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View Article  Pittsburgh's Dyke March - Today! Who Will Be There?


Well, today is the day.  This afternoon at say 2:45 PM, we'll see if our "fierce allies" in City Hall were able to finally resolve the issue of police protecton and allow women who don't typically attend fundraisers and public meetings the safety to exercise their first amendment rights?

Don't get me wrong -- I had responses when I reached out, but not a single leader offered to attend in solidarity with these women.  Not to me at least.  They just kept telling me to call if there's a problem.  Making sure the police do their jobs is great, but it is really sad that NO ONE thinks it worth an hour of their time to show solidarity for victims of Pittsburgh bureacratic incompetence and homophobia.

Maybe I'll be wrong and they'll show.  I'll let you know. 

View Article  A little more on GetEqual and activism in PA

From Pam's House Blend, a guest post on the increasing presence of GetEqual in the LGBTQ advocacy/activist scene. 

Distraught by recent delays, LGBT activists turn to civil disobedience to encourage the passage of the Employment Non Discrimination and repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell".  Groups like GetEQUAL are making their voices known though direct actions like chaining themselves to fences, organizing sit-ins at congressional offices, and interrupting political speeches with calls from the audience.

Some believe these actions and the increasing visibility of the community's discontent played a role in the House vote on DADT. 

Now they've turned attention to visibility around ENDA.  Recently, GetEqual organizer Kip Williams disrupted a speech by President Obama to show that not everyone in the LGBTQ community is willing to patiently wait for leadership.  The President was not amused and continues to cover his lack of leadership by deflecting attention to the "real" opponents.  This redirection is not unfamiliar here in Southwestern PA, but that's a topic for another post.

Such direction action by individuals are not without precedent.  From the Washington Post

Nineteen-year-old Mark Segal became angry when he and a male friend were thrown out of a television dance program one August afternoon in 1972 after the program's host saw them dancing together. In retaliation, Segal barged into the studio of Philadelphia's WPVI a few days later during its evening newscast. Startled studio personnel wrestled him to the floor, tied his hands with a microphone cable and called the police.

Segal became a walking terror with his "zaps," as they were called. In 1973, his targets included "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and "The Mike Douglas Show." He and a friend staged their last and most notorious zap when they posed as college students and obtained passes for the "CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite." Midway through the broadcast on Dec. 11, 1973, as Cronkite began a story about Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Segal darted in front of the camera with a sign reading "Gays Protest CBS Prejudice."

My favorite part:

Cronkite may have been more startled when Segal's attorney tried to serve him with a subpoena to testify. After CBS attorneys blocked repeated attempts to deliver the document, Segal's lawyer informed the network of a little-used New York law that made photocopies of a subpoena as valid as an original. He threatened to make copies available to the Hells Angels, with a reward for anyone who served the subpoena. Faced with the prospect of having Cronkite stalked by gay activists and bikers, CBS lawyers relented.

The tactics worked.  Segal had a face to face with Cronkite to explain how CBS News was censoring the increasing gay activism.  Cronkite paved the way for on-air coverage and Segal went on to found The Philadelphia Gay News

Hmmm. The argument against direct action as a viable tactic has not only historically, but currently proven wrong.  Segal has gone on to play a significant role increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.

Impact on the legislative process requires a multitude of tactics from letter writing to direct action. It is all about visibility. The emergence of groups like Get Equal demonstrates our potential to delve into the rich history of LGBTQ activism to tackle issues like DADT and ENDA. 

I do need to point out that what we are missing in Pennsylvania is that activist/direct action middle link. I've written recently about the workings of the insider/Alist advocates who have embedded themselves into the system and work for change from within.  I've also written about the tactics of groups like Bash Back who are at the other end of the spectrum. What's missing is the visibility of those in between -- those who are losing patience and seeking leadership to openly channel that frustration and disillusionment. 

Telling us "I've got it" isn't enough.  Vandalizing property out of anger with the system is also not working. I believe neither approach resonates with the average LGBTQ person without the in between, the actions that connect with our lives and our experiences. 

In my case, I experience the tension of the in between most days. I don't trust those who say they've got it because the results of that approach are not changing lives or meeting the promises of the politicians making the decisions. I am dismayed when people believe the damage to property has any positive impact other than to announce they are angry. 

Finding the leadership for the in between is the key. 

The old joke is that Pittsburgh is 20 years behind the curve in most trends.  Let's hope the slight forward momentum finds inspiration from the national scene to defy those odds.


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  The Dyke March is on ....

Just got word that Dyke March permit is in Eli's hands so we are all set.  Here's the route:



The speaker will be Miranda Vey of the Pittsburgh Dykes on Bikes. She's an articulate, insightful woman with a wonderful ability to inspire.  I think it will be a great event. 

Here's hoping the police show up as promised.

View Article  Federal Marshalls Call Transgender Veteran "Shim"

Quick notes this morning.  Read this account from blogger and transgender activist Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend.  It describes her processing by US Federal Marshalls who treated her with disrespect and in direct violation of their own policies for processing transgender men and women.  Autumn is a decorated military veteran who engaged in civil disobedience to protest Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  This is shameful conduct on the part of the arresting officials. 

View Article  Ulf, Canine Cop, Responsible for Every Civil Rights Violation in the History of Pittsburgh

What's more important for local social justice - the stability of the Thomas Merton Center or the culpability of a dead police dog?  I'd like to ask Carole Weidmann that question.  Carole's pants were ripped during an anti-war protest a few years ago and the culprit may have been Ulf, the dog who was shot and killed by Justin Jackson a few weeks ago. Mr. Jackson was subsequently killed by return fire.  (Ripped pants do not equal dead teenager.)

Carole is oft brought up as an example of the horrors of police brutality in Pittsburgh.  Carole is also a board member of the Thomas Merton Center, Pittsburgh's most significant anti-war organization.  The Merton Center seems to be in terrible straights -- almost all of the professional staff have resigned.  One sent an email (I have a copy if you want it) citing board issues as a reason for his resignation.  The organization is struggling financially.

Who is going to protect the rights of other Justin Jacksons if TMC isn't back on solid ground?  As a member, I'd personally prefer Carole put her time and energy (and her legion of fans) to use on that issue. 

It is sad to read a City Paper story about a CMU student who claims to have stared down Ulf and avoid being "mauled" as he put it.  That's just silly, condescending talk.  David Struthers believes his elite status saved the day when he was confronted with a big bad police dog anxious to get 'em.  I noted with some interest that the City Paper did not include any perspective from reputable dog trainers.  I have consulted a few and their interpretation of the YouTube video footage is very different than Mr. Struthers. 

Further, there's the never-ceasing coverage of police dogs gone wild with little if any acknowledgment of situations where police dogs saved lives or prevented violent endings.  No information on the difference between a dog grabbing a suspect and a dog biting a suspect.  Anyone with large dogs can tell the difference.  A dog can be trained to subdue.  They do it every day and no one ends up dead.  It doesn't take Swami Struthers to prevent a catastrophe. 

I love the man called Potter and his crew.  They do good reporting.  But this story mimics the one-dimensional approach to the death of Justin Jackson we saw when the story broke.  And it continues to really piss me off to see all of this man v dog coverage.   And I would be disingenuous if I didn't write this post out of deference to their feelings.  I almost didn't.  But they have much thicker skins than certain people who write 80 paragraphs responses to my criticism.  So on we go ...

If David Struthers is so concerned about the other Justin Jackson's of the world, maybe he should call up Carole, roll up his sleeves and do something to build up the TMC. 

Instead we get this ...

Still, Struthers believes, there was one overwhelming factor that helped his police-dog encounter toward its peaceful end. "I had a confidence, when I was sitting there, with the dog coming toward me, [police] weren't just going to let the dog maul me," he concludes. "First, because there were a lot of people there. But, really, if you release dogs on people attending elite universities there's going to be a lot of people upset at that," and very publicly. "I can't imagine [Jackson] thinking that a lot of people are going to care if he gets mauled, in the world at large. It changes how you are going to react in that situation. What happened to this guy was par for the course in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, and that's the real story, as far as I'm concerned."

Par for the course?  Ahem.  This man puts monies (and his talent) in the coffers of a University that builds robots for war.  A war in which Justin Jackson is much more likely to be used as cannon fodder than CMU "elite" students.  So spare us the moral high ground, David.  You have no clue what Justin was thinking when he pulled that trigger and it is insulting to imply otherwise.  More importantly, why don't you speak out about what you are doing to make a difference? 

To summarize.  Stop the man v dog media coverage.  Give the public a well-rounded perspective on police dogs  -- find out how many suspects have been apprehended without violence with the assistance of a police dog --- now that would be a story.  Consult dog behavioral experts instead of college students for analysis.  Figure out what the hell is going on with the Thomas Merton Center -- they don't even list their board members on the website.

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