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View Article  Discrimination

There's something brewing in the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals this Wednesday and it is important for every LGBTQ person to pay attention.

Brian Prowel is appealing a federal district decision stating that the discrimination he experienced in his workplace was due to sexual orientation which is not a federally protected class.

Prowel and his attorney argue that the discrimination was based on his sex.  In essence, Prowell did not act like a man and was subjected to gender stereotyping which should be covered by Title VII, the federal law that prohibits such discrimination.  From the PG:

Brian Prowel is effeminate. He crosses his legs and swings his foot. He files his nails if one has a snag. He has a high-pitched voice.

He is also gay. He has a rainbow decal on his car and he talked about the men he was dating at work.

On Feb. 23, 2006, Mr. Prowel filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Wise Business Forms Inc. in Butler County, alleging sex discrimination.

He argued that he was discriminated against because he did not live up to his co-workers' stereotypes of how a man should look and act.

It seems that whether you are gay or straight, if you don't conform to gender expectations you can be harassed in the workplace.  If the decision stands, you have no recourse.  There are many heterosexual men and women who do not behave or dress consistently with gender expectations.  In essence, a woman working in a non-traditional environment could be fired for acting too much like a man. 

Ledcat thinks this "could be a disaster" because an employer could use your dress, your words, your actions against you if they don't meet her or his expectations.  All they would have to do is be sure to call you a dyke or a fag to cover their trail.  Bam.  Women are locked out of workplaces where we are already struggling to gain a foothold.

Sue Frietsche of the Women's Law Project wrote a friend of the court brief:

"Simply stated, employers cannot immunize themselves against sex discrimination claims by hiding behind their anti-gay or anti-lesbian prejudice,"

What's important to note is that no one is denying the Mr. Prowel was the victim of discrimination based on his sexual orientation.  Rather, they argue that the discrimination was intertwined with that based on his sex.  They may have perceived him as being gay, but that perception is based on his acting too effeminate. 

This is super important.  If you live outside of Pittsburgh, this could impact you in your workplace.  Legislation is pending before Allegheny Countil that would extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation.  Dan Frankel and his allies have been working on the state level for the same thing, in vain this year. 

This court decision could set us all back, especially women.  It is important that we push for the legislation on the local and state levels.  It is important that the federal government pass ENDA legislation that includes gender identity and gender presentation.

It is also important that we support organizations like the Women's Law Project who are on the front lines watching out for us.


View Article  Diversity Discussion at Podcamp Pittsburgh

The next Podcamp Pittsburgh is quickly approaching.  I tossed out the idea to Justin about a panel on diversity in Pittsburgh's blogosphere.  Then I tried to think of who I would ask to participate in that type of panel discussion.

I came up with Greg from Pitt Rehab.  I know a handful of other queer bloggers, but they aren't blogging regularly and often focus on personal issues.  I can certainly turn to the 40+ women blogging at The Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society

Is that it?  How can I have been blogging for almost three years (December) and not be connecting with a more diverse group of bloggers?  That's pretty embarrassing. 

Or is that the point -- our burghosphere is pretty homogenous.  Michelle Massie's piece in the Forum section of the Post-Gazette gave me pause.  My world has shrunk dramatically since I came back home to Pittsburgh.  When I was in Louisiana, for God's sake, I had friends from all over the world.  What the hell happened? 

Would this be an interesting discussion?  I don't want to get into a battle about the digital divide; I want to find ways to heterogenize the burghosphere.  It would be great to see more queer bloggers b/c my perspective is always limited by my own experiences.  It would be great to have an honest discussion about gender-based hate and how a quiet project to amplify women's voices has attracted so many different women.  It would be wonderful to have a group of bloggers make the commitment to do something.  Change the venue of the blog gatherings to be more attractive to a different group.  Invite new voices to join your blog.  Other ideas? 

Worth pursuing?  Or will it be Greg and I having a surely enlightening but limited conversation. 


View Article  Events to watch out for

Good information to have:

In Sisterhood

Pittsburgh has a long history of producing entrepreneurs, philanthropists, artists, and musicians. What is less well known is that the region was also the birthplace of some influential leaders of the women's movement and was home to several pioneering feminist organizations during the latter part of the 1900s. In Sisterhood: The Women's Movement in Pittsburgh is an oral history project designed to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of this inspiring aspect of the region's history and to highlight how progress was achieved through the hard work and determination of a diverse group of local grassroots activists.

Exclusive Preview Event with Eleanor SmealSunday, Sept. 28, 2008
4:00 PM ? 6:00 PM
Rodef Shalom Synogogue
4905 Fifth Avenue (near Morewood Avenue, in Oakland)
Reserve tickets for $75 each by Sept. 15 by phone at 412-621-3252 or by email at

This sounds like an awesome event, but it way way way out of my price range.  I would love to hear Eleanor Smeal.  Ah well, ....

Celebrate the Night

> 7TH Annual Celebrate The Night Women's Variety Show & Dance!


> Bringing some FAVorites from the past

> & some FABulous new performers to our stage


> Saturday October 4th, 7 PM @ Eddy Theatre Chatham University (doors




> Dance with D.J. Adele after the show, in Chatham's gym.


> CTN tickets are available for $20 on line & at Pleasant Present!

> (CASH ONLY) Or at the door for $25 (CASH ONLY) Last day to get tickets

> on line & have them mailed is September 30th Last day to get tickets

> on line and pick up at the door is October 2nd


Also, coming out in October is Gab Bonesso's Gayest Comedy Show ever Saturday, October 11 at 9:00 PM at the BrilloBox

Tickets will cost $5 and the show is for people ages 21 and over.  The show will feature some of Pittsburgh's premiere gay, part-gay, gay-friendly and "gay as in odd" comedians.  The event will be hosted by WQED's John McIntire (in drag).  Comedians slated to feature are Stoopid, John Pridmore, Jason Kirsch and Roxie.  Comedian Gab Bonesso is scheduled to headline.  Audience members will enjoy material about topics such as Jason Kirsch growing up gay in Amish country or John Pridmore discussing his "Lesbian Mother" or Gab Bonesso ripping into Fred Phelps or Roxie just being odd.  If you've come out of the closet or have known someone who has come out of the closet or you're just a huge fan of the song, "I'm Coming Out" then this show is for you!  Special Show Surprise: One local comedian will be coming out of the closet on stage for the first time ever!!!  Don't miss this event! For more information regarding the Brillobox call: 412.621.4900.  For more information regarding the show contact Gab Bonesso at gab@gabbonesso.com.

I having a heck of a time with my font tools so you'll forgive the erratic typeface you must endure to get through this. 

View Article  Local Women Organizing Palin Protest

If you are interested in channeling your anti-Palin energies into something productive, check out this grassroots efforts emerging from Pittsburgh's feminist community.

WHEN: THIS SUNDAY September 28, 2008 HIGH NOON

> WHERE: The Quiet Storm 5430 Penn http://www.quietsto rmcoffee. com/

> WHAT:You are being invited to the very first organizing meeting of the

> Anti-Palin Satire Rally being planned for November 1st, 2008, where

> both "Palin" and "Cindy McCain" will be making an appearance.

> Please come bring your input and ideas and join the few women who are

> currently trying to make this a national media event and also

> hopefully tip the scale to Obama in this proclaimed "dead heat" for

> PA. Creative ideas esp welcome.

> WHO: Regular people who need a way to creativly express thier outrage

> and make a difference.

> FINE PRINT: YOU MUST RSVP BY Saturday September 27, 2008 at 7:00 PM to

> nothankspalin @gmail.com

I have telephone numbers if you want to contact the organizers, but I don't want to put those on the blog.  Email me if you need them.  This sounds very intriguing. 

View Article  Trib Article on Comics who are Women is Trite

William Loeffler's take on local female comics was more predictable than the fat joke he included in the sidebar.  You know you are in for the typical male bullshit interpretation of women's lives when the opening grafs focus on Gab Bonesso's looks.  Not her comedy.  Not her success.  Not her challenges, barriers, issues, personality, education, resume, etc.  None of that.  Bill recycles a joke he used in a previous article and zeroes in on her "tomboyish appearance."

Then he labels Nance Marshall as "sweet."  Cause she's the really nice fat lady who makes fun of herself to put people at ease.  Bill doesn't stop to consider why the audience needs to feel comfortable laughing along with a fat lady.  Or why Gab or Subhah don't make jokes about their weight. 

He also tosses in the tidbit that the other Gab has a kid.  He doesn't contextualize that as in considering how her career impacts her family or does she tell mom jokes or anything that I have seen when Rolling Stone interview Chris Rock about his kids.  No.  It is just there because if women have spawned, you should know.  Just like fat women have to make fun of themselves. And Indian woman need to go ethnic with their jokes.  And that crazy Gab can talk about genitalia and getting stoned cause she's kind of boyish. 

To his credit, Bill does contemplate the challenges female comedians have been taken seriously.  He asks some men what they think about it.  And gives one of them the last word.  I guess Gab, Subhah, Nance and the other Gab were in the ladies room checking on their makeup. 

View Article  Untitled

Chris Potter shares a fascinating glimpse into Carpatho-Rusyn culture in this week's City Paper. Two things struck me.  First, there's the notion of an ethnicity without a nationality as the Rusyns aren't really from anywhere.  Kind of like the Roma.  Minus the hate.  Second, there is the idea of building "postmodern culture" which balances tradition with innovation ... like creating a Rusyn pop culture.  Not as silly as it sounds when you consider how much of the cultural identity of this people is rooted in the Internet and other forms of media. 

This sort of story is right up my alley as I have been working on my genealogy for years.  I have more than 1,200 people in my family tree.  I was brought up to believe I was primarily Irish Catholic with a little German Catholic thrown in for good measure.  Imagine my surprise to discover that most of those "Irish" people were really German and not Catholic.  Most of the Irish were Protestant, too.   The German Catholics remain untainted by my research.  They were just cheap, mean and long-lived. 

I also discovered that my Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania roots run really deep ... I have one great-great-grandmother who came to the US circa 1870 from Glasgow and she was the most recent arrival.  My Dad's family has been in the Pittsburgh mills for at least five generations and my Mother's family worked farms and oil rigs in Butler County going back to 1800.  I even found a third cousin once removed who has evidence qualifying me for the Daughters of the American Revolution if I should be so inclined to join. 

I've also found some intriguing ethnic/identity mysteries.  My paternal grandfather's mother's family were named Lescallette and appear to have migrated into Allegheny County/Washington County around 1860 from Maryland.  I've found other Lescallettes, but no one knows from where they came to the U.S.  It seems to be a big mystery and the older folks indicate that it was very hush, hush.

Also, my father's maternal grandmother, Jane Rice, seems to have just appeared circa the 1920 Census along with her siblings and their children.  No record of them prior to that.  No record of her in the Catholic Diocese even though she attended Mass faithfully (her husband was a Methodist).  No one recalls her telling any stories of her childhood or her family.  She was obsessed with moving up the social ladder and distancing my middle-class newspaperman great-grandfather from his working class relatives. 

I can make educated guesses about the poverty and trauma, either personal or political, that would drive someone to eradicate their roots.  But I want to know.  I'm seriously considering DNA testing.  My grandmother is still alive and its not invasive so we could tackle the mother's mother thing that way.  The Lescallettes are a problem.  All the men died without male heirs.  At least, they disappeared from the historical record -- probably killed in WWI. 

What could the secrets be?  Pogroms?  Criminal behavior in the motherland?  Poverty?  Ethnicity that wasn't considered "white"?  -- this is the most popular conjecture amongst my relatives because my father, his brother and their mother have some physical features that appear to be non-Cacausian.  One time a woman walked up to me and asked me about my African-American ancestors -- she descended from African-American and Italian families.  She just asked me out of the blue.  It was disconcerting to say the least. 

What's most fascinating to me are the individual stories.  My mother's grandmother's sister lived 5 blocks from my current home, prompting my mother to recall childhood afternoons spent in Northside bars keeping her great-aunt company while her great-uncle (not actually married) worked. And their brother was a priest!  My father's great-grandfather was born out of wedlock, kept and raised by his mother.  The migration timing suggests she was impregnanted while on the boat.  One can only sadly speculate how that came to be.  He died young, leaving a widow with four children to raise.  She farmed out the kids and got a job on the tugboats.  In 1906!  My grandfather's brother created a whole separate identity for himself, including a social security number.  Everyone thinks that is kind of nifty, but I suspect there's more to the story. 

No word on who are my homosexual ancestors.  I have a few suspicious, but that's probably all I'll ever know. 

View Article  I don't wanna blog about Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken came out.  On the cover of People magazine.  I know a lot of folks are rolling their eyes, but I've been thinking about all those middle aged ladies who like to listen to Clay.  People tend to idealize their cultural heros, so I'm suspecting a lot of "Christian" wimmin are spinning him from scary gay man into doting father who is gay and has a beautiful voice.  Like the hairdresser.  The choir director.  You get my drift. 

Pam Spaulding has a term in an excellent post about John McCain .... "professional  anti-gay personal homosexualist"  In other words, a person who is personally okay with the gays in his or her circle, but publicly supports discrimination by opposing gay marriage, ENDA, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, GSAs, etc, etc, etc. 

This is a common phenomenon here in Pittsburgh. My family, for example, treat me very well and have embraced Ledcat into our lives.  They purchase us identical holiday gifts.  They always include her in gatherings, both large and small.  They do not ask us to hide our relationship in front of the children.  But that's different, in their minds, from voting to extend civil rights to all homosexuals.  There's a difference. 

My neighbors are the same way.  No one ripped down our rainbow windsock.  They sort of choke on the words to describe our relationship "Your .. umm ... friend ...  said you would buy candy for our fundraiser."  They wave to us and come trick or treating to our door.  They would provide assistance in an emergency.  Pretty much the modern neighbor relationship.  None of them would wish us harm as individuals, but there is no support for us as a group (I've heard the chat and it is about "them" not "us" if you know what I mean). 

Finally, there is the slew of socially conservative politicians known as Democrats here in Southwestern PA.  The ones who way back in 2006 voted to amend the constitution of our state to ban gay marriage and civil unions.  The vast majority who had to play a very screwy game of  "I'm for this version, so I can be against the real issue" to defend us.  Two years later, the legislation stalled so I suppose that's progress.  Our Mayor accepts gay contributions to his campaign, but has yet to follow through on promises to gay up his administration with a LGBT liaison and LGBT advisory board.  Owners of bars and taverns and inns who take gay dollars, but targeted a significant ally of our as payback for voting against their interest.  

All of these folks -- the House Reps, the Mayor, the owners of the bars -- like the private relationships with the homosexuals  -- they have gay friends, gay donors and, probably, gay relatives -- but their public agendas are anathema to our community. 


So, we cannot be content with this dichotomy.  It is not okay.  We should not be celebrating stalled legislation.  We should not be content that privileged gays -- typically, those with money and connections -- have access and the buffer of their privilege to spare them the indignities everyday homos endure.  The burden is on us to push through this "professional  anti-gay personal homosexualist"  mentality and unpack the hypocrisy. 

The truth is that there are gays -- mostly upper-upper-middle class, white businesspersons -- who are going to vote for McCain.  The economic gains they will see from his Administration cushion the fallout from his anti-gay rhetoric.  They aren't going to serve in the military.  They have money to pay for health insurance.  They can afford enough lawyers to deal with bureaucratic red tape.  These are the Robert Traynhams of the world -- remember him?  The gay man working for Santorum. 

Clay Aiken is a new father so his attention should rightly be on his young child.  I hope that he moves along the Ellen continuum and uses his celebrity -- his relationships -- to connect his fans with the issues that impact their personal gays. 

View Article  It is a blogging date ...

Well, I'm soon off for my Vacation Day 2 Adventure -- a much delayed, highly anticipated "coffee" with Bram of The Pittsburgh Comet. We are meeting at Amani International Coffeehouse on the Northside. Amani is in between webpages, so I can't post a working link.  I have been rah-rahhing Steel City Stonewall to hold an event at Amani because they are smoke free, have delish food and a large television.  I am going through a big cable envy phase.  It will pass as soon as I get my first gas bill for the autumn. 

Other items on my fun to do list this week include a massage with hot stones, lunch with my friend Amy, a debriefing with my therapist who does not look like Barbra Streisand, a much overdue oil change and farmers' market date with my friend Adrienne.  Plus, enjoying my first ever pedicure.  My toes are blue!

Less fun on the agenda includes cleaning out my closets (not the Eminem version), washing the pile of jackets the cat slept on all summer, scrubbing the litter boxes, and replacing all the dog bedding.  Fun, fun, fun ...

View Article  ACLU Banned Book Week: Gay Penguins Top List

Oh, those naughty little penguins and their homosexual desires.  I know this post is going to attract at least 37 google searches desperate to identify a homosexual tidbit about a professional hockey player, but I am referring to "And Tango Makes Three" which topped the charts of the book most often challenged in school and public libraries.  It among others will be recognized this coming October 2 during the ACLU's Banned Book Week celebration.

Tango is about two male penguins who build a family together.  A zookeeper gives them a fertilized egg and ... poof! they raise little Tango to be a healthy, well-adjusted penguin. 

I have to work on October 2, so I cannot attend.  This is an important issue, especially since Sarah Palin has demonstrated that she's no friend to Tango.  Please try to attend and stand up for freedom of expression.  It is imperative that we tolerate expression we find incongruent with our personal beliefs and values in order to foster an ongoing healthy public discourse. 

Whenver the topic of banning books comes up, I always think of an episode of The Waltons where John-Boy finds a copy of the Bible among a pile of to-be-burned books written in German.  I remember thinking to myself that the Bible was available in English -- what about all those other things written in German that might not be translated?  Not quite what the writers were going for, but there you have it. 

View Article  McCain's Chief of Staff Openly Gay

One of our favorite bloggers has just reported that John McCain's Chief of Staff, Mark Buse, is an openly gay man. Mike Rogers has the details. 

After I finish shuddering that yet another talented queer person is lending themselves to a virulently anti-gay agenda, I'll be with you.  Western Pennsylvania was home to two of 'em ... working for Santorum and Hart.  To my knowledge, we have no openly gay people working for Democrats.  But then we only have one openly gay Democrat anyway, right?  Do two national staffers trump one City Councilman?  Hmmm.

Anyway, Mark Rogers and Mike Signorile have all the proof.  Buse is a big flaming homo.  Mark suggests that the American LGBTQ community take action to thank the right wingnuts for supporting a candidate with an openly gay senior staff person.  Actually, that's not a bad idea.

Granted, it shouldn't be a big deal.  And there are those who fear this will spin McCain as an inherently decent gay-friendly guy who hires one talented, educated white gay man even as he votes against what's good for the rest of us.  Like marriage and employment protections and immigration rights.  And serving openly in the military.  Yes, there probably are people who will use this as a reason to vote their pocketbook.  If they still have one. 

Others worry that this is the sort of sexual witch hunt that we deplore.  Who cares who Buse is sleeping with!  Except, that he's sort of having his cake and eating it, too.  That's not okay with me.

Finally, there's the argument that no one cares.  That no one cared abour Robert Traynham (Santorum's gay).  Except Santorum lost.  So maybe some people did care that he was a big fat hypocrite. 

Homos working for McCain are like women working for Palin.  WTF?

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