Thursday, March 31
by Sue on Thu 31 Mar 2011 05:21 PM EDT
The Pennsylvania Institutue has one upped itself with regard to shining a light on the Chik-Fil-A homophobic mentality. Next up is a Pittsburgh based dinner with a keynote speaker infamous from defaming Planned Parenthood with so-called undercover footage.
Lila Rose and her Live Action Films purport to tell the full story, minus the edits. Her website is unbelievable. No mention, of course, of the evidence or facts presented by Planned Parenthood.
This dinner should be a hoot. I bet Darryl Metcalfe will be front and central.
And I told you the Pennsylvania Family Institute was going to move into Metcalfe territory. They already have two more sessions of The Art of Marriage scheduled for late spring. It is a big difference from donated sandwiches to $1,000 table fundraisers. Do not rest easy.
by Sue on Thu 31 Mar 2011 05:01 PM EDT
When I asked Hugh McGough to sit down with me and talk about his campaign, I was admittedly most interested in the significance of electing Pittsburgh's second openly gay official (third in Allegheny County). I was unprepared for a thorough schooling in the ways of the magisteria, the judicial politics of the East End and a touching story of a child who believed he could never be a judge.
In 45 minutes. While eating a sandwich at our meeting spot, Amani International Cafe on the Northside.
Hugh has twice run for judge before, both time seeking a seat on the Court of Common Pleas. It has been an ambition of his since his youth - his father was a lawyer so he knew about such things as judges. But as a young man realizing his identity as a gay person, Hugh was also growing aware of the reality that being gay was essentially illegal. A violation of the sodomy law was a felony which prohibited one from serving on the bench. That's an awful lot of discouragement for a young adult, but it seemed to infuse Hugh with more of a determination to use his powers for the good of the community rather than remain in the closet for the good of his erstwhile dream.
Admittedly, I never really had this debate. Even when I came out, it didn't strike me that (sodomy laws were gone in PA in 1972) that my life was criminal even while I was acutely aware that my life was reviled. I've known Hugh for years, understood that he wanted to serve on the bench, but had no idea how that ambition was shaped by homophobia. I never really thought about it more than the challenges of running as an openly gay man or perhaps enduring behind the scenes homophobia.
Hugh is running for the Magisterial District Court (commonly known as Magistrates) seat in the East End, a highly revered bastion of progressive politics. When the current magistrate announced his intent to retire, Hugh saw the oppotunity to fulfill his dream in a district disproportionately represented by voters who were familiar with him and his work. Sort of an unexpected window opening after the previous election door swung shut. Twice. Then sort of "hey, what about this?" Hugh turned his eye to a different type of judicial role, one that is really on the front lines of sorting out the legal responsibilities, protections and so forth for all parties involved, before they turn downtown. The magistrate can also be the final word on smaller financial matters (under $12,000 which doesn't seem that small to this social worker at all).
Apparently, this is the last vestage of a dated legal system that predates the Revolutionary War. Justices of the peace presided over the peace and eventually morphed into the present day magistrate who actually has a significant amount of legal work even while operating without a significant amount of required legal knowledge. I kind of knew you didn't need to be a lawyer, but I was surprised that you don't even need a high school degree or a GED. You just need to go to magistrate school for one month and pass the test. Then you consolidate your power baise, raise your sons to run for Mayor and, oh wait ... never mind.
I guess I was so taken with Hugh's professionalism about the position, his knowledge of the types of cases and his years of experience appearing in district court as an attorney, that I'm just aghast the rest of us don't take it equally seriously. I can smirk a little because my magistrate - for whom I did vote - is a licensed and well-respected attorney, Derwin Rushing. No violation of US Postal Law by him, thank God.
So the East End may choose to elect yet another practicing attorney. Hugh's opponent in the race is City Councilor Doug Shields, whose paralegal background proves more legal experience than many of the seated magistrated and plenty of practical experience as in political matters. The lesbians love Doug. I just wish he'd stay on City Council to protect us from yet another round of legacy leadership that will take a decade to mature into independent critical thinking. Doug, why are you eroding the progressive base that keeps my family safe on multiple levels? I fee like we are doomed to political version of SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome).
This could be one of the more interesting races the East End has known since ... well, I don't know since when but I bet it will be close to what happens when Dan Frankel retires. Minus the weeping (mine).
In all seriousness, Hugh has an impressive resume, both legally and in terms of community services. He has plainly put a lot of earnest thought into how he can combine his dream and best serve the people who have always had his back. That's not a bad way to make a career move.
How interesting for Pittsburgh that we have a four way race for a magistrate seat, a four way race for two City Council seats and a three way race for another. I'm learning more every year how politics is local.
Wednesday, March 30
Sunday, March 20
by Sue on Sun 20 Mar 2011 06:30 PM EDT
Exactly one week from today comes the Endorsement Meeting for Steel City Stonewall Democrats. For the first time, Steel City will not permit same-day members to vote in the endorsement, a positive step for the organization's credibility.
The group returns to The Inn on the Mexican War Streets on North Avenue from 2-5 PM on Sunday, March 27, 2011.
Questionnaires are not yet available on the web, but check back during the week.
Actually, it is pretty interesting times as two openly gay men are seeking the endorsement. That's unprecedented.
I am looking forward to covering the event live. I have to dig through my archives to find the hashtag, but I'll let you know.
Friday, March 18
by Sue on Fri 18 Mar 2011 01:27 PM EDT
Wednesday evening we had an unexpectedly amusing stint as the official coat check
To be honest, the whole coat check thing scares me. I prefer to keep my coat close at hand in case a speedy retreat is in order. I spend half the night obsessing about the coat check tag and the other half obsessing about the valet parking stub. I put the stubs in my purse which is usually too rinky dink to afford me the security of retrieving my property. This is where my dear departed grandmother would point out that purses may be cheap at Target, a purse from Macy's is built to handle things like stubs. Ledcat puts the stubs in her pocket and somehow avoids worrying about pickpockets and other potential mishaps.
I usually end feeling foolish because I don't have the rhythm of the coat retrieval down. There's a quick exchange of coat for tip that requires tip to be folded into hand for a seamless transfer. I never get it down and then I feel like I should apologize for holding up the line and add more $$ to the tip. At this point, Ledcat typically takes over and sends me off to deal with the valet induced trauma. Do you tip the driver? What if another parking person holds open your door? I once tipped entirely in quarters because I was afraid to ask the bartender for change w/o buying another $3.00 Coke.
Clearly, I cannot function without a ledcat. Fortunately, I bring home prize opportunities like coat check volunteer to hold my own in our relationship.
The fundraiser was at Perlora on the Southside. Ledcat adores Perlora and laments what our cat has done to the one chair she purched there, but that's another post. I know she came with me first for the locale, second to support Bruce and third to watch me meltdown when she didn't follow the strict coat checking rules I reviewed with her.
What a fun time! We had unlimited access to the hors d'?uvre trays, a great view of the speakers and the opportunity to interact with most of the guests. I, of course, was tweeting in between coat fetching. (The official hashtag for Bruce events is #VoteBruce just as an FYI).
But she was right about the meltdown. The coat racks were a little high for her to reach so I got to do the schlepping. She had to drag me away from making sure the scarves were just so on their respective coats. I was at a loss as how to handle umbrellas; she chucked them into the corner and said folks were on their own to retrieve. Hats she piled up on the table and dared anyone to challenge her. I sure didn't. I grew increasingly frenzied balancing my desire to be ubervolunteer with my even greater desire to be "the" tweeter of the event.
I had no idea how high intensity the coat check duties could be. Umbrellas and hats were just the beginning. Someone accidentally spilled some water and I'm proud to say we didn't dampen a sleeve thanks to my keen eye. And then there was the coat retrieval experience.
First of all, we were volunteers. Our pay (seriously) comes with the election of the best candidate for the District which is Bruce Kraus. A few rounds of appetizers and a behind the scenes peak at Perlora was a bonus. But ... people who are adroit at these things kept stuffing money in my hands. We didn't have a tip jar (note to self) so I was shoving scrunched dollar bills into my pocket. And -- ha, ha -- two people tipped us in quarters. The umbrella men were not fazed by our makeshift umbrella stand and the hat men were fine. I did invert a 6 into a 9 and bring someone the wrong coat and he sort of barked at me. I was ready to tell him I have a master's degree when I realized I could use my actual skills to defuse the situation with an apology and the correct coat. That's what master's degrees get ya these days ...deescallation of coat check tension.
In between this, our assorted political friends and comrades dropped by to say hello. Let me tell you ... it is very hard to network/mingle when you are retrieving coats. Here's my tweeting obsession reared its ugly head which Ledcat extinguished with a 'don't you dare pull that damn phone out and leave me alone with the coats' glare. I know that glare. It is very similar to the 'if you tweet during this movie, i'm closing the cell phone account" look.
To be honest, I'm not sure everyone realized I actually stepped away while they were talking to me which certainly dampens my sense of being on the fringes of the in-crowd. But my honor was restored when a political friend found me by texting and brought me two intriguing books on the Holocaust and the LGBT community. Sensing our distraction, he came and brought books, and then went on his way.
That's how you network with the coat check
All in all, we collected about $20 in unsolicited tips. We donated it to the charity of the evening, the Lexa Cleland Family Memorial Fund, in honor of the child who was killed in a DUI accident on the Southside. Bruce was donating a portion of the evenings donations so we thought it was a good idea.
I would coat check again in a heartbeat (for the right candidate). It is pretty straightforward and I was on the control side of the coat check relationship. Plus, Ledcat was really in charge and I just had to check my baser impulses to bring out the Blackberry.
Oh, and yes, we did keep our own coats close at hand (behind the hats). Just in case.
Volunteering to support your candidate of choice can take you in some interesting directions. You can learn a lot from a campaign, especially a local campaign. Actual transferable skills (coat checking aside), you get to interact with all sorts of community leaders and hear a range of perspectives. The fancy fundraisers are fun (and essential), but it can be equally stimulating to make phone calls especially when someone has a strong opinion either for or against your candidate. They don't hesitate to tell you what is on their mind. Public events give you another level of access to these contacts. I'm impressed when the woman next to me says she took two buses to attend.
I've never had anyone take two buses to hear me speak, unless I was hiring.
I encourage you to get involved with Bruce Kraus' campaign. Click here for more details. I'm off to bedazzle my tip jar for the next event ...
Wednesday, March 9
by Sue on Wed 09 Mar 2011 02:28 PM EST
On last night episode of GLEE, two oustanding storylines made me want to cry and cheer at the same time.
First, the always stellar pairing of Kurt and his Dad, a man's man who is the most amazingly sensitive parent to his openly gay son. In this episode, Dad is prodded to have "the" sex talk with his son. He walks in the room with "pamphles from the free clinic" and forces Kurt to sit down and talk in spite of their mutual discomfort. Check it out at HULU at the 32 minute mark.
I cannot say enough how much I value this relationship. Kurt's Dad is so brutally honest about his foibles, but equally honest about his love for his son. He doesn't allow anyone to gay bash Kurt and goes right to the core of it because he used to be the bully when he was young. He expects Kurt's loved ones to stand up for him with no exceptions. The scene from last year when Finn called Kurt a fag, a comment Dad overheard was intense and sad and loving all at the same time. We should all have such parents in our lives.
The sex talk in this episode is possibly the best sex talk ever. Dad bulldozed right through the awkwardness of sexual actions and went for the core of treating yourself like you matter, not using sex to degrade yourself or cheapen who you are. I just sat slackjawed that GLEE had captured the perfect conversation and it happened to be between a gay teen and his Dad.
The other wonderful story was the building tension in the Santana/Brittany relationship. They've made out on the show before with no qualms about what it meant. Santana begins questioning even though she hates labels. In heartwrenching locker scene, she professes her love for Brittany and her absolute belief that her sexuality is fluid, not something that can be pinned down with a word except whom she loves. Sadly, Brittany opts to stay with Artie even though she acknowledges the love is reciprocal. Santana wrenches herself away, utterly heartbroken.
These were amazing scenes and my wish is that every queer kid in America could see their lives played out with such honesty, compassion and realism.
Tuesday, March 8
by Sue on Tue 08 Mar 2011 02:27 PM EST
I usually learn a few interesting things when I chat with folks about this blog, but I have to admit to learning a *whole* lot during my recent conversation with Ms. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish 2011, Jessi Seams.
The first ever Ms. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish, Jessi is among a handful of transwomen across the country to hold similar titles. And she has eyes on a much larger goal -- to become Ms. International Leather 2011 at the upcoming April competition in San Francisco. Ms. International Leather celebrates 25 years and bills itself as the longest running female leather competition.
While sipping coffee at Crazy Mocha one recent afternoon, Jessi educated me on the Pittsburgh Leather scene and the Pittsburgh BDSM scene.
Jessi is part of both communities, but describes them as being distict. The leather community is older, dating back to the post-WW II era and is more clearly defined as LGBT. The BDSM community is broader, inclusive of the LGBT communities, but predominantly heterosexual. The BDSM community organizes in social group known as munches to build camraderie and introduce people to the lifestyle. Burghermunch is the most high profile. There is a LGBT specific munch known as Rainbow Munch which occasionally holds educational workshops at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center.
2011 is the first year an official Ms. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish took place in Pittsburgh. Long-time organizers of the Mr. Pittsburgh Leather event, the Three Rivers Leather Club and Steel City Bondage Club, approached Jessi and asked her to compete. Pittsburgh does not have an official women's leather group, but according to Jessi there is a thriving leather scene for local women. Women's group have historically grown from queer women hanging out within the men's leather community and slowly building their own networks, as have the women's competition.
Jessi and one other woman participated, with Jessi taking home the title. Mr. Pittsburgh Leather moved on to the Mid-Atlantic competition which he also won. There is no official hierarchy with Leather competitions, no need to go from Ms. Pittsburgh to Ms. Pennsylvania to Ms. USA, etc. Next stop for Jessi is the International competition in California this April.
However, much like a traditional title competition, Ms.Pittsburgh Leather Fetish has obligations to fulfill. Jessi is committed to a certain number of appearances, advocates for the leather community and will coordinate a charitable project amongst the female leather community. She will also be recruiting women to compete for the 2012 title and generally spreading the word that this community and the opportunity to compete exist for women as well as men.
Jessi is currently using her blog to recruit sponsors for her participation in the International competition where she plans to advocate for trangender health issues as part of her platform.
Why should Pittsburgh care about the odysseys of Mr. and Ms. Leather Pittsburgh? Jessi believes bringing home a major leather title will bring more recognition to Pittsburgh, particularly among the LGBT community. This is good for local businesses who want to attract LGBT tourists to the City and their businesses. She points to the rich philanthropic history of the Three Rivers Leather Club as a prime example of how much the leather community "gives back" to the LGBT community and the region. In addition to a large Toys for Tots drive, they are regular volunteers at the Shepherd Wellness Center, Pridefest and more.
So getting back to the leather/BDSM distinction, Jessi is a big believer in gently encouraging people to explore their kinky interests. The munches are one such outlet and more can be found at this site. A monthly gathering known as Sinferno is held at Cattivo in Lawrenceville. In February, Jessi "sold" spankings which she believes is a very low-key way to introduce the BDSM element, particularly for people who are curious but hesitant to attend a meeting. She also mischievously gave away "I was spanked by Ms. Pittsburgh Leather" buttons to promote the competition.
My button has not yet arrived. :-)
Best of luck to Jessi Seams as she pursues the Ms. International Leather title. Follow her blog to keep up with her adventures.
by Sue on Tue 08 Mar 2011 01:35 PM EST
New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice honors 7 years of good work in Pittsburgh with a celebration event on Saturday, March 12, 20011.
For tickets or more information, click here.
New Voices Pittsburgh is a queer inclusive and queer affirming organization.
Monday, March 7
by Sue on Mon 07 Mar 2011 11:42 AM EST
A bit in the Tribune Review caught my eye last week.
The march toward consolidation is underway. This means the delay in extending domestic partner benefits to County employees will impact City employees at some point. It already has, when the City 911 Call Center was folded into the County system. Those City employees LOST access to a benefit to save money for the rest of us. That's just wrong, especially given how hard many people worked to help the City workforce make that progressive leap.
In this particular situation, no jobs will be impacted. For now. City employees who are connected to the financial system will remain City employees. But that won't be true forever. There will be more consolidating.
I support consolidation efforts. Members of City Council, including Bill Peduto, have stated they won't let City employees lose benefits even as they move ahead with the consolidations. At some point, we'll hit a wall and progress will be halted because ... the County won't move on this.
This is a long term problem (consolidation) so I am hopeful our next County Chief Executive will right the ship to ensure all employees can insure their families. I am hoping we'll see this question in the Steel City Stonewall and Gertrude Stein questionnaires.
But let's not pretend this is a little issue that impacts a few folks who are off our radar. Consolidation is about saving public monies which puts the onus on us to make sure employees are treated fairly. Until the County provides domestic partner benefits, we tacitly support a two-tiered system of equality in the County workforce. We have to carefully keep our eyes on the consolidation efforts and remind our City officials that anything involving actual jobs is not acceptable until the benefits are equal.
With all the attention on labor in the past weeks, let's not forget our LGBT sisters and brothers right here at home who are denied health insurance for their families for political reasons.
Saturday, March 5
by Sue on Sat 05 Mar 2011 10:56 AM EST
Picketing funerals is abhorrent, but I must admit that it irks me a bit when people overlook the fact that this hate group has been picketing the funerals of LGBTQ persons for years -- they even picketed Mr. Rogers memorial service (I was there). Any parent, spouse, or partner having to bury their loved one deserves peace during the final good-bye.
However, grief does not trump the First Amendment. In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court protected speech, recognizing the slippery slope of allowing sympathy to overwhelm Constitutional protections.
I keep thinking of a media clip interviewing Albert Snyder, father of fallen soldier and plaintiff in this case. He was awarded nearly $10 million in damages. The interviewer asked if he would give up the $$ to have his son back. He replied that he would give it up just to say good-bye.
Now who asks a question like that to a grieving parent? I bring this up to remind us that the press can also feast on the outrage stirred up by Westboro. The press also overlooks the salient fact of the original protests at the funerals of gay people, particularly those who died of complications from AIDS.
Still, the decision was sound. There's no need to protect speech that is easy on our ears. Discourse that we find repugnant must be permitted. The gay community should appreciate this decision as we are often the ones accused of promoting repugnant ideas.
When I think of Westboro, my mind drifts back to the Mr. Rogers protest. The Phelpsians brought a little girl with them, holding one of the hate signs. Counterprotestors walked the sidewalks with colorful depictions of The Land of Make Believe. The little child was captivated by the images.
This warms my heart because counterprotesting did reach a child, did introduce her to the wonders of Mr. Rogers. It does matter that we counter hate speech with more speech.