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View Article  "Fagbug" is back in the region

I first learned about this story at Pridefest a few years ago.  Erin Davies has her vehicle vandalized, including homophobic graffiti and the always original tag "Fag."  Erin took action and began driving the vehicle around the nation to educate people about homophobia.  Sure enough, she drove in the Pride March that year. 

Erin is back in the region, speaking in Fayette County and showing the documentary she made during her journey around the nation.  She speaks on Thursday, February 24, 2011.

Instead of letting the incident deter her, Davies decided to take her car on a 58-day road trip. Her goal was to capture people's reactions to her car on film and turn it into a documentary titled "Fagbug."

Davies' presentation will include a viewing of the documentary and the telling of the story of her transformation from hate crime victim to hate crime activist. People will also have the opportunity to see the "Fagbug" automobile at the campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I love that she claims the title activist, too. 


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  Wingnut Donutter pulls one over on LGBTQ community

I have to give Ron Razete of Peace, Love and Little Donuts credit. His anti-gay bigotry was on display in the Post-Gazette, the Pgh City Paper, national blogs and the Urban Spoon and he didn't miss beat nor repent a single vile word he spewed. 

What did he say?  Here are some excerpts from his now defunct blog. Razete drew quite a response from the lesbian blogs (ahem) to the radical queers to LGBT business owners.

But getting a two page spread in Pittsburgh's LGBT magazine, Cue Pittsburgh, is stunning. How on earth did he get free publicity from a gay publication? 

It does prove my point that he's using the "peace, love, hippie" theme as a marketing ploy, but I'm intrigued how this played out.  Did the wingnutters go looking for a palatable gay media source?  Was this calculated or just chance? Did the wingnutter know what kind of magazine was interviewing his daughter? 

The undeniable fact is that Cue Pittsburgh missed the boat in a big way. I wonder if the editorial staff is paying attention to local LGBT news if they simply "forgot" about the donut scandal?  I am puzzled. It would be one thing if they were reviewing heterosexual owned businesses and overlooking gay owned companies, but this guy really hates us.  How does Cue plan to respond?  Will they step up and take responsibility for putting gay money in the pocket of a rabid homophobe?  I truly hope so. 


View Article  What if the big "coming out" promised this week is a Christian, country music star?

TMZ beat People magazine to the punch with the disclosure that country music's Chely Wright plans to come out this week as a lesbian.

The 39-year-old singer scored a #1 country song back in 1999 with "Single White Female," when she was named Academy of Country Music new artist of the year.

Wright is the first major country artist ever to come out.  She has been romantically linked to a number of celebs, including Brad Paisley.

This is a big deal in the country world.  Chely is rolling the dice on her
career ... it's unclear how traditionally-conservative country fans will react.

Interesting ... she lists Howard Bragman as her publicist, who was the mastermind behind the Chaz Bono story.

Hmmm.  LGBT folks are divided as to whether this is significant news or ho-hum-not-a-big-name coming out.  My personal opinion is that this does matter.  Setting aside those "a ha" moments (Queen Latifah), there is bravery in this much less well-known, but still popular woman taking a step out of the closet.  Isn't that what we want -- people to be proud of who they are? 

If she comes out, Chely is rolling the dice on her career, just like many of us do when we come out.  She probably has a bit more of a financial buffer, but the risk is there.  The potential payoff is there as well ... a country music star can reach audiences most of us can't touch.  She humanizes "the gay" in our society for an entirely new audience.  From Queerty.com:

The significance of a country music name coming out could prove very good here in SW Pennsylvania where Toby Keith concerts turn the Northside upside down.  Our challenge is to reach out into the hearts and minds of Pennsylvanians who don't have openly gay icons in their lives.  Now they just might.

View Article  Ellen DeGeneres and the Founding Fathers

Craig Galik of Duquesne is not pleased.  Apparently, when he tunes in to the Ellen DeGeneres show, he doesn't expect to see any lesbian claptrap. Imagine his horror when Ellen spoke about her plans to marry partner, Portia De Rossi.  On television.  In front of viewers.  Gay stuff. 

Either Craig is the only person on earth who doesn't know that Ellen is a lesbian or he is just an idiot.  Actually, I'm pretty sure its the latter based on these statements:

Isn't it funny that we can talk openly about gay affairs on TV, but we cannot freely talk about Jesus.

Is this what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wanted freedom for all?

This is exactly the narrow-minded thinking that is so seductive to people lacking the capacity for original thought.  Craig postulates that there is more discussion of gay issues than Jesus-flavored religious issues on television.  That's simply preposterous.  You can't turn on a news station without smacking into some religious advisor or another commenting on the latest political issue.  We can't have a discussion on anything -- from access to healthcare to hemlines -- without contemplating what Jesus would do about it.  Craig also seems to forget that entire stations devoted to Jesus flavored religions dominated the airwaves long before LOGO came churning along.  It has been a long, long time since it wasn't cool to talk about Jesus on television.  Exactly one day longer than there has actually been television. 

What Craig is trying to do is pit any discussion of gay issues as a suppression of his religious liberties.  He does it poorly and with a distinct lack of poetry, but I'm sure he got a few amens out of the PG readers.  It is just amazing that Christians can somehow redefine themselves as a persecuted minority on one hand and yet force all three Presidential candidates to prove their Jesus-love in order to win the nomination.  Amazing.

To answer Craig's question about the Founding Father's wanting us to talk about gay issues as freely as religious issues, I say a resounding YES.  Freedom to exchange ideas was a big Founding Father priority, not the content of said ideas.  See the difference, Craig?  They wanted a society where you get to be a small-minded bigot and I get to love a woman without impinging on each others liberties. 

If you don't want to hear about the personal life of a lesbian, stop watching a television show named after and starring a lesbian.  There's nothing radical about that. 

View Article  GLCC merger with Celebrate the Night: Where does this leave transwomen?

In the most recent GLCC newsletter, the organization announced that Celebrate the Night has become an official committee of the organization.  Celebrate the Night is a variety show that benefits the GLCC.

As you may recall, CTN generated a firestorm last year by refusing to audition a transwoman and pronouncing that she was not woman enough to meet their criteria.  At that point, the CTN website described the event as celebrating all women.

They've since updated it to state:

For the purpose of this event, if a person is legally recognized as
a woman or living full-time as a woman, she is a woman.

No such requirement that to be a lesbian, you must be legally recognized or living full-time as a lesbian.  Which is good since there are many, many women who participate in CTN that are not 100% out of the closet and I would hate for them to feel excluded just because they aren't lesbian enough.

Well, at least if the GLCC is going to formally associate itself with an organization that openly discriminates against transwomen,things are a little more out in the open.  The GLCC has historically been a little weak on transinclusion and I don't really think this is going to come as a shock to anyone.  The truth is that Pittsburghers who are L, G, B and Q really have a long way to go when it comes to lifting up and including our trans brothers and sisters.

For a complete herstory on this situation, click here.

View Article  As the World Gayly Turns -- PG feature

Hey everybody!  Something involving a c-file got all screwed up and our blog has been down for a few days.  However, thanks to my trusty bloghost Geoff at Radio Left, things are shipshape again.

Today's Post-Gazette included an AP story on the current gay storyline on soap opera, As The World Turns, featuring a young gay male couple, Luke and Noah.  Luke is the son of two of the most prominent families in Oakdale, Illinois - the Snyders and the Walshes.  Noah is new to town, but has already distinguished himself with a homicidal military father and a long-lost mother-turned-madam.  Said mother was killed by the homicidal father.  Said father also tried to kill Luke, who ended up paralyzed in the process.  Fast forward a few months, Luke is walking fine and enjoying mucho macho hugs with his lover boy. 

What he isn't enjoying is any on-air kissin'.  Fans aren't pleased and suspect that company bigwigs at Proctor and Gamble are avoiding the face to face time to appease their homobigot viewers.  It is an interesting twist for a soap that has developed the most realistic and sensitive gay character in daytime history.  It has been infused with soap dramatics, but Luke's coming out was handled really quite well. 

[PG Spokeswoman] Tharrington laughed when asked about any behind-the-scenes debates over showing intimacy between the two men. "You wouldn't even believe," she said.

Producers are committed to telling the story of the romance, she said, adding she hoped the audience would recognize what "As the World Turns" is showing, instead of just what it isn't.

"We feel like we're doing so much right here," she said. "We're telling a story that no one else is doing. We're telling a story that has really engaged our audience."

Well, that's just bullshit. You want credit for pandering to perceived homophobia(apparently, no one is formally organizing the nuts)????  Sure the story is good, but neutering two perfectly healthy young men for the sake of being "unoffensive" is pretty darn well, offensive.  As for a story noone else is telling, that's not quite true.  All My Children's Bianca had a multi-year lesbian story, including a love affair with a transwoman.  It was typically dramatic and had its flaws, but it certainly told a new story.

People aren't clamoring for full frontal nudity and sex scenes, after all.  They just want you not to pan to the mistletoe during the kiss.  P&G is just being silly. 


View Article  WTAE defends transinclusive coverage

In this week's City Paper, WTAE defends their coverage of a story involving the river rescue of a woman who happened to be trans.  They, along with just about every other local media outlet, were taken to task by local activists and allies for making the gender identity of the individual being rescued the story in lieu of the rescue itself.   In WTAE's case:

Over at WTAE, Janelle Hall reported: "The waters of the Allegheny started to rise and trapped that person. Ninety minutes into the rescue, paramedics pulled a 27-year-old transgender woman to safety."

Setting aside how incredibly stilted that sounds, I fail to see why the fact that Rebecca Hare was a transwoman had any bearing on her rescue.

Here's how WTAE's Roberta Petterson responds.

We came up with a plan aimed specifically at not sensationalizing the story and we executed that plan. In hindsight, we could have done some things differently, like edit some of the soundbites with rescuers, but we felt they helped tell a more complete story. Overall, our primary concern was finding a way to tell the story without focusing on Hare's "trans-ness," to use a quote from the University of Pittsburgh professor cited in your story.

Petterson fails to explain how the fact that Rebecca is a transwoman tells a complete story.  I don't believe WTAE contextualized her plight as a result of her identity as a transwoman.  In fact, Petterson clearly states that they didn't even interview Rebecca.  I haven't noted any follow up investigations on the plight of transwomen and transmen who are homeless in Pittsburgh.  What complete story did they tell? 

Each evening, the local news stations report on rescues and I have yet to see anyone identified as a "27 year old heterosexual, biological female" unless it has any direct relevance to the story.  Believe me.  I would notice any aberration from the "business as usual" coverage that presumes every yinzer and yinzerette in da burgh is straight as an arrow until it become sensational to drag out the stereotypical homo interviewees, ie. wealthy white gay men.

I like Roberta, but I still think WTAE dropped the ball on this story.  If they had simply reported on a story about a woman trapped in rising rivers, that would be fine.  The media created the story within the story. It doesn't matter how much effort you put into the decision -- Hall's report was flawed.  Rather than get defensive, it would behoove them to reach out to local advocates and experts to make sure it doesn't happen again.  Reach out to Persad and the GLCC and, yes, to the University of Pittsburgh professor quoted in the story (who happens to be a nationally renowned transadvocate). 

Hopefully, WTAE and other local media outlets will more forward as we gear up for PrideFest and focus on providing some LGBT-positive coverage for the planned festivities.  I know the temptation to highlight the stereotypes will be there, but surely a portion of the coverage could show some transpositive images as well.  Here's hoping.


View Article  Media Outs Transwoman

In his brand spanking new blog, Slag Heap, the man called Potter critiques media coverage of the recent rescue of Rebecca Hare from being ensnared in the Allegheny River.  Rebecca, who is homeless, had been staying along the riverside of the David Lawrence Convention Center and became trapped.  She was rescued thanks to an astute convention center worker who heard her cries for help.

Thankfully, she was unharmed in the ordeal.

What's yet to be determined is how the ensuing media focus on her identity as a transwoman will impact her well-being.  As Potter puts it:

Some reporters who covered the incident, however, were apparently still at sea.

The ensuing media hue and cry ranged from idiotic (referring to Rebecca as both a man and a woman in the same article) to the oh-so-obvious stupid (WDVE cackling about the price of a sex change versus the price of a home). 

What I think Potter missed is a pretty critical point, namely that Pittsburgh media outed Rebecca Hare as a transwoman.  However inadvertant, the bungling on the coverage of a story involving a person who happens to be a transwoman resulted in the entire region being informed of pretty intimate details of her life.  Details that, on the face of it, have pretty much nothing to do with the story of saving a person who was living alongside the Convention Center.

Or do they?

A research study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force indicates that LGBTQ kids -- yes, kids -- are disproportionately present among the general homeless population.  It is not a big stretch to imagine that coming out to your family as trans might lead to being unwelcome in your home. 

Similarly, an adult transitioning might experience unwelcomeness at the workplace or even the loss of a job in states that don't protect people based on gender identity or gender presentation.  Loss of a job is a factor leading to homelessness.

An adult might experience similar unwelcomeness among family, even spouses, who aren't receptive to the news about their loved one.  Loss of a support system is a factor leading to homelessness.

An adult might also cope with societal transphobia by turning to drugs and alcohol, also factors leading to homelessness.

My point is that the reasons Rebecca Hare ended up living alongside the David Lawrence Convention Center may very much indeed be connected to her identity as a transwoman, but none of the media coverage was intended to explore that connection, was it?  Any follow up stories on the trans-friendliness of local homeless shelters, especially those administered by faith based organizations?  Nope.  We just get stupid jokes reducing gender transition to a sex change operation and comparing it with rising property rates. 

What if Rebecca's family doesn't know she's living as a woman?  What has happened to her since her rescue -- is she okay?  Is she somewhere where she's being treated well?  Is she okay with the repercussions that everyone in the tri-state area knows she is a transwoman?

One almost thinks the Post-Gazette should pick up the tab for a safe place for her to stay. 

ps:  I have been in touch with people that have connected with Rebecca to ask if there's anything we can do to help her.  If you want to help, email me. 

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