razette?s character. But for local queers, this was another conniving move by Razette to use queer communities to obtain more capital.

In response, queers revisited his shop in May 2010. His locks were glued and ?QUEERS BASH BACK (A)? was painted in large letters covering the front of his shop. Businesses run by queer bashers will continue to be exposed in our city, especially when they use queer communities here to further their capitalist agenda.

Now, I am not in favor of vandalism.  I don't think its constructive, but I also think the mainstream community's refusal to explore the underlying anger and engage the participants is equally not constructive.  We just go round and round. 

The unknown factor at this point is whether Cue Pittsburgh will print the retraction or the promised follow up article. It did not appear in the June issue.

From Facebook:


Do the readers of Cue care enough to raise their own ruckus?  More to the point, do they care enough to stop buying the damn donuts?

Speaking of caring, I am searching for info on the promised meeting with City Council regarding the gay bashing incidents in Bloomfield. I've been encouraging elected officials to get off Grant Street and meet queer folks out in the community to ensure they have information (and solutions?) from diverse points of view.  I'm hoping they respond soon. 

Stay tuned.


View Article  Fayette County prison guard gender stereotyping suit settled

We first discussed this back in December 2009 when the Tribune Review reported on a federal lawsuit filed by a state prison guard in Fayette County.  He claimed he was being harassed because he did not conform to gender expectations, including being too effeminate on the radio.  (What does that even mean, asks the female former radio host?)

The suit has been settled by mediation. No one is talking about what that actually means, but it doesn't mean a court ruling on the matter.

This man is a state employee who enjoys no state protections from being harassed on his sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation (remember, gay men act like women and acting like a woman is bad).  He worked in Fayette County which does not have county protections for sexual orientation. 

He was harassed because people thought he was gay.  He had to go to the federal courts to get help.  We don't know if he is gay. 

This could be you.  You could be the woman who dresses in trousers and has manly gestures.  You could be the man with the effeminate voice.  You could be a heterosexual person who is perceived as gay.  And you could be fired. 

Support ENDA and HB 300.  It is about our jobs.

View Article  ENDA - Stop and think, you know this one

If you use the Google blog search on the federal legislation known as ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act), you'll see a fair amount of information, outrage and distortion of facts on all sides of the debate. 

The truth is that there is a very real opportunity to pass federal legislation that would protect gay Americans in their jobs.  It wouldn't matter if you live in Pittsburgh, Ross Township or Cranberry Township - you would be protected by the full force of federal law.  This is big.  Federal recognition of LGBT civil rights paves the way for greater economic opportunities for our entire community. It opens the door to more domestic partner benefits, more visibility in the workplace and more equality.  Not full equality, but enough of it that its worth fighting to obtain. 

Let me share with you information from trusted inside sources.

In the House of Representatives, the bill should move to a floor vote soon.  Here's a link to a great spreadsheet that is kept updated on all things related to ENDA and the House.  There are 221 Yes votes, 182 No votes and 27 unconfirmed votes.  It is possible that an inclusive ENDA will pass in the House. 

The Senate is a different matter.  Here is that spreadsheet. Today, I was informed that there are 55 Yes votes and 9 possible Yes votes.  That's very close and could make all the difference. That's an uphill battle.

Something to note.  We are much closer to passing an inclusive ENDA now than ever before.  The non-inclusive version (sometimes referred to as SPLENDA) wasn't acceptable and it didn't pass anyway. 

Before I delve into what you can do to tip the scales towards equality, let me remind you of what our opponents will be pushing.

1. The bathroom argument.  We heard this at the Steel City Stonewall Endorsement when a candidate for State House said he might support HB 300 except for some concerns. The fact that he didn't trouble himself to get educated by Frankel's team before coming to the endorsement suggests he thinks we are fools. That we believe there might be legitimate reasons to think cross-dressing men are going to invade women's bathrooms and dressing rooms across the nation en masse as soon as these bills would be signed.  If someone can come to a gay endorsement meeting and not "get" this hysterical nonsense for the hysterical nonsense that it is, we have a lot of educating to do.  Since he won the endorsement, we better do it soon.

And we need to be prepared for this tired, but effective tactic to be bandied about, especially when they want us to throw our transsisters and brothers under the bus to get a diluted SPLENDA passed so some of us get more equal. 

2. Religious Liberty.  ENDA does not mean faith communities have to make the slightest change to their institutions and practices, unless they receive federal funding. No anti-gay Baptist ministry is going to be forced to hire gay choir directors.  This is another attempt to derail the conversation by pitting LGBT rights against religious rights.  That's untrue. This is about ending discrimination against a class of people, not a restriction on another group's liberty.  But it works.  It scares people. 

These people are bearing false witness.  There is simply no evidence to back up these allegations. The HRC Corporate Equality Index shows 305 corporations that have adopted some measure of inclusion in their business practices and they seem to be doing fine.

So, how can you step up? 

In the Senate, we are good.  Both Casey and Specter are co-sponsoring the legislation. So a simple thank you call or email to them will do nicely.

In the House, well you aren't going to be surprised.  Unconfirmed votes are Jason Altmire and Kathy Dahlkemper. However, both of these individuals voted FOR Hate Crimes protections so there is reason to believe they can be moved.  It certainly is worth a few minutes of your time to try. 

Jason represents portions of six counties. He's going to get intense pressure from the right wing, especially with the election coming up.  It is important that you who live in his district get your message about economic development on his desk. This is about your ability to put food on the table for your family. 

The Aliquippa Office is the best place to direct your calls: 724-378-0928. You can email him at this link.

Kathy Dahlkemper represents 7 counties in the Northwestern portion of the Commonwealth. Hello, Erie.  She has a toll free number 1-877-528-4948 and an email form at this link.

This doesn't have to be hard.  Simply write down your bullet points.  When you make the call/send the email, provide your contact information so they know you live in the district.  Then make your case. Adding a personal touch is important.  That could be identifying yourself as a person of faith or referencing a family member who has lost a job or been denied a job because of their identity as LGBT.  Anything that helps unpack those awfu, but powerful, untruths will help. 

If the bathroom tactic makes you roll your eyes, please find someone living in these districts to make these calls. 

View Article  Attention Pgh Area LGBT Executives

This caught my eye ...

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates invites emerging LGBT business leaders to apply for its 2010 Executive Forum, set for April 19-21 in New York City

March 10, 2010
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is inviting qualified applicants to take part in the 2010 Out & Equal Executive Forum?s class for emerging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender business leaders.Set for April 19-21 at the Le Parker Meridien in New York City, the Executive Forum will bring emerging executives together for a unique, two-day experience that is designed to enhance participants? effectiveness as leaders in their workplaces.
Only a limited number of seats are available for this exciting, new opportunity being added to the Executive Forum, now in its third year and known as one of the premiere conferences tailored for senior LGBT executives.
"Over the years, we have created a program - a foundation - that gives LGBT business leaders from around the world the opportunity to learn best practices from one another and become role models and examples for millions of people on how to be successful while being true to oneself," said Out & Equal Founding Executive Director Selisse Berry.
At the Executive Forum, participants will:
?          Hear from experts on issues that intersect with participants' professional roles, their LGBT identities and their advocacy
?          Engage in dialogue with peers on the toughest issues related to the LGBT equality movement
?          Gain a greater understanding of their roles as leaders in their corporations and as leaders creating inclusive workplaces
?          Learn successful strategies and tactics for an executive to further an out and equal workplace
?          Receive encouragement and coaching from peers on how to be their most authentic and powerful self
?          Benefit from expert facilitation to help reflect on and process provocative questions that arise during the Executive Forum
Out & Equal is especially targeting leaders who identify from the transgender community, the bisexual community and the communities of color.
The 2010 Out & Equal Executive Forum will conclude with the Leadership Celebration on April 21 at the Le Parker Meridien. This incredible celebration - including an exclusive reception and a special dinner - will celebrate those making a difference in the movement for LGBT workplace equality.
The cost to participate in the Executive Forum?s Emerging Executive Class is $1,600, and includes both the Executive Forum and the Leadership Celebration. To apply or learn more about the Executive Forum, please visit our website at www.OutandEqual.org.
If you know someone who meets the qualifications, please forward anomination to us. If you have any questions about the Executive Forum or the Leadership Celebration, please contact Associate Director of Summit & Events Anthony Bannon at abannon@outandequal.org or 415-694-6516.
# # #
Out & Equal? Workplace Advocates is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Out & Equal champions safe and equitable workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The organization advocates building and strengthening successful organizations that value all employees, customers, and communities. Visit our website, www.OutandEqual.org, for more details.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates offers a wide range of programs and services to promote LGBT workplace equality, including the Out & Equal
Executive Forum, set for April 19-21, 2010 in New York City, and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, set for Oct. 5-8, 2010 in Los Angeles.






View Article  Homophobia Disguised as Religious Bias Claim Tossed Out

Mellon fired an employee, in part due to his disrespectful treatment of his LGBTQ coworkers and in part due to his inappropriate work behavior.  The employee, Avraham Schwartzberg of Squirrel Hill, filed a lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against because of his religion; he's an Orthodox Jew. 

He was a member of the company's group for people with disabilities, known as HEART, and in May 2005, like all other Mellon employees, he received an e-mail inviting him to a luncheon hosted by the Mellon's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employee group with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Five days later he received a reminder from the head of the group for disabled employees about the luncheon.

His trouble at work started two days later when he sent a note back to the head of the disability group saying it should not be lumped in with other groups of workers. His note included the line, "If you happen to be black or purple or green, etc. or happen to have this sickness called gay or lesbian, just do your job."

The head of the group sent the note to the Human Relations department and later testified the e-mail showed a lack respect for other individuals. The company agreed and called Mr. Schwartzberg in for a meeting where he was told his e-mail reply was offensive and that while the company respected his opinion, he was required to treat all co-workers with respect. He replied later with a religious postcard and a note that said in part, "the true friend of gays and lesbians is the one that points them to help."

A US District Judge tossed the religious bia suit out. 

Previous decisions at this level have tossed out claims that religious freedoms allow discriminatory behavior targeting gays in the workplace. 

It sickens me when people in the workplace assume that homophobia must be tolerated as an outgrowth of Christian, Jewish or any other belief system. That's bullshit.  You come to work, you leave a little bit of your personal freedoms at the door when they conflict with the personal freedoms of other individuals. 

Amen, Mellon. 

View Article  Piittsburgh: There is no "LGBTor Q" in Diversity!


(b)   It shall be the public policy of the City to prohibit discrimination because of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, age, nonjob related handicap, or disability in employment; and

(n)     SEXUAL ORIENTATION.    Male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality or perceived homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. 

Give credit where credit is due.  Luke Ravenstahl hired Tamiko Stanley as the City's Equal Employment Opportunities manager and she's tackling the job full-throttle when it comes to gender and race, according to Friday's Post-Gazette. This includes everything from upper-body strength standards in firefighter hiring to forging partnerships with community-based groups such the Kingsley Association to recruit more African-American applicants for City jobs.

Rich Lord mentions that Stanley came to the City after several years with the Pirates without noting her actual accomplishments in diversity recruitment.  I'm assuming we are all in agreement that the City has enough overpaid fat-cats who accomplish nothing to rival anything the Pirates lineup for the past umpteen years.  Hopefully, that wasn't Stanley's forte. 

Stanley has her work cut out for her with the Racial Equity Review Team, labor unions and lotsa lawyers breathing down her neck.  One of those neck-breathers is long-time activist Celeste Taylor who is the only person in the article to mention sexual orientation in the same breathe as diversity.  Not a single column inch mentions Stanley's plans to diversify the City workforce along the sexual orientation continuum.  No mention of incorporating LGBTQ issues in the new City University diversity curriculum.  I'm torn between thinking Rich Lord didn't ask the question, but it is probably more accurate to acknowle that sexual minorities are not on the radar for Stanley. 

This is the Democratic Administration helmed by a Mayor who publicly stated his opposition to gay marriage and gay civil unions.  If he fails that litmus test, is it realistic to think he's going to promote "take a queer to work day" for City employees?  Yes, I realize Luke had the big gay meeting with local LGBTQ leaders (including the Stonewall Democrats) the afternoon before the election, but not a single person in attendance has uttered a public word about the outcome. Thus, Luke is still officially opposed to gay unions.

I guess this latest diversity accolade puts to rest the rumor that Luke thought he was opposing homosexual labor unions.  I've contacted the homosexual labor unions, but they, like the Steel-City Stonewall Democrats, have yet to reply to my email inquiries on this issue.

Some highlights: 

FOP Prez Jimmy Malloy thinks the $38,000+ low a starting salary for police officers with two-year degrees is the diversity issue.  Yeah, that's probably it. Or maybe it is the nasty little requirement forcing the police officers to live far away from the lily white mecca of Cranberry Township that drives the minority applicants away!

Ms. Taylor wants to apply the NFL's "Rooney Rule" to City openings, requiring that at least one minority applicant be interviewed.  Do you think the NFL applies that principle to homosexuals or they just let the beat down/pray for your soul football culture weed out the queers?

Mr. Malloy is quoted as believing police recruits "are already indoctrinated to the principle of treating people with respect."  

Well, we know Luke respects folks in our community willing to ante up for some back rubbing.  There's no Pittsburgh LGTB Chamber of Commerce and our professional networking group (Thursday Night Live) is on life support, so who is going to advocate for a more-queer friendly City workforce?  Or pay for it?

Did Rich Lord ask any gay questions?  Did he?


View Article  Good Workplace News for Pgh Homos

Good news for members of the LGBTQ community working for a handful of our local employers. From the Post-Gazette ...

Mellon Financial Corp., US Airways and GlaxoSmithKline were among 142 companies ranked as the Best Places to Work for Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Workers. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2007 rankings include companies that implement policies and practices to promote fairness and equality for GLBT workers, the foundation said.

Mellon Financial was featured in a Post-Gazette article for supporting employee driven affinity networks

The HRC Best Places to Work 2007 identifies over 140 companies that achieved a perfect score on equality issues.

Individuals can be fired in 33 states if they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and 42 states if they are transgender. HRC recognizes these Best Places to Work for GLBT Equality as companies that have made a commitment to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.

The index only considers Fortune 500 companies and excludes governments, non-profits and hospitals (that's a shame). Criteria include:

* Including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in company non-discrimination policies.

* Offering diversity education that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

* Offering equal benefits to domestic partners, including health coverage

* Supporting transgender employees with transition guidelines and wellness benefits.

*Recognizing and supporting GLBT employee resource groups or company wide diversity councils

* Engaging in respectful and appropriate marketing/philanthropy to the LGBT community

Some other companies of interest on the ranking (at least my interest):

- GAP , Nike and Levi Strauss

- Clear Channel Communications

- Best Buy

- Sears



Follow PghLesbian24 on Twitter

The Correspondents