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View Article  World AIDS Day
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. 

Much is going on here in Pittsburgh.  Highmark has gone red.

( Pittsburgh ) red Activities:
show your support by wearing red December 1!

7 am - 7 pm
Free HIV testing
Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
5913 Penn Avenue
East Liberty

10 am
Mayor?s press
City-County Building
414 Grant Street
Downtown Pittsburgh

10 am - 5 pm
Allegheny County Heal th
Department Mobile Testing
Unit - Free HIV testing
Outside City-County Building
4th Avenue & Grant Street
Downtown Pittsburgh

7 pm
22nd Annual Interfaith
Memorial Service
Heinz Chapel
Bellefield Avenue, Oakland
(next to the Cathedral of Learning)

New Voices Pittsburgh is hosting a self help series called Real Talk.

There is a lot of hubbub about the press conference.  It is the first of its kind, I think.  Actually, I don't really know much about it, but the folks who have been working on this commemoration for more than a decade are pleased that this is happening.  I am hopeful something will be announced rather than repeated. 

View Article  Why The Manhattan Declaration rankles me
The PG offers up a front page explanation why I dislike this project.

This is the headline: Christian leaders vow to resist gay marriage, abortionThis is the line that gets me.  The lines, rather.
The marriage section decries heterosexual promiscuity and infidelity. It says that churches often failed to provide good models and clear teaching.

"The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture," the declaration said. "Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage."

The churches OFTEN failed to provide good models and clear teaching, but let's twist the little anti-gay marriage dagger just to remind us where the imminent threat lies ...

This document is one series of falsely humble statement of faith after another, not to mention a wonderful duck and weave.  We aren't doing so hot with marriage, sayeth the heterosexuals, but let's continue to invest our vast resources into the effort which won't actually save any heterosexual marriages, shall we? I mean, that makes sense, right?  No need to take actual ownership of your institutional fail if you still have a scapegoat after all.  Plus, you can float along on the willingness to go to jail to defend marriage and/or your tax exempt status without actually doing something. 

Cause that's what Jesus would do. 

Same thing with abortion ... false modesty and bullshit media coverage.
The section labeled "Life" criticizes President Obama for saying he wants to reduce the number of abortions while also dropping restrictions on abortion. But it continues that responsibility for "the culture of death" belongs to both political parties. It includes genocide, labor exploitation and racial discrimination as life issues.

"We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry," it said.

View Article  The Sakia Gunn Film Project and Pittsburgh
Last night, Ledcat and I attended the "People in Color" film series at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty.  We caught my first performance by Dreams of Hope which was simply mindblowing. 

They really are a bright spot in the local LGBTQ community.  We bought their educational DVD which we'll hopefully be able to review soon.  The clip above was a piece they performed Tuesday night.  Three of the youth also participated in the discussion panel.  One young man, Angelito, literally brought me to tears with his nuanced discussion of the experiences of transyouth who are often misunderstood in terms of their orientation.

The Sakia Gunn Film Project is also mindblowing.  Sakia was a 15 year old lesbian who was murdered in a hate crime in 2003.  Her story received very little attention from the MSM, straight or gay. The film documents her life and the conviction of the man who murdered her. 

The film is heartbreaking.  Sakia was stabbed and died in the arms of her best friend on the way to the hospital.  In the movie (filmed in 2006 I believe), the pain of that trauma is painfully evident.  I commented afterwards to event organizer LaTasha Mayes that it was sad that Sakia's friend was still so traumatized 23 months after the murder, but somewhat uplifting that her mother seems to have found some peace after the murdered was convicted (of manslaughter, mind you, not murder). 

It really does raise more questions than it answers.  The filmmakers talk with a range of LGBT persons of color about their lifestories and Sakia's story.  The taboo about delving into racism within the LGBTQ community is painful to acknowledge, but there you have it.  The intersection of race and sexual orientation and gender identity isn't just something to view negatively.  It is a whole cultural experience that really is different than my own.  One panelist commented how she tries to engage artists to help them understand the pain they inflict with homophobic music. 

I still don't know what I think. I'm wondering how to do things differently here in Pittsburgh?  I've been to four LGBT events in eight days. All were predominantly white gay events.  This was the queerest event.  That disconnect is a huge part of the problem.  Gay white folks should not ever say "Well, there's a Black Pride" as this topic comes up. Yes, there is.  However, these is plenty of White Pride to render that event almost obsolete in terms of advocacy, outreach, human services and leadership.

Marriage equality would not have saved Sakia's life.  It might, however, change the discourse around who makes up our families and our community.  That's the dialogue we need to prevent grown men from stabbing teen girls who identify as gay.  We may not be able to work on from the marriage angle, but nothing but ourselves prevents us from tackling the other side of the conversation. 

I'm so pleased that people attended the Lambda Bash and the GLCC Open House, but until those groups (and supporters) turn out for events like this and make an organizational commitment to be present to the whole community ... I'm not sure we have an answer as to how Pittsburgh would respond to a similar situation.  Let's hope we don't find out.

Was there a single elected official who thought the story of a 15 year old murdered lesbian worthwhile of their evening? 

I can't wait for Angelito, Claire and their friends to move into leadership roles.  It is going to be amazing!


View Article  Turkey Week Musings
The Ravenstahls are divorcing (there's no legal status of separation in Pennsylvania).  That's unfortunate.  What's even more unfortunate from my point of view is that the Mayor wants privacy around his marriage, but doesn't extend the same standard to other people's marriage. I wish them privacy and that this is as painless of possible.  I also wish our Mayor learns a lesson about how *I* feel about my marital decisions (not to mention being on the wrong side of the Catholic Church teachings).  Will this painful experience broaden his empathy?

There's a Pittsburgh Gay Book Club!  With a blog!  I knew about Queer Events but this is new to me.  Thanks Google Alerts.

2008 saw an 11% increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation.  Here's something interesting to consider as Pennsylvania's Senate debates a Hate Crimes Bill ...

Brian Levin, director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, warned that the national numbers may be misleading because some states -- like California, New Jersey and Ohio -- are good at reporting hate crimes, while others -- notably, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Hawaii and Mississippi -- are not.

California and New Jersey, with 1,381 and 744 incidents reported, respectively, led the list, and Ohio, with 345 reports, placed fifth. Pennsylvania, which placed 27th in incidents reported among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, posted just 68.

In southwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh reported eight cases of racial incidents, two cases related to religion and one involving sexual orientation. Authorities in Hopewell and Jefferson Hills and state police in Butler and Indiana counties each reported one case of racially motivated hate crimes.

"The quality of the data is so variable and, in some instances, so bad that it makes trend analysis extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible," said Mr. Levin. "Generally, states that have effective data collection also have effective training and procedures to address these crimes."

I'm curious why Pennsylvania is considered a poor reporter.  I have no problem believing that the numbers for our state are low. The hate mongerers who harass the women at the reproductive services clinics are proof positive of how far zealotry can push someone, not to mention the Manchester resident-public school teacher who referred to gay and mentally ill children as "fruits and nuts." I hope our Senators are looking at this data when they craft the final legislation.

Patricia Sheridan had breakfast with Adam Lambert who was apparently naughty at the AMAs the other night. I have to watch the video, but I'm wondering how a same sex kiss and faux fellatio stack up to the lyrics in the other performances?  That's something to explore.

Quick national round up ...

Autumn Sandeen on a potential registry for transmen and transwomen. 

Openly gay man confirmed as US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.

Dear God. Wingnuts are trying to get "spiritual healing" covered by the federal health reform legislation while women's health care and LGBT health care are NOT included. 

Christians are throwing a temper tantrum (h/t Pam's House Blend) vis a vis the Manhattan Declaration.  Tony Perkins, Daddy Jim Dobson and Archbishop Peter Akinola.  Need I say more? The fringe is on the move, friends, so pay attention. 

Well, I must hit the pavement.

View Article  Wrap Up: Bash and Grand Opening
Thursday, I went down to 210 Grant Street for the official Grand Opening of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center's new digs.  The space is fabulous and the event was packed (hundreds and hundreds of people).  I ran into all sorts of folks from the hills and hollers of the region and didn't get home until nearly 10 PM.  It was a lovely evening.

The new GLCC boasts the 5th largest LGBT center library in the nation.  They also have several works that are available only in Europe, including a Warhol book.  I had no time to browse, but it is well-lit, organized and very welcoming.  So you should literally check it out.  The Center has plenty of room for meetings, events and is just lovely.  Adagio Health is providing healthcare services and the Task Force is doing testing.  You must must must make a point to stop in one evening and check it out.  The GLCC should be the heartbeat of the community and that only happens if you connect yourself to it.  BTW, they can use volunteers to staff the front desk and be open during more hours.  If you have some daytime hours free and can catch a bus downtown, what a great way to give back to the community.

Folks, we are two blocks from the City-County Building. That's so symbolic and powerful.  So much potential.  Everyone make a commitment to either visit the GLCC for a service/event/library book or support in some other way.

Last night,  Ledcat and I attended the Lambda Bash at The Priory Grand Hall.  A lovely group of friends accompanied us and we had such a nice time.  Joe Hoeffel, Gubernatorial candidate, stopped by to say hello.  State Representative Dan Frankel was there.  And Dok Harris came by as well (he outbid me on a silent auction item!) and our whole table was thrilled to see him.  I don't think any of these men would be using an illegal tax to balance the City budget but heck ... I noticed that no one from the Mayor's team came and I'm not sure anyone from the Advisory Board was there, but I could be wrong about that.  Sad.  No one from the Onorato or Wagner camps attended.  I didn't see anyone from City Council, County Council or the ACDC. No staffers from Doyle, Costa, Altmire, you name it.  You want our votes, but we need your investment.  Sad, sad, sad.  (didn't see any of these folks at the GLCC event either).

The Lambda Foundation supports so many worthwhile causes in the community.  The Bash was an innovative way to try to reach out and connect with younger queer folks. I always feel a bit overwhelmed at these events because I like to really have intense conversations with people and there are so many hello's and so many people to talk with.  I'm more of a one on one person so I get frustrated, but I also just LOVE seeing so many people support important causes.  I couldn't begin to name the people I bumped into but it was great.  The space was decorated very festively for the holidays and made me want to come home to drag out the decorations (Ledcat says not yet).

FYI,the deadline for Lambda's current cycle of grants is December 31, 2009.  If your organization needs funding for something taking place before August, please get your grant in now .... the June funding cycle won't meet your deadline.

Congrats to the GLCC and Lambda for great events to lead us into the holiday season.  Please keep both groups in mind for your holiday giving ... a donation to the library for a book loving friend?  a donation to the scholarship fund for a LGBT youth advocate friend?  So many creative ways to spread our (admittedly limited) resources to reinvest in our community!

I'm pooped from all these festivities!  Thank goodness my vacation is coming up. 

View Article  The Week

Good news.

Legislation that would expand hate crimes protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity has passed out of the PA House Judiciary Committee.  That's pretty cool.  I'm waiting for a press release from the advocacy groups, but this legislation has bipartisan support.  Did you know that current hate crimes laws do not protect people with disabilities?  Surprised?

The AFA of PA is now on Twitter

Progrss on Domestic Partner benefits for federal employees.

An arrest and confession in a brutal hate crime in Puerto Rico (see item above when you read this).

The Bengals signed Larry Johnson. Hmmm.  That's good news because that isn't the Steelers.  Plus, he seems to maybe get it.  Maybe.

The Washington Blade ceased publication. Huge blow for the national LGBT community. But they'll be back. 

Bitch magazine launches Sapphic Salon.

And, this week on SisterShOUT, we'll be chatting with Sue and Christina from the Women's Law Project about the reason reproductive choice is a LGBT issue.

View Article  Sunday Random Stuff
It has been a quiet week on the blog.  Aside from the small step toward City-County consolidation that leaves the LGBTQ community behind, not much has been happening.  Here's a few snippets ...

Another fine example of Pennsylvania pride, the "whites only" Valley Club is filing for bankruptcy in lieu of lawsuits filed on behalf of the children who weren't permitted to swim because they weren't white.  This is a great example of the import of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.  (h/t Pam's House Blend)

A new lesbian oriented network site has popped up ... Where's My Lesbian? 

The American Medical Association has denounced Don't Ask, Don't Tell because it interferes with the patient/doctor relationship by requiring soldiers to keep pertinent information from their physician.  Interesting impact to consider, certainly as we engage in national debate on healthcare.  It is imperative that we discuss our sexual orientation with our healthcare providers.  I always ask new providers and most are somewhat shocked that I do so.  Only one time has a provider asked ME and asked me in great detail including a screening for abuse and my preferred language (partner/girlfriend, etc). She was awesome, but left the practice to be a stay at home mom for a few years. 

Candidate for Governor, Joe Hoeffel opposes the Anti-Choice Stupak Amendment.   For those of you who are curious, Maria offers a good explanation of the amendment.

The Hyde Amendment already barred federal funding for abortion services.

The Stupak Amendment actually rolls back private insurance coverage for reproductive rights.

Stupak is really about getting PRIVATE insurance plans to drop abortion coverage -- which 85% cover now.

Insurance companies will want to participate in the Public Exchange because it gives them a crack at tens of millions of new customers.

However, with Stupak, if you participate in the exchange -- and uninsured folks will be mandated to do so -- you will not be able to purchase a plan that covers abortions EVEN IF YOU PAY FOR THE PLAN ENTIRELY WITH YOUR OWN PERSONAL FUNDS.

So, again, we're not talking about government paid abortions -- that's already illegal -- we're talking about disallowing coverage of abortions from non government funded insurance plans.

Two great opportunities to get involved this week:

Steel City Stonewall monthly meeting, 7 PM Tuesday evening at the Panera Bread on the Boulevard of the Allies.  Your family can't afford for you to miss this meeting.

GLCC Open House.  5-9 PM on Thursday. 210 Grant Street. 

Hope to bump in to you somewhere this week.
View Article  Mike Lamb & John Weinstein dismissing LGBT employees needs

This really angers me.  I have personally spoken with City Controller Michael Lamb, City Councilperson Bill Peduto and City Council President Doug Shields among others, ALL of whom have promised me that City County merger would not mean that City employees (or potential employees) lost benefits.

The problem?  Well, the City of Pittsburgh, including most unions, offer domestic partner benefits to unmarried, partnered employees.  I'm going to have dig up the data but the number of heterosexual employees who utilize this benefit is vastly higher than the number of LGBT employees.  Like a 10:1 ratio.  The County of Allegheny does NOT offer these benefits to their employees.  The last time someone went on the record was at the Big Gay Endorsement mtg sponsored by the Allegheny County Democrat Committee in 2006 at which time a representative of Chief Executive Onorato said it was too expensive.

Ahem.  In the magical world of make believe, consider if every unmarried employee left the County and they were replaced by good Catholic people with families and children.  The County would HAVE to pony up the cash to cover those benefits, so this is a very hollow argument.  Not to mention the hard data that shows what a small impact this benefit has on most companies.

Then there is the oft cited Richard Florida perspective that going gay-friendly attracts the best and the brightest.  The HRC data agrees.

In growing numbers, both public and private employers across the country recognize partner benefits as an inexpensive option to attract and retain the best employees and to promote fairness and equality in the workplace.


So it doesn't really cost more and could help strengthen the workforce (and the region).  The economic arguments all say that the County is behind the curve in meeting the best interests of their employees and the residents of Allegheny County.

Finally, there are the unions.  I was told by LGBT leaders (and labor lawyers) that it "very complicated" because the a union member has to ask for the benefit so the union can bring it up at the bargaining table and blah, blah, blah.  Are you kidding me? The process is the problem?  What complete and utter bullshit.  You can't tell me with a straight face (so to speak) that Dan Onorato, would be Governor, can't have a conversation with the appropriate union folks to make this happen. I refuse to believe it and if it is true, the man isn't fit to be a leader. We are talking about GIVING people more benefits. Since when is it inappropriate for government to extend benefits to people, especially their employees?  If Dan Onorato suddenly decided to GIVE County employees an additional holiday, would there need to be an AFL-CIO convention to make it happen?  No one convened a special union meeting when President Obama extended domestic partner benefits (except health insurance) to federal employees.  Governor Ed Rendell pulled it off (with health insurance) for state employees.  Or maybe they did have the meetings, but the point is they led.  They didn't point fingers or cry about how mean the SEIU is. 

And it is fine if the LGBT folks want to get angry with me for airing the dirty laundry. You should all be ashamed that you remained silent when the 911 merger took place. You should have and continue to be screaming from the rooftops. This is the year 2009 in case anyone forgot.  I think it has been TWO DECADES since the City made this happen. The resounding silence from the LGBT community speaks volumes.  Shame on us. 

What's that?  Oh, back when the City and County decided to merge their 911 centers into one consolidated County run program, all the City employees lost their domestic partner benefits.  They also lost their civil job protections, but Amanda Green righted that travesty this summer. I don't know how many people that impacted, but City leaders who oversaw that merger should hang their heads in regret that they allowed ANYONE to lose benefits, including potential employees. You let your employees down and that's just sad.

So what's the big deal?  Well, the folks most likely to be merged into the County system are probably the lower paid clerical/menial labor staffers, right?  It isn't like City Councilperson to be Daniel Lavelle and County Councilperson Matt Drozd are sharing a desk.  It is the people who can least afford to lose benefits that are most likely to do so.  It shouldn't happen period, but it certainly shouldn't happen to the lowest paid employees. 

But here we go again, according to the Post-Gazette.  They City and County are coordinating tax collections.  Hey, that seems like a smart, cost-saving move.  No word on whether any jobs are being shifted around.  I'm betting the folks on this end of the process aren't exactly raking in the big bucks.  Is some clerk somewhere losing his or her job?  Is a vacant position lost forever in the consolidation?  Will anyone make this information public? 

I'm not anti-merger.  The jury is still out on how that would look in the big picture and I'm okay with sharing services in principle.  I'm not, however, okay with unmarried people being penalized to work for Dan Onorato. It is a discriminatory step and someone needs to address it. 

So, either we have leaders that can put this pesky problem to rest by extending DP benefits to County employees or we have politicians who play the blame game and allow people to lose a hard-won benefit because they can't work out a simple HR issue.

Any gay person who supports Dan Onorato for Governor while he remains a good, Catholic boy on this issue is a fool, a self-loathing bigot and an embarrassment to your community.  And our so-called allies like State Senator Daylin Leach aren't doing us any favors by promoting useless marriage equality legislation while endorsing the dp-benefit deficit that is the Onorato campaign. 

And I, apparently, am a fool for trusting that someone who comes to Pridefest will honor their word. I'm sure they are going to claim this particular merger didn't impact jobs, but that isn't the point.  You are going to back end us into a merger and then tell us it is too late to address the HR issue.  Every service merger is a lost opportunity to have this conversation. 

I won't make that mistake again. 

Major "fail" on the part of the City Controller, City Council and County Council for lack of action and leadership when it comes to this issue. 

View Article  Gay Bloggers close the gAyTM - should we follow suit here in Allegheny County?
Just caught "Don't Ask, Don't Give" on Pam's House Blend.

The gays are getting pretty pissed off so they've "paused" donations to the party.  Direct donations to the campaign only.  Period. 

More here at Ameriblog.

Can you give examples of how the President and Democrats have not been fierce advocates for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans?

Whew. I'd like to see this kind of spunk locally. I hope you'll consider the boycott.  No ACDC fundraisers while Allegheny County employees don't have domestic partner benefits.  No checks until Dan and Luke come out strongly in support of HB 300.  I'm going to work on my own list, but rest assured Luke is working hard to talk gay friendly.  He's going to have a press conference for World AIDS Day, but no word on what action he will take ... funding, services, hiring practices? What will it be? 

I mean we got our asses spanked on Tuesday and the party THREW women under the bus Saturday night with the horrible horrible anti-choice amendment.  How much more "leadership" do we need? 

Reread that list and then tell me what your Democrats have done for you?  Really. Is it acceptable that the DNC failed to support Maine?  It is despicable.

At least read the links.  I'm not anywhere on the radar of the ACDC, but I know that extending domestic partner benefits to Allegheny County employees should have happened a decade ago when it was controversial.  You want the best and the brightest working to lead us forward -- do the obvious thing to attract them.

And folks ya gotta start turning out or the embedded homos with $$ will keep pulling the decisions toward a side of life that is decidedly not consistent with the average queer. 

I am still REALLY angry about Saturday night. 
View Article  Affordable Health Care for (Some) Americans Act passes
Last night was a tough one.  We came home intending to watch a movie and I screwed it up by getting sucked into the debate on healthcare ... we hit the front door about 20 minutes before the vote on the Stupak (Women are Stupid) Amendment that made abortion unfundable across the nation.  A few hours later, the entire bill (with the Amendment) passed ... a historic moment for the United States as it will allegedly insure 96% of Americans.  Minus a few uteri but whatever.

The battle is far from over.  There's the Senate war which could take months.  Then conference.  So forth.  But history was made last night.  Herstory, too, albeit reinforcing the centuries old tale of other people making decisions for women. 

News for the LGBT community isn't so dire.  Here's a summary from the HRC.

The key provisions in the bill that the House passed are:
  • Health Disparities ? the bill specifically designates LGBT people as a health disparities population, opening up health data collection and grant programs focused on health disparities related to sexual orientation and gender identity. With collection of data and funding of research, we can better address the specific health issues facing LGBT people.
  • Unequal Taxation of Domestic Partner Benefits ? the bill ends the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, incorporating the language of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act. Without this tax penalty, more people will be able to afford employer-provided coverage for their families, and more companies will be able to offer these important benefits.
  • Early Treatment for HIV under Medicaid ? the bill also incorporates the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which allows states to cover early HIV treatment under their Medicaid programs, instead of withholding treatment for Medicaid recipients until they develop full-blown AIDS, This will dramatically improve the quality of life for low-income people with HIV, as well as saving taxpayers money and reducing the transmission of the virus.
  • Comprehensive Sex Education ? the bill provides funding for comprehensive sex education programs that focus not only on abstinence, but also reducing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. After more than $1 billion wasted on failed and discriminatory abstinence-only programs, this funding will provide youth, including LGBT students, with the tools they need to live healthy lives.
  • Non-discrimination ? the bill prohibits consideration of personal characteristics unrelated to the provision of health care. HRC worked with a coalition of civil rights groups to develop and lobby for this language and we believe it will help protect LGBT people from discrimination in the health care system, where there are currently no federal protections for our community.
There are major concerns that trans health issues will be on the chopping block so it is important to monitor the legislation.  I haven't been very successful identifying anyone outside of the HRC who seems to have good information so please share if you can do so. 

The economic impact of addressing tax discrimination is very big.  I know more than a few queer families that don't utilize DP benefits because the family cost PLUS the additional tax burden is outrageous.  This adds up to thousands of dollars.  We have a good family plan so the additional cost still makes insurance more affordable than two individual plans, but it is a huge burden for a social worker and a public employee.  That's cash we can invest into the community, our home, etc.

This will make the City of Pittsburgh's Domestic Partner Registry more powerful so I hope the members of the Mayor's Advisory Board are paying attention to how this might pan out for municipal involvement.

It was intriguing last night to see who was monitoring new social media to follow the health care debate.  Staffers posting updates on Facebook.  Legislators tweeting that they were checking in from their Saturday night plans.  I regret missing our movie.  We did catch the debut of openly lesbian Wanda Sykes' new talk show on FOX.  She was hysterical and very political.  It was awesome. No temptation to even flip to SNL. 

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