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Weekly: Pride – The Pride Side of Pittsburgh: It’s Not Paris, But It’s Worthwhile

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Pittsburgh is one of the more unique American cities, specifically in that there isn’t a specific neighborhood associated with the LGBTQ spectrum. Sure, there is Liberty Avenue, which hosts the Pride parade that has now come under some new controversy over a dodgy sponsorship – but that’s just a part of downtown. But overall, the Steel City doesn’t have its own Castro District or Fire Island, nor has it really needed such a thing. Nevertheless, there are plenty of options for those who belong on the spectrum in the city that Carnegie built, especially when it comes to dining and entertainment.

First of all, there are the usual spots along with the aforementioned Liberty Avenue, which several of the good gay bars and drag clubs call home. The best among them (though your mileage may vary) is the Three Ultra Lounge. Yes, it is a dive bar, but it’s the fun kind of dive bar, with drag show performances and other fun things as well. Plus, the drinks are nice and economical, so there is a spot for a traveller to just relax with a rum and coke while watching all those yinzers party the night away. If that’s not you thing and were hoping for something a little more sophisticated and in the same general area, there’s always the Backstage Bar at Theater Square. Run by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Theater Square also includes a cabaret with events on the weekend, along with a nice menu that includes a good $8 artisan pizza.

Of course, there is far more to any city than just the downtown area, and Pittsburgh has plenty of good neighborhoods for you to explore. Perhaps the most LGBTQ-friendly area of the city is the Shadyside neighborhood, which has a great coffee shop in the form of Coffee Tree Roasters, and it’s not too far from the spectrum-friendly Chatham University. After all, you’re in a place where people value coffee as much as beer. So if Coffee Tree isn’t your thing, there is also the Crazy Mocha chain, which has plenty of spots around the area. And it goes along in the morning with a good lunch at Doc’s Place, which has some really good burgers that are at a good price. Not to mention that Shadyside has some really good shopping, which includes nice little stories like La Feria and Kawaii, the latter of whom specializes in distinctly Japanese merchandising.

But if drinking and shopping just doesn’t suit your fancy, there’s always just walking around Shadyside, downtown and Lawrenceville. Along with the two campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon, there are plenty of places to just simply take a nice stroll. Although each of them are not connected to each other, they are the areas of the Steel City that will probably be the safest for members of the LGBTQ community (or at least the areas that are not very susceptible to homophobic and/or transphobic violence and abuse). Of these three, Lawrenceville is the area where most people are going to live, as many who aren’t in the upper crust get consistently priced out of the other two.

Then again, there are niche little places that cater to those who are members and allies of the community. Chief among them is the sublime Blue Moon, which is probably the best LGBTQ bar in the city. This is a place that has a really good drag show and some fine music if you don’t mind the standard EDM artists like Armin van Buuren and David Guetta. Plus, it’s got a better selection of drinks besides the usual Red Bull and lemon shot. In other words, you’ve got yourself a fine time in Pittsburgh – as long as you don’t call the Steelers or the Penguins overrated.

Originally posted 2017-06-15 02:49:10.

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The Assassin Chronicles – Chapter Two: Switzerland

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Content Advisory:  Contains Violence, and Brief Sexuality and Language.

Previously on The Assassin Chronicles

     “Is it feasible?”  This was his handler, Mr. Wolf.

     With a sigh, The Assassin nodded once. He was a man of no words.

###

     Inside that tent, Fred Robertson and Graham Phelps discussed what to do with the charitable donations.  Both men were shrewd in business, but only Fred could be called unscrupulous.  He was an overweight smoker battling inoperable lung cancer.

     “My company could always use more cancer funding.  Although, you’re screwing over your own community.”

     “I don’t have HIV.”

###

     Wolf snatched Fred’s collar, nearly dragging him out of the tent.

     Smith was waiting.  He grabbed Fred’s head and snapped it backwards.

     Briefly stunned, Wolf watched Fred’s lifeless body fall to the floor.  Smith disappeared into the crowd.

###

     “Enjoy your trip to Switzerland, Mr. Kowalczyk,” the stewardess called out.

###

     “What made you think I’d sign off on this?”

     “There’s something you need to see.”  Wolf pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it to the figure.

     The mystery man sucked his teeth.  “Have everyone waiting for us on the dock.  Dear God, how did I not see this?!”

Now…

     The massive freighter made port near a little coastal village in Japan.  Mystery man, now known by his assumed name of Hans Maligno, sat in a wicker chair.  He was fanned by undercover Taiwanese immigrants.  Everything about him was cruel; his gray eyes, his wrinkled chin… his arm fat!

     Wolf stood guard nearby and handled business on a SAT phone.  “The plane’s heading for –”

     “I know where he’s going.  Move to intercept.”

     Still in the air and on his way to Switzerland, Smith enjoyed a glass of expensive scotch in what appeared to be first class.

     A very attractive male steward approached him.  “Another two fingers, Monsieur Kowalczyk?”  He smiled a gentle smile.

     Smith returned the school-boy grin and shook his head “No.”  However, when the steward departed for his other duties, Smith turned his head slightly and watched him walk away.  Being such a single and lonely man, the fact that he was thinking about nothing but the steward’s perfect ass hardly fazed him.  I need to get a life, his thought continued as he focused his attention on the clouds outside the aircraft.

     Another 747 flew dangerously close to his. How odd.  Suddenly, it was struck with a ground-to-air Stinger missile and plummeted to the Alps below!  If not for the carnage, one might enjoy such scenic views of perfectly pointed snow capped peaks combined with lush and fertile valleys.  On the outskirts, ski lodges lived up to the mental picture of danger for talented thrill seekers.  

     Shockwaves from the explosion shook Smith’s cabin.  It was the cabin of a private Gulfstream V.  Thank God he had one of his hunches and got off the 747 at the last minute.  His hunches always saved him.  Even those he felt as a child.

     Feeling a sense of safety, Smith found the steward and threw him onto the lavish leather sofa off to the side.  Their eyes met first.  Then their lips.  With animal-like strength, he tore open the twenty-three year old’s dress shirt and pressed his face into the large rose tattoo on his chest.  Smith followed his new friend’s happy trail to paradise and they joined the mile high club together.

     The Gulfstream landed safely in Geneva, at the international airport.  Geneva is one of those gorgeous, massive, and modern cities that still manages to look like something from the Gothic Middle Ages.  While it can be unsettling, it’s quite picturesque too.

     From there, Smith took a cab (how pedestrian of him) to one of the biggest five star hotels in the heart of the city.  The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues may have looked plain on the outside, but it was anything short of spectacular within.  In fact, it was so bourgeois the porter almost refused to carry in Smith’s luggage from the common taxi – until he spotted the Bric’s Milano label.

     Smith was escorted by management passed rooms of some stature up to his room.  He had booked the Geneve Presidential suite; It was a tranquil mix of golden fabrics and modern dark wood furnishings.  

     “Will this do, Monsieur?” the manager enquired whilst Smith checked out the balcony.

     The Assassin nodded, peering down on the harbor.  The sun was setting and the scene made Smith happy – well, almost.  This was the type of place he would like to vacation in.  Unfortunately, this was no vacation.  He had come here for a reason, and she was about to show up on his doorstep.

     Some time later, Smith tossed his luggage on the bed before disrobing.  He started the bath and examined his body in a mirror.  It was heavily scarred – a knife wound here, bullet hole there – but it still held its beauty.  This was true despite the fact that the corners of his bottom had begun to sag and no matter how many sit-ups he did, he’d never be rid of the “love-handle” like folds around his waist.  He could brag about other features to make up for it, but he was in one of his modest moods.

     The balcony door had been left open by design.  Martha Kowalczyk tip-toed into the room and approached Smith from behind.

      From the depths of the tub, The Assassin produced an underwater pistol, pointing it at her without turning around.

     “ Nice to see you too, son.”  Martha croaked in a heavy Irish accent.  She circled the tub till she met his eyes.

     Her son’s mouth fell open.  “She” was in the process of transitioning into a more masculine pronoun and currently went by the name Edward.

     “Yuh like the new me?” she continued.  Smith had to admit her beauty hadn’t been lost.  Her soft and bright facial features were still there, despite the peach fuzz.  Kind, emerald eyes peered at him through spectacles so thick they appeared fogged.  Actually, the eyes were more kind than he remembered.

     Smith smiled at her.

     “That’s my boy,” Edward grinned back.

     The tranquility lasted just a few seconds before a few vehicles screeched to a halt outside.  Edward ran back onto the balcony to observe.

     Down below, Wolf stepped out of an SUV, another half-dozen armed men with him all brandishing a variety of Kel-Tec weapons and gear.  He was on the phone with Maligno.  “Yes, sir.  I’ll take them alive.”

     After placing his cell phone back in a hip holster, Wolf turned to his troops.  “Take them down.”

     A couple of his men looked at one another, then back at him.

     “Now, dammit, now!”

     The mercenaries charged inside without a single degree of subtlety.  Wolf held back, feeling a strange sensation.  He looked skyward and spotting Edward almost immediately.  With a glare, he moved his new Italian handgun into his hand.  (Unbeknownst to just about everyone, he was an avid gamer and this handgun was styled almost identically to one in a popular Japanese zombie survival-horror.)

     Back in the suite, Edward rushed Smith into the tactical gear The Assassin carried in case things ever went really bad.  After dressing, Smith handed his mother an assortment of weapons before converting his M45 handgun into a full-auto PDW.

     In the lobby, Wolf held the manager at gunpoint and forced him to call up to Smith’s room for a little pre-fight banter.

      “Hello, Smith,” Wolf began.  “I know you won’t surrender.  That’s fine.  I don’t want you to.”

     Smith gripped the phone tighter, his leather gloves creaking on the faded porcelain.  Outside, he heard a couple mercenaries stack up beside the door next to him.

     “Congratulations.  I’m writing your epitaphe right now.”

     The room door splintered.  Smith plugged one merc with a few rounds from his gun before it was ripped from his hand.  He was thrown backwards against the wall, but still managed to kick out the second mercenaries knee.  It wasn’t long before he used the phone in a most grotesque manner.  First, broke the man’s nose with it, then used it to string him up and choke him to death!  As a final measure, The Assassin chucked a grenade over the railing to the stairwell just outside the suite.  Edward plugged his ears.

     Wolf watched fire and wood shards rain down on his remaining men from his position of some safety.  He was unnaturally calm.  “Go get the shit-stain,” he barked at the mercenaries.

     They did their best.  It wasn’t their fault Smith also did his best.  One by one, they all fell in a short gun-fight that resulted only in staining the stairwell walls.

     At the end, Smith and Edward stared Wolf down.  Wolf, ever the dramatic, turned the manager’s head into Swiss cheese.

     “And it’s going to read, ‘Here lies Smith:  the biggest pain in my ass.’”  Wolf grinned.

     Both of them took a step back to brace for the recoil of their weapons.  They stared each other down.  The lobby became the old West.  But who, both wondered, would flinch first this time?

FADE OUT.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion to this scene next week and, be sure to support our site if you would like to continue to see more top quality content from all of our writers!

Thanks for Reading,

Ryan MariK

Originally posted 2017-10-08 14:25:16.

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Trans History Part 1: From the Stone Age to Stonewall

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When the topic of trans history comes up, most folks start with Marsha P. Johnson and her role in the Stonewall riots in 1969. The truth is, trans folks have been around since at least the Iron Age. When discussing history, the majority of topics and stories told in the United States are Eurocentric. Given that limitation, trans history appears not only to be less diverse, but also shorter – like we’re a trend that started in the 1970s and hasn’t gone out of style. In honor of LGBTQ History month, here is a condensed timeline of moments in trans history worldwide, before Stonewall.


900 BC

In 1995, archaeologist Timothy Taylor discovered evidence of men who cross-dressed during the Iron Age, in graves in southern Russia.  


700 BC

King Ashurbanipal of Assyria spent a great deal of time in women’s clothing. This was later used as justification to overthrow him, proving that transphobia is nothing new.


1503 BC

Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut ascended to the throne for 21 years until she resigned in 1482 BC. Possibly learning from the disfavor shown to her predecessor, Queen Sobekneferu, she donned male clothing and a false beard signifying kingship. She had one daughter, Neferure, whom she groomed as successor to also present as male, but Neferure did not live into adulthood. After Queen Hatshepsut’s death, her second husband attempted to erase all record of her.


1576 AD

The explorer Pedro de Magalhaes recorded that some women in the Tupinamba tribe in Brazil lived as men, hunted and went to war. Referencing the Greek legend of the Amazons, he named the Amazon River after these individuals.


1577

King Henry III of France frequently crossdressed. When he was dressed in women’s clothes, he was referred to as “her majesty” by his courtiers. Even his everyday kingly clothes were considered outrageous despite the flamboyant standards of 16th-century France.


1624

Assigned female at birth, Nzinga ruled as King of Angola for 29 years. They cross-dressed and led several successful military battles against the Portuguese.


1654

The wonderful, bisexual Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated the throne. They dressed in men’s clothing and renamed themselves Count Dohna.


1676

Abbe Francois Timoleon de Choisy attended the Papal inaugural ball in women’s clothes. Their memoirs, published postmortem, offer the first written testimony of MTF gender expression.


1700s

“Molly houses” started popping up around England. They provided a space for the gay community to meet, carouse and relate to one another. “Mollies” were men who often crossdressed and developed their own queer culture.


1728

Chevalier D’Eon, assigned male at birth, was a famous French spy/ambassador. They lived a significant part of their life as a woman. Chevalier’s birth sex was a hotly debated question, even though their birth name was Charles d’Eon.


1907

Chui Chin, a cross-dressing Chinese revolutionary and feminist was beheaded for organizing an uprising against the Manchu dynasty.


As you can see, trans folks have ALWAYS been here. While it may seem like there has been an increase of members of the trans community within the past 5 years, the only thing that has changed is more diversity and inclusivity in vocabulary. When I first heard someone say that their pronouns are they/them, and explain to me what genderqueer means to them, I felt comfort and excitement and validation all rolled into one. There’s a word for what I feel! Other people also identify this way! I’m not making anything up, this is a valid identity!

When folks say that they’ve never met a trans person, they don’t know it, but that’s more than likely not true. According to a study run by the Williams Institute published June 2016, 1.4 million adults in the United States identify as transgender. This number does not include the trans folks that did not participate in the the surveys used to procure this study, nor the folks that were comfortable enough to identify as trans. Given this information, 1.4 million is a bit on the low side. Chances are, you HAVE met a trans person, they just didn’t out themselves.

Be sure to check in next week for Trans History Part 2: Stonewall and Beyond!


Most resources were found at http://out.ucr.edu/docs/trans_timeline.pdf and http://bilerico.lgbtqnation.com/2008/02/transgender_history_trans_expression_in.php.

Originally posted 2017-10-08 12:41:59.


Also published on Medium.

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California’s Progressive Stance On Gender Dynamics

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California seems to be one step ahead, once again. On Thursday, Democratic legislators proposed an added third option regarding gender identity questioning for California Driver’s Licenses: Senate Bill 179. 

Written by Senator Toni Atkins, who is also member of the LGBT caucus, the bill would revise the need for presenting medical documents and identifying as a male or female on legal documentation.

The bill is a huge step ahead, especially for those who undergo a transgender transformation. It tackles a moral conflict from a liberal standpoint, and the way gender is presented and accepted. Residents living without gender identification or who associate themselves with a different gender will be able to provide an affidavit to the DMV, making alternating driver’s licenses a smoother legal process. It will also make official gender identification an easier process, streamlining it into one written record, rather than having to involve your medical provider.

Residents of California who have dealt with gender-identification have stated that identity fraud would also be a larger issue that’s tackled.

The Fast Bay Times reports statement made by Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, “Picture the arrest of a biological male whose driver’s license says ‘nonbinary,’ but they dress as a man one day and as a woman the other. How many cases will be tossed because criminals use SB 179 to claim they aren’t technically the person who was charged?”

US politics are no stranger to roiled debates regarding gender law opposition. Democratic and Republican parties have both squabbled in the past over these issues. The gender-neutral law can be the beginning of change that America needs, especially with issues like the Transgender Military Ban threatening the rights of transgender and LGBTQ individuals alike. With California taking this step forward in LGBTQ related politics, the government proves it’s recognition to the different types of genders that deserve their space in government documents and entities.

Originally posted 2017-09-29 12:53:48.

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