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View Article  A Poll

View Article  Thumbs on the Keyboard, Dems!

My list of PA and Pgh politician tweeps continues to grow. I"m up to 87 accounts now.  http://twitter.com/PghLesbian24/politicians-pgh-and-pa

Republicans are jumping on board the social media wagon at a much faster rate than Democrats.  I did add the PA House Democratic Campaign Committee and Dan Keller who is running for the House seat in the 20th district (against Chet/Adam Ravenstahl who has no actual presence except for an allegedly hefty war chest).

But this morning, I learned that US Congressional candidate Mary Beth Buchanan is tweeting.  From her page, I found SIX GOP clubs that are using Twitter.  Three updated within the past 24 hours, 2 within the past month and 1 last tweeted in June 2009.  I also found another GOP State Senator and the Senate Republican Caucus.

The local GOP is actually conducting a full-scale social media training, including Twitter, for committee folks.  They are embracing this technology.  Democrats can't let Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak do all the heavy lifting. Complacency is not a good organizing tool. 

Surely all those $3000 fees that ACDC will be collecting this go around can pay for a little training?

View Article  CMU grad studet shares her experience under Don't Ask, Don't Tell in PG

I caught this op/ed piece in Sunday's Forum section of the Post-Gazette a little later in the afternoon.  I'm glad I held off writing about it because some interesting contextual information on DADT has since been released. 

CMU graduate student Karen Mesko shared her painful journey as a member of the Reserves which she entered after realizing that being in the closet as a gay woman would be too difficult for full-time enlistment. 

One part struck me. Because some of her coworkers at her civilian day job were also Reservists, she didn't even have the luxury of being out in her civilian life.  That one factor created a permanent wedge, she writes.

This sounds like a horrible way to live and a succint explanation of how DADT has a negative impact on the troops it ostensibly exists to protect.  Forcing people to lie to one another erodes the cohesion necessary for full effectiveness. 

It also erodes the human beings living with this weight on their shoulders.  We don't know if Mesko's work environment would have been welcoming to her identity as a lesbian, but the presence of other Reservists trumped whatever environment the corporate culture created.  Other Reservists can be anywhere and I had never considered that prior to this article. 

Kudos to Karen for sharing her story.  I urge you to read in its entirety.

In related news, Servicemembers United announces that Senator Lieberman will introduce legislation to repeal DADT.

?I have been asked by both the White House and by advocacy groups within the gay rights community to be the lead sponsor, and I?m glad to do it,? Lieberman is quoted as saying.

Debate over the repeal process itself has been swirling for months (years?).  Legislative action or Presidential decree?  Time frames?  It is incredibly complicated. I've been following the blog/national LGBT organization debate for months and I'm still confused.

SU's press release has this to say

To strengthen the prospects for the repeal of the ?Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell? law and to reduce political risk, the President can still order the Pentagon to include ?Set End-date / Delayed Implementation? repeal language in one of the legislative policy transmittals that will soon be sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by the Department of Defense. These policy proposal packages serve as indications of White House and Pentagon support for policy changes to be included in the next National Defense Authorization Act.

Additionally, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee could insert Senator Lieberman?s new bill into the Chairman?s mark of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which will soon be drafted. Such a move, especially in combination with the Presidential action through Pentagon policy transmittals, could turn out to be the path of least resistance for repeal of the ?Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell? law and could help shield vulnerable members of the President?s and the Chairman?s own party.

From what I gather, most folks agree to suspect implementation of the policy so no one else will be discharged and the establistment of termination date for the policy.  Its just that no one wants to be the fall guy in the 2010 midterm elections. 

Another related note. The New York Times runs a piece on research indicating the LGBTQ soldiers don't disrupt units as has been much ballyhooed by opponents of the repeal.

The 151-page study, which updates existing studies on gay service members in Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and other countries, offers the first broad look at the issue in foreign militaries since Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for an end to ?don?t ask, don?t tell? earlier this month.

The report concludes that in foreign militaries, openly gay service members did not undermine morale, cause large resignations or mass ?comings out.? The report found that ?there were no instances of increased harassment? as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.

In addition, the report says that none of the countries studied installed separate facilities for gay troops, and that benefits for gay partners were generally in accordance with a country?s existing benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

On implementation, the study said that most countries made the change swiftly, within a matter of months and with what it termed little disruption to the armed services. Mr. Frank said the study did not look at what happened if the change was implemented gradually because, he said, ?I don?t think any of the militaries tried it.?

Rip the bandaid off quickly and be done with it.  The US is going for a more delayed approach; I wonder if this data will have any impact?

Can we really afford to lost any more thoughtful, bright, articulate women like Karen Mesko before this is resolved?

Specter supports the repeal.  Casey hasn't taken a public stance.

View Article  Sunday Interests

A race is on for a local state House seat currently held by Mike Turzai (R) who voted in 2006 to amend the PA Constitution to "protect" marriage.  Democrat Sharon Brown of McCandless is challenging him.  Turzai is not supporting HB 300.  The marriage equality bills and hate crimes legislation haven't been introduced in the House so our litmus test is a bit thin.  Well, except for amending the Constitution.  Whatever you think of that.

We'll keep you updated on Brown's campaign.

Speaking of HB 300, you can follow its progress here

Maria of 2 Political Junkies reminds us that anti-choice can be very anti-woman, pointing out something I such much bandied about on Twitter yesterday - Utab is criminalizing miscarriage.  It has been the case that causing someone else to have a miscarriage was a crime. Now Utah can begin monitoring women's behavior to determine potential fetus threats.  A little too The Handmaid's Tale for my taste, eh?  We are not incubators.


View Article  Ancestry and the Census

A burning question for me has always been "Who else in my family is gay?" 

I'm an amateur geneaologist of sorts.  I've been working on the family tree for about 10 years and have close to 1300 individuals listed.  Mind you, a lot of these folks are sideways branches ... plus Ledcat's family and a few other really extended family members.  I'm not particularly fussy about being source oriented. I began with family tradition, found some online census records and went to town from there.  Sideways means I track the siblings of my direct ancestors.  It can be very helpful to find parents who go to live with an adult child, especially after being widowed.  It also gives me access to potential living cousins. 

I've made some interesting discoveries along the way.  I've bumped into all sorts of relatives.  This morning, I had an email from a man who may be my second cousin via adoption.  His great-aunt was adopted by her parents.  She's also my great-aunt by birth. The real intrigue is that her adoptive parents are somehow related to her, but the exact relationship was lost to the ages because people "didn't talk about it" back then.  So now we have a chance to maybe learn about it.  Fascinating.

I also have intriguing mysteries around specific relatives.  A great-grandmother who has no paper trail before she and her 3 siblings popped onto the radar in the 1920 Census.  A family (Lescallette) who immigrated to the US under mysterious circumstances that none of the family geneaologists can figure out ... where did they come from and why? 

Old census records are fascinating in and of themselves. The handwriting can have a big impact ... my great-grandmother is listed as Elisabeth, Elizabeth, Bette, Edna, and Elsa.  A great-great-uncle was William F, William P and William J on three different documents.  Pryor was Prior. You can imagine how Lescallette has been spelled! 

But there are fascinating tidbits.  Occupations, for example.  Very early documents were sparse, but around 1890 onward the details about jobs are there ... the job title and the employer. Sure, most everyone worked for J&L as we are a big Southside family, but not everyone was a laborer ... bookkeepers, store clerks, office help.  No one married into either the Jones or Laughlin family as far as I can tell.  LOL. 

Back to the gay question.  Of course, the Census doesn't provide specific insight, but there are bachelors and spinsters who remain in their parents' households through 1930 (the last year the Census is available for free at ancestry.com).  I can also find a few men still unmarried vis a vis their WWII Draft Cards.  That's suggestive, but certainly not conclusive.  Just like our "guesses" about my cousins continue to be guesses at best. 

I get a bit envious when LGBTQ friends talk about their lesbian sisters or nieces or perhaps a gay cousin or two. I feel I'm missing out on that dual connection:  family and "family" if you know what I mean.  The closest comparison is probably how an only child feels when people talk about their siblings.  There's just something about that shared experience which feels special ...

Speaking of counting families, it is Census time again.  While the instrument is not perfect, it has been one of the single most important measurements of the presence of LGBTQ individuals and families in the US.

Our Families Count is a website dedicated to the visibility of the LGBTQ community in the 2010 Census.

Here's an important excerpt from the website:

Why should I care about the census?

The census creates an essential portrait of our nation every 10 years. These data are used to determine the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives and provides key population numbers for Congress and the administration to determine how federal dollars flow to the states and cities for health care, housing, and English as a second language classes. Census information is also used in the enforcement of an array of civil rights laws in employment, housing, voting, lending, education, and the availability of bilingual ballots and interpreters at poll sites. The census has a big impact on our political power and economic security.

Since 1990, when the census added the ?unmarried partner? designation on its form, LGBT people in same-sex relationships have provided the first visible record of our partnerships in the history of our nation. These data have been very important in countering anti-gay lies, myths and misperceptions about the diverse LGBT community. For instance, the 2000 Census showed that same-sex couples live in nearly every county in the nation, and that black and Latino same-sex couples are raising children at nearly the rates of their heterosexual peers, while earning lower incomes. The average household income of Asian Pacific Island same-sex couples is more than $3,800 less than that of non-API same-sex couples and more than $8,800 less than that of different-sex API couples.

If I recollect properly, the 2000 Census showed that Pennsylvania was home to at least 25,000 same sex households and more than 250,000 heterosexual unmarried households.  That's a very important distinction because most marriage equality backlash efforts impact those quarter million families, too.  And while it is easy to say "at least they have the option of getting married" that may not always be the case.  There are plenty of situations in which economic survival makes marriage a poor option. 

Regardless, it is important that we be counted.  Now the regular census form doesn't ask about sexual orientation or gender identity.  The extended form sent to a subset of Americans does ask more specific questions. The Census has counted same sex partners since 1990, but this is the first year they will identify (and release) data on same sex spouses.  So it collects data on families.  There is advocacy underway to add the questions because it is important information to address federal level concerns, such as economic and health disparities.

Here's an interesting interview:


So perhaps some little Kerr descendant in the far off 21st century will learn that her great-great-great Aunt Sue lived with her same sex partner, Ledcat. 

And they all lived happily ever after.  The End.


View Article  Steel City Endorsement Meeting on March 28, 2010

If you care enough to read what is a significantly political LGBTQ blog, please care enough to help shape the LGBTQ endorsement.  Membership starts at $15 per person.  This is absolutely your best chance to make "one vote, one person" speak loud and clear about our community priorities. 

On Sunday, March 28th Steel-City Stonewall Democrats (SCSD) will convene its membership to vote on which candidates will receive the organization?s endorsement for the May 18th, 2010 Primary Election.
WHEN:  Sunday, March 28th from 2:30pm - 5:00pm

WHERE:  Hyde Park Restaurant in the Del Monte Bldg, 247 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

WHO:  Candidates running for elected offices in the Pittsburgh Region including candidates for Governor and the U.S. Senate, Steel-City Members, others who value LGBT equality and political empowerment

WHAT:  Meet and greet over some free grub and cash bar;  Hear candidate speeches and have a chance to ask questions, vote 

WHY:  Become familiar with your elected officials and strengthen the voice of the LGBT community in the political process

HOW MUCH: free for Steel-City members (only members can vote), $5 for non members

 To become a voting member of Steel-City Stonewall Democrats visit our website at www.steel-city.org


View Article  ACDC increases filing fees

From the Post-Gazette:

I live in the 22nd district which abuts the 20th.  I don't understand why one district jumps to $3,000 while the others are $2,000 (which is bad enough).  Is it a coincidence that Adam (Chet) Ravenstahl is running in that district?  Clearly, his connections guarantee a decent war chest so it seems ... obvious? 

View Article  Locally filmed AIDS tale premieres Saturday; Mt. Ararat Baptist Church partners with gay community

Why Us? Left Behind and Dying premieres in Pittsburgh this weekend at the August Wilson Center.  From Tony Norman:

"Why Us? Left Behind and Dying" [further described on C-1 of today's Magazine section] is a searing, heartbreaking look into the disproportionately high rate of AIDS/HIV in the African-American community. What makes this documentary unique among cautionary tales about this deadly plague are the voices director Claudia Pryor Malis recruited to tell a story most of us think we already know.

At the heart of "Why Us?" are teenagers from Homewood who interview men and women who have personal, often excruciating insight into the stigma of being part of the AIDS epidemic in a community that, as one subject ruefully observes, "is very good at keeping secrets."

Other than Homewood native Tamira Noble, 17 at the time she narrated the film, the Westinghouse High School students who are the film's primary interlocutors have their identities obscured with facial blurs and weird camera angles. (Students from Peabody High School evaluated the film when it was done.)

Tony goes on to ennumerate some of the topics -- sexuality, drug use, homophobia, religious bigotry, and social stigma -- which clearly fall into the taboo spectrum and about which it would be really interesting to hear a youth perspective. 

"Why Us?" isn't designed to make young people turn away in horror from images on the screen. It is a deeply realistic look at an ongoing AIDS crisis in African-American communities that many will recognize immediately.

The documentary features intravenous drug users and public health experts, gay men searching for words that honestly convey their isolation, teenagers expressing their own confusion and fear of the unknown.

Through it all, Ms. Noble, now a University of Pittsburgh student, provides a narrative voice that shapes the reams of medical and social data streaming at us into something we can sympathize with and relate to. It was a stroke of genius to have a young person at the helm.

"Why Us?" has already begun making the festival circuit. It has received rave reviews across the country. Black Pittsburgh owes it to itself to turn out for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. show at the August Wilson Center. Everyone involved in the production of the documentary will be on hand to talk about a problem that probably isn't going away anytime soon.

Still, there will soon also be another very interesting exploration of similar topics. 

Multicultural Social Justice Leadership Development Academy

This event, scheduled for March 19 at the DLC, is sponsored by the American Counseling Association.  The conference includes a partnership of the local LGBTQ community (PFLAG and the leadership of licensed counselor, Professor Dana Elmendorf) with the African-American faith community (Mt. Ararat Baptist Church). 

MSJLDA Press Conference

We welcome you to share in this experience and observe as we carefully craft a statement to the press to highlight the importance of Social Justice Leadership, through this powerful mechanism of public outreach and awareness.


Mount Ararat Choir

and Mr. Dwayne Fulton

The Mount Ararat Baptist Church, Ministry of Music and Fine Arts under the direction of Dr. Dwayne Fulton presents, Songs of Celebration and Freedom. Join us in a musical celebration of hope and optimism for the psychological liberation of the future of multicultural-social justice leadership.

The Press Conference will feature PFLAG and other local LGBTQ community leaders, standing alongside Mt. Ararat, to call for social justice, particularly within the context of psychological healing. 

Elmendorf. "The purpose of the conference is to offer skills and discussion to encourage people to think about their responsibilities to the world and what it means to think about and work toward diversity and equality. "

This was something far too infrequently discussed in graduate school when we were preparing to enter the world of professional social work so I think this is an especially appealling opportunity for persons from all disciplines.

Admittedly, I was intrigued by the participation of Mt. Ararat which is not known for openly embracing LGBTQ persons albeit those seeking to be cured or counseled back to heterosexuality.  Perhaps leaders in the faith community recognize that now is a time for healing and reconciliation for all persons, a time to move toward the idea of focusing on diversity and equality in a way that affirms all persons, not seeks to force them to conform or choose between different elements of their cultural identity.  The same could be said for the LGBTQ community, as well which often fails (myself included) to comprehend the experience of reconciling faith and sexual orientation within the context of Pittsburgh's African-American community. 

The AIDS epidemic is certainly not the only point at which our communities intersect, either in terms of people who claim identitiy within both, but also within the larger struggles we face here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the United States. 

I wonder if the Lesbian & Gay Film Society will be attending the movie premiere?  The discussion on homophobia sounds worth viewing.

So the timing of the two events might help us all make a slight shift away from our own worldview towards a better understanding.  I understand from Dana that a member of Mt. Ararat will now become chair of the Pennsylvania Counseling Association so who knows what might emerge as LGBTQ voices, such as Dana's, continue to work from within the organization to bring our voices to the table around discussions of diversity and inclusion as well as education for counselors in college and graduate school.

Information on the conference is attached.


2 Attachments
View Article  Doesn't it just make you crazy?

Rumors are flying about the impending snowstorm scheduled for Monday.  2-3, 4-6, 8-12.  Does it really matter? Ick.

I was trying to remember how I learned to drive in the snow.  Do you remember your first time behind the wheel in the snow?  Then I realize I've been driving for 24 years and start to panic about that stunner.  LOL.

Good news from New Hampshire which beat back a constitutional amendment and a bill.  Go NH! (h/t Pam's House Blend)

Sadly, Catholic Charities has shuttered an 80 year legacy in foster care rather than license same sex homes.  (h/t Bilerico).  Did you know in Pennsylvania is it legal for LGBT individuals and couples to become foster parents, but it is not required? So the various faither based agencies that do this excellent work can turn you away, but rest assured that there are plenty of secular organizations where you can pursue foster parenting.  Simply use the Google. 

Maria has the details on an upcoming fundraiser to help provide feminine hygeine products to area girls through a partnership of Planned Parenthood with various schools.  When I was working in social services in rural Kentucky, I was astounded to learn how many women used actual rags because they did not have the $$ to buy pads and tampons. I thought I had some understanding of poverty, but that was a pretty powerful moment.  I've talked with folks serving homeless women and others at the foodbank only to learn that this is not a rural problem, it is a problem associated with poverty and women.  If you can help, it is a pretty important cause.

CBS apparently refused to air a simple LGBT PSA.

Great read by Chris Briem on running for Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

To wrap up, please take a moment to read this story about a poor old dog that lived for 10 years without even a NAME of his own.  You can help with a simple $5 donation via Paypal.  A ten year old dog should have at least had a name.  There's something incredibly sad about that simple fact.

View Article  How I Spent My Tuesday Night

Tonight, I wrote down what other people had to say, carefully limiting my commentary to the occasional doodle on the edge of the page.

Tonight, and for the next two months, I volunteered to be the interim-secretary for the Steel City Stonewall Democrats Board meeting.  I am not a board member, just a volunteer.  Ledcat is the usual secretary, but she is interim vice-chair through April so I am supporting her by taking over the secretary job. 

I think she secretly derived far too much enjoyment of saying "Sue, go ahead and write this down," but I could be paranoid like that. Sort of.  Kind of.

Why did I spend a Tuesday evening scribbling away while the snow piled ever higher on my lawn chair back on the Northside?

Because it has to be done. The mainstream Democrats aren't moving things along very speedily are they?  Half of Congress seems to be quitting on Obama. The HRC is being called to task on DADT by the big gay bloggers. LGBT voices are calling leaders to take a page from labor and point out that the COMPLETE LACK OF POSITIVE ACTION will leave the LGBT voters at home in droves. 

The meeting was heartening.  There's a new volunteer (new to Steel City) who is going to be the social media editor and she's doing a great job.  I encourage you to follow @StonewallPGH and see some good stuff.  You'll like it, I promise. 

But, time is precious folks.  It is less than two weeks until you can come to our awesome coffee house party to learn about Joe Hoeffel and then a mere 4 more weeks until the Steel City Endorsement Meeting.  You can make an impact with a simple membership check (starting at $15) and a few hours of your time. 

Seriously, this is probably the most significant thing happening this spring.  If you want more funding for AIDS research, health coverage for LGBT families, food pantries, job security, funding for the arts, funding for homeless LGBT kids, more gay people on executive boards, more lesbians, more whatever ... you need to take action to make sure allied men and women are elected and you need to do this now. 

So I promised to take objective minutes and that is what I'll do.  I attend every meeting because I want to put my money/time where my mouth is, but I won't join the board (actually, I was on the board several years ago) because I enjoy the freedom of the blog.  I don't want to be constrained or taint the organization with my baggage.  Taint sounds so quaint, doesn't it?  :-)

So ... that's what I did tonight. I still have to transcribe my scrawl into something legible.  Plus, I have actual tasks.

But someone has to do it.

If you are interested in volunteering for Steel City, drop me a line.  There are things you can do from home and things that are way out there in public view.  Small commitments, big ones.  Lots of things.  Your country needs you. 




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