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View Article  Shut Up and Vote Syndrome

I watched her speech last night and was proud that she was my candidate for President.  She did a great job lifting up Barack as her candidate, calling for unity and reminding her supporters why they got into her campaign in the first place.  I thought her speechwriters masterfully celebrated her accomplishments while folding them into the accomplishments of the Party.  There was defnitely a baton pass here.

What's yet to be seen if the bashers of Hillary-supporter can channel some of their sexist tirade energy into electing our candidate (yes, I know it is Obama) instead of smacking down Americans who haven't been convinced.  I'm so sick of putting all the blame at the feet of women who helped put 18,000 cracks into a glass ceiling.  I'm sick of the "shut up and vote" syndrome.  There are thousands of voters who aren't fond of Obama for reasons other than Hillary -- why won't you go convince them for awhile? 


View Article  Michelle Obama and the LGBT delegates and other convention stuff

Some interesting tidbits for your political viewing pleasure.  Michelle Obama addressed over 600 LGBT delegates at a luncheon cosponsored by Congressman Barney Frank and the Victory Fund.  Is this a sign of things to come? 


Pam's House Blend has this live coverage of the speech. 

Frank in his opening remarks, noted that no Democrat who voted against the federal marriage amendment was defeated, however several who voted for it and ran for re-election were defeated

Which begs the question, according to Pam, of why so many Dems are "spineless" when it comes to repealing DADT and with regard to ENDA.  Many of her commenters are questioning how impactful the "Elizabeth Edwards" syndrome should be for our community.  Check out the conversation.  Here are some other posts from Pam who is live in Denver. 

The Advocate.com has a piece up about the Stonewall Convention which ran this past weekend.  The 2006 Convention was here in Pittsburgh.  I wasn't press credentialed for that one.  :-)  However, here's a little shout out to Pittsburgh embedded in the Advocate coverage.  They mistakenly identify Gary Van Horn as the Head of the Pittsburgh Chapter, the Steel City Stonewall Dems.  Gary is a former chair and current regular member.  I think Gary is in Denver as a delegate for the DNC.   Here's the link ... http://www.gaytvblog.com/2008/08/democratic-nati.html

I am rethinking some of my positions on this campaign.  While I find distasteful and sexist the relentless tirades of bloggers and politicos against Hillary supporters potential damage to the election of The Annointed One, I don't want to squabble.  Nor, however, do I wish to capitulate to the bigotry that says the prism of a woman is always skewed. Sometimes I feel like speaking about women's issues -- about my issues as a gay woman -- is the ultimate vagina monologue b/c the men simply don't want to engage in meaningful dialogue.  I suspect on some gut level that we are being set up as scapegoats b/c we open our mouths and speak unpopular opinions. 

That being said, what can I do to elect a Democrat and still acknowledge the historical greatness of Hillary's campaign?  How do I work to ensure my future and still satisfy the inner voice that feels deeply betrayed by Obama's allegiance to Donnie McClurkin?  I don't know. 

BTW, I've been invited to participate in a webcast discussion on the campaign with other bloggers, including John McIntire and Maria of 2 Political Junkies.  I have to work out a veterinary issue to see if I can make it.  I'm kind of nervous. 

View Article  Vertigo, Butler's Gay Club is Back

Got this email ...good news for our LGBTQ friends to the North.  And a reminder of the vital role gay clubs have played in building community. 

Well Vertigo is back. We have a new location gay owned and operated so they won't kick us out for being gay. Yeah!!http://www.myspace.com/butlervertigo   Join the Vertigo myspace or at least check  it out to see when the next Vertigo will be.
Can't wait to see everyone. All the info is in the myspace website so check it out... 

History**** Vertigo began in 2001. It was the first and only openly gay club in Butler county's history. Vertigo was held on a Friday every month, usually from 9pm to 1am or 2 am. Vertigo is 18 and over. Vertigo has always been BYOB. We charge a ten-dollar cover at the door. That cover would include cups, ice, mix for there drinks, entertainment (DJ and sometimes a drag show) etc. We would always have a bartender to mix the drinks or grab your beer from the fridge if you didn't bring a cooler. The number of people we would get would vary but that was mostly because of our location always moving. We had 90 to 100 people at the peak of Vertigo. Usually we averaged around 40-60. And of course in the beginning we had a few 25 to 30 people days. During the 6 years we had Vertigo we had many ups and downs mostly because of location problems. Finally in 2006 I had to close Vertigo.*********************************************************

But NOW VERTIGO is back!!! 3rd Friday of every month. We'll be having Vertigo at Sanbeano's on the corner of Wayne st. and Chestnut st, in downtown Butler. (It used to be the old Gilliands Pub). Sanbeano's is a neighborhood pizzeria during the day. Vertigo hot spot at night. Sanbeano's is gay owned and gay operated so finally we won't get kicked out for being queer. We're so excited Vertigo is back. Join the Vertigo myspace to know when the first big PARTY will be...................... @@@@@@@@@ FIRST VERTIGO SEPTEMBER 19TH!!! @@@@@@@@@@@@ @@@@@ PARTY STARTS AT 9PM!! @@@@@

Sounds like some good news and an excellent illustration about the importance of supporting gay owned small businesses ... hopefully, the queers in Butler County will make their pizzeria choices accordingly.

View Article  LGBT Blog in NY Times and other stuff

A big favorite of the Correspondents has always been Pam's House Blend, the nation's most interesting LGBTQ blog.  Pam and her bloggers were prominent in a New York Times article about political blogging.

WHEN Pam Spaulding heard from two contributors to her blog, Pam?s House Blend, that they couldn?t afford to attend the Democratic National Convention, she knew that historic times called for creative measures.

Getting convention credentials for her blog, a news site for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, was the easy part. As air fare, lodging and incidentals began piling up, paying for the trip to Denver became the bigger obstacle.

For Ms. Spaulding, 45, who works full time as an IT manager at Duke University Press in Durham, N.C., blogging is her passion, an unpaid hobby she pursues at nights and on weekends. So she called on her 5,500 daily readers to help raise funds: ?Send the Blend to Denver? reads the ChipIn widget on her blog?s home page that tracks donations from readers; so far they have pledged more than $5,000 to transport Ms. Spaulding and three other bloggers to the convention.

The article explores how the role of political bloggers has impacted the DNC and been impacted in return.  It is a good read.  One blogger's readers bought him a new laptop through donations.  Ledcat thinks that would be a good idea for us.  I'm not sure that our traffic quite lends itself to donations for more than a Goodwill special, but you never know.  LOL.

In other news ... a local coffee shop is hosting a LGBT singles night.

LGBT Singles Night at Your Inner Vagabond 4130 Butler St. @ 42nd

Pittsburgh, PA (Lawrenceville) 15201


Thursday August 28 ? Begins 7:00pm

Come hang out in a comfortable, friendly environment for the LGBT community.

I'm not single, but I think this is a great idea for everyone who complains there is nothing to do if you are single and don't go to bars. 

Ohio has a Lesbian Festival.  It is Columbus in mid-September.

The 19th Annual Ohio Lesbian Festivals just keeps getting better!  The Festival is delighted to announce the late addition of God-des & She and the Hot Cha Cha?s to the day stage lineup.  The Festival will take place at Frontier Ranch in Kirkersville, Ohio on Saturday September 13, 2008.  

These late additions are on top of an already rockin? line-up featuring Bitch & Ferron, Judith Casselberry  & JUCA, Comedian Kelli Dunham, Nervous but Excited, God-des & She and an amazing line-up of Home-grown Ohio Performers including the Hot Cha Cha?s, Tracy Walker, Sistah Ngoma, Donna Mogavero, Alexis Antes, Robin Stone and Featured Ohio Performer Early Girl. 

My understanding is that this festival is open to ALL women, including our transsisters.  Amen.


View Article  Cards for Queers: Hallmark, the AFA and you

Well, the LGBTQ community is officially a market sayeth the folks at Hallmark. From the Post-Gazette:

The nation's largest greeting card company is rolling out same-sex wedding cards -- featuring two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers, with best wishes inside. "Two hearts. One promise," one says.

Hallmark added the cards after California joined Massachusetts as the only U.S. states with legal gay marriage.

The language inside the cards is neutral, with no mention of wedding or marriage, making them also suitable for a commitment ceremony. Hallmark says the move is a response to consumer demand.

"It's our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can," Hallmark spokeswoman Sarah Gronberg Kolell said.

In response, the American Family Association is calling for a boycott of Hallmark.  <yawn>.  In response to the boycott, LGBTQ advocates are calling for queer people and our allies to send Hallmark cards to the AFA headquarters.  <chuckle>

For the past 14 years, Pittsburgh's queer and queer-allied folk could buy these same themed cards at a wonderful little gift store called A Pleasant Present in Squirrel Hill. There are cards for every occasion.  Owner Michael Ferraro told me that he carries lines from three vendors ... 10% Productions (18 years in business), Vash Designs and Smart Alex.  He has no plans to carry Hallmark cards.

I'm not objecting to Hallmark expanding their card selection. I recognize that being an identifiable "market" is part of the march toward equality.  I also recognize that market forces are vastly different than human rights campaigns so we'll be seeing no "congratulations on your transition" or "bisexuals have twice as much love to give" cards (tongue in cheek or not) from Hallmark or American Greetings anytime soon. 

What bothers me is that every time a local lesbian or gay man plunks down a few bucks at Amy's Hallmark for a gay-themed card, that money goes into the coffers of Amy's Hallmark.  This is not much progress.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to sell tickets to OUTrageous Bingo, the Lambda Ball or the River cruises -- free of charge.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to post flyers for the upcoming women's dance.  Amy's Hallmark won't purchase an ad in the GLCC newsletter or the PrideGuide.  Amy's Hallmark won't purchase advertising to support local radio programs that are super progressive on gay issues.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to create employment opportunities for queer youth or donate door prizes to leather themed events. 

Local LGBT owned businesses like A Pleasant Present take our queer dollars and reinvest them back into our community.  These businesses deserve our support in return.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to provide that service.  They are going to take our money and that's that.  It is the American way.

Should you buy a Hallmark card?  Why not?  But you should at least consider making a trip to Squirrel Hill say one a year to do some queer-shopping.  You can order gift baskets over the phone.  And there's tons and tons of products that are not gay-themed.   If you can drop by to pick up your tickets for an event, you can browse the store and maybe pick up some greetings cards for upcoming occasions -- cards from companies that have been targeting our community for a long time.  It is shameful that people would make the trip there and not even be aware that asking staff to stop their revenue generating work to sell you a bingo ticket deserves some payback.  A card.  A trinket for an upcoming birthday.  A mug.  Really, a thank you to the business for supporting your community.

The holidays are right around the corner.  I was in A Pleasant Present yesterday purchasing a gift basket for work.  I found a cute little trinket to buy for Ledcat as a gift -- a redneck road rage button.  Michael is having a little "pop a ballon" sale so I ended up with 30% off my purchase.  I put two quarters in the meter which I snagged right in front of the store.  I stopped at Starbucks (a sponsor of a work project so that's a little thank you, too) and then I swung by the library.  While I was in A Pleasant Present, I caught up with some local news and met a new friend who made a point to stop by my display at Hot House last night.  I picked up the current issue of Pittsburgh's OUT which is impossible to find on the Northside.  I browsed the postings.  I made a few mental notes of gifts for upcoming birthdays.  I bought an anniversary card.  It was a very sucessful little trip. 

A Pleasant Present is just one example of supporting a queer owned business.  We can't expect our shops, bars, coffeehouses and ice cream parlors to continue going the extra-mile for our community if we don't invest a bit more than an occasional "free refills" Diet Coke in their livelihood.  If Amy's Hallmark and her sister stores see some brisk sales of the gay relationship cards, that will encourage them to expand the line so by all means include them in your choices. 

I would just challenge every person who relies on A Pleasant Present and other local LGBT owned businesses for access to your social activities --- spend a little money there to show that you appreciate their support. 

View Article  Farewell Party for Lynn Cullen

Just got word that friends and advertisers and listeners alike are gathering at the WPTT studio this coming Friday at 11:45 AM to give Lynn Cullen a fitting farewell.  Everyone is invited to attend, but please email me to let me know if you plan to show up so they can plan for numbers --- I'll pass the info along to the organizers. 

The studio is at 900 Parrish Street in Green Tree.  It is not really a secret, but try not to bring it up if you have an email exchange with Lynn. 

I think an all-financial talk radio station is just about the silliest idea since the man-station format.  I've listened to some of the business chat and it can be interesting, but 24/7?  Geez  There's pretty much no topic I want to listen to for 24 hours a day.  I think Lynn is a great product and I'm hopeful some other station will pick up on that.  The problem at WPTT in my experience is a dismal sales team.  When I was trying to help get John McIntire on the air, I would send leads that were never followed up on.  Maybe those newly unemployed sales people can listen to their former station and get some tips on gumption. 

Anyway, please blog about this  -- I think we can all count Lynn's lone voice as an inspiration to go the mile where the MSM fears to tread, regardless of your political affiliation.  And bloggers who can turn out, please do.

View Article  An Open Invitation from the Reverend Janet Edwards

August 20, 2008

Dear Friends and Friends of Friends,

I am Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, PA. I greet you with
the joy that springs from Jesus' gospel of love!

On June 25, 2005, I was blessed beyond measure to preside at the
Spirit-filled wedding of Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole. Following the usual
practice, Brenda and Nancy placed an announcement of their marriage in the
Celebrations section of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The announcement included
all that we expect in such notices: a picture of the couple, a list of the
wedding party and a brief description of me as the officiant. This public
disclosure of my pastoral act has led to a trial under the disciplinary rules of
my church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

I understand my calling from God to be a "pray-er," to devote myself to
prayer without ceasing. So I am shocked myself that my life's work has placed me
at the very heart of the long-stewing debate that engages the whole world on the
place of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our community. 

Perhaps we can all agree that we, in the church, are not very good at
talking about our differing views on the inclusion of GLBT people in marriage.
We keep a stony silence or throw accusations ? and this is why my trial becomes
such a gift from God. It is an opportunity for the different sides in the church
to lay out their positions for ourselves and the world to see, to think about,
to pray about, to talk about.

This is why I want the world to come to this trial, participate in the
conversation and worship around it. Please come.

Here is the way to do it: 

The trial will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, October 1, 2008, at the Grand
Hall of the Priory, 614 Pressley Street , Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Just call All Directions,
412.566.1710, say you want to come to the trial and they will plan your trip. If
you are able to give the time to come, we are able to arrange your travel and
stay in Pittsburgh.

To start a dialogue now, I invite you to read an overview of the brief I have
submitted to the Permanent Judicial Commission of my presbytery called an Apologia in preparation for the trial. Whether you come to the trial or not, thank you for giving my
position your prayerful consideration. 

May the peace of Christ be always with you,

Rev. Janet McCune Edwards

P.S. Please watch this video to get to know me and why I am reaching out
to you.


View Article  Duquesne Univeristy Extends Protections to Sexual Orientation

According to the City Paper, Duquesne now includes sexual orientation among the classes against whom one may not discriminate.  Previously, the school permitted the establishment of a campus Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).  News of the non-discrimination language change was news to the GSA.  So much for the School of Communication.

Anyway, now the GSA is lobbying for domestic partner benefits.  Duquesne doesn't think Uncle Ratzie would like that.  I can kind of see their point. It is one thing to say that individuals who happen to be gay should not be targeted for abuse.  That's consistent with Catholic teaching (if not practice).  Spending Catholic $$ to lift up the relationships of unwed couples, straight and gay seems to be pushing it.  A fine line, perhaps.

What would be more advantageous is for the GSA to push for open dialogue to challenge the corners of the campus where sexual orientation is not respected and valued. Make everyone on campus say the word "gay" and smile in a genuine, non-smirky way.  I just can't imagine someone accepting a job at Duquesne and then quibbling about domestic partner benefits. But I'm still hung up on the censorship of WDUQ over Planned Parenthood.


View Article  More on Andre Thomas from the PG

Jerome Sherman must have read my blog yesterday because his background piece on Andre Thomas is featured in this morning's Post-Gazette.  Or perhaps I am prescient. 

I am dissatisfied. The article lays out Mr. Thomas' woes and troubles fairly objectively along with his efforts to turn things around.  But anyone who thinks that attending church a few times and talking with the church pastor about communication and church attendance is the groundwork for an intervention .... sigh.  What are people thinking?  You can't pray away mental illness. Prayer and a faith community can be a good part of a support system, but at what point will someone in his support system put some accountability on Mr. Thomas for his own actions?

Mr. Sherman cannot access Mr. Thomas' records as far as any MH treatments or D&A treatments so we'll never know.  And none of that, as I've said all along, justifies police brutality.  The police should have used the necessary force to subdue him and that's it.  Kicking someone is never part of that equation.

This is going to turn into the poor would-be Christian black man against the big bad police state.  What a horrendous way to diminish the life of Andre Thomas.  Too bad we can't scrutinize his life a bit more as a human being who needed help against the underfunded mental health system (and maybe the big bad insurance industry but I'm just speculating that he didn't have health insurance as he was self-employed).  That might actually help people. 

View Article  A Decidedly Unpopular Question About the Tasering of Andre Thomas

I know everyone hates the police for using tasers and anyone who challenges that position is considered a insensitive clod for supporting a police state that brutalizes unarmed citizens.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Today's PG features a tidbit about the deceased Mr. Thomas who died after being tased by Swissvale police.  Battles ensue over cause of death. Lawsuits are filed.  Advocates speak out. 

What I learned in the PG is that he had a similar experience four months ago in New Kensington after exhibiting bizarre behavior.  Now it is hard to believe that the New Ken police are in a conspiracy with Swissvale (a bastion of police craziness tis true) so this is what keeps running through my head ...

What has his family been doing for the past four months to get Mr. Thomas some help?  He clearly had some issues, be they mental health or D&A.  Your typical person does not rip out a debit card keypad and use it as a cell phone. 

The police encountered Mr. Thomas for a few minutes.  His family was (hopefully) part of his everyday life and witness to the choices and causes underlying his behavior.  Did anyone try to help him?  Was the money they raised to pay for a private autopsy available for a stint in rehab or a consult with a good psychiatrist? 

Maybe they did everything possible to help Mr. Thomas.  Maybe it was the systems that let him down as funding shrinks and programs close and opportunities shrivel up. 

I'm not justifying the police use of the taser or their behavior afterwards. I'm simply saying that the tragedy of Mr. Thomas' death is much larger than his final moments.  There's a lot of gray here when it comes to his life leading up to those final moments. Where were all the activists and protesters and lawyers when he was struggling through the criminal justice system prior to 2008?  Did anyone write columns about his life back then?  Did he even register on the radar of the local social justice community until he became another piece of evidence on the anti-taser crusade?

Andre Thomas is dead for reasons for more extensive than the brutality of the Swissvale police.  Pick that as your issue if you may, but I am firsthand witness to how the systems have let down another young man with a similar background.  He's barely 20 years old with two jail terms behind him and all of the magical programs set up to help kids in his position are doing nada.  His family enables him to continue living the high life, even counting on his badass reputation to intimidate neighbors.  He's a human being and has demonstrated moments of compassion and decency, even courtesy to me.  That doesn't offset the impact of his drug dealing, drug use and mostly inconsiderate behavior on the quality of life and safety for my family and our neighbors. 

I don't want him or any other young men to die, at the hands of the police or as a result of their own choices.  But I can't help wondering more about Andre Thomas' background.  Who reached out to him?  If he fell through the cracks, should some of the media spotlight be on those cracks, too? 

If we ask how Mr. Thomas died, shouldn't we be asking how he lived, too?  And considering if there is something WE could have done -- we the family, the neighbors, the friends, the community -- something we could have done before his encounter with the Swissvale police?  Or the New Kensington police?  

Yes, the police systems need reform.  The profession attracts some crazy power hungry bastards and what seems to be an inpenetrable union keeps them employed.  Are tasers less brutal than piling up on someone with those beat down sticks?  I don't want to ever be in a position to make that call.  Does the police accountability system set up at the people's behest work in Pittsburgh?  If not, is it always someone else's fault?

These are questions I cannot answer.  I can say that the MH system and the D&A system and the criminal justice system are underfunded and overextended.  I can say that an adult with a criminal record may not find a job with health insurance.  And an adult without health insurance is gonna have a tough time accessing the services that do exist.  Or making a decent enough living.  I can say that having a strong family support network when you are struggling with recovery from a mental illness or an addiction, or when you are reentering society from incarceration, makes all the difference. 

We need better systems.  We need anti-gang programs that return phone calls.  We need COLA adjustments to reduce staff turnover in programs that work.  We need to strengthen families so they can be a source of support for members who need a bit of tough love.  We need better after school programs and more adult male mentors and job opportunities with health insurance benefits and so on and so on.

The tragedy of Mr. Thomas' death is lost if we simply focus on those last few moments.  They deserve scrutiny, but the lives of those who continue to struggle in this Grey area demand that we also consider the bigger picture. 

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