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.

DADT Update: The Service Chiefs Report, The Republicans Fret

There’s been a great deal of concern around here about the effort to prepare the US military for the full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), and I’ve had a few words of my own regarding how long the process might take.

There was a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday that had all four Services represented; with one exception these were the same Service Chiefs that were testifying last December when the bill to set the repeal process in motion was still a piece of prospective legislation.

At that time there was concern that the “combat arms” of the Marines and the Army were going to be impacted in a negative way by the transition to “open service”; the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Army’s Chief of Staff were the most outspoken in confirming that such concerns exist within the Pentagon as well.

We now have more information to report-including the increasing desperation of some of our Republican friends-and if you ask me, I think things might be better than we thought.

The Governments of the States Parties to this Constitution on behalf of their peoples declare:

That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed;

That ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war…

–From the Constitution of the United Nations Educational,

Scientific, And Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

So let me start with the good news; I’ll do that by telling you what I though would happen, compared to what the Service Chiefs are now saying is going to happen:

My guess was that, due to all the process involved, we could be looking at a full year for implementation, and if the Services felt that they had to rotate all the overseas deployed forces back to the USA before they could complete training, you could easily be looking at 18 months.

That, as it turns out, was wildly inaccurate.

The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Peter W. Chiarelli, reported Thursday that his Service might be able to report they’re ready to certify by May 15th of this year; to make that happen they are going to train the troops overseas and at home, both at the same time, and they wanted us to know that they’ve already completed much of the “train the trainer” work already. They also expect to certify after about 50% of the training is complete instead of waiting for 100%, and that’s because the leadership believes they’ll know of any implementation problems that are likely to crop up by then.

The most outspoken opponent of the change in December, Marine Commandant General James Amos, says that he’s seeing far fewer problems than he expected, and he believes the move to open service won’t have any serious impact on his force.

Here’s how the Defense Department reported Amos’ testimony:

A department [of Defense] survey last year showed that about 60 percent of Marines in combat units had concerns about the repeal, Amos noted, but those concerns seem to be waning. The general visited with Marines in Afghanistan over Christmas and spoke with their commander this morning on the issue, he said.

“I’m looking specifically for issues that might arise out of Tier 1 and Tier 2 and, frankly, we just haven’t seen it,” Amos said. “There hasn’t been the recalcitrant push back, the anxiety about it” from forces in the field.

Amos said the Marines’ commander told him, “‘Quite honestly, they’re focused on the enemy.'”

The Navy says they expect to complete their Tier 3 training (the final phase of training) as soon as the end of June; Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead told the Committee that he foresees no problem achieving a successful transition to open service.

(A quick note to the reader: I have been known to write satirical stories with crazy made-up character names, but the actual name of the actual Admiral who is tasked with leading the Navy into the era of open service is actually…Roughead. Some may consider this to be evidence of Intelligent Design; I continue to disbelieve.)

Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, who also seemed to suggest, back in December, that trouble might be waiting on the road ahead, seemed far more confident this week; it looks like the Air Force might have Tier 3 training wrapped up by the July 4th holiday.

The Service Chiefs also announced that those who have been discharged under DADT will be eligible to petition to return to the military.

There is today a mechanism in place within the Defense Department to consider the petitions of those who voluntarily leave the military and wish to reapply; that system looks at what jobs are available, and, if it meets the needs of the Services, a job offer is extended to the applicant. (The individual might not return at the same grade or rank they held when leaving, however, and that would also depend on the military’s interpretation of what best fits military “force structure” requirements.)

At the hearing the Committee members were told that those who were discharged under DADT could reapply under the same rules that exist today for those who leave voluntarily; the same system that’s in place today will “work” those applications.

There was some not unexpected bad news: Republican Members of the House are just so over the top on objecting to this one that it’s ridiculous and funny and maddening and just awful, all at once.

There was begging (“if there was just some way the Service Chiefs could convince the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs not to certify, then we could all be saved” was the gist of that one), and fake expertise (“when I served we were all afraid of ’em, and I can’t believe today’s troops still aren’t” is the rough outline of how that argument went and California’s Duncan Hunter was an example of one Congressman who fit into that “genre”); there was even an offer to do another survey so we can “do what the troops really want” (I can save y’all the time and trouble: what they really want…is to get the hell out of Afghanistan).

If the Grim Weeper had been in the room, I’m sure he would have had a big ol’ blubbery cry over the tragedy that’s befallen the Nation on this somber occasion-and it’s a good thing he wasn’t, because I have no doubt such a display would have once again caused Tonstant Weader to fwow up, just like that time back at Pooh Corner.

Among the Republicans there was a lot of preoccupation with the potential for men, in combat, in those close, confined, spaces…men who are depending on each other, night and day…to be subject to the advances of other strong, powerful, muscular, men in a variety of manly uniforms-I mean, as far as I can tell, there are Republicans who see this as some kind of eventual “Livin’ La Vida Loca” kind of situation, only, you know, a bit more butch, and I would love to know what in the world they think life aboard a Ballistic Missile Submarine or on a Forward Operating Base in Southeastern Afghanistan is really like?

Oddly enough, the predominantly male Committee didn’t seem as concerned about the possibility of female same-sex relationships impacting military readiness and unit cohesion in a negative way; if anyone has a guess as to why that might be the case I’m sure I’d love to hear it.

The military, to their credit, did a lot of pushing back against the Republicans. For example, at one point there were questions as to whether this would cause an unacceptable number of troops to leave the all-volunteer military. The response: right now the real problem is that as we withdraw from Iraq and troopers come home to a bad economy, too few want to leave.

They also spent a lot of time pointing out that “standards of conduct” already exist to manage sexual contacts and harassing behaviors between opposite-gendered persons, and that those very same rules will be used to manage issues of conduct in a same-sex context.

Risk mitigation is suddenly very important for some Republicans, and they do not want to repeal if there is any risk at all that the move could impact combat readiness or pose a hazard to the force.  

That line of logic led to one of the most stupid questions I have ever heard asked in a hearing, ever, in decades of actually paying attention, and it came from Republican Vicky Hartzler (MO-04).

What she was trying to do was to show that the Generals would not want to recommend policies that add to the risk facing the troops. What she had been told was that the future risks of open service were as yet unknown (hard to know today with 100% certainty what the future holds), but that, based on progress made so far, the risks seemed to be low and that mitigations seemed to be in place for currently identified potential problems.

But what she asked the commanding officers of four military services was…wait for it…whether they had ever recommended sending their troops into heightened risk environments?

They actually all kind of seemed a bit stunned by the question-but they kept their poker faces-and then they reminded her that sending troops into combat is actually a bit of a high-risk activity.

The deer then jumped out of the way of the headlights, and the hearing resumed.

Look, folks, I am not passing along any news when I tell you that DADT still scares the loose buttons off a bunch of suits in Washington and that they still want to have this out anyplace they can-but it is news to find out that they are ahead of where they could have been over at the Pentagon, and that all the Service Chiefs do really seem to be on board, at least publicly, and that they are all reporting fewer problems than they expected as this process moves forward.

In a tough week it’s nice to report good news, and I think this qualifies-and if things continue at this pace, we could see certification and full open service before Labor Day.

Now I know we don’t usually give Labor Day presents, and to make it worse, we’re hard to shop for…but if there’s one thing everyone loves to get, it’s a More Perfect Union-and I bet once we try it on, there’s no way it’s going back.

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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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