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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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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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A Brit Queer: Why are people concerned about LGBTQ+ rights in the wake of the UK election?

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Hello and welcome to A Brit Queer, where a queer woman from Britain splits her time between discussing fun stuff like TV shows and events and serious stuff like the political and social issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in Britain.

Some columns will focus on the lighter side of being gay in the UK, like praising medical drama Holby City for tackling two separate storylines dedicated to same-sex couples at the same time because that level of representation was not something I expected.

However, this is not one of those times.

Today, we’re going to talk about the recent UK elections and what that means for the LGBTQ+ community. I know, I know, I’m a little late to the party, but give me a break, Travel Pride only just launched.

So you’ve probably seen some very confusing coverage of our June election (especially if you live outside of the UK) and I’ll try to break it down as quick as possible.

Wtf happened in the UK election?

House of Commons Chamber- UK Parliament via Wikipedia

First, no single party achieved the 326-seat majority needed to form a government, which resulted in a hung parliament (no, not like that).  You need to get 326 seats in the House of Commons (our elected legislative chamber) because that is exactly half the total seats plus one.

The Conservative Party did, however, get the most number of seats in the election (318) and therefore they get to form a government. They can either rule as a minority government and risk the all the other parties banding together to vote their bills down or seek an alliance with another political party.

Trouble is, our last coalition government was not particularly favourable (I mean, it’s referred to as the ConDem coalition) and the Liberal Democrats, who partnered with the Conservatives, have not really recovered.  In 2015, the first election after the coalition, the Lib Dems plummeted from over 50 seats in the HOC to just eight.

So, the Lib Dems haven’t really been champing at the bit to help out this time. Plus, their current (but soon-to-be-replaced) leader Tim Farron faced a lot of deserved criticism for the time he took to say that being gay wasn’t “sinful” and his voting record on LGBTQ+ rights.

Do not adjust your screen, this really is the 21st century.

So the Conservatives are seeking an alliance with is the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, who are the only other right-of-centre party to have seats in the HOC.

The trouble is, the DUP have views that are significant to the right of the Conservatives on a few issues, specifically women’s rights to reproductive health, LGBTQ+ rights in general, whether climate change is happening and whether evolution is real.

I’ll give you a minute to stop rolling your eyes.

What does this mean for LGBTQ+ rights?

People are rightly worried about what this means for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the environment, especially when you consider that the UK now has to start negotiating Brexit and gets to decide which laws from the EU that we will and will not keep.

Leaving aside, environmental rights and women’s rights for a hot second, many of the UK’s current LGBTQ+ protections are derived from the EU, such as the right not to be fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and if the DUP wanted, they could influence the Conservatives to weaken or scrap these laws.

I mean the DUP gained Northern Ireland’s exemption from the UK’s equal marriage ruling of 2013, when no one really wanted anything from them, despite the other political party in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, supporting same-sex marriage.

Luckily, as of yet, the DUP have not been given positions of power within the Cabinet. I mean, it was unlikely because Labour would not be able to form a majority, but it still scared me sh*tless on June 9. However, the DUP has just scored £1bn from the Conservatives and it is likely that over the course of the current Parliament, the DUP will want more.

Nigel Dodds MP- Northern Ireland Executive via Flickr

Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP for Belfast North, said, during the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new Parliament, that the money in his constituency would go towards mental health services in Northern Ireland.

That all sounds fantastic, but you know what? LGB people in the UK are twice as likely as straight people to suffer from depression, have suicidal thoughts, and attempt suicide and the rates are even higher for trans people.

Let’s be clear, there are many contributing factors for depression (and I don’t claim to be an expert) but I think we can all see that any existing depression is exacerbated when your elected official is voting against your f*cking rights and when others in his party are describing you as an “abomination”. Like…I can’t… It’s…Urrgh!

What can you do?

If you live in the UK, please write to your MP (especially if they’re a Tory) and explain why you are concerned about a #MayDUP coalition. Remember to be polite, even if you’re angry because it’s more likely they will take you seriously.

Outside of the UK but still worried about a homophobic, sexist voice in the ear of our Prime Minister? Share this with your British friends and ask them to contact their MP.

Tune in next week for a (hopefully) happier column of A Brit Queer, perhaps something about the 50 Shades of Gay Season on Channel 4.

Originally posted 2017-07-11 20:35:53.

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Stonewall: The real story

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The Stonewall Riots are iconic in the history of LGBTQ+ rights, and as such, it’s highly likely that everyone reading this has at least a passing knowledge of the event. But many portrayals of the riots actually gloss over or outright ignore the contributions of trans people, women, and POC (looking at you, Stonewall)

In order to understand the reasons for the Stonewall Riots, we need to understand what it was like for LGBTQ+ people in the years prior, so let’s take an incredibly short trip through the early 20th century. Fair warning, you’ll probably want to punch the screen.

Basically, identifying as LGBTQ+ was illegal in all but one US state by the time of the Stonewall Riots, and it was also considered a mental illness which could be ‘treated’ with castration, lobotomies, and electroshock therapy. Even WW2 vets who identified as LGBTQ+ didn’t get the respect they deserved, many gay/bi servicemen (particularly MOC) were given blue discharges; which were technically neither honourable or dishonourable but in reality, barred them from receiving the benefits of the GI bill.

So gay men and lesbians set up their own organisations, The Mattachine Society and The Daughters of Bilitis respectively, as social clubs for their local communities but they quickly spread across the country and became hotbeds for LGBTQ+ activism.

Stonewall

The Stonewall Inn was a mafia-run gay bar in New York City, which was raided by police on June 28, 1969, under the pretence of not having a proper alcohol license. However, the police never really needed an excuse to raid gay bars at that time.

During raids, the police would check that people were wearing at least four items of gender-appropriate clothing and if there was any doubt on the person’s gender, police would inspect their genitals (wtf?).

Most LGBTQ+ people would attempt to leave bars during police raids, because at the time, being gay was only legal in one state: Illinois. Being outed would not only result in discrimination, but likely prosecution.

Given that there is no footage of the riot, there are several conflicting eyewitness accounts about who was there and who threw the first brick at the police, but one thing is certain, this night was different.

The patrons refused to hand over their IDs and fought back against police who tried to inspect their genitals. The police reacted violently; groping and beating the patrons. When Storme DeLarverie (a lesbian of color) complained that her handcuffs were too tight, they hit her on the head with a baton and she pleaded with those around to help.

Someone then threw a brick at the police and Marsha P. Johnson (a trans WOC) threw a shot glass. This became known as the shot glass heard round the world.

As news of the riot spread, more people arrived and the police barricaded themselves, along with some patrons, inside the Stonewall Inn.

At the time, the Stonewall Inn was where the most marginalized of the marginalized gathered; people of color, trans people, homeless youth. The patrons at the Stonewall Inn accepted them, gave them a community, a home. The patrons fought for Stonewall because it represented the only thing they had to lose: each other.

Post-Stonewall

In the decades following Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ rights movement became more radical, advocating overthrowing the system rather than trying to exist within it. Basically, if you wanted us to be nice, you should have been nicer to us.

The Gay Liberation Front advocated the overthrow of capitalism, the use of militant tactics to fight oppression, and the right to take pride in their sexuality and allied themselves with other anti-oppression movements like black power and women’s liberation.

While Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), formed by Stonewall rioters Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (a trans-WOC) protested prison conditions, housing and workplace discrimination, discriminatory legal practices and police harassment.

In June 1970, Craig Rodwell organized the first Pride March from Sixth Avenue to the Stonewall Inn. The message was clear: We aren’t going back into the closet.

It wasn’t all plain sailing from here on out for LGBTQ+ rights. While some gains were made, like eventually legalizing love and equal marriage, our community also faced some massive roadblocks from social conservatives and the Religious Right who tried to demonize us at every turn, especially during the AIDS crisis.

In 2015, the Stonewall Inn was designated an NYC landmark for its contribution to LGBTQ+ history; the first landmark to be honored in this way.

The issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the USA weren’t fixed overnight and regrettably many are here today but this was a huge moment in our history and we owe more than we can ever imagine to those brave men, women, and non-binary folks who risked their freedom to give us ours. We’ve come a long way, since 1969, but we sure as hell have a long way to go.

The Stonewall Riots occurred was when the lit match of standing up for your rights and the rights of others fell on the oily trash of how governmental institutions treat(ed) LGBTQ+ people, but now it is up to us to keep the flame burning. Who’s with me?

Originally posted 2017-07-09 15:35:41.

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