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View Article  LGBT news and info from the City Paper

Some things you might have missed.

Allegheny County Council might pass a countywide anti-discrimination bill that protects us based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The legislation would establish a county Human Relations Commission.  I know some folks who have been working on this.  It is good news for the region. 

Without dragging out the drum of bitterness, I just wish this forward movement didn't come at the cost of unfinished business in the City.  Our LGBT votes have been handed over lock, stock and barrel to Luke Ravenstahl's next campaign without holding him accountable for promises he made to the head of th STATE Human Relations Commission.  Now Dan has his eye on the Governor's manse and suddenly advocacy attention swivels to the County.  I guess you gotta go where the opportunity is, but couldn't someone have stayed behind to clean up the mess?

Plus, my recent experience with the State Human Relations Commission was less than positive. More bureacracy doesn't mean better quality of life for queers.  Just like a Domestic Registry doesn't mean a better quality of life for poor unmarried couples. Necessarily.  Hopefully, the advocates follow through on this one and build a structure that affirms all families and is accessible to all families.

On a bright note, the City Paper City Guide did a nice feature on Pink Party Productions.

And Pink Party Productions doesn't just hold parties in the strict sense of the word. While some of the events are still house parties, the group has shown movies in Schenley Park, and built a float for this year's Dyke March. It's also put together shows like last spring's "Gay-Straight Defiance Party" at Lawrenceville hangout Belvedere's (where Avery works running the sound board). That event featured local and national bands and local DJs, and was billed as an event for the GLBTQ community and its straight allies. The event was a huge success; Avery says it drew about 200 people.

I haven't been to many PPP events yet.  Mostly, because I feel too old to attend.  And I avoid bars.  I did enjoy the float at the Dyke March. And we did go to the movies in the park -- that was awesome.  I had a really nice time there.  So keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events.  Check out their upcoming events!

So that's it.  Ft. Pitt. 

View Article  Leadership on the Northside

I belong to a community email list, identified as a Northside resource but focused mostly on the War Streets and surrounding communities.  It is riotous group filled with a small core of virulently anti-homeless agitators.  Not those who agitate to end homelessness, but to end the homeless. I am only slightly exaggerating. 

I was at a community meeting this evening when this very topic arose. City Council has decided to approve historic status for a Northside building.  I think its a facade (ha!) to prevent the current occupants, the Salvation Army, from renovating the space to meet the needs of the people they serve.  Instead, we'll now all pay obesience to the legend of the Maltas.  Which, by the way, was a men's social club.  Wouldn't expect City Council to not openly salute the wonders of the men-only space now would we?

I digress.  The building has a Salvation Army chapel, but Cat Specter's father George determined that it is not a church.  If it was a church, it would not be historical structure.  I don't know.  But it smacks of yet another attempt to drive poor people out of the "good neighborhoods" on the Northside. 

Another meeting attendee tried to shout me down on this one, telling me not to listen to the fringe element.  I think that's bullshit.  Leaders from the Northside are on that email list and routinely say NOTHING when this kind of classist, racist crap roils up.  They say nothing and that speaks volumes to everyone reading. 

Moral leadership demands accountability to the most vulnerable people in your constituency.  The men and women who call the park and the nearby shelters home are Northside residents.  More importantly, they are human beings and it makes me absolutely crazy that someone would stand quietly by and allow them to be vilified. 


View Article  Can we do gay jokes about Obama?

This is from a Joel Stein in Sunday's Post-Gazette. Does it work for you?

He's effete

He's well-dressed. He eats arugula -- which he buys at Whole Foods. He mocks those who use guns. He is, as we mentioned, quite thin. He may only be half-black, but he's three-quarters gay.



View Article  Mamma Mia!

What a fun, fun movie.  With a lovely gay twist.  I must admit I still find Colin Firth very fetching.  And criticism of Pierce Brosnan's singing is unwarranted.  It is campy as can be and he's a delight!  Sure, they could have found a hottie who could truly sing (think Ewan McGregor at age 50), but it was just a good time.  I did refrain from jumping up in my seat and singing. 

Consider this fair warning to Ledcat about my birthday present of choice.  Did I mention that we are going to see Air Supply in concert for my birthday?  I'm a lucky gal!

First, here's when ABBA burst onto the international music scene.  I was three, but several years later ...

Just for kicks, here's a rather fuzzy video of the Dancing Queen segment of the movie.  It was really fun ... complete with feather boas and all the girl power you could want ...


View Article  Why is Snickers going nuts over claims of homophobia?

I read in the PG that Snickers has pulled an ad running in Britain which features Mr. T telling those silly Brits to "Get Some Nuts."  In this one particular ad, Mr. T confronts a speed walker and makes him run like a man by pelting him with Snickers bars. 

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation cried foul and complained that the ad uses stereotypes of gay men?

See for yourself:


Since when is speedwalking a gay stereotype?  Granted there's a lot of swish going on, but its a result of hip movement not sexual orientation.  I viewed the ad as parody, not insult.  I can't imagine a "Get Some Nuts" campaign running in the US -- using an obvious sexual reference (even metaphoric) about men in print?  Ha ha ha.  Never.  We don't have the capacity to be that ironic or self-deprecating. 

IMHO, this is silly.  The ad made me laugh b/c its just so funny to try and sell candy bars by making them macho.  There's also the additional irony that both this and the first ad center around men engaging in athletic/fitness activities, rather than eating candy bars.  It is delicious. 


View Article  Gab Bonesso and John McIntire: Tasteless and Talented

Go see this. Please.

View Article  GLBT Insurance, Employment Protections and Advocacy Frustrations

I promised myself that I would not be blogging politically for the foreseeable future b/c my frustration with the state of LGBT advocacy in Western Pennsylvania is just off the scale.  I have little objectivity b/c it is my actual life and livelihood and living conditions that have been cast aside in favor of bigger and better, suburban fried fish to fry.  And, yes, I resent that.  Quite a bit. 

Here's a good example of why I now think that HB 1400 is probably a waste of your time.

My employer began offering AFLAC last year.  My company offers domestic partner benefits across the board, from medical to family leave.  So I asked the AFLAC rep about a family policy for unmarried, domestic partners as our agency has many such families, both gay and straight.  She first said yes, then later told me that Pennsylvania insurance regulations prohibited AFLAC from offering me the same policy as a married couple.  Instead, I could purchase two individual policies at a higher combined price.  I declined.   I had no reason to disbelieve her.

Fast forward many months and we are meeting with local financial advisor, Deborah Hughes.  She hooks us up with some insurance brokerish dude who can get us a similar policy.  I ask him about the insurance regulations.  He looks into it.  He won't give me a straight answer because he's trying to sell me a different policy that he claims is better.  At this point, my curiosity about the so-called regulations is much stronger than my interest in the policy so I decline.

I contact State Representative's Dan Frankel (former insurance guy himself) and Chelsa Wagner (my rep).  Their staff do some digging and discover that PA regulations do not prohibit AFLAC or any insurance company from offering coverage to unmarried couples. Nor, however, do the regulations require them to do so.  So the decision is up to the company.

I passed the information along to my employer and ask them to investigate.  We'll see where that leads.  I also emailed AFLAC and received no response thus far.

Then I start to think.  Does non-discrimination in the workplace promised by HB 1400 mean that employers have to offer access to the same benefits at the same price?  Would it force employers who want to offer AFLAC to make the coverage universal regardless of family type? 

I asked.  I emailed Frankel's staff.  I was given this information:

HB 1400 would simply require that employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identification. Therefore, if one employee is offered benefits, the company cannot refuse to offer benefits to an individual based on his/her sexual orientation or gender identification.

And advised to contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission for more information as the Human Relations Act is what will be amended by HB 1400.  So I dutifully looked up their website which I must say is very under-impressive and kitschy.  I finally figured out who I could call.  The woman who answered the phone kept asking me if I wanted to file a complaint.  I explained that I wanted to get some clarification on the impact of HB 1400 in my workplace.  She transferred me.  Then I was told that they can't answer my question until the bill passes and some sort of period passes.  Then I was told I should consult a lawyer.

Huh?  I should consult a lawyer to get information on AFLAC?  The attorney fees would mitigate any financial benefit to purchasing the policy.

So I've consulted with a HR department, an AFLAC sales rep, a financial advisor from Edward Jones, a rogue insurance broker type guy, two State Senators, the PA Insurance Commission, AFLAC HQ, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.  To what end?  No answer. 

So why bother?  If it takes this much energy to get exactly nowhere on such a small matter related to employment, should I have confidence that any of these people will really be in my corner if I experience more significant discrimination (again, not sure if the AFLAC thing is discrimination)?  I've been discriminated against in the workplace because of my sexual orientation (and my gender).  It is an ugly, diminishing experience and I was grateful I did not need to go to an external source for redress (my employer was in the City limits).

Now, I'm doubly grateful.  My lord.  Such energy for such a simple question. 

I'm beginning to suspect that our allies in politics are quite happy to get the glory of setting up these legislative victories, but not concerning themselves with implementation.  Such is the case with the Pittsburgh Domestic Registry.  We've learned that despite landmark legislation extending workplace protections to homosexuals and the extension of domestic partner benefits to City employees, only five same sex couples (and 65 common law married couples) have applied.  Five.  That seems really low given that we are one of those five couples.  So how groundbreaking was the whole effort in the 1990's if so few people choose to access that particular benefit?  (The City offers AFLAC, too, but let's not go there.)

According to the US Census, more than 60% of the City's African-American residents are not married.  Nearly 58% of African-American families headed by an unmarried female were below the poverty level in 2000.  That's a lot of folks who wouldn't qualify for AFLAC if their lover, boyfriend, fiancee, whatever doesn't put a ring on their finger.  Add in the fact that lower income families are more likely to have marginal or poor credit and unable to meet the requirements for the Domestic Registry, at least at first blush ... and you have a problem that is going to hurt a lot more than poor queer people.

Who is looking out for these folks?  I emailed Doug Shields, Tonya Payne and Bruce Kraus about this situation.  Shields emailed me back, but I don't think he understood my point -- that could be on me.  I called Kraus' office.  Staff was nice, but had no answers.  Bruce hasn't called me in the six weeks since then.  Tonya Payne's office just blew me off.

So, I guess one noisy lesbian doesn't make much of an impact.  Who will?  Who is looking out for folks impacted by these City matters?  The gay advocates have turned their attention elsewhere. Do local poverty advocates care?  That's one group I haven't networked with on this.  The State can't even resolve the AFLAC issue.

Everyone is so concerned about electing The Incarnation on the national level that they've forgotten that politics is local.  I guess.  Maybe? 

No wonder Bill Peduto is getting in touch with his inner Al Gore.  HB 1400 is just going to provide a new level of distraction away from all the current promises and policies and programs that aren't working.  Why bother? 

View Article  Final Update on PA's so-called Marriage Protection Amendment

Final nail in the coffin.  For this round. Courtesy of Equality Advocates:

The Pennsylvania legislature adjourned for its summer recess in the first week of July without any further action on the proposed Constitutional amendment, SB 1250. The legislation attempted to prohibit legal recognition of non-marital relationships in Pennsylvania including marriages of same-sex couples and civil unions. In order for the legislation to be validly passed, it must pass two two-year sessions of the legislature and it must be passed at least 90 days before a statewide election. Since the legislature is not scheduled to meet until mid-September, it cannot be passed 90 days prior to the November statewide election. The session ends in December.


Now if someone would turn their attention to the City of Pittsburgh's yet-to-be-appointed LGBT Advisory Board and the yet-to-be-named LGBT Mayoral Liaison, a few more loose ends would be wrapped up before bounding onto the newest and coolest LGBT advocacy flavor of the month issue. 

Or we can just wait to see in what new direction we are led, write our email messages and get on with not paying attention.

View Article  A little bit more on the GLCC

So I asked Vice-Chair, Kat Carrick, how the everyday Pittsburgh queer can help with the relocation of the GLCC.  Rest assured the organization has been working for many months on this very issue -- we all know they've planned to move even if we weren't aware of the impendingness of the whole situation. 

There's something very concrete you can do in the immediate future to make an impact -- help convince your City and County Council reps that the GLCC is important. 

how the community could help....one thought is to attend the august 7th squirrel hill urban coalition meeting at 7 pm in the JCC and let the developer and city council know that the programs and services that the glcc provides are necessary for the health of our community.

We are providing more programs than ever - including a new medical screening program that I'm wicked excited about --will provide free gyne exams, std tests, and basic health care screenings at the glcc....that program is due to start in september.

Those are Kat's very words.  August 7th it is folks.  Show up and be heard.  If you want to stick with posting Anonymous neighborhood bashings, you aren't really part of the solution.  If you want to make sure all of our Council reps understand the importance of this organization and that the entire community -- gay and straight -- benefits from its healthy existance, then go for it. 

Let's hope organizations like Steel City Stonewall, Gertrude Stein, Delta Foundation and so forth step up to speak up for the GLCC. 

View Article  Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Family Requests

Today, my brother's wife asked me to change my profile picture on Facebook.  You can't see my profile unless you are my friend so there's no sense my posting a link (you can search for me if you want to be my friend).  However, the image is the logo at the top of the blog.  I chose it because I think it is beautiful.  My friend Harry, himself a 20-year relationship celebrant this September, created it for me. 

It isn't the first time I've been asked to do a "don't ask, don't tell" move by someone.  Heck, I make that choice a dozen times each day -- each time I take the easy way and allow the assumption that I am heterosexual to remain unchallenged. Sometimes it is for my safety, sometimes for my comfort.  It doesn't phase me as much as it used to, but I admit that there is some small plink in my heart and/or soul each time. 

Last year, I blogged quite often about the comparison between that hetero-assumption and the gender identity issues at play in Pittsburgh's lesbian community.  None of us are above asking someone to not ask or not tell.  If Jessi Seams had been content to let assumptions about her gender identity go unchallenged, we would have lost a very important debate in our community.  I continue to think Jessi is one of the bravest people I know for acknowleding that there is an in-between gender identity during her City Paper interview.

So I told my sister-in-law no. I tried to be respectful in making my point.  There's an in-between in coming out -- that fine line between bashing it over people's heads and being true to yourself. 

The true blessing is that my little niece who is 2.5 years old does not see anything unusual that Aunt Laura kisses Aunt Sue.  It is all she has ever known and her little brother will be the same way.  I'm not sure about my brother's son.  I hope he will grow up to know and love his lesbian aunties, not his aunt and her friend.  That remains to be seen.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is noxious.  And it hurts a little bit.

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