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View Article  Oh, those lesbitarians ...

Always taking over with their wholegrain, crunchy goodness and all those eggplants!

Actually, I'm really starting to dig vegetarian food when it is cooked by Jessica at Hoi Polloi.  Or Ledcat.  Or anyone but me.  But still ... does everything have to be vegetarian? What next -- recycling bins at Wendys?

I regret to say that Lesbian Night at Dozen Bakeshop has morphed into Lesbitarian Night, complete with vegetarian chili (note to anyone reading this -- I hate chili more than anything in the world.  Except snakes.  And pickles).   I almost wept to realize that rather than a simple free cupcake, I would have to fork over $10 for a vegetarian meal.  Even if it does include a red velvet cupcake. 

On a Tuesday. 

Sigh.  I mean I can see the cute word play and vegetarianism is much healtheir and it really isn't cool to say LesbiFleshEaters.  Still ... cupcakes!  That's part of the lesbian nation, too.  Coffee and a cupcake.  That's all I wanted. 

Plus, the Dozen people aren't even sending me their promotional materials after I hooked them up with Ehrrin and her dyke salute.  No little press releases about chili of the week.  Nothing.  I may not like the chili, but I like the lesbians part.

If Hoi Polloi starts offering cupcakes, I'm set.  Can I go back to the Priory Bakery now that Brenda Frazier lost her election?  All these rules confuse me.  I just want a cupcake!

And you know when I want one?  On Saturday nights when we go out to dinner and have some time to kill.  But it is hard to find a cupcake on a Saturday night that is not encased in cellophane. 

Now I'm going to want one all day tomorrow.  Not a lot of cupcakes in East Liberty.  I'm afraid of Paddy Cakes (why make the cake so fast, baker's man?  why would i want to share my cake with a baby who should not eat cake?) 

See, this is what happens ... darn lesbitarians.  Lesbivores?  Sigh.  This is what happens when Jessica gets me to try tofu crumbles and kidney beans in the same evening.  The whole world goes topsy turvy. 

View Article  Letters to the Editor

Three letters in today's Post-Gazette, two for gay rights and one for gay oppression.  Still no letters in the Tribune-Review.

Proud papa Edward Walkowski of Brookline simply wants his lesbian daughter and her partner to have equal rights. Edward recognizes the true political agenda of the Amendment supporters:

The political leaders pushing this amendment are nothing but political opportunists and hypocrites -- political opportunists because, by taking advantage of fears, prejudices and ignorance, they would hope to create a wedge issue that would aid their own political aims, and hypocrites because if they were truly concerned with protecting marriage and the family, they would attempt to legislate against divorce and to legislate for pre-marriage testing to ensure that couples would be stable partners and parents.

Lorette Barone of Point Breeze makes another simple point, namely that gay marriage won't impact her marriage.  Nor will it protect anyone else's marriage.

Kudos to Bruce Kraus ("Gay Marriage in Pennsylvania," April 27 Forum). I have no idea how exactly the anti-gay marriage amendment will "strengthen marriage" -- an institution that has been in decline everywhere without any help from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and lots of help from educational, religious and legislative bodies.

I do know that GLBT people marrying will have no impact on my 45-year marriage. The adoption of the amendment will disenfranchise a host of my fellow citizens who -- constitutionally -- share all the rights and privileges that I enjoy... well, almost, but not quite because they're... you know.

On the other hand, Nancy Staible of Zelienople believes marriage is the answer.  Nancy is an old friend of the letters page.

Contrary to the attitude shared by several of the senators hosting the hearing, I think the people of Pennsylvania do understand what marriage is, what it is not and why we need to protect this bedrock of our society. I would venture to say that every member of those listening to or offering testimony, whether supporting or opposing the amendment, was born as a result of the union of one man and one woman and understand the value of marriage.

That's probably not true.  There's a range of possibilities. I speak hypothetically because I don't know who was there or the circumstances of their conception.  Someone may have gay parents.  Someone may be the result of artificial insemination. Another could have been conceived as a result of sexual assualt or incest.  I'm guessing a few were born to teenagers who didn't understand the consequence of their actions.  Nancy and her ilk rarely mention those circumstances.  Getting married because you "have to" is not the same thing as entering a loving union with full intent and commitment.

The limited role of government in our representative republic is to establish and maintain laws that are determined to be best for the country and its people. Marriage over time has been shown to be the gold standard for raising children, socializing men and women, building a strong economy and providing for healthy, long lives.

Also, not true.  Research has shown that two parent families have strengths for children, but that gay parenting is little different than heterosexual parenting.  If anything, it is the constant barrage against the gay community that is hurting our children.

Just this week, we see a newlywed couple who beat the hell out of each other and bystanders on the day of their wedding.  What economic contribution does that make?  It drains resources because of the need for police and judicial intervention. 

Staible deludes herself that marriage is some sort of magic bullet to cure social woes.  So why doesn't she turn her attention to the aspects of existing marriages that aren't working so well?  Why not help women who are being battered by their spouses have better supports have healthy, long lives?  Why not strengthen safety net resources so financial hardships don't destroy marriages?  Why not address healthcare so families aren't forced to remain unmarried so women and children can access publicly funded healthcare because their male partners' business doesn't offer a family plan?  There are tons of things Nancy could do.

If she really cared about marriage. 


View Article  Bruce Kraus: Excerpts from his testimony

The Post-Gazette published City Councilman Bruce Kraus' recent testimony on SB 1250 which would embed a definition of marriage into the PA Constitution.  All I can tell you is that this is a really great read.  Here is my favorite excerpt:

With all the challenges that we, as a commonwealth, are facing -- deteriorating infrastructure; staggering health-care costs; municipalities crippled by the inability or unwillingness of legislators to ensure that nonprofits contribute toward ever escalating municipal service costs; rampant gun violence; and corruption in government -- certain Pennsylvania state legislators would like us to believe that defining marriage and outlawing civil union is our most pressing legislative priority.

In reality this is their mark of shame.

Legislating a ban on same-sex marriage or civil unions is homophobia, bigotry and sanctioned discrimination of a selected class of people. I would liken homophobia to racism, sexism and anti-Semitism because it seeks to dehumanize people and deny them their dignity, personhood and equal protection under the law. In the year 2008, would you dare to legislate to deny marriage or civil union based on race, creed, age or ethnicity?

This need not become a mark of shame, but rather a call to courage -- the courage to overcome fear and injustice. Choosing the right thing to do is not always popular or easy, but standing for what is right and true and just, especially when it is unpopular, is the true test of moral character.

Today I ask you, as members of the state General Assembly, with the power to end this discrimination before it can go any further, to not only vote against SB 1250, but to speak out against it and the intolerance, prejudice and discrimination it represents.

Bishop Zubik writes the opposing view.  He's the Bride of Christ.  Or something like that. 

View Article  Richard Simmons is a girly man

Does the "Richard Simmons isn't a real man/is a girly she man" slur ever go out of style?  Peter McKay is syndicated so I guess not. Here he is describing the fancy office he built in his backyard (is this really supposed to resonate with the average Pittsburgh resident) which his wife decorated and he used for work purposes:

And somehow, my wife's stuff never made it out. Flowery pictures and ribbons are everywhere. Gingham curtains still hang on the windows.

There's a big bulletin board collage of kids' fingerpaintings, family photos and mementos.

Every surface is covered with cute knickknacks.

One friend called it the Richard Simmons room -- male, but only by a technicality.

The other day, I had an electrician out to fix a bad circuit breaker in the garage. He came in, looked around for a minute, then remarked on what a cool idea it was to turn the little building into a room:

"Me, if I had something like this, I'd turn it into a guy's room, you know? Someplace I could get away from the family!" he said.

"Yeah!" I said proudly. "This used to be my wife's office, but now it's my Man Cave!"

He stopped short, clearly a little nauseous that I'd actually used that word to describe it. He suddenly seemed uncomfortable to be alone with me.

"You know!" I said, "like the Batcave, but..."

Dead silence.

He looked around the room at the gingham, the dried flower arrangements, the pink sofabed. "You pick out that couch yourself?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

I shook my head sadly. My wife, I explained, had overruled me on that one.

"Hmmf!" he snorted, turning back to the fuse box. "Some Man Cave, pal!"

Oh, ha ha ha. Poor Peter is the hapless victim of his frilly wife and his butch male friends.  Well, I'm sure Richard Simmons is jump-jacking his way all the way to the bank, knowing he's made a ton of people healthier and a ton of money, too. 

Maybe enough to pick out his own couch.


View Article  The evolution of gay-exclusive spaces: are gay bars on the demise?

I found this article at American Public Media ... actually, the teaser ended up in my inbox.  The premise seems to be an exploration of a recent claim by Forbes Magazine that gay bars are among the top ten businesses facing extinction, along with crop dusting and record stores.  Ouch.

APM took a look and noted some interesting trends.

First, some gay bars are becoming more mixed or "evolving" into gay-friendly bars with a healthy mix of heterosexual patrons.  Owners spin this as a sign of progress, of the cultural enmesh we've been seeking all these years.

Although, some gay exclusive bars haven't pulled off that transition and are closing their doors. Ironically, this happens at a peak of gay spending power ...$750 billion according to this article.

Others attribute the drain on gay bars to generational issues.  Back in the day, the gay bar was the community center and provided the loci for everything from socialization to organizing and advocacy.  Today's generations are using the Internet and increasingly accepted gay-identified alternative spaces and organizations to accomplish those goals. 

Finally, there are the nay-sayers who say in certain parts of the country, there is a need for gay-exclusive bars given the dynamics of that region. 

So, gay spending is up and so is the number (and types) of places to spend.  The gay bar generation is aging.  Young gays are being raised in mixed-environments where they can identity as openly queer and still find their space.  Not all of American has evolved this far. 

I personally don't have an intimate knowledge of this history of Pittsburgh's gay bar scene.  Wouldn't that make for a wonderful documentary?  Or thesis?  Anyone in queer studies done that?  I've been to Donny's, the Eagle, CJ's, Lucky's, Pegasus, New York, New York and that place that used to the Liberty Avenue Saloon, I think.  Oh, and True.  I think that's it.  I loved True because it was smoke free, but the crowd wasn't very friendly.  The Eagle was my favorite -- they seem to do a lot of benefits and I thought the different floors were a hoot.  Plus, the staff were friendly.  Granted, this is a very limited sampling -- probably 20-25 visits over the past 15 years. 

So, my inexpert opinion, is that Pittsburgh is probably one of those places that still needs a core gay bar scene even while queer-straight mixed places are emerging.  The Firehouse Lounge had a successful run of L-Word parties.  When the season ended, the women stopped coming.  They'll be back next season.  They don't do reruns. 

The coffeehouses are a great example of an entirely new mixed venue that's providing queer supportive (and queer owned) spaces.  I love the coffeehouses in Pittsburgh, although I have to admit that I tried to go to the new one in Lawrenceville  -- Your Inner Vagabond -- and it took me exactly 2 minutes to feel uncomfortable and head right back out the door.  Actually, come to think of it, it is a very similar experience to a gay bar when you walk in and people stare at you like you are an intruder.  For someone like me, that's all she wrote. I go where there is less staring b/c I equate staring = get the fuck out of here.  If I want that experience of hostile begrudging sharing of space, I'll go visit my aunt at the holidays.  Or my Catholic university reunion. 

Anyway, I was saying ... I think The Firehouse Lounge project was a good one.  But I suspect that some of those lesbians went back to their familiar haunts and, assuming they drink responsibly blah blah blah, that's a good thing, too.

Pittsburgh's gay bars are driving PrideFest this year so they certainly don't seem to be on the demise.  I wouldn't mind going for a drink if they would just go smoke-free.  Until then, I'll do my socializing at events and order my coffee without the splash of a withering glance. 

Check out the article. 



View Article  Other Gay Stuff You Might Want to Know

I was very depressed after picking up this week's City Paper.  The feature article on recycling was the slap in the face you really need even though it hurts like a bitch.  Bill Driscoll confirms my deep seeded fear that the majority of my do-gooder efforts are essentially pointless because I take the easy way out.  I can sort and pack and visit Construction Junction as often as I want.  It only matters if it gets me to make the paradigm jump (shift if you like) from being content to recycle to actually reducing my consumption of ... well, everything. 

This is the part where my head starts to spin from all of the overwhelming changes I must make to be a better person and I just want to lay down for awhile in a dark room.  Sense to Save blogger Kacie explores a similar issue around frugality and environmental consciousness. Is frugality just about saving money or reducing consumption?  Hmmm.

What Bill didn't do is answer a whole list of questions I have about recycling.  Why can't lids be recycled if they are made of plastic, too?  Why don't Whole Foods and the Co-op carry large blue bags for recycling in the City?  Is it true the bags are not recycled?  Cause that sucks.  Can you recycle an orange juice carton with the little plastic spouty thing?  Finally, where do you go to get these questions answered?  I've visited all the city, county and state websites.  If see the words "paperboard, like cereal boxes" one more time in print, I will wail and gnash my teeth. 

Moving on ...

The City Paper also covers recent goings on with the 3rd Annual Dyke March. I had a nice chat with Eli today, who reaffirmed that Persad has offered a lot of support (Go Betty Hill!) and other community institutions have made overtures.  She also told me she accidentally discovered Hoi Polloi while planning the march and is very excited to have an awesome lesbian-owned business to support as they plan, plan and organize.  Ledcat and I *a*d*o*r*e* Hoi Polloi.  Tonight, I discovered I like kidney beans!  Who knew!

Anyway ... stay tuned for more dyke march news and more hoi polloi news.  And more Betty Hill news, too, if I can find some. 

Letters to the Editor ....

Pat Gannon Voye of Robinson actually used the expression "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" in his letter to the Post-Gazette.   Even if s/he is stuck in the 1980's, a good point is raised as to why the separate, but equal solution will never suffice:

 But no way should those persons be afforded the dignity of legal marriage.

Yep, no dignity for us homos. 

Kristen Danzi of Oakland, however, has pulled back the wizard's curtain on the whole marriage amendment sham of an issue:

It is time for our state senators to dismount the dead horse of bigotry and return to their jobs: improving the lives of all Pennsylvanians, not reducing some to second-class citizenship.

The older white guy columnist for the PG (oh, can't you tell which one I mean?) has a little shout out for the homosexuals on the claim that conservatives are happier than liberals:

Well, I don't buy it at all. It has always seemed to me that conservatives are happiest when they are hot and bothered about something. I long ago concluded that being constantly dyspeptic is the fun of it for them, the sole reason they hold their peculiar views. It is why they listen to talk radio, so that their underwear will ride up their rear quarters in indignation.

What else can one assume when they go to such extraordinary lengths to invent issues to be irritated about? Who but cranky types care about the alleged threat of gay marriage, for example? It's simple to me: If you don't approve of gay marriage, don't marry a gay person, but in the meantime have the good manners to mind your own business.

You go, Reg. 

I haven't blogged about Tony Norman in awhile. He amused me today with memoirs of his cold, while he contemplated the role of race in Obama's loss in Pennsylvania.  I get what he is saying, but /.. you know what, I'm going to email him and ask him first.  Then I'll blog about it.

Anyway, that's the news from Lesbian Central.  I'm now going to go lay in the dark and avoid consuming anything. 

View Article  Additions to the Delta Foundation Board

Pittsburgh's Delta Foundation recently announced the addition of two new board members.  Cindy Daro was elected by the Foundation membership.  Keri Harmicar was appointed by the existing board members. 

Both were gracious enough to respond to a few questions about their new roles in our community.

1.  What role do you see the Delta Foundation filling for Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community?

KH: I am hopeful that the Delta Foundation will be able to bring the LGBTQI community closer together. By recognizing there are differences in the communities, we should be able to address the overall needs better. The community as it exists now would gain so much more by working together for a (or many) common goals.


CJD: The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has the potential to become the communication and event planning hub of our region?s LGBTQ community.  Delta has already demonstrated their capabilities to provide community-related events and to raise monies for concerns like the GLCC of Pittsburgh.  The Delta Foundation is raising the bar for other LGBTQ organizations. That?s a good thing.

2.  Why did you apply to serve on the board? 

KH: I am new to Pittsburgh and I wanted to be involved with a group of people that are willing to get out there and make a difference. I saw the Delta Foundation as that group!


CJD: I applied because I saw the initiative and teamwork of the Delta Foundation in action.  I wanted to be part of a group that is striving to improve the quality of life for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Community of the Pittsburgh region.  I believe Delta has the capacity to catalyze change and follow through to make it happen. 

3.  Please describe how the current board represents the diversity of Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community.

KH: I feel the current board is reflective of the community as large; I would love to see more diversity at this point as advisors.


CJD: The make-up of the Board does not reflect all the letters in the acronym.  But, it is fully capable of representing all of those letters.

4.  What is your personal goal or objective for the duration of your tenure on the board?

KH: As I mentioned earlier, I want to make a difference. I have a lesbian aunt and a close gay cousin. Their lives could have been much easier if they had someone to help them ?fight? or stand up. I was too young at the time, but you can believe I am most definitely in their corners now. The labeling that I see in both the straight world and the LGBTQI world is so destructive. I want people to know people; to understand we are all the same. We all want/need/deserve love, respect and opportunity.


CJD: My main goal is to be a team player.  Additionally, I have a heart for spirituality, women?s issues, and problems faced by queer youth.  My dream is to help make the Pittsburgh region a safe place to be openly LGBTQ.  It won?t happen overnight and I can?t do it alone.

5.  What role should the Delta Foundation play in relationship to other LGBTQ organizations, specifically the GLCC?

KH: Delta is relatively new to this; they (we) are committed to bringing the entire community together to accomplish so much more. I am hopeful that the GLCC and the Delta will find some commonality.


CJD: Delta is currently in the process of tuning relationships with other LGBTQ organizations.  As to their role with the GLCC, that?s something which needs to be determined between both entities. 

6.  The Delta Foundation is very connected to Pittsburgh's gay bar scene, which leans heavily toward gay men.  How do you see the organization stepping out of that paradigm to meet the needs of other segments of the community?

KH: I think its natural that the Delta Foundation is so heavily connected to the ?bar scene?; it is where most of the members came from! That being said, there is so much more we as a Board hope and plan to accomplish out of the bars?.we?ll get thereJ


CJD: Delta knows the bar scene.  It?s smart to capitalize on what you know at the onset.  That?s one of the keys to success.  They also see the big picture.  As time goes on, the bar scene will be just be another faucet of the Delta Foundation.  Even now, the face of Delta is morphing: one of the new projects we?re sponsoring is Potluck Productions ?Funny Grrlz: Laugh OUT Loud.?  That?s happening on Saturday, June 14th at the Carnegie Library of Homestead Music Hall.  I?m really looking forward to it.    

7.  People have recently been quoted as saying Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community needs to be united or to work together.  Can you identify any recent local examples of gay unity or cooperation (outside of the Delta Foundation) that inspire you to continue along that path?

KH: I know many members of the Renaissance Choir and I admire the work they do together. The company I work for (Borders) is very supportive of diversity and we recently were awarded one of the highest honors from the Human Rights Campaign for our work environment for LGBTQI. I am proud of that and I hope to have all of the stores I work with reflect that position.


CJD: Speaking from my personal experience, I?d say the Renaissance City Choirs show how LGBTQ and straight people can work together in musical unison.  Susan Haugh?s queer youth performing arts troupe, Dreams of Hope, shows how creative expression connects people (in general) and educates the straight community.  Others successful collective efforts include Celebrate Art/Celebrate Life and Pittsburgh Pride, which show our teamwork in presenting benefits/celebrations for our community and the community at large. 

8. Beyond members of the Delta Foundation, please list at least one local LGBTQ leader who should always be at the table?

KH: I think as a Board, we are very open to suggestions from the community; if someone felt they had a thought or an idea to share, I know we would welcome their contribution.


CJD: I don?t know that the Delta Board needs to have leaders from other organizations at their meetings.  I guess it would depend on the project du jour.  I do believe there should be an annual or periodic meeting, of all LGBTQ leaders ? a summit ? to ensure that the ?collective community? is presenting a healthy perspective to the community at large. 

9. How long do you plan to serve on the board?

KH: My term is for two years.


CJD: My term expires in August of 2009.  I will serve as long as they need me, and as long as I think I am adding value to the organization.

I appreciate both women taking the time to answer my questions, poorly crafted as they (my questions) were.  Increasing the number of women on the board is a step toward diversifying leadership and I hope the organization continues to move forward in that direction. 

What do you think? 

View Article  Obituary - Randy Forrester

With hopes of forgiveness from the Post-Gazette, this should be read by all.

Randal G. "Randy" Forrester was 16 when he came out as a gay man to his parents, and likewise was open about his sexuality with his friends and classmates.

That was in 1963, when society's attitudes about homosexuality were in the Stone Age compared to today, and it illustrated Mr. Forrester's honesty and bravery.

Those attributes, along with intelligence, passion and a sense of humor, would serve him well over the next four decades as he worked tirelessly as a pioneering crusader for the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as well as for women, black people and other minorities.

Mr. Forrester, 60, died Wednesday in Forbes Hospice, where he had been treated for 10 days. He died of cell carcinoid cancer of the liver.

He was first diagnosed with a tumor 26 years ago, but, amazingly, only in the last year did it present him with serious health problems, said Jim Huggins, Mr. Forrester's life partner of 37 years.

Mr. Huggins, who co-founded the Persad Center with Mr. Forrester in 1972, said he was a visionary who affected innumerable people through his activism and the way he lived his own life.

"Randy was at the forefront of most changes in the sense he was a person who kept pushing the envelope, getting people to look at what gay people and lesbians are really about and not to look at the stereotypical images," said Mr. Huggins, who with Mr. Forrester lived on a houseboat docked at Fox Chapel Yacht Club.

"People are people, human beings are human beings and our 37 years of an incredibly loving relationship is certainly testament to that."

"He was incredibly always ahead of his time, a visionary," said Betty Hill, executive director of the Persad Center, the nation's second-oldest licensed counseling center specifically created to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "I think he arguably is this region's most influential gay rights figure. I can't think of anyone else who has done more for the gay community and the HIV community."

Dr. Tony Silvestre of the Pitt Men's Study, the long-standing AIDS research project that Mr. Forrester helped launch, noted that Mr. Forrester's pioneering work for gay rights was courageous, occurring as it did at a time that was "risky and dangerous. People were still being attacked on the street, activists were receiving threats.

"Driven by his vision, driven by the need he saw ... he stepped out loudly and never quieted down for his whole career. I think it took incredible courage, incredible determination and great compassion. I have no doubt he has had a profound, positive effect on thousands of people if not tens of thousands of people. He was a true hero."

Mr. Forrester was No. 53 in Pittsburgh Magazine's list of the 100 most influential Pittsburghers of the 20th century.

A North Hills native, he studied psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and music at Duquesne University.

From 1972 until 2001 he was executive director of the Persad Center, after which he served as a consultant for Persad and other nonprofit groups.

He served as president and vice president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of AIDS Service Organizations; was a board member of the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union; and assisted in the creation of the Governor's Council for Sexual Minorities.

He chaired the city's Commission on Human Relations from 1991 to 1994, was on the community advisory board for WQED/WQEX-TV, and founded the Lambda Foundation, a fund-raising organization for the regional lesbian/gay community.

A Democratic committeeman from 1990 to 1993, he ran for Allegheny County commissioner in the 1979 Democratic primary. He lost the election but succeeded in using his candidacy to illustrate the need to include in the political process the views of sexual minorities, women, blacks and others who often were disenfranchised, Mr. Huggins said.

"After he ran, there was a lot more awareness on the part of politicians," Mr. Huggins said.

"Randy was such a character, just a very bold and interesting personality," said Ms. Hill. "That just added to the way he was able to get people to listen, to challenge systems, to challenge discrimination."

"He was a very intelligent, very witty, very kind and loving person," said Mr. Huggins. "He made friends easily. He was a perfect spokesman because he was so bright and articulate and knew what he was talking about."

Mr. Huggins said he and his partner loved to travel -- they visited Egypt and England twice as well as Greece, Italy and Thailand, among other countries -- and to play with their Labrador retrievers, Willie and Joey.

Even in death, Mr. Forrester gave to others, donating his body to science.

A celebration of Mr. Forrester's life will be held May 4 at 2 p.m. at The Priory on the North Side.

View Article  The GLCC wants your sex toys


The GLCC is exploring a new program to provide safer sex educational tools and resources.  This arose from a recent presentation to a class of medical students where it became apparent that the students were not familiar with certain sex toys, suggesting that they would not be in a position to educate their patients.  Moreover, would they be unable to take an accurate sexual history if they aren't asking the right questions? 

Organizers have lined up a health nurse educator to offer a monthly session on safer sex practices, sex toys, etc.  They've found donors to provide condoms and printed materials.

They are having a wee bit of trouble identifying a funder to purchase sex toys.

That's where you come in.  You know you have some that are just "gathering dust" so to speak.  Or maybe something you never opened because it looked much easier to use in the catalogue.  Now is your chance to be part of the solution and help keep Pittsburgh's queer community healthy and safe. 

You can also donate a brand new toy directly or make a financial donation designated for the sex toy project here.

Imagine discussing that tax deduction with H&R Block?  :-)

Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea.  Ledcat and I sponsored a sex-toy party at the GLCC about 4 years ago with the fabulous Girls Night In (sigh) folks.  The turnout was huge and the evening was filled with lots of laughter and perplexed looks as Karen passed around her merchandise.  People were curious and they showed up to get some answers.

I hope this isn't too scandalous, but what a fabulous tribute to two advocates of a healthy Pittsburgh LGBTQ community to get the word out about this project within moments of learning of their passing.  Not only will this help educate local queers, but also promote better understanding in the health community as well.  That's a really good idea to get behind.  No pun intended (well, maybe just a little bit).

View Article  RIP: Pittsburgh's Queer Community Loses Two Important Members

Today brought sad news to, well, me and many other individuals in the LGBTQ community.  First, came word that one of the godfathers of Pittsburgh's modern queer community had passed away at the age of 60.  Randy Forrester (I'll insert the obit when it is published tomorrow) has been hailed for man things:  founding Persad Center, running as the county's first openly gay candidate, putting an end to bar raids, and just generally stepping up and stepping out as a leader throughout the past 30+ years. 

Randy received numerous accolades and honors for his contributions to our entire community.  All I have to offer is that when someone says "Jim and Randy," most people smile and know exactly who you mean.  That's a life well-lived, if far too short. 

Another sad note followed a few hours later.  Longtime lesbian health advocate and faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, Dr. Deb Aaron passed away yesterday at the age of 51.  Deb was instrumental in completing a comprehensive needs assessment for the LGBTQ community, as well as a researcher with the ESTHER project -- she paid attention to health disparities for lesbians.  Her contributions to academia and the wellness of lesbians are too numerous for me to enumerate.

I had the privilege of serving on the board of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center with Deb for a few years.  We also spent one long evening selling soda and chips back in the early days of Celebrate the Night.  She was a lovely person, very classy and just amazingly smart.  She was also part of the "Dykes on Bikes" in the Pride Parade and a lot of fun. 

Deb will be laid to rest in her mother's hometown. A local memorial service is scheduled for June 13, 2008 at 1 PM.  Her family has two requests in lieu of flowers:

(1)   Pittsburgh Cancer Center's fund providing assistance to patients and families:
      UPMC Cancer Centers Patient Assistance Fund
      Development Department
      UPMC Cancer Pavilion, Suite 1B
      5150 Centre Ave
      Pittsburgh, PA 15232

(2)   Support for graduate students in Health and Physical Education , University of Pittsburgh:

      Office of Development
      University of Pittsburgh
      School of Education
      5613 WWPH
      Pittsburgh, PA  15260

Checks should be made payable to:  University of Pittsburgh.  Indicate that donation is in memory of Deborah J. Aaron, PhD

God speed our dear friends.  Pittsburgh is a better place to be gay because of both of them.  As new generations of queer women and men step up and step out, their legacies will continue.  And I am sure their many beloved friends and family members will carry their memories for the rest of their days. 

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