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View Article  Video Monday: Sinead Lohan

This is Sinead Lohan.  I first heard her at Lilith Fair in 1999.  She was on a small stage and I stopped for a few moments. I have absolutely no idea what happened for the next 7-9 minutes.  She played "No Mermaid" and "Whatever It Takes."  I just stood there transfixed.  Then I bought her album on my way home.  Then I played it 90 gajillion times.  Then I put at least one song on every single mix tape or CD I have made since then.  Including the mix tape I made for Ledcat because she had a tape deck in her car. 

Here's my little Lilith Fair secret.  After my Sinead encounter, I enjoyed the Dixie Chicks, Queen Latifah, and Sheryl Crow.  Then, Sarah McLachlan put me to sleep.  My friend was horrified that I preferred some Irish singer-songwriter nobody to Sarah.  I'm sorry. I'm glad she founded the event and do like some of her music.  But, I can't understand her lyrics when she's wailing.  And that annoys me.   Why does it all have to be so dramatic?

So anyway, the latest I've been able to find on the Internet about Sinead is that she wrapped up her newest album in January 1997.   Not sure what that means, but there you have it.  I will buy it.  Whatever it takes.  :-)

View Article  Photo Exhibit Focuses on Queer Black Life in Pgh

Not a very exciting headline, I admit.  I'm a little tired this morning, but I've been meaning to blog about this exhibit for a few days so I need to get down to it.

Teenie Harris.  You may have heard of him -- photographer, documentarian of life in the Hill District for nearly 30 years (30's - 60's) which was, as you know, a period of intense socio-economic, cultural and demographic change.  Harris exhibits are nothing new for Pgh, but this one provides a unique glimpse into what is generally assumed to be an anomaly in Pittsburgh - historical queer black life. 

What's even more interesting is that these photographs are not from hidden little corners frequented by furtive members of Pittsburgh's African-American community.  No, this was an integrated scene wheer queer members were part of the larger culture, not separate from it.  From the City Paper:

While clubs such as Little Paris, the Loendi Club and even the famed Crawford Grill weren't necessarily gay-owned or specifically gay clubs, they hosted cross-dressing performers and welcomed a gay audience. In some photos in Carryin' On, in fact, female impersonators are backed up by legends of jazz and R&B, likely after their pay-gigs let out: R&B singer Sonny Hines, legendary drummer Joni Wilson, pianist Roy Hamilton. In one of Tines' favorite photos, a car, bedecked in streamers and toting a huge speaker on its roof, drives slowly along in one of the Hill's annual parades. On the car's hood, two drag queens bear a sign: "Meet Me at Little Paris."

The exhibit is the brainchild of Deryck Tines who serves as guest curator for the exhibit.  Tines plans to work with local photographers to document today's queer scene for a planned "Then and Now" exhibit in 2008.  (Tell your queer photographer friends.)  

I really like this particular photograph.  There's just this lovely fusion of flamboyance and ordinariness that makes me actually believe the rest of the story about the integration and acceptance of queer black community within the larger cultural context of the Hill District.

The exhibit runs through September 2 at the Andy Warhol Museum over here on the North Side.  We are absolutely going to catch it and I must say the articles in the PG and the City Paper have prodded me to make that happen sooner rather than later. 

I'm really interested in Deryck's plans to capture the current queer scene. I wonder what the photographers are going to document?  Most of the "images" the media feeds us involve this perception that the African-American community is highly homophobic.  The City Paper did a stunningly awful job on that front in April of 2006 <how can you write about the local gay black experience without including local gay black women?> 

My African-American friends deny that is true and regale me with stories about their parental generations mingling freely with gay individuals.  I'm sure my slice of friends are not representative b/c of the fact that they are friends with a lesbian, but still there's this dischotomy.  That's my new word ... dischordant + dichotomy = dischotomy. 

What should be really interesting is if Deryck's photographers examine the younger queer community and the older gay and lesbian community.  I wonder what differences, if any, would crop up? 

Anyway, check out the exhibit and stay tuned for more from Deryck Tines.  Maybe next year, the City Paper will have found a few local gay black women to interview <just kidding, Chris.>

View Article  Pittsburgh Black Pride - This Weekend

View Article  More on Celebrate the Night and Alleged Discrimination

As we reported, a local woman is claiming that the Celebrate the Night committee unfairly refused to audition her for their variety show because of inaccurate information that she worked as an escort.

Today, the CTN organizing committee issued the following statement:

Celebrate The Night is an event that was created to give women a place to perform, in honor of National Coming Out Day. We are not Transphobic. Transexuals have been welcomed, embraced and involved with CTN via performance, volunteers and on the committee.

Emilia never approached CTN, other than via a request for a meeting with the GLCC. The GLCC is not formally affiliated with CTN.

As to Jessi, we respect a person's right to self definition. Jessi has been inconsistent in self-identification. The escort website is what lead us to other websites where Jessi frequently self identifies as male and that is inconsistent with CTN.

We regret that some have chosen to take offense at this.

Sincerely, CTN committee

Now, I must say that they responded fairly quickly for an all-volunteer organization.  That being said, I find their response disappointing for several reasons.

First, there is an inconsistency.  The email Jessi provided says that she was not being offered an audition because of Internet evidence that she was an escort.  In this message, CTN claims it is because of her gender identity.  Assuming the email was authentic, there's a problem.  Either CTN lied to her and is misleading the community.  That's very troubling.  I hope CTN will step up and explain the conflicting accounts.

Second, there's the claim that Jessi identifies as a man based on information available on the Internet.  AND in spite of Jessi's statement that she identifies as female.  I'm curious if the CTN committee took into consideration the fact that Jessi may be in the process of transitioning (a fact her partner Emilia confirms)?  That begs the question of who gets to determine when a person in transition is a woman, or at least woman enough to perform in a variety show.  Should there be clearcut rules based on legal standards?  Should the committee get to ask personal questions about an individual's anatomy .. a "lift the skirt" test?  Even assuming there is a way to objectively determine womanliness, shouldn't that standard be publicized out of fairness to everyone?  And shouldn't Jessi and others have a chance to defend themselves?  Granted, I shudder at the prospect of forcing transwomen to defend their gender identity to help raise money for the GLCC. 

This event is about National Coming Out Day.  Those of us who were born women have probably had multiple coming out moments throughout our lives.  And we live everyday with a heteronormative presumption that we are, in fact, straight until proven otherwise.  Some of us allow that misperception to go unchallenged for a variety of reasons, sometimes that we are not safe coming out in certain circumstances ... at work, to our family, in our faith communities, etc.  Does the fact that a local poet, singer or comedian remains closeted at work make them less of a lesbian or bisexual woman?  Of course not.

Transwomen also have to come out, sometimes as both a lesbian and a woman.  Isn't that a process we should honor when we celebrate National Coming Out Day?  Shouldn't we be cheering Jessi on instead of punishing her?  Shouldn't we be excited for her and appreciative of her willingness to take the risk of performing in public to help raise money for a good cause? 

Shouldn't she have the same chances as every other performer who may be passing as straight women in certain realms? 

Rather than rail about what I perceive as the underlying generational conflicts at play here, I'm going to skip right to a proposed solution.

I'd like to see CTN give Jessi an audition.  If she makes the cut, great. 

I'd like CTN to turn this situation into a teachable moment for our entire community.  Take the bull by the horns and incorporate the coming out experience of transwomen into the event.  Perhaps include some information in the event program.   Ask some transwomen (Emilia?) to share their experiences and give them a few minutes at the mike.  Solicit some poetry or other performance pieces.  Set up a visual arts display.  Just make an effort to acknowledge the unique experiences of transwomen.

There's a wide gap between claiming to be "not transphobic" and celebrating the lives of transwomen. 

Local rocker Joey Murphy put forth an alternative solution on a local email list.

I'd like to go a step further and challenge the old guard a bit.  Let's see who is a larger cultural force in Pittsburgh, who is more inclusive, who isn't tethered to old, outdated feminist politics, and who throws a better party.   

So, how about we put more positiv spin on this  inter-generational dissonance and organize a "Celebrate the NEW, YOUNGER, Night?"  For the same night, or "Celebrate the Dawn of a New Day" - you get the picture.  We can pick a charity to raise funds for, maybe a Women's Shelter,  or Gay Youth Shelter, and challenge their group to a fund raising duel through ticket sales.  I bet we could trounce them in terms of attendance and show what valuing all members of the queer community looks like.

It is great to see the whole discussion move into solution mode.  Joey claims that CTN organizes an event to meet the needs of their friends.  That may well be the case.  I did not attend last year's event (I think I had to work), but I've been to several in the past.  I was usually one of the youngest women there and was not surprised that so many of my friends did not want to attend.  $20.00 can be pretty steep on a social worker's salary especially when you tend to some of the same acts year after year. I understand they have been working on diversifying the performers, so I hope they are working on ways to attract younger women. 

It would be great for them to partner with the Women & Girls Foundation to make the event more accessible to women without the means to attend and incorporating queer-identifying women into the event.

Either way, we hope that CTN will address the escort/male identity conflict to undo some of the damage this debacle has wrought on their organization's reputation.  Being publicly caught in a lie is not a good thing.  The proof is in the email I suspect.

I wonder if Jessi even wants to perform at this point?  If not, then Ledcat and I would like to take Jessi and Emilia out to celebrate women that night.  Thai style.  Anyone wanna join us? 


View Article  Brighton Heights The Vault Rocks a Saturday Afternoon

I had a perfect glass of iced tea this weekend. 

Ledcat and I toodled up California Avenue to Brighton Heights in order to pick up a very generous donation the Vault had made to support a fair housing project.  Being generous in return (and hungry), we stopped for a snack.  Laura had a bottled raspberry soda. I had iced tea.  It was just the right amount of steep!  With just the right amount of ice!  It was the perfect quench on a Saturday afternoon in July.

Could it get better? Oh, but yes.  We ordered the hummus plate and received these warm, luscious, and thick chunks of bread.  The hummus itself was great, but the awesomeness of the bread just put it over the top.  I mean we were licking our fingers. The Vault easily puts both the Square Cafe and Mark Your Mark to shame for their carb-free hummus plates.  Note to both -- veggies good, bread more good.

The head Vault guy was really nice to us and was saying great things about other independent coffee houses in the area.  He also told us all of the baked goods are made by his baker-person three or four days a week.  The cookie I sampled (just to be polite) was delish, but he advised coming back on a Tuesday for the freshest of the goods.

It is a nifty space and very comfortable.  I kind of felt like I was in a club smashed into a garage, but in a good way.  This may sound odd, but it felt like a guy's coffeehouse.  One that lets in girls, but there's a definite testosterone flair to it.  Which is good.  I was totally comfortable.  But you know what I mean?  Flair!

So go to The Vault.  It is easy to find from 65 and there's plenty of street parking.  Order iced tea and the hummus plate.  Savor the bread.  You won't regret it.

View Article  Pgh Lesbian Variety Show Faces Accusations of Discrimination and Bias

For several years, Celebrate the Night has honored National Coming Out Day with a women's variety show featuring a slew of talented local, amateur performers.  Each year, the call goes out across the community to women of talent -- singers, jugglers, musicians, poets, dancers, comedians and so forth.  The unifying element is that performers are women coming together to "celebrate" women.

A local lesbian, Dr. Emilia Lombardi of the University of Pittsburgh, suggested that her partner, Jessi Seams, dust off her magic act and audition for CTN.  Jessi submitted an audition tape, but was denied the opportunity to audition.  Why?  Because someone on the CTN committee had connected Jessi with an online profile identifying her as an escort. 

CTN, apparently, did not want to be associated with sex workers.

Jessi and Emilia appealed the decision, claiming that the information on the profile was inaccurate and that Jessi had never worked as an escort.  According to Emilia, CTN refused to reconsider and was not open to discussing the issue.  Emilia then tried to have the Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) act as a mediator (the GLCC is the primary beneficiary of the event's proceeds), but again CTN refused.

That's when the story wound up in my email box.  Frustrated with their inability to negotiate with CTN, Emilia and Jessi decided to share their story with the larger LGBT community.

I contacted CTN for their response to the allegations, but there has been no response to my inquiries.  The CTN Producer  issued the following statement on a local queer events email list.

As the producer of CTN, as much as I would like to indivually and immediately respond to these emails, given my commitment to CTN, and it's vision, I'm not authorized to speak for CTN, absent the collegial action of the committee as a whole. After we meet, a statement will be forth coming from the committee ASAP.

CTN defenders have claimed there is more to the story, hinting  that Jessi had a "threatening nature" and the existance of conflicting information on multiple websites.  Other members of the local women's community have their hackles up over this tacit moral code of conduct. 

So let's take a step back.  This is the transcript Jessi and Emilia provided of the email from CTN:

 "It has come to our attention recently, at pridefest,that you are
 acting as an escort. As you already know, Celebrate The Night is a "Celebration" of Women,  and the information  listed on the website of URnotalone has you listed as an escort, and we can not risk having that affiliated with CTN.  It is with regret that we have decided not  to accept your application  to audition for CTN. We are sorry, we were looking forward to having a magician in the show, but we have to consider the interest of CTN first and foremost. "

What is unclear at this point is why the CTN committee has imposed a morality clause on the event.  If Jessi were an escort, how does being a sex worker impact a woman's ability to sing, dance or dazzle us with illusions?  Are there other behaviors that are deemed unacceptable by the committee?  If so, that information should be made public so that sponsors and patrons are aware of the lifestyles and moral choices of which they are tacitly disapproving.  I'd like to know because I wouldn't be happy if someone conducted a background check on me to determine if I am worthwhile to help raise money for the GLCC. 

Further, how exactly did this information come to light?  One can only presume that a member of the committee googled Jessi for some unknown reason, which looks suspiciously like a background check.  Granted, information on the Internet is pretty much fair game for public consumption.  But that should be an evenhanded process -- in other words, are they checking out everyone who wanted to audition?  And if so, for what information are they looking?  Did they search the online database of PFA orders or for drunk driving violations?  What about being behind in child support payments?  Remaining legally married to your heterosexual spouse while engaging in an intimate relationship with your same sex g/bf?  All of this is public information and accessible as easily as MySpace and Yahoo.   Where do you draw the line?

Finally, there's the fact that Jessi claims she is not, and has never been, an escort.  For some reason, CTN has not given her an opportunity to clear her name or face her accuser.  Why not?  If it is simply a misunderstanding, it should be cleared up quickly. Emilia is concerned that this is somehow connected with the fact that Jessi is a transwoman, in spite of CTN's history of behind the scenes trans participation.  I've been racking my brains to recall if there have been any transgender female performers, but I cannot honestly say one way or the other.  Emilia's concern seems to stem from some awkwardly phrased questions about Jessi's gender identity prior to being denied an audition.  Wrestling with questions about who is a woman and who isn't hasn't worked out so well in Michigan, so perhaps airing this issue now will at least make sure everyone in the community knows the lay of the land.

I'm looking forward to the statement from CTN.  I really hope there's a good "other side" to this story, because this side is really unpleasant. Remaining silent in the face of so many questions tarnishes the reputation of the event and diminishes the accomplishments of the many hardworking volunteers who have logged hundreds of hours over the years.  

I also hope that the GLCC is taking note as they would be the prime beneficiaries of a policy that would impose a moral code of conduct on women. 

What does ANY of this have to do with National Coming Out Day? 

And, yes, a magician at the event would be cool.  Let's work this out ladies so we can identify the internalized homophobia, transphobia, mysogeny and whatever else is going on and actually do something constructive to address it.  Let's be adult enough to admit we don't always make the best decisions and ethical enough to examine them honestly.

View Article  Lesbians love Harry Potter (no spoilers)

So I learned something new about my friend Sarah last week.  She's a Harry Potter fanatic. She came over to help me pick up my 75 lb dog crates -- each btw -- from the Federal Express office on Neville Island.  Because she has a truck.  And she's very cool and helpful n'at. 

So after unloading the giant boxes, we were chatting and Harry came up.  I wanted to take her out to dinner on Friday to repay her for helping me, but she told me she had plans to go pick up the book at midnight.  We were both very excited to read the final book and swapped guesses on the potential plot twists. 

I had planned to get the book, but maybe not right away.  Then Sarah says (with a straight face) "What if you log onto to leakycauldron.com and someone tells you the ending?"

Now, I must admit I've never heard of leakycauldron.com, but it turns out to be the official HP website.  So I wasn't too worried about the ending being spoiled on that front.  However, she got me thinking.  So off I toddled to Barnes and Noble on Saturday evening to find they had many dozens of copies left.  I clutched my treasure all the way home and spent the next 24 hours mesmerized.

I won't spoil it for you.  But I will say that I was RIGHT about a pivotal plot point.  I knew it.  A ha!

I'll miss Harry Potter, but the ending was very satisfying, so I'm happy.  I've yet to hear Sarah's thoughts. 

ps: I should note that Friday night in Squirrel Hill, I was driven to the point of almost strangling the next adult I saw in a wizard costume.  With their own cloak.  The kids were cute, but the grown ups were a little scary.  Sort of like Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka.  Scary stuff.  When the buskers at The Manor wouldn't let me pass due to their whirling dancing and exaggerated fiddlin' movements, I decided to call it a night and take my hard earned monies home. 

I recovered by Saturday and sought solace in a delishus cheeseburger and Harry Potter ...


View Article  Video Monday: Taste Some Queer Music

Saturday night, I picked up the music issue of Curve.  Most of the featured artists were completely new to me, even Ledcat only knew a handful.  So off to You Tube ...

Check these two aht ...

Toshi Reagon isn't new to the music scene (Ledcat even had actual cassette tapes!).  Here's something really groovy.



This is God-des & She.  Self-styled "homo hip-hoppers."



View Article  Catching up on a few random LGBT things

My favorite Christian-flavored homobigot, Diane Gramley of the PA American Family Association, had a little missive published last week in the North section of the Post-Gazette.  This time she rallies to the defense of the poor Boy Scouts being persecuted for their own homobigotry.  I'd post a quote but it is really rather a rambly as she tries to connect transgender work issues with evicting the boy scouts from their taxpayer financed dwellings in Philadelphia.  Along the way, she lambastes Dan Frankel for his homosexual activism. 

Boy, she got a lot of mileage out of a simple article about Boy Scouts improving a woodlands trail. 

In other news, Pittsburgh got a new bishop.  His name is David Zubik.  He supports the rights of immigrants and opposes the death penalty, abortion and gay marriage.  Of course, like any responsible Catholic, he chose to focus on abortion and gay marriage in the 2004 elections. So sorry little immigrants and folks on death row.  You only count in off-election years.  

"It is totally inappropriate and out of line for me to suggest the candidates that people would vote for," he said. "It is totally appropriate and in line for me to share what the teachings of the church are, so that when people go into the voting booth, they will register their votes according to all that they have read and prayed over."

And up in Beaver County, Mr. Ian Thompson of Baden reminds his community of Melissa Hart's derring do while in office.  Mainly, she "yes, yes, oh yessed" the President.

For those who may have forgotten, last summer, when Republicans still ran the show, Congress spent weeks on end attempting to amend the Constitution to ban flag burning and to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.
Once again, Hart was right there voting yes, yes, yes.
Meanwhile, close to 50 million Americans were living every day without health insurance, and thousands of young men and women continued to face life-altering injuries and death in the awful quagmire of Iraq.

And don't forget that Saturday is the 2nd Annual Dyke March.  It has caused the most PghLesbian controversy that we've seen in months and months.  Probably since I accused Chris Potter of sexism.  So it is definitely the place to be.  Ledcat and I are very proud that we played in part in organizing the Dyke March.  Eli is a really cool chica and it was a lot of fun to get to hang out with her even for a few hours.  Getting to know her more than makes up for all the accusations others have hurled that I've sold her out because I talked to men about the march.  On the radio.  With my friend John McIntire.  I'm not quite sure if I'll be disdainfully ignored or spat upon on Saturday evening, but I'll have Ledcat with me so I'm not afraid! 

Be warned Chris Potter that if you spit at me, Ledcat will give you a swift kick on the shins and steal your reporter pad.   

View Article  Pittsburgh's Pet Limit Law -- Why hasn't anyone brought this up?

Ahem. From the Pittsburgh Municipal Code:


No person or residence shall be permitted to own, harbor or maintain more than five (5) dogs or cats or any combination thereof within City limits. This section shall not affect any person or residence whose number of dogs, cats or any combination thereof exceeds the limit of five (5) prior to the effective date of this section and upon elimination of dogs or cats by adoption, death or any permanent removal from that person or residence, owners exceeding the limit of five (5) are not permitted to obtain additional dogs or cats. This section shall not affect kennels and catteries that have been granted a kennel/cattery permit by the City Animal Control Department nor shall it affect kennels registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
(Ord. 29-1992, eff. 7-16-92)

I haven't heard this mentioned at all during the whole cat licensing debate.  I spoke with the staff at three different City Councilpersons and none of them had heard of this.

Here's the deal --- my dogs are licensed and thus "on the books" whereas my cats are not.  If I have more than two cats, I go over the limit.  So, if I license my cats, I open myself up to fines or penalties for breaking the pet limit law. 

Take it a bit further ... if you face fines and penalties, perhaps you would need to get rid of a pet or two.  Where would they go?  Would Jim Motznik adopt them?  No, inevitably some would end up at the shelters and some would end up on the streets. 

There's more.  In 1994, PA Commonwealth Court struck down the five-pet limit law of the Borough of Carnegie because it did not connect owning five pets with creating a public nuisance or adversely affects the safety, health and welfare of the community.  No one can arbitrarily determine that the pet conditions of five is okay whereas six puts ya over the top.   Here's a pet site with a detailed explanation and the court ruling. 

Now, this is just me.  If I tried to be a law-abiding citizen and licensed my cats, I might get cited for violating the pet limit law.  I would not turn my pets over to a shelter.  I would not take them to visit Uncle Jimmy. I would not let them roam loose in Manchester and toss some kibble over the fence every day.

I would sue the City. 

Yes, that's right. I would drag the City into court based on the 1994 decision and probably win.  Tax dollars would be spent defending the City.  I doubt the cat licensing fees would cover those expenses. 

There are hundreds of households with more than five pets that are perfectly neat and clean and humane.  My understanding is that state law permits up to 15 pets (maybe it is 18) and then requires a kennel license.  A kennel license brings a greater level of scrutiny to the pet owner.  Thus, the municipal duty of protecting the health and welfare of the community is preserved without compromising the liberty of citizens to self-determine how many pets they can care for within the requirements of the law (and sanity).  Please don't comment about hoarders.  That's a whole different pond of koi.  Cat licensing and pet limit laws aren't going to do a damn bit of good for hoarders.

Licensing cats is a waste of tax payer dollars.  Put those monies into spay/neuter and trap/release programs.  Put those monies into education campaigns about spaying and neutering AND keeping your cat inside. 

Maybe giant billboards with Luke stretched out in the Barkalounger with a few cats draped artfully across his lap while he watches the Stillers. 

So, call your Councilperson and let them know that a cat licensing law is going to trigger a nasty mess over the pet limit law.  Is that really where we should be investing energies?  Call Payne and Carlisle.  I bet there are dozens of little old ladies with 6 or 7 cats in their districts.  Call Koch.  Lots of dog/cat households on the Southside.  Tell Peduto and Harris you don't want your mother to be dragged down to court because she has 7 animals and give both more ammunition to fight a stupid law.

My understanding is that most of the calls have been coming from outside the City.  That's not very helpful.  Get your City people to make a call. It takes five minutes b/c they barely listen to you anyway.  Well, they listen a bit more attentively than Specter's people.  But your boss won't even notice you doing it.  Seriously.  Call. 

And save up a few pennies for my legal expense fund.  I'm not going down without a fight.

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