Pittsburgh 7-Eleven Franchise Owner: Meet and Discuss Trans Slur Incident

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Petition Link – http://www.change.org/petition…

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, I witnessed a clerk in a Pittsburgh 7-Eleven (Western Avenue on the Northside) using the word “tranny” at the register while telling an anecdote to a coworker and at least one customer. This was after a lengthy conversation about “fat women” and gastric bypass surgery that took place while I was in line.

As I approached the exit, I heard this employee say, “…and this guy, you know the ‘tranny’ who comes in here…” I immediately turned around and said loudly, “Did you just say tranny?”

He responded with a mumbled “sorry” and a smirk. The entire store went silent. I told him that “sorry” isn’t sufficient when accompanied by a smirk. I also said that the term “tranny” is offensive and demeaning and not appropriate in a business setting. He turned around and ran into the back office. I asked the other clerks for his name, and they told me it was “Bee.” I then asked if a manager was around, but there was none, so I left.

After getting home I tried to find the franchise information. I left a voicemail at the restaurant, then contacted 7-Eleven’s corporate offices and filed a complaint. The franchise called me within an hour and said that they were not sure it was one of their stores – she said it looked like that particular store had been sold and that I should work with corporate.

Corporate emailed me the next day and said they would need a few days to investigate. On Tuesday, May 7, I followed up with corporate and they expressed surprise that the franchise owner, whose name is Liz Ulstott, had not called me back. They followed up with her, and she claimed she had addressed it. The employee – I learned that his name was actually Brandon — acknowledged he used the word but said it was a private conversation.

I politely requested that the franchise owner meet with me and two members of the community to discuss the situation and my other concerns regarding the preceding conversation and the response by Brandon’s coworkers. I wanted to bring local trans advocate (and Northside resident) Eli Kuti and local Unitarian-Universalist LGBTQ minister (and Northside resident) Rev Dave McFarland together with the owners of this franchise to discuss the incident and the surrounding events, and consider how we can ensure that this store is welcoming and safe to everyone. They refused, and I was told that 7-Eleven would have no further comment on the issue.

So why am I sharing this on a statewide blog?

First, corporate is well aware of the situation but needs to realize that most people don’t draw a distinction between individual franchises and the larger corporation. They do not stop and think “Oh, that’s a franchise issue, not a reflection on the entire corporation.” No, they get a negative impression of the brand itself and thus, corporate has a vested interest in facilitating a meeting and ensuring the community that 7-Eleven is a welcoming and safe environment for all customers.

Second, one of the regional people who spoke with me didn’t know what the term “tranny” meant and even asked me how to spell it. When I offered her a few comparable terms (f*g and c*nt), she was shocked but still didn’t really understand — even though I know 7-Eleven has trans customers and I bet more than a few employees. So this is a bit odd.

Third, everyone has a connection to Pittsburgh. We call it the “Steeler Nation:” people all over the world love our city (and of course, the Steelers). Whether you live here yourself, your grandma lives here, you went to college here, or you came to Pride or Netroots Nation or Creating Change here, you have an interest in creating a safe and welcoming business community.

I’ve created a Change.org petition asking the franchise owners to meet with community members to discuss this incident. I hope you’ll consider signing it. http://www.change.org/petition…

The petition has already gathered some notable signatories, including Pittsburgh City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, whose district includes this business and my personal neighborhood. Faculty and staff from the nearby community college, as well as other nearby business owners, have been vigorously signing and commenting; they don’t want our neighborhood to be defined by this ugly slur or 7-Eleven’s subsequent refusal to work with concerned members of our community.

I’ve also been approached quietly by several members of the trans community who don’t feel safe or comfortable signing the petition. As allies, I believe it’s our job to hear that vulnerability and step up even more, so I’ve been reaching out to PFLAG and other organizations that specifically exist to provide the support and encouragement people need.

So why all this effort?

It is important that business owners take steps to ensure everyone feels safe and welcome in their establishment. We believe a face-to-face meeting with a small group of community leaders can open a dialogue to create a welcoming environment. The meeting would include three people: a local pastor who is part of the LGBTQ community, a local trans man, and myself, a lesbian. All three of us live in the neighborhood.

Our goal is to simply ensure the owner understands that even a private conversation using an offensive and hateful slur sends a message to everyone in hearing range. Personal opinions need to be expressed in private, not while in uniform waiting on customers at a register. We’re not demanding that Brandon be fired, because we don’t want him to lose his job. Instead, we want Brandon to understand that the words he chooses to use while at work reflect on his professionalism and sends a message about the values of the business he works for. That’s a good life lesson for anyone to learn, but Brandon’s managers and the 7-Eleven corporate team needs to learn it as well. Finally, during this meeting we hope to discuss ways of ensuring that the community, both geographic and LGBTQ, feels safe and welcome in this store.

While I recognize that this incident occurred in a franchise, we are including 7-Eleven corporate in this petition in hopes that they will support our request and encourage their franchisee to sit down and meet with us.

Thank you again for signing the petition, and many thanks to Monica Roberts for her advice and feedback.

Why the (re)election of Pgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus matters to the LGBT community

Adapted from posts at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents and Pam’s House Blend

In 2011, Pittsburgh faces an exciting opportunity to support our first openly gay City Councilman in his bid for a second term. Councilman Bruce Kraus was elected in 2007, unseating the incumbent in a race in which his identity as an openly gay man was not a significant issue.

Since then, Councilman Kraus has made his mark addressing quality of life issues in his district, including vandalism and other criminal conduct by patrons of the district’s very significant strip of bars and late night establishments. District residents applaud Bruce’s commitment, noting that he himself is out picking up litter nearly every weekend.

From 2 Political Junkies, a Pittsburgh political blog, District 3 resident Maria Lupinacci writes

Bruce Kraus is seeking a second term on Pittsburgh City Council for District 3. This is my district and I’m a longtime supporter of Kraus (poll watcher, heck, I’ve stuffed envelopes at his house) and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. He’s a solid member of the progressive alliance on Council. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him walking my district. I also greatly appreciate his efforts to get a handle on the vandalism and violence that have unfortunately become features of the South Side’s nightlife.

A few days ago, someone posted a comment in another post at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, questioning my claim that Bruce Kraus, City Councilman for District 3, is a “champion” for the LGBTQ community, simply asking “What has he done for us?”

Rather than respond in a buried comment, I thought this question was worth an entire post. I also think it is worth contemplating across the nation – why is it important to elect (or reelect) openly LGBTQ candidates on the local level?

With regard to what he’s done for Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, I would put forth the following:

 · Bruce spearheaded the passage of the Pgh Domestic Partner Registry which has created a mechanism for LGBTQ families to achieve some level of recognition on a City level. While it has its restrictions, Bruce has shown a willingness to discuss these, at least with me, and brainstorm solutions to make it more useful to all families.

 · His presence on council seems to make a difference in how his colleagues act, vote, and perceive LGBT issues. It has historically been considered a step toward equality to elect an openly LGBT individual. (Think Council President Doug Shields’ response to Sally Kern)

· It is important for LGBT people to see someone like us in a leadership role, especially youth (think bullying)

· It sends a signal around the nation for a gay man to have the courage to be out as a public servant (think Sally Kern)

· He holds his fellow Council members to walk the walk when it comes to equality and insists the gay community be included (think Ricky Burgess who wants to parse the myth of gay affluence to leave us out of his tirades about socioeconomic equality)

· He brokered a meeting between PA State Senator Daylin Leech and community leaders to discuss Senator Leech’s legislation to legalize same sex marriage in Pennsylvania. We (I attended) would not have that access without Bruce’s credibility as an elected official and status in the LGBT community. Bruce made sure Southwestern PA was part of the dialogue around this issue.

· The fact that he’s more well known for quality of life issues on Pittsburgh’s Southside shows that an openly gay elected official doesn’t come with a gay agenda, but can be effective in addressing a range of issues just like any other elected official from a minority group (see below)

· He is paving the way for electing an out lesbian or an out transgender man or women to achieve political office throughout the region (think we have to start somewhere)

· Bruce serves the community as a board member of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh and the Shepherd Wellness Center (think Pittsburgh community institutions)

 · Openly gay elected officials are considered indicators of how LGBT friendly a community can be (Advocate recent City rankings)

The crux of the matter is that Bruce is not the gay City Councilman, he’s a Councilman who is gay. I have enumerated some of his “gay” credentials, but it is important to note that Bruce is a qualified, engaged Councilman who sincerely works to improve the quality of life for his District, particularly the Southside.

Agree with him or not, you cannot deny he is active and that he strives to connect with the residents and the business owners. His volunteer staffed satellite office in an economically struggling neighborhood is further proof of a creative solution to engage his District. He also is embracing social media to share information. (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and more)

On a national level, I think this is exactly the race people should be monitoring. The Mayor of Pittsburgh has tepid at best support for the LGBTQ community and there are few openly LGBTQ individuals in his Administration. Bruce does not vote the Mayor’s way, unless he believes it is the right way, so there is a possibility that the Allegheny County Democratic machine will not support Kraus in the primary (which is where the action is in Pittsburgh’s one party town). This is not the kiss of death the Mayor like us to believe and most of it swirls around the issues of addressing quality of life issues regarding the bars, restaurants and residents of the Southside neighborhood, not the fact that Bruce is a gay man.

But I can’t help but wonder if they will go there? I think the best defense is to put the would be foes, some of whom are gay, that we are watching and we will not tolerate playing the “gay card” in this race. Bruce is rightly proud of his accomplishments as the regiona’s LGBTQ leader (my words, not his), but he’s running this race for all Pittsburgh residents, not just the LGBTQ community. We owe it to him to have his back and demand that the Mayor, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee and any potential opponents in the race denounce homophobic campaign tactics with vigor.

For lesbians and queer women, the question of supporting a white gay male business owner is fair. The truth is that Bruce is a good man who has demonstrated to me that he understands the nuances of gender oppression within the gay community. He’s willing to listen to me discuss how to improve or enhance the Domestic Partner Registry which disproportionately impacts lower income families which, we all know, dispropotionately impacts women. I think Bruce is the type of man to understand and appreciate differences, while striving to represent everyone whether it be in City Council or during a board meeting of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center. He understands the inequity within the community and I think we can count on him to do his best to seek guidance.

Then there is the simple matter that we have to start somewhere. Pittsburgh lore is rampant with tales of closeted elected official, but I say the time for innuendo is done. We need to move ahead to the race where an openly lesbian female candidate is viable. That will not happen if we allow Bruce to lose this race. His fight is our fight. The election of a queer woman is not going to happen on a statewide level. It is going to happen on a school board or some other local level. We need to work hard now to lay the foundation and I am positive we can count on Bruce and his allies to keep it solid.

As a City resident who does not live in District 3 (I’m in District 6 across two rivers), I appreciate the contributions Bruce has made to the City and to the LGBT community. I might go as far as to say that it is imperative we all stand behind Bruce and do our part to support his bid for a second term. You can donate $5, $25 or $100 here. Every bit helps.

I hope this answers the question of “what has he done for us?” for my anonymous commenter. Another anonymous commenter (same person?) came back to challenge my facts which I was able to robustly defend. The fact is that Bruce has given a lot to us in four years and now it is our turn to give back.

Nationally? Eyes to need pay attention to the dynamics within the Democratic party as candidates who are openly gay seek endorsements and funding to attain and maintain their seats at the table. It matters to everyone reading this what the Mayor of Pittsburgh does with regard to Bruce’s election. He may oppose him, but we have every right to insist he does so based on issues, not his sexual orientation.

Thinking long term, Bruce is one a few statewide who may eventually pursue a state level seat as an openly gay man. This foundation of a second term could have far reaching consequences for the future of our Commonwealth on LGBTQ issues. Do we expect much to happen with so much Republican control? Maybe not, but there are issues where we need his leadership now and his access — getting domestic partner benefits at the County level before any further City-County consolidation discussion occurs, continuing to bring a diverse array of Western PA voices to the table on statewide issues that do come up such as strategizing against the anti-marriage equality amendment, solidifying the progressive alliance across levels of government to keep our needs front and center.

Lesbians and queer women should watch this race even more closely. If the race stays focused on issues and qualifications, that bodes well for a woman to step forward sooner rather than later. If the mud is slung, we know we have work to do. Women are suffering from the lack of employment & housing protections, the lack of domestic partner benefits in the areas surrounding Pittsburgh. This is changing one municipality at a time. The momentum will be dealt a serious blow if we can’t mobilize as a community to get involved in this critical race.

Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community are better off with Bruce serving us on our City Council.

LGBTQ Support for Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus

Adapted from posts at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

In 2011, Pittsburgh faces an exciting opportunity to support our first openly gay City Councilman in his bid for a second term. Councilman Bruce Kraus was elected in 2007, unseating the incumbent in a race in which his identity as an openly gay man was not a significant issue.

Since then, Councilman Kraus has made his mark addressing quality of life issues in his district, including vandalism and other criminal conduct by patrons of the district’s very significant strip of bars and late night establishments. District residents applaud Bruce’s commitment, noting that he himself is out picking up litter nearly every weekend. From 2 Political Junkies, a Pittsburgh political blog, District 3 resident Maria Lupinacci writes

Bruce Kraus is seeking a second term on Pittsburgh City Council for District 3. This is my district and I’m a longtime supporter of Kraus (poll watcher, heck, I’ve stuffed envelopes at his house) and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. He’s a solid member of the progressive alliance on Council. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him walking my district. I also greatly appreciate his efforts to get a handle on the vandalism and violence that have unfortunately become features of the South Side’s nightlife.

A few days ago, someone posted a comment in another post at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, questioning my claim that Bruce Kraus, City Councilman for District 3, is a “champion” for the LGBTQ community, simply asking “What has he done for us?”

Rather than respond in a buried comment, I thought this question was worth an entire post. I also think it is worth contemplating across the nation – why is it important to elect (or reelect) openly LGBTQ candidates on the local level? With regard to what he's done for Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, I would put forth the following:

 · Bruce spearheaded the passage of the Pgh Domestic Partner Registry which has created a mechanism for LGBTQ families to achieve some level of recognition on a City level. While it has its restrictions, Bruce has shown a willingness to discuss these, at least with me, and brainstorm solutions to make it more useful to all families.

· His presence on council seems to make a difference in how his colleagues act, vote, and perceive LGBT issues. It has historically been considered a step toward equality to elect an openly LGBT individual. (Think Council President Doug Shields' response to Sally Kern)

· It is important for LGBT people to see someone like us in a leadership role, especially youth (think bullying)

· It sends a signal around the nation for a gay man to have the courage to be out as a public servant (think Sally Kern) ·

He holds his fellow Council members to walk the walk when it comes to equality and insists the gay community be included (think Ricky Burgess who wants to parse the myth of gay affluence to leave us out of his tirades about socioeconomic equality)

· He brokered a meeting between PA State Senator Daylin Leech and community leaders to discuss Senator Leech's legislation to legalize same sex marriage in Pennsylvania. We (I attended) would not have that access without Bruce's credibility as an elected official and status in the LGBT community. Bruce made sure Southwestern PA was part of the dialogue around this issue.

· The fact that he’s more well known for quality of life issues on Pittsburgh’s Southside shows that an openly gay elected official doesn’t come with a gay agenda, but can be effective in addressing a range of issues just like any other elected official from a minority group (see below)

· He is paving the way for electing an out lesbian or an out transgender man or women to achieve political office throughout the region (think we have to start somewhere)

· Bruce serves the community as a board member of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh and the Shepherd Wellness Center (think Pittsburgh community institutions)

· Openly gay elected officials are considered indicators of how LGBT friendly a community can be (Advocate recent City rankings)

The crux of the matter is that Bruce is not the gay City Councilman, he's a Councilman who is gay. I have enumerated some of his “gay” credentials, but it is important to note that Bruce is a qualified, engaged Councilman who sincerely works to improve the quality of life for his District, particularly the Southside. Agree with him or not, you cannot deny he is active and that he strives to connect with the residents and the business owners. His volunteer staffed satellite office in an economically struggling neighborhood is further proof of a creative solution to engage his District. He also is embracing social media to share information. (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and more)

On a national level, I think this is exactly the race people should be monitoring. The Mayor of Pittsburgh has tepid at best support for the LGBTQ community and there are few openly LGBTQ individuals in his Administration. Bruce does not vote the Mayor's way, unless he believes it is the right way, so there is a possibility that the Allegheny County Democratic machine will not support Kraus in the primary (which is where the action is in Pittsburgh's one party town). This is not the kiss of death the Mayor like us to believe and most of it swirls around the issues of addressing quality of life issues regarding the bars, restaurants and residents of the Southside neighborhood, not the fact that Bruce is a gay man.

But I can't help but wonder if they will go there? I think the best defense is to put the would be foes, some of whom are gay, that we are watching and we will not tolerate playing the “gay card” in this race. Bruce is rightly proud of his accomplishments as the region's LGBTQ leader (my words, not his), but he's running this race for all Pittsburgh residents, not just the LGBTQ community. We owe it to him to have his back and demand that the Mayor, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee and any potential opponents in the race denounce homophobic campaign tactics with vigor.

For lesbians and queer women, the question of supporting a white gay male business owner is fair. The truth is that Bruce is a good man who has demonstrated to me that he understands the nuances of gender oppression within the gay community. He's willing to listen to me discuss how to improve or enhance the Domestic Partner Registry which disproportionately impacts lower income families which, we all know, dispropotionately impacts women. I think Bruce is the type of man to understand and appreciate differences, while striving to represent everyone whether it be in City Council or during a board meeting of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center. He understands the inequity within the community and I think we can count on him to do his best to seek guidance.

Then there is the simple matter that we have to start somewhere. Pittsburgh lore is rampant with tales of closeted elected officials, but I say the time for innuendo is done. We need to move ahead to the race where an openly lesbian female candidate is viable. That will not happen if we allow Bruce to lose this race. His fight is our fight. The election of a queer woman is not going to happen on a statewide level. It is going to happen on a school board or some other local level. We need to work hard now to lay the foundation and I am positive we can count on Bruce and his allies to keep it solid.

As a City resident who does not live in District 3 (I'm in District 6 across two rivers), I appreciate the contributions Bruce has made to the City and to the LGBT community. I might go as far as to say that it is imperative we all stand behind Bruce and do our part to support his bid for a second term. You can donate $5, $25 or $100 here. Every bit helps.

I hope this answers the question of “what has he done for us?” for my anonymous commenter. Another anonymous commenter (same person?) came back to challenge my facts which I was able to robustly defend. The fact is that Bruce has given a lot to us in four years and now it is our turn to give back.

Nationally? Eyes to need pay attention to the dynamics within the Democratic party as candidates who are openly gay seek endorsements and funding to attain and maintain their seats at the table. It matters to everyone reading this what the Mayor of Pittsburgh does with regard to Bruce's election. He may oppose him, but we have every right to insist he does so based on issues, not his sexual orientation. Thinking long term, Bruce is one of a few statewide who may eventually pursue a state level seat as an openly gay man. This foundation of a second term could have far reaching consequences for the future of our Commonwealth on LGBTQ issues. Do we expect much to happen with so much Republican control? Maybe not, but there are issues where we need his leadership now and his access — getting domestic partner benefits at the County level before any further City-County consolidation discussion occurs, continuing to bring a diverse array of Western PA voices to the table on statewide issues that do come up such as strategizing against the anti-marriage equality amendment, solidifying the progressive alliance across levels of government to keep our needs front and center.

Lesbians and queer women should watch this race even more closely. If the race stays focused on issues and qualifications, that bodes well for a woman to step forward sooner rather than later. If the mud is slung, we know we have work to do. Women are suffering from the lack of employment & housing protections, the lack of domestic partner benefits in the areas surrounding Pittsburgh. This is changing one municipality at a time. The momentum will be dealt a serious blow if we can't mobilize as a community to get involved in this critical race.

Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community are better off with Bruce serving us on our City Council.

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Human Rights Battle in Uganda Hits Close to Home

Cross posted from Border Jumpers.

Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions.

While everyone we met in Uganda was friendly and helpful, going out of their way to assist us when we needed directions, a Wifi hotspot, or a place to find vegetarian food, the country also has some of the most restrictive laws against human rights on the continent. While we were there, the “Bahati Bill” was introduced in parliament.  The Bahati called for life in prison — and in some case the death penalty — for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity.

As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it’s hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS. The Bahati bill also punishes anyone who fails to report a homosexual act committed by others with up to three years in jail, and a prison sentence of up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, due to mounting pressure from governments such as the United States, across Europe, and in Canada, said that he opposes the measure, and would attempt to try and soften the bill. According to a recent story in Reuters, “the president has been quoted in local media saying homosexuality is a Western import, joining continental religious leaders who believe it is un-African.” With a national election looming in 2012, politicians seem to be using hatred against gays as a scapegoat for rising corruption and the weakening of civil liberties and freedom of the press.

Yet, even the possibility that a watered-down version of the proposed law could be passed, is an alarming sign of a dangerous trend of prejudice all over Africa. In Blantyre, Malawi, for example, a gay couple was arrested last week after having a traditional engagement ceremony. Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in jail in Malawi

However, human rights advocates continue to fight. In Latin America, they hope that the success of legalized marriage in Mexico City will spread to Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and other places. Uruguay permits gay parents to adopt and Columbia grants social security rights to same sex couples.

In the United States, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender rights is one of the most import civil and human rights battles we currently face. Despite recent setbacks in California, New York, and Maine — recent success in places like Iowa, DC, and New Hampshire — means that during next decade the battlefield for LGBT rights is not only in Africa but also right here at home.