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View Article  Who Holds a Breast Cancer Fundraiser in a Hookah (Smoking) Bar? She Does ... and her name is Girl Weapon X

At first, I honestly thought this was a joke.  No one in their right mind would organize a cancer awareness event at a hookah bar, right?  Wrong!  Because coming up next week is Pittsburgh's first ever Mammogram-Jam held right in the heart of Pittsburgh Southside at HKan Hookah Bar & Lounge. 

First, let me explain about a hookah bar.  Its an ancient Middle Eastern practice involving smoking tobacco through a water pipe or hookah.  This practice has become quite the rage across the United States with hookah bars popping up all over the place.  The use of tobacco becomes the cultural activity at hookah bars. 

Doesn't really strike you as the most appropriate place to promote cancer detection, does it?  Let's take a look at the facts.

* According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use accounts for nearly one-third of all cancer deaths. 

* Lung cancer is the number one killer of women followed by breast cancer.

* The US Surgeon General recently released a report suggesting that secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast cancer. 

* There has been no proven link between smoking and breast cancer. 

Here is what the Susan G. Komen folks have to say about the smoking/breast cancer issue (courtesy of their website).

?Understanding the role of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure in the risk for breast cancer could provide us with another piece of the puzzle in our fight against breast cancer. If the evidence that supports a link between secondhand smoke and an increased risk for breast cancer is proven, this will give people another factor with some level of control, another way to help reduce their risk for developing breast cancer. Until that happens, there is no doubt that smoking is bad for your health and [that] is a good reason to stop or never to start smoking. A close review of the data and additional study is now warranted because of the future implications for breast cancer risk if this information continues to be supported by additional research,? said Cheryl Perkins, M.D., senior clinical advisor for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Now, let me very clear that I certainly am in favor of promoting awareness of early detection for breast cancer and for raising money to support the good work of the Susan G. Komen folks.  I just think there have to be some boundaries.  So intrepid blogger that I am, I contacted the event organizer Girl Weapon X for more details on why they planned this event at a  hookah bar.

First, I figured that they were using the space but making it a smoke free event for the evening.  It seemed the logical solution.  I was wrong. Girl Weapon X's response:

While there are certain ideals within any event, simple logistics must not be forgotten.  The HKan has generously donated the use of their venue free of charge for the entire eventing.  Additionally, the floor plan for the Mammogram Jam requires that all the tables be removed which will eliminate the restaurant aspect of the HKan.  In response, the management offered to cater a buffet of appetizers for our guests - again free of charge.  All that is on top of donating protions of the drink specials to the evening's totals as well.  It's clear that the Mammogram Jam's locale is one that cares about the community which has helped it thrive.

That doesn't explain why it cannot be a smoke-free event.  If they aren't planning to make any money from beverage or food sales, why would they object to losing money on tobacco sales?  How is that caring about the community?  Its really not clear at all. 

Then I asked her more pointedly about the connection between smoking and cancer.  She responds:

Am I claiming this event as perfection?  No.  But I am confident that I have done what I am capable of, and that is success in my eyes.  Yes, lung cancer is a serious problem.  My reasearch on breast cancer has revealed that it is the second greatest killer amongst cancers in women - second only to lung cancer.  However, this event is NOT for lung cancer.  It is to aid in early detection of breast cancer, as studies have shown that annual mammography can bring the five year survival rate to ninety-five percent.
If my coice[sic] is between having the event at a smoking facility or not having the event, I'll choose the smoking facility every time!  And I cannot make any apologies for my decisions.  As I stated in my first reply, the HKan has been more than generous in their support of this event, and I'm proud to host the Mammogram Jam there.  It isn't as easy as you'd think to find local businesses that care so deeply about its community! 

She probably doesn't stop to think that I, too, might have organized an event or two, but never mind that ...

I also asked her if she would have accepted sponsorship monies from a tobacco company.  She replies:

Well, your question is very interesting...  For this event, I would not have accepted a donation from a tobacco company.  However, not for the reason you're aiming for.  This event centers around local culture -- including local musicians, local artists and local industry.  Since there is no local tobacco company, a contribution from such an entity would take away from the theme of this event.  If, however, a local tobacconist had taken an interest in donating a gift certificate to this event, I would have gladly accepted the contribution and offered free advertising on our web site.

She'd accept money from a tobacco company if it was local?  Did I read that correctly?  Huh ....

And the gay theme ... I pointed out that as a lesbian blog we are especially interested in the topic since smoking rates in our community are nearly four times as high as in the general population, especially among our young women.  I think she misunderstood and thought I wanted to bring a group of lesbian teens to the event:

And while I can see the concerns relative to your cause, I'd ask you to remember that perhaps your cause and mine differ.  This event is not for teens as it is only open to those twenty-one and older.  Also, while we are not by any means excluding the lesbian community, we are not particularly reaching out to them any more than we are to all aspects of the community.  However, I can very much see how this issue is important amongst the lesbian community.  My research has also indicated that certain facets of the lesbian lifestyle place such women at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and so I hope that this event will arouse your support.

LESBIAN LIFESTYLE?  Oh, honey, you had to play the subtle homophobe card.  I took a look at your MySpace page (really I had no choice) and would note that certain aspects of your lifestyle (quasi-Christian bar wench) aren't exactly the healthiest.  Plus, you freakin' event is KILLING my sisters.  What the hell kind of Christianity is that?

To give her credit, she does seem REALLY enthusiastic about how fun the event will be and quite taken with her own ability organize a fundraiser.  So taken that I think the issue has become subordinate to the event, a frequent pitfall of special event planning. 

While I can understand your concerns, I must maintain my position as follows:  It is very easy to sit in judgement of others, but very difficult to take the initiative required to plan an event like this.  This "planning committtee" you refer to doesn't exist...  It's simply me, with the help of close friends who share my desire to improve the community we call home.  I am fairly well-known and have many connections within Pittsburgh, and I've pooled my resources to create an event that will not only raise money for an incredible cause, but provide a lot of fun for our guests.

You know, this is perhaps the most ridiculous thing that's come across my email box in a long, long time.  Holding a cancer awareness event/fundraiser in a hookah bar makes as much sense as moving Gay Bingo to the Penn Hills house formerly occupied by Santorum.  Or inviting Mary Cheney to serve as Grand Marshall of the Pride Parade.  It is a marriage conceived in some distorted version of hell. 

Before the Girl Weapon X posse pull out their taunts and barbs, you should know that I was very clear with Zoe that I was covering this issue in my blog.  No nasty little taunts about my motives.  I have two sets of motives - my boobs and my lungs.  Neither wish to be sacrificed so I can have a good time inhaling your carcinogens.   

View Article  APA says gay "conversion theory" bogus

The American Psychological Association has released a press statement, taking a strong stance against conversion theory.  Conversion theory is predicated upon the notion that you can change sexual orientation and is a core component of the controversial ex-gay movement. 

"For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA's concern about the positions espoused by NARTH and so-called conversation therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish."

NARTH is the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality.  They have a whole litany of quack scientific studies that "prove" homosexuality is a choice. Check out Truth Wins Out which monitors the abusive practices of the ex-gay movement.

These NARTH people are pathetic, abusive monsters.  They prey upon vulnerable people, take all their money in payment for so-called therapy, treatment, even camps and, of course, leave them bitter and disillusioned when it doesn't work (not to mention broke).

Note that the APA rightly calls out perennial homo-opponent Focus on the Family who will be making a stop in Pittsburgh this fall.

Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish."

This is a critical point.  The Jimmy Dobsons and Rick Santorums of the world don't openly call for violence against homosexuals, but they are major contributors to the cultural environment in which contempt for gays takes it that one step further.  They are standing at the top of the slippery slope pouring down the lube ...

h/t Page One Q

View Article  Philly pulls anti-AIDS ads due to complaints about violent content

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health got caught in the crosshairs this week when a local gay leadership group lodged complaints about the violent scenario in a recent ad campaign targeting African-American men.  The campaign encouraged HIV testing, targeted gay, bisexual and "down low" men and featured images of African-American men in the crosshairs of a gun with the tagline "Have You Been Hit?" (Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Black Gay Men's Leadership Council objects to the direct association of black men with gun violence in a city plagued with increasing rates of gun violence, especially among the African-American population.

"Putting the face of a black man in the crosshairs of a gun paints a damaging message about violence and black men. ... Given the violence perpetrated against gay men, it is not far-fetched to see how this campaign fosters violence," Lee Carson, chair of the 1-year-old leadership council, wrote last month to interim Health Commissioner Carmen Paris.

Amidst concerns over the legitimacy of the campaign's use of focus groups and embarrassment about the associatio, the city is being rather weasley about the reason for pulling the ads, indicating that the pull date just happened to be last Friday.  The PR departments of various media outlets indicated otherwise, stating that there was no cancellation date. 

Philadelphia's seemingly intractable crisis of gun violence has gotten so bad -- particularly in poor, predominantly minority neighborhoods -- that Mayor John Street and regional leaders, including Cardinal Justin Rigali, held an unprecedented summit meeting at City Hall late last month. As of midnight Sunday, 238 people had been fatally shot, compared with 215 at the same time last year.

But HIV/AIDS hits the same neighborhoods. Originally the plague of young, middle-class, gay men, HIV/AIDS now predominantly afflicts the marginalized poor, especially African Americans. Blacks account for more HIV and AIDS diagnoses and deaths than any other racial or ethnic group in Philadelphia and nationally.

File this under WTF?  In a city where too many people die from gun violence AND AIDS, why would you associate the two ---- why surely African-American men might have a postive assocation with being the target of gun violence and immediately run down to the nearest HIV testing center!  And it certainly does wonders for the images of HIV positive people to be linked to gun violence. 

Mark McLaurin, founder of the New York State Black Gay Network, said that, to be effective, AIDS prevention campaigns must address underlying problems such as homophobia and substance abuse - and stop fear-mongering.

"I can't imagine the vetting process was well-grounded in this targeted community," he said of Philadelphia's ads. "Above and beyond the obvious issues of scapegoating and demonizing HIV-positive people, for a campaign to simulate gun violence in a city that has been ravaged by gun violence, I'm almost speechless."

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