Sunday, July 25
by Sue on Sun 25 Jul 2010 10:33 AM EDT
You may have heard by now that Lt. Dan Choi was honorably discharged from the United States Army under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Lt. Choi, fluent in Arabic, was serving as a linguist.
Dan has also been an advocate for the LGBT community. He was in Pittsburgh courtesy of the Delta Foundation in August 2009. Most recently, he has been working with Get Equal to engage in civil disobedience, twice chaining himself to the White House fence while in full uniform. His movement from fundraisers to political activism has been fascinating to watch and certainly parallels the failure of the Obama Administration (and the mighty gays) to repeal DADT.
Even as the political will of the elite weakens, the will of activists like Choi grows.
Still, discharge must have been a deeply painful moment. It is certainly painful for the non-Arabic speaking soldiers who are now at even more of a disadvantage thanks to Obama's systemic policy of intolerance and discrimination.
In a powerful moment, Choi sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was addressing the NetRoots Nation conference. It contained his West Point ring which he sent as a pledge of his ongoing service to the United States, asking for it to be returned when DADT is repealed.
Courtesy of Pam's House Blend, please read the words of an American patriot.
by Sue on Sun 25 Jul 2010 10:16 AM EDT
Last night, Ledcat and I caught the opening of "The Kids Are Allright," the film about the kids of a lesbian couple seeking out their sperm donor. The movie was well made and much more about relationships with this one happening to be lesbian, than a lesbian movie. Annette Benning and Julianne Moore star and how cool to have two high profile actresses take on these roles.
Our experience at the theater was interesting as well. The showing was at the Manor in Squirrel Hill, known for being a bit liberal. 30 minutes before showtime, the line snaked around the building. Surprisingly, the movie was packed PACKED with heterosexual couples, skewing heavily above age 50. I'm sure there were plenty of lesbians sprinkled in the crowd, but I was a little stunned that I didn't recognize a single LGBT face in the crowd. As we left, I could say the same about the line for the next showing.
I sure hope all these allie who turn out for movies that normalize us are turning out politically to advocate for us in real life, too.
by Sue on Sun 25 Jul 2010 10:09 AM EDT
You may have heard by now of a recent incident where a local gay man was assaulted while waiting for a bus. The community responded with two rallies and a lot of discussion about interaction between the LGBT community and the police.
This is an age old debate that requires self-examination on both sides and that seems to be a break down point. Many in the LGBT community have had negative experiences with the police and are disengaged b/c there's no trust. To be repeatedly told "call 911" or "file reports" when your personal experiences are traumatic is not getting anywhere. Add in the near constant media reports of negative behavior by the police department when interacting with minority groups and you hit a wall.
On the other hand, if there is no data and no information being fed to the police their hand are tied. People in the general public have unrealistic expectations of 911 and responses to emergencies. If the police aren't there in minutes, the assumption is that they didn't care. So when they do arrive two hours later to investigate, folks are unwilling to cooperate. That's a catch 22 and doesn't help anyone.
How do you get around this?
Progress has been made. This year's Dyke March finally had adequate police protection, but it took five years and a lot of pressure. Tied up in that was a sense of disenchantment by some event organizers that the police truly didn't care if particpants were safe ... the same dynamic. Yet I had conversations with more than one officer at the event that showed they are gay friendly and willing to engage far more than simply guarding their street corner.
There are systemic solutions. The Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee is one such option, but we have to be realistic about their ability to effect the sort of dialogue necessary to bring about change. Frankly, I've attended a lot of meetings with commanders and even the Chief where we just get lectured about reporting, reporting, reporting and a protective nature toward their team (with regard to community violence). There's been no acknowledgement of systemic homophobia within the police force so I don't hold out a lot of hope. I also think the disconnect I described above is mirrored within our community along socioeconomic/class lines so those who get access to these meetings aren't the ones getting bashed.
City Council is another resource. We need to insist our allies on Council take up this rallying cry. Several years ago, Bill Peduto repeatedly reminded Council that LGBT issues were part of the federal consent decree under which the police force operated for several years (essentially oversight by the Department of Justice). Yet, we rarely see LGBT issues put forth by CPRB or other citizen groups in an organized manner. That would bring us back to the lack of organization in our community and the lack of data due to underreporting.
My recommendation is that we push for an LGBT liaison in the police department. This person would be our point person to discuss concerns and positive outcomes. This officer attends our meetings, large and small, to address the issues being raised -- training, tracking, how 911 works, etc. This officer gets to know us from Gay Inc to the everday queer so s/he can carry our stories and experiences back to the entire Department of Public Safety. This officer is not just chatting with the Mayor's allies, but reaching out to the entire community. Many of us have his/her phone number. You see what I mean? Not a token person assigned to come to one meeting, but an officer who gets invested in our community and diligently works to earn our trust.
It is about a relationship between our community and the institution which leads to a better relationship with the individual officers. That core relationship will generate the reporting necessary to tackle the crimes. It will empower CPRB to tackle the situations where police response is not according to procedure.
We also need a leader to step forward to push for necessary dialogue within the community. Pittsburgh does not have an organized LGBT grassroots presence. We have anarchists and philanthropists. We've lost touch with that piece of our history, a consequence of assimilation.
Just my $.02.
Saturday, July 17
by Sue on Sat 17 Jul 2010 09:46 AM EDT
I don't pay a lot of attention to Beechview even though my neighborhood of Manchester is connected to it through both our State House and State Senate districts. So I didn't even realize they had no grocery store until this little missive from Senator Fontana arrived in my box ...
I'm sure many of Pgh's neighborhoods are underserved by grocery stores. I should stop complaining about the Northside Giant Eagle, eh?
And I need to get to Beechview sometime soon.
by Sue on Sat 17 Jul 2010 09:36 AM EDT
Capitol Ideas debunks Corbett's ridiculous mocking of his working class citizens ....
He lied? This is precisely why we need to continue pushing for LGBT economic issues on a local level as well as statewide --- statewide does not look too promising. I bang my head on the table when a die hard conservative friend tells me Onorato is the man.
by Sue on Sat 17 Jul 2010 09:28 AM EDT
From Infinonymous ....
Infinon reports it was papered over the next day.
Tuesday, July 13
by Sue on Tue 13 Jul 2010 10:13 PM EDT
Just read Slag Heap every day. Not only does it make me nostalgic for the slap heap upon which I played as a child (now known as Century Square in West Mifflin), but it is probably the smartest blog in the region. Well, Chris Briem is pretty damn close but I have to admit he intimidates me.
Just do it.
by Sue on Tue 13 Jul 2010 10:08 PM EDT
Always good news to see grassroots efforts to push for equality.
Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County is on the path toward establishing protected class status for the LGBT community. You can find out more about this effort through their Facebook Page.
It really is hand to hand combat to win over the hearts and minds of elected officials. That won't happen without our full participation in the struggle for equality. Join the Facebook Page to get yourself educated and be humbled that Pittsburgh has a twenty year start, plus domestic partnership benefits for City employees and a domestic partner registry. Progress can happen with dedication, careful planning and the unrelenting pressure to hold our electeds accountable for the equality they profess to support.
Congrats to the folks in Lower Merion. I'll be watching and hoping for the best.
by Sue on Tue 13 Jul 2010 09:57 PM EDT
Should this be a factor? What about in Pennsylvania? Should we ask Jim Burn to take these factors in account?