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View Article  On The Spot: Local fundraiser to support women and girls in need of feminine hygeine products

For 13 years or so, I took pads and tampons for granted.  My family had more than its fair share of economic struggles, but my Mom always made sure I had these feminine hygeine products when needed.  When I was on my own, it never occured to me that they weren't a necessity.  Yes, I'd use coupons or buy generic when necessary, but accessibility was just not an issue. 

When I was 25 years old, I was working in social service ministry for an interfaith group of churches in a rural Western Kentucky town.  Think no red lights, no restaurants open on Sundays and no social service programs to speak of.  No buses, lots of decrepit rental housing and poverty of near two-thirds world dimensions.

Part of my work was to run a small community center, including a thrift store.  I had developed a volunteer program to allow local women to help sort the clothing in exchange for credits to purchase what they needed.  No one took things for free in this community. 

One day, I joined the sorters and noticed they had two piles of "rags" -- so I asked about it, thinking in my 25 year old naive way that they might be for cleaning.  There was some unease among the women sorting so I let it drop.  Later, a volunteer in her 40s took me aside to explain.  She was blunt.  Feminine hygeine products were expensive and not covered by food stamps.  When faced with spending precious cash, the needs of the children alway took precedence.  I got that, but still didn't see where she was going.  What did this have to do with cleaning rags? I assured her it was fine with the organization for the women to do what they wanted with anything we couldn't sell. 

So she was even more blunt.  She explained that she and other local women used literal rags for their periods.  They also used rags for toilet paper when things were really tight.  I was stunned into silence.  Actual rags?  Such a thing had never  occured to me, even when I was in my feminist-moon-goddess phase of using reusable pads that had been pretty damn expensive and came with a "moon jar" which shows how oblivious I was back then.

I remember staring at her and hearing an almost click on my own emotional maturity as I realized how important my  next words would be.  I thanked her for explaining it to me and told her that I wanted to help with as much dignity as possible. I asked her to take the lead on this special project since I assumed the other women would feel more comfortable.  She agreed.  So we began a little pile of menstruation appropriate rags that quietly helped local women. 

Then, she apologized to me for exposing me to something uncomfortable as if I was somehow tainted by this glimpse into the real world of rural poverty (and urban poverty I learned later).  Admittedly, I was shaken.  I kept thinking of how awkward and uncomfortable it would be, as well as messy.  I was young enough to feel especially bad for their daughters.  I wanted to run out and buy scores of pads, but I knew somehow it was better to go with the plan the women themselves created. 

But I was upset.  I tried to play cool (I'm sure she saw through me), but it was the sort of systemic eye-opening moment that radically transformed me into a real social worker. How could this happen?  What about the rest of the world?  What about my high school friends -- did any of them have these experiences?  Mind you, I'm an 80's baby which meant much more poverty and financial struggle than neon hair scrunchies and mall rat experiences. 

The women who worked with me identified a need and crafted a solution.  They weren't embroiled in existential angst because they had bigger issues to face.  But I wrestled with this for years.  When I returned to Pittsburgh, I learned about similar experiences at food pantries and among women experiencing homelessness.  I can say with ease that the initial conversation was a defining moment for me as a social worker and a woman. 

I was thrilled when I learned about On The Spot which raises funds to provide feminine hygeine products for high school students in partnership with Planned Parenthood.  They have awesomely fun fundraisers featuring homebaked cookies and have done a great job of bringing this conversation into progressive circles. 

So, yeah, when I learned about this project, I went right back to that 1996 conversation and still my jaw dropped to think about young girls in the same situation. 

The next event is Tuesday, May 24, 2011 from 6-9 PM at Hough's in Greenfield.  The event features cookies, 50/50, raffle prizes and much more.  Attendees are asked to bring a box of pads (preferred) or tampons along with a financial donation ($5-10). 

If you can't attend, you can still help.  Donations are accepted at these spots.  You can contribute these items to a food pantry drive in your area.  You can talk with the Administration at your local middle and high schools to see how prepared they are to help young girls.

And you can help reduce the stigma of asking by making sure the men and boy in your lives can buy a box of tampons without flinching. 

On The Spot's website is here.  Click to learn more and hope to see you at Hough's on Tuesday.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that inevitably some good hearted person suggests providing reusable supplies for women and girls in these situations.  That's a healthy sentiment, but impractical even dangerous when sanitation is an issue. I think those folks should donate those supplies to food pantries so women can choose them if they want them.  That's fine.  But I do not think we should impose on anyone, especially young women who probably already feel pretty awful about this aspect of their female identity.  Allowing them a "typical" teen girl experience in the midst of whatever chaos created the lack of resources is pretty damn important.  There's no one right way to experience our menstrual cycles, but we have to recognize that our choices expand as our privileges expand and craft solutions based on the reality of the girls and women we aspire to help.

View Article  Another PG Letter to the Editor for Marriage Equality

The PG Community Forum is beginning to grow on me.  Today, we find another pro-equality letter to the editor from Attorney Bruce Wilder of Downtown.

Short, sweet and to the point and with an affirming message for same sex parenting.

On the issue of "majorities," please note that anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the courts at a time where neither public opinion nor legislation would have ever accomplished that goal.

The comments reflect the usual stupidity and brilliant support. 

OK, I have to ask.  Lots of kind grow up with Mom and Grandma, or Dad and Aunt Ruth or even Grandma and Grandpa as their primary caretakers. Setting aside the circumstances that lead these children into non-traditional families, folks rarely imply that being raised by a mother and grandmother irrevocably damage a child because of the "what do I call these two women" perspective.  Yet, the myriad of homophobic slams about "which gay man is the mother" with regard to Elton John seems to actually carry weight.  Does anyone ask what the children of twice divorced Madonna, mother to three children with three different fathers, call her and/or their fathers?  Of course not, because its more interesting to focus on her dating life.  But no one cares.  Does Lola call her Mom, Mum, Mommy, Madre, Madonna, Hey You, etc?  I have no idea and I've never seen it mentioned.  I'd venture to say any confusion the children experience has more to do with the paparazzi and coping with any fallout from divorce, just like most children.  Elton John is not a mother.  He is a parent.


View Article  Lambda Foundation -- 25 Proud Years!

I recently interviewed Lambda Foundation Executive Director Anne Bowman about the 25th anniversary of the Foundation.  25 years is quite a milestone in gay history and the well-being of our community foundation is something to be mindful of as we celebrate our way through June.  To purchase tickets for the Joan Rivers event, click here.

Thank you so much for asking about the Lambda Foundation. I am truly honored to be the Executive Director of the second oldest LGBT funding organization in the nation. Part of my job description is to get the word out about Lambda and I will gladly answer your questions.


1. How did the Lambda Foundation get its start? 

 The Lambda Foundation began with a conversation between Randy Forrester and Lucky Johns. The two men pooled all of their resources together from the community and The Lambda Foundation was incorporated on June 17, 1983 with $16,000. The first grants were issued in April, 1984 to Dignity Pittsburgh and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center



2. Lambda has given away more than $1 million over 25 years, mostly in increments of $3000 or so. Please describe the impact of reinvesting $1 million in Pittsburgh's LGBT community.


Granted $3,000.00 doesn?t sound like a lot, but I think the smaller organizations that we have funded would disagree. I have attached a list of just some of the organizations The Lambda Foundation has funded and it is quite impressive. We have helped LGBT organizations in every area from the arts to healthcare. Our scholarship program has helped along LGBT students. We also have an emergency funding program that has helped some organizations when they were in dire straits and the possibility of closing their doors as a very real option. I am truly grateful to be the Executive Director of an organization that has helped so many.


 3.  Describe some of the projects which Lambda helped (or is helping to) seed.  Just to name a few:

 Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force- I really don?t think I need to describe what they do. Everyone in the community knows of the wonderful work that Kathi Boyle is doing.


Transpitt- a wonderful support group for the often overlooked transgender community.


The Esther Project which through the leadership of Deb Aaron became the first federally funded health project which measured the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among lesbian women.


 4.  Can you list any highlights or exceptional moments from the past 25 years?


I have only been on the Board for 3 years so I took this question to August (Buzz) Pusateri and past Board President Chuck Honse.


The Lambda Foundation funded the legal battle for Travelers Bar. Which was locally known as the Saturday Night Massacre. It was normal in the early days that the police would raid gay bars. Travelers was raided one night and some pretty serious injuries of the patrons occurred. Lucky Johns, owner and one of Lambda?s founding fathers took the practice to court. The case proceeded to go to federal court and we lost. But the practice of raiding gay bars in Pittsburgh was ended.


Another legal battle that Lambda funded was The Fairness Campaign in the late 80?s. There was a movement to rescind an anti discrimination bill that gave lesbians and gays human rights in Pittsburgh.

The Foundation rallied forces and squashed the movement.


Last but not least Our Annual Ball- the first LGBT black-tie event in the area. This year it is being held at The Priory, Nov 22, 2008. Lisa Ferraro will be performing. Please come and join us in celebrating 25 wonderful years.


 5.  How does Lambda stay in touch with a queer community that looks very different than the gay and lesbian community of 25 years ago? 


I personally stay in touch with what is going on in the community by reading your blog. It is quite informative. You are correct that the community has changed from 25 years ago. 25 years ago HIV/AIDS was devastating our community and it seemed like no one cared. There were only a few LGBT organizations in existence. When you look around and see all of the organizations and events that are taking place, yes I think it has changed? but for the better.

 Pat Liddy our wonderful President is out and about at community events.

 Reading through the grant applications and seeing the innovative and committed programs that are being created is also quite informative. 



6.  What challenges does the foundation face in the coming years?


The challenges are immediate. Many organizations are facing funding cutbacks on many levels, federal state and local. The Lambda Foundation has always been there to help them. Over the last ten years most of our funds have come from dividends, interest and capital gains on our portfolio. That is not happening now. We truly need to get the word out. When you give your funds or time to Lambda you are participating in nearly every LGBT organization in the area.


 7.  Where do you see the Lambda Foundation in its 50th year?


 I would love to see that $3,000 grant to become a $10,000- $25,000 grant. In order to achieve that lofty goal we are definitely going to need to expand. We need to get the word out about our organization and get more people involved. I know the economy is not so great. If everyone on our list just sent in $10.00 it would have an impact. HRC started out with $5.00 checks coming in, look at them now.

   I really think in 25 years we will have achieved equality. (Wouldn?t that be nice?) It has amazed me how much progress has been made in the last couple of years even with such headwinds coming from the right. Corporations are developing diversity departments. Our corporate partners UPMC and Merrill Lynch have been so supportive it amazes me. When I received the Merrill Lynch ad for our Joan Rivers Program (attend the event and you will see it) I looked at it and knew we are definitely making progress.  



8.  Please list your current board members (by affiliation if possible).


Patricia Liddy       President


Rev, J Howard Cherry, OSL, OE    Vice President

United Methodist Clergy, retired


R. Craig Bennett, CPA       Treasurer

Terry Collier & Associates, P.C.


August ?Buzz? Pusateri    Secretary


 Dr.Nina Markovic       Director

Associate Professor University of Pittsburgh


Anne Bowman     Executive Director



 Any parting thoughts?


  As you know we are presenting An Evening with Joan Rivers at The Byham Theater to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. Joan Rivers graciously accepted our invitation and is taking time from her busy schedule to come to Pittsburgh. Go to her website, www.joanrivers.com, she truly has a busy schedule. She courageously was one of the first celebrities to support the gay community. Come on Pittsburgh, let?s show her how much we support and love her by selling out the house. There are plenty of $40 tickets available. Call The Byham Theater 412-456-6666. After the show you can check out all the other events going on for Pride. Scott Noxon, Pegasus, is presenting 8 Inch Betsy. Downtown Pittsburgh is going to be vibrant and alive on Saturday June 21st.



I really need to say something about Scott Noxon, owner of The Eagle, Pegasus and There Video Lounge, who has been instrumental in the production our Joan Rivers event. Working with him during the preparation of this event has been a true delight. I really did get to know him these last few months and all of the wonderful things he has done for every LGBT organization in the area. I can honestly say he is one of the nicest men I have ever met. He truly cares about the community.



Could you give me a brief bio of yourself and your role with Lambda.  I didn't even know you had an ED!  I admit that I'm not very informed.  I don't want to be someone who takes you for granted (no pun intended).


You asked for a brief bio. So I will make it brief. My career was in the financial services industry from age 21 to 49. I had positions in every area from sales to CEO. I lived in New York City from 1974 to 1983. I returned to Pittsburgh in 1983 right before the birth of my son, Geoffrey. My son?s father and my best friend, Stephen, died of AIDS when Geoffrey was just a baby. Shepherd Wellness Center helped Stephen and his family in so many ways; they will always have a special place in my heart. I joined the Lambda Board 3 years ago. Right before my 50th birthday the Board was considering employing an Executive Director. Funny, how you reflect on your life when you hit that age. I wasn?t enjoying my career any longer and I realized it was time for me to give back to the community. I did love all the things we were doing at Lambda.  So I presented a job description and budget to the Board. And the second half of my life story begins??.


A partial list of funding recipients:

ACLU Pittsburgh. AIDS Task Force Upper Ohio Valley. AIDS Task Force of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. AIDS Town Meeting. Allegheny College. Allegheny College in Support of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals. Allegheny College Gay/Lesbian History Conference. Anawim. Archivist. Asian-Pacific Lesbians of Pittsburgh. Asians & Friends. Beaver County AIDS Service Organization. Beaver County AIDS Task Force. Bet Tikvah. Bi/ Gala, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Bi/Gala University of Pittsburgh. Black & White Men Together, Youngstown. Bridges/Erie Gay Community Newsletter. Gloria Brusoski. Butler County AIDS Task Force. Center for Lesbian & Gay Civil Rights. Chattam College LABiAT Alliance. Christian Lesbians in Action/ Metropolitan Community Church. Johanna Classen, Lambda Scolarship Winner. Caritas House. Carnegie Mellon University GALA. Carnegie Mellon University/OUT. Contact Pittsburgh, Inc. Rebecca Corran, Lambda Scholarship Winner. Corpus Christi House. Crime Stoppers. Cry Out/ Act Up. Dignity Encounter Weekend. Dignity/Pittsburgh. Dignity Region III. Dreams of Hope.Kathleen Douglas, Lambda Scholarship Winner. Epidemiologic Study of Health Risks in Lesbians (ESTHER Project). Family and Children?s Services, Blair County. Joshua Ferris, Lambda Scholarship Winner. Flying Pig Theater Forum on Lesbian & Gay Youth. Dustin Frazier, Lambda Scholarship Winner. G&L Alternative Dimensions, GLAD. GALA, West Virginia University. GAY 90?S. Gay & Lesbian Alliance Carnegie Mellon University. Gay & Lesbian Cable Network. Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC). GLCC Newsletter. GLCC Phone line. Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Gay & Lesbian Health Line, West Virginia University. Gay & Lesbian Youth Conference. Gift of Women Church/ Dignity. GLENDA. Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Whitney Houston, Lambda Scholarship Winner. Heritage Project. Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh. Jewish Lesbian Feminist Support Group. Matthew Jinkeom, Lambda Scholarship Winner. Judaism & Lesbian Conference. Lesbians & Gays in the Holocaust Presentation. Lesbian Health Organization. Lesbian are Parents. Look to the Eastern Sky. Lost Visions/ Richard Parsakian. Menergy Conference. Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). Metro Family Practice, Inc. Mon Valley Media. Mountain State AIDS Network. National Lawyers Guild, Pittsburgh Chapter. 1987 March on Washington. Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, Pittsburgh (PFLAG). PFLAG, Dubois. PFLAG, Indiana. Pennsylvania Humanities Council. Persad Center, Inc. Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS). Pitt Men?s Study. Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment (PACT). Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF). Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Renaissance City Choirs. Seven Project. Shepherd Wellness Community Center. Stonewall Institute. The Diversity Project. Thomas Merton Center. Three Rivers Arts Festival. United Jewish Federation. Human Rights Task Force. Craig Waldo, Lambda Scholarship Winner. Upstairs Theater. Woman to Woman. Women for Racial and Economic Equality. Women United in Recovery. Woman?s Law Project. Youth Empowerment Project (PERSAD).


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  RIP Miss Mona

Yesterday, I thought, was a tremendously sad day.  Our beloved Mona who had fought cancer for 10 months and three days reached her final day.  All the way to the vet, I kept hoping there was some alternate explanation, but no.  We put her to sleep and I have all the usual comforting thoughts about her being "across the Rainbow Bridge" with her best friend Jack and her beloved veterinarian, John.  She only had one bad day out of 10 months and three days and that wasn't painful, just her way of telling me it was time to let her go. 

Today is a tremendously more sad day.  There are reminders everywhere, in the most unexpected ways.  The thump of her jumping off the bed.  I didn't hear it today.  Playing "Our Lady of the Bedcovers" (she made a cute Madonna) when I make the bed.  The 300 minutes in the backyard deciding exactly which spot needed a spot-o-Mona.  Her unparalled excitement, just quivering with anticipation, at the leftover canned catfood -- even if the cats were still eating the pre-leftover portion. 

She fought a really good fight.  She kept her weight up (even gaining a few pounds) through the whole chemotherapy.  She was her usual self 99% of the time.  She visited with her goof friends, Brenda and Michelle, last Friday and snagged some salmon. 

Mona was a stray dog that had been hit by a car and taken to the vet clinic where John worked.  Her hip was broken, but not her spirit.  She came to be a foster with my family while I was in grad school and living with my parents.  She "moaned and groaned" a lot because she was crated -- hence, Mona.  She was a very vocal dog.  I came home from class one day to find our family dogs locked in the backyard and Mona laying on my Dad as they ate some Saltines and watched the Cooking Channel.  She was there to stay.  And she never got over her fetish for saltines.  Thanks, Dad. 

Miss Mona had a brief career as an advice columnist and then became a blogger http://pghmona.blogspot.com.  My dog behavior friend urged me to keep blogging about the adjustments of the other pets.  So I'll try to do that.  Amadeus and Alexander are confused.  I let them sniff her collar and my clothes that I wore during the procedure.  I know that gives them information, but they really are quite lost.  Mona was definitely top dog.  Debby (behavior friend) doesn't think either one will want to assume leadership so we are hoping that Simon Le Bon, the cat, is up to the challenge.

Considering he stretched out on the dog bed and wouldn't share with Deus, we might be on to something.  Simon has now taken over Mona's bed in the corner of the room.

I had Miss Mona for nearly 10 years.  She was the brightest, bestest dog ever.  I hope everyone experiences that type of love and loyalty.  I gotta go now. 

Miss Mona   1997 - 2008

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. 

View Article  Larry Craig Doll says "I Am Not Gay"

Ledcat really wants one of these ...

Apparently, you can bend his feet into all sorts of positions ...

Last year it was this ...


She is once again bound for disappointment. 

View Article  Do we earn the privilege of being gay?

From today's Post-Gazette, a letter written by Kurt Colborn of Swisshelm Park:

I have to agree with Sen. Larry Craig's claim that he is not gay. People have forgotten that "gay" is a term of liberation. Being gay means having the maturity to accept yourself as you are. It also means having the courage to represent yourself honestly to the world. Not all homosexual men are deserving of the term "gay."

Sen. Craig is not gay. He's just a coward. He should spare us bearing witness to his thousand deaths by reversed pleas and canceled resignations ("Craig Vows to Remain in Senate," Oct. 5). He should slink quietly away to be forgotten.

While I agree that Craig is a coward, the gay v homosexual debate is the interesting point.  Homosexual is the preferred term utilized by the right wingnuts (especially the Christian wingnuts) to demonize persons who are LGBTQ.  They've taken a rather scientific term, skipped right over the "human" syllables and loaded it with all sorts of sexually inappropriate connotations to make us less human and more "other."

In reclaiming the terms "gay" and "queer", the LGBTQ community has made tremendous strides liberating ourselves from a heteronormative society that does often, in fact, demonize us.  Being gay is different that identifying as gay.  I've heard this theme pop up in quite a few different contexts in the recent past here in my day to day queer life.

Hipster heterosexuals appropriating the term queer when queer identity does not include heterosexuals.  Queer is not about being hip (or ironic).  It is politco-cultural identity. 

A related issue is heterosexual women identifying as bisexual for the purposes of fitting in (and hooking up) with queer women.  This blurs the lines for actual bisexual women (see below).  However, there is also the issues around using women for sexual gratification and/or exploration which is a patriarchal tool especially icky in the hands of other women.

Bisexual women have a tough time laying claim to being part of the LGBTQ community because of our long-standing division into the gay men and the lesbians.  There's a suspicion that bisexual women partnered with a man (straight or bisexual identified themselves) are just "playing" at being gay or trying to have their cake and eat it, too.  I'm not sure if gay men feel the same way about bisexual men, but I suspect it is not so much an issue.

Read a few recent posts for an example of the challenges of gay identity for transgender men and women. 

The battle over amending ENDA to eliminate gender identity and gender orientation goes far beyond political expediency to tap into notions of who "deserves" to be part of the gay club.

For our local community, the inherent issue truly is about identity and there's a heightened scrutiny of the motives and even the legitimacy of assuming gay identity solely based on sexual preferences. 

Personally, I haven't been victimized in any sense by someone pretending to be gay.  The closest I came was one date with a bisexual woman who decided she had to date a man to please her parents.  I have no clue about the "validity" of her identity as bi and, frankly, didn't care b/c she was a double-dipper <gross!> and that meant no second date from my point of view anyway.  I have three friends who are bisexual - two are with men and one with a woman.  It never occurs to me to question their gay identity and knowing them makes me a bit more sensitive to making sure of the B in titles and terms.  As for the men, the only thing that bothers me is their reluctance to accept the whole bisexual identity thing. That only happens in one case.  That makes me feel sad, but it doesn't impact the authenticity of the woman. Nor does it make me feel like the dates I had with her were less than authentic.

I would be annoyed by the hipsters, but I gotta wonder how blurry the line can be between heterosexual supporters and those questioning if they might be gay. It certainly seems blurry in the opposite direction, with plenty of women exploring life as a heterosexual women while working through our identities.  At least, that more closely mirrors my own experience, rather than saying I was simply closeted or in denial or some other explanation that solidly defines my sexual orientation during the years I lived as a heterosexual woman.   I would say hanging around gay people, spending time at their events and being supportive is completely different than soliciting sex in a bathroom stall or crawling through a bar looking for a woman to deceive. 

That being said, it makes sense that queer men and women resent their identity being co-opted.  If that were my scene, I might feel differently.  But my scene is very hetero-mixed and filled with lots of straight men. 

So, the gay identity is hotly contested even within the community.  Those of us on the inside understand how nuanced and diverse we are, but, to the larger population, it is one big mass of homosexuals - supporters and opponents alike.  I sort of like identifying Craig as a homosexual man, be he bi or gay, while stating that he has not claimed identity as a gay man (or a bi man).

View Article  Debate over trans inclusion is creating fissures at the national level, too.

You may have been keeping up, via blog or email, with the ongoing debate around the local lesbian community's acceptance and inclusion of transwomen.  It has been contentious and brought to light some long-standing fissures around gender identity that fall loosely along generation lines -- almost a second wave v third wave debate, but not quite.

What's clear is that the "T" in our homo-alphabet soup is not valued as highly as the "L" and the "G."  The Community Center includes T and B in their mission statement, but not their name.  The Gay & Lesbian Film Society changed their name, but still ignored the T and B folks.  What gives with that?

The only folks who seem to be consistently affirming persons who identify as transgender or bisexual are the Queers and Lord knows that's a whole other chapter in the book of gay inclusiveness. 

Even though I mock, I am concerned about these divides. As I discussed elsewhere on this blog, I just don't understand why so many lesbians refuse to allow a transwoman to define her own gender identity.  When is a woman woman enough to be a lesbian?  That's the heart of the matter and how on earth are we going to start a constructive dialogue among local LGBTQ leaders ...I haven't seen any "leaders" step up to the plate on this debate.  They are either laying low, afraid to take a public stance or they don't care.  Except for Ehrrin Keenan.  She has taken a stance, spoken out and she's absolutely a leader in our community.  Thank Goddess.

Its not exactly a silver lining, but Pittsburgh is right in line with a large-scale national debate about trans inclusiveness.  There's a national piece of legislation called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would extend federal protections in the workplace to include sexual orientation and gender identity.  It had a good chance at passing which is great (even though Bush vowed to veto). 

This legislation was the result of much hard work on the part of national organizations, including transgender organizations, who worked with legislators to educate them about the importance of these protections.  This was a tough sell, but our national leaders worked in harmony to make it happen.

Until ...the sentiment that overriding a veto would require abandoning gender discrimination began making the rounds and Congressman Barney Frank (yes, you read that right) was prepared to introduce a stripped down version of ENDA, with the support of Speaker Pelosi.  Our national leaders began howling, knowing full well that there would be no "coming back" to the issue to include gender identity once it passed. 

Except .. fissures have begun to appear.  Pelosi and Frank agreed to postpone marking up the substitute bill to appease leaders.  Then one of the big MacDaddies in the community, the Human Rights Campaign, issued a murky statement that basically reads that while they aren't signing on to sponsor the watered-down bill they aren't going to work against it.


Today, the only transgender member of the HRC Board, Donna Rose, has stepped down.  Her statement is here.

Pam Spaulding writes:

To turn on one another advances nothing. HRC, no matter what opinion one holds of the org, these folks do the work on the Hill. Where did the gauging of ENDA as a do-able priority (say over DADT repeal, which seems much more do-able), gain traction?

In any case, this whole "family fight," is undermining the long view of equality. There are no winners in this kind of a backstabbing event, where LGBs can be seen doling out horrible anti-T bigotry in the comments of blogs. I can only hope that Donna will reconsider this decision, but I have great respect for her efforts to represent the T perspective to the HRC board.

It does seem that repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be more politically viable, so Pam asks a good question.

Can the national organizations wade through this?  I'm on a national LGBT email list with some pretty heavy hitters and I have to admit I'm a little concerned.

Pam also flips the local cries of "foul" on their head.  Here in da Burgh, I've experienced multiple incidents of LGB's decrying the publicity of our "family fight" or airing the dirty laundry as a few have put it.  Many women are absolutely incensed, even livid, that other women are criticizing Celebrate the Night, accusing us (yep, I've been included) of hurting the lesbian community.  Others, such as myself, are appalled when women insist on referring to a transwoman as "he."

The local debate has quickly escalated into a polarizing L v T situation, even though most of the T defenders are, in fact, Ls.  Confusing, no?  I think there are far more women who support CTN's decision to exclude Jessi as well as their understanding of transwomen than there are those who support the views I espouse.  I wish it weren't so. 

There is some good news, namely that discussion and conversation continue.  Emilia is organizing a podcast.  Another local woman set up an email list to encourage ontological exploration of gender identity issues (I have to admit the level of discourse left me in the dust about four posts into the discussion so I stopped reading ...).  While some women aren't comfortable having some transwomen attend women-only spaces, they acknowledge that these same transwomen shouldn't lose their jobs because of gender identity.

I've been feeling a bit discouraged this whole situation.  No one attacks me with the venom and deadly aim of local lesbians.  Not the Christians, the right wing nuts, the Ice Cream twin defenders, the Santorum lovers. Not even the Anarchists with whom I am often at odds.  No one does nasty condescension and disrespect like a lesbian, especially one taking the time to post a comment informing me that no one gives a shit what I have to say.  :-)     The comments don't get me down. It is the fear that most lesbians share those views about trans inclusion that is so discouraging.  If they share those views about people giving a shit about me, its all good. Blog hits are blog hits.

Pam's post has me ruminating about my discouragement and I am vowing to turn my attitude around.  There's good stuff happening.  I'm hangin with some cool chicks on Saturday night.  People are writing letters to the editor in the City Paper that will clarify the fissure described above and I gotta think that sort of exposure to the light can only help heal the wound.  I'm going to rededicate myself to covering trans issues and highlighting the impact of overarching issues on transmen and transwomen. 

In fact, I've been asked to submit a question or two as part of an interesting new blogger debate, focusing on the Mayoral race.  Maybe that's the opportunity to put my money where my keyboard is ...

As for ENDA, it would be a tragedy if we left our trans sisters and brother behind.  Easy for me to say because I live in a City where employment protections exist for me and state protections may not be far behind (see earlier post about Frankel).  I personally believe it is better to pull back on the legislation and educate, educate, educate on gender identity while perhaps putting some energy into passing DADT.  

Hopefully, Pittsburgh and ENDA will move forward to create a community that values everyone in the alphabet soup.

View Article  Deconstructing Jessi - Why Pgh's Lesbian Community Owes One Woman an Apology

For the past 24 hours, I've mulled over the best approach to this post updating you about the discrimination experienced by Jessi Seams, a local transwoman, when she attempted to audition for a women's variety show.  This week, the City Paper's feature article is thoughtful exploration of this specific incident in the context of larger debates over gender identity, trans-inclusion and the LGBTQ community.

A prominent local gay male told me he was unhappy the story was being published because it aired "the dirty laundry" of the community.  While I get where he is coming from, this is problematic thinking, even dysfunctional -- the problem isn't that we have dirty laundry, it is that people know we have it.  That perspective doesn't help those who are oppressed within our community. Well, now the readers of the City Paper know that all is not right in the land of the homos.  Surprise!

I'm struggling to find the right words.  I am very angry with some of the women in the local lesbian/queer women's community.  Angry and disappointed at their narrow-minded, bigotry and amazed at the vitriol they spew in Jessi's direction.  These chicks have mounted a self-righteous attack based on the supposition that Jessi wants to have her cake (live part-time as a man) and eat it, too (live part-time as a woman).  They are so absolutely fucking terrified that anyone even associated with a penis might invade their woman only space that they've elevated this one particular transwoman into some sort of spy for the patriarchy (h/t to Jess Snodgrass).

It all comes down to these particular lesbians and their circle of small-minded cohorts having the privilege of self-determination (as lesbians) while women such as Jessi and her male-born counterparts do not.  Period.

Here are a few examples:

We'll call this one "Double Amen"

I'm curious...I read the article in the City Paper and Emilia is quoted as saying,
"You're Jessi, period," Lombardi says, gazing at her. "She's my girlfriend."
However, Jessi does not live as a woman at work or even around his own family according to the article.
So, my question is this....If you say someone is your girlfriend during the "night hours" or when you're in a bar, etc...yet they live as a man when they are at work and when they are around their own family, are they then considered your boyfriend?
Just curious is all....

That is probably the most ridiculous and disrespectful statement I've read all week.  If this sensibility reflects the CTN fan base, perhaps Jessi is better off (as are the rest of us). 

In another stunning example of uncritical thought, one woman thinks the City Paper and Jessi are *creating* fissures in the local gay community.  In one long rant, she condemns Jessi for taking advantage of  the economic benefits of being male in her work life, demonstrates total ignorance of the reality of life as a transwoman or transman, and continues to blindly defend CTN without even remotely addressing the very real questions many, many women have been asking.  She does make use of lots of hyperbole.  At least, I think this is hyperbole.

Furthermore, the consequences are deadly. United we stand,
divided we fall.

For example, I have never seen a trans-janitor at any Celebrate the Night
event! This kind of slanderous attack puts the ONLY women-centered,
non-smoking, non-alcoholic event in the city at risk.

         However, s/he has chosen to slander the community that I hold dear in    attempt to elevate her own position and that is inexcusable

It is preposterous to claim that these fissures around gender identity and inclusion have just somehow appeared in what was previously a harmonious, united community.  I guess if you dwell in the land of white, middle-class gay male and lesbian privilege, perhaps it was.  One needs only take a look at the composition of the board of our own community center to recognize that inclusiveness is not our strong suit.  For a lot of reasons that are much bigger than the current individuals serving on that board.  I used to be one of them and making those types of institutional changes wasn't an easy challenge to tackle.  I left so I have to shoulder some of the responsibility for not achieving institutional change.

So what do you think?  Does Jessi get to determine her own gender-identity?  Should CTN conduct background checks on performers?  Would your own history on the Internet stand up to scrutiny?  Could you, perhaps, be found less worthy because you don't conform to rigid norms of behavior, sexual or otherwise?

More importantly, of course, can Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community successfully navigate the fallout from illuminating our failure to include transwomen and transmen in our institutions, social and otherwise?  We can't even admit it!  We can't even admit the possibility of it!

I just truly do not understand how lesbians who have lived partially closeted at work, with their family (extended or not), in the bowling league, at church, or wherever --- how can these very lesbians be so damn judgmental of Jessi living part of her life as a man.  How can they not see any parallel? 

I'm perplexed. I'm angry.  I'm frustrated.  I've been invited to participate in a podcast discussion on the topic and I'm looking forward to exploring these issues in a context where people can at least muster up the respect to use appropriate pronouns.  I suppose I shouldn't condemn people for being disrespectful when I myself have contemplated slowly strangling any lesbian who ever again whines about the demise of Bloomers, CJ's or any other lesbian bar all the while hoping a new woman-only establishment would magically fall from the sky and not require female-born female loving patrons to buy anything other than a free-refill coke to be financially viable.  Strangling in a purely hypothetical sense, of course.  Ledcat does not approve, being a fan of Bloomers herself. 

That being said, if you still want to hang out and eat Asian food with Jessi, Emilia and some other cool chicks a week from Saturday, email me and I'll give you the specifics.  It won't be a lesbian owned establishment, but the food is great and cheap. 


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