In a post the other day, I posed some questions for a commenter, Concerned Queer. This person replied, and then asked me to answer some questions for them.  Here are my answers:
1.) Why was I chosen out of all the other people commenting on your blog to be singled out for further questioning?

I don’t think I would say you were singled out per se. I believe I attempted exchange with everyone who added comments to the blog. However, I think there were two things that happened. One was timing. Yours just happened to be the latest comment by someone who knows almost nothing about me but thinks they need to tell me what I need to do, and I had had enough of it. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and you can disagree with mine, but no one who has posted has any business telling someone else what they should do. You don’t agree with what I write, that’s fine. Say you don’t and explain why. My experience however of these posts and comments however, is no one is really interested in saying “I don’t agree with you.” They have only been interested in saying “you are wrong.” and it hasn’t even  been, “in my opinion, you are wrong, and where is why I think this….”

I also decided, rather than just respond to your “You need to…” statements, I would ask you questions so that I gained more information and hopefully you would talk from a place of “I.” I figured if you did that- provided answers I would learn more about you and have a better place from which to respond. Questions are about listening, and listening is important. So I took a few sentences that I felt was enough of your comment to focus upon and asked some questions to better understand what you were saying.

I actually ask a lot of questions. For example the post about if the rally was co-opted by anarchists, the entire blog post is one question after another. I NEVER said it was co-opted; and I never said that was a bad thing. I simply asked questions. Same thing for the blog post about anger towards the police. I asked what things could happen to get the community past this level of anger? I never said the anger wasn’t justified.

I had also come to an awareness of how there was much I didn’t know about this group of people who were identifying as Queer. I had been spending a fair amount of time off the blog asking questions and getting other’s ideas, and I felt you provided another avenue to ask questions. So, asking you questions was a continuation of what I had already been doing, IMHO.

2.) How do you see yourself/what role do you feel you play in the Pittsburgh gay/queer community?

I don’t have a good answer for this, because I don’t think of things in this type of a framework. People are people, and people do the things they feel need to be done. I don’t think people decide to do this or say that to be a role. The Pittsburgh gay/queer community isn’t a script with parts and performances.

My About page says something about what I do and why I do it. But I suppose what is missing from it is everything that came before blogging. On any given day a good number of people read my blog. What role this plays for them varies. I believe some read it to keep up on what is going on, some because they like my writing, others because I most often take a viewpoint different from what others take.  Because about 50% of my readers come from outside the Western PA area, I don’t see myself as a Pittsburgh blogger. I see myself as a blogger who focuses heavily on issues related to the LGBT community.

As a blogger, I believe my job is to put what I think and how I see things out there and add to the discourse. Others can read it, allow it to prompt thought or dialogue; they can agree, disagree; or ignore it. In that sense I am no different from any other blogger out there.

3.) Please correct me if I’m wrong, but what is your recent interest with this particular slice of the gay/queer community? Many of us had never seen/heard of you before the rally.

In my opinion, this demonstrates that “many of you” may be as isolated within your community, as you suggest I am outside of it. 🙂 All I can say I’ve been blogging heavily since 2008. Almost 1500 blog posts!

My recent interest is probably best described as a continuation of my interest in improving the relationship between the police and the LGBT community. While Pittsburgh has been becoming an increasingly good and easy place for LGBT’s to live and work, there is still a long way to go to making the best it can be. One area that is a problem deals with safety. If people don’t feel safe to walk the streets and be themselves, that is a problem. As a culture, and as the larger, most broad community, we rely on the Police to help create that safety, and there is a lack of trust within our and other communities of the police. I believe that has to be addressed and problems fixed.

When the incident happened last Spring with Verucca, I posted Verucca’s side of the story, and I expected to watch the police treat the case professionally. I was also aware of the fact that there were conflicting stories about what actually happened.  Because no report was filed, the police couldn’t do anything. Then, that same uear, there was a gay bashing in my own neighborhood. I really dug into this one because violence against anyone within our community is unacceptable Most problems that contain any large entity, like the police, can be complex, so I appreciate looking for concrete pieces of a problem that can be sorted out, a resolution found and then the bigger issue gets less and less complex.

There were 3 main pieces I felt were dealt with in that follow up. 1) The Zone 5 commander, and other top officers at Zone 5 assured me that everyone would be treated fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. I value commitments like that because then later if that isn’t upheld you can hold people accountable. 2) Address 911 issue: If you call 911 while you are being bashed, they would tell you to stay exactly where you are, which seems utterly insane. We worked with the Zone commander to articulate why this was a bad practice and seek out alternatives to help victims of attacks. 3) the Reporting issue. It can be extremely hard for a person to file a report, and even harder to make sure that the report adequately represents what happened. Details about all of this can be found in my blog.

When I saw a posting on Facebook about Lauren’s attack, I was dissappointed that attacks were still happening, and I was alarmed that a gun was involved. For me that showed an escalation in violence against  us. I also found out that Lauren hadn’t filed a police report yet. I went to the rally to offer my support, to meet Lauren, and to encourage her to file a police report so that we could see if anything had improved since that summer.

4.) What are your future plans of involvement within the gay/queer communities? Goals?

I have been a part of the community here in Pittsburgh since 1987, and I plan to continue to be. I plan to keep blogging and, I plan to keep doing what I can to make Pittsburgh a better place for everyone.

In relation to the issue of Police/community relations, I remain convinced that every effort must be made to improve the relationship so that the community feels safe and supported. I think this will include the police feeling as if they are treated as professionals. As the events following the rally demonstrate, the community will not treat the police as professionals if they are not acting like professionals. So, there is an enormous amount of work to be done. Different people have different ideas as to where the problem rests. Is it with the cops themselves? At the commander level? At management above the commander level? In several of these levels?

My immediate goals surounding this are to complete several pieces that have been started:

  1. I requested a meeting with the Mayor, and have asked Lauren to go with me when that is scheduled. If there is a problem with management above the commander level, that any correction will have to start at the very top which is the Mayor. He must be held accountable, and he needs to understand the severity of the issues.
  2. I requested meetings with each of the City Council members that I personally know. I am on track to get these meetings scheduled and then completed. It is unclear what City Council can and can not do, and so there are two outcomes: to make Council more aware of the issues that face people, and find any thing that Council can do to improve the situation.
  3. I have been filing my own complaints with all appropriate offices concerning the events following the rally.
  4. I will keep writing about it.
  5. Councilman Datrick Dowd also asked me to meet again with the Zone 5 commander, and so at some point that will happen. Because I am personally filing a complaint, it may have to wait until after that investigation is complete.
However, what I believe I’m best known for across the State, is my passion for non-discrimination protections in housing, employment and public accommodations. I believe non-discrimination protections are the single most important issue to be addressed. You may disagree, but that is my opinion.

5.) Have you thought about attending local queer events to discuss and learn about general community issues; such as gay privileges, heternormativity, class and race discrimination from within, sexism, trans*phobia, etc? 

Yes.

However, I may know far more about this than you (or others)  give me credit for.

6.) How do you define gay community vs./or queer community?

I am not sure I have an easy answer for this.

I’ve been using  the word “queer” since about  1988 or 1989, and so my sense of “queer” and your sense of “queer community” are most likely vastly different. Heck, most of the 5 people arrested after the rally were just being born when I was a queer activist! Yet, commenters to my posts seem to think they own that term. LOL. I have realized through this event that there is much about this young queer community that I know little about and I look forward to learning more. I have been busy for a few months actually talking to people and learning about the things I don’t know about.

I rarely think in terms of “gay community” and if I write about it using those terms there is usually some underlying reason why I pick those words. I think and generally act in relation to the LGBT community. For at least a year, I have been really aware of how some parts of this community don’t know other parts of it at all. My focus has been on the “T” of LGBT because of these 4 primary groups, I think the T’s suffer the most discrimination and hardships. In Sptember of 2009, I posted something to my blog that I saw on Twitter about a conference in South Africa. All, I said was that I thought it looked interesting, but I was given quite a lesson in the way some who see themselves as Intersex want nothing to do with the LGBT community. It was an eye opener!  I have also been extremely unhappy with the focus by so many within the LGBT movement on Marriage Equality. I’m all for equal rights, but this isn’t the “end all” issue. Canada has had marriage for 10 years and a Trans person can still be fired or denied a job, housing, etc. So, I’ve already been doing a lot to better understand the T. One of my most memorable evenings recently was during Pride week, when I sat for about 3 hours listening to two trans persons talk about their experiences. There are not many opportunities within the way our community/ies function for this level of exchange and sharing, so I was enormously honored and pleased to have had such an opportunity. I think the B is also tremendously misunderstood, but one thing at a time.

I spent much of the 5 year QUILTBAG meeting listening and watching since there were so many there who were younger and may identify as a part of the Queer community. I left that meeting enthused about seeking out ways to get to know some of these participants better.

I’ll be honest, I have no clue how to understand the place of Queer anarchists within the larger LGBTQ movement. I have much work to do there perhaps. But then again, I’m not sure. Anarchism is a political philosophy, and not a practical methodology for making people’s lives better. Personally, I’m a progressive and a liberal, and anarchy isn’t even seem by many as a part of the larger political dialogue. So, it is a fairly fringe way of thinking about things. It is valid, and if that is what someone wants to believe, by all means, go for it. But my blog and what I write, won’t be the thing that stands in the way of anarchy ideas being adopted by the masses. Byt I also don’t see gay republicans playing much role in shaping the lives of the LGBTQ community either.

When I was much younger, I had a boyfriend, and we would have great sex, and then lay around in bed all day, and read Foucault to each other. I was enamored by this philosophy and the notion of Queer from a Foucault perspective. These are ideas that still impact my thinking, but I also realize that a philosophical mindset itself doesn’t change things. People who find ways to engage in action can change things. Queer anarchists may believe that by bashing back they will change things. I don’t know. Time will tell. I’m personally more comfortable with working to build bridges, call out inequity, and work in non-violent ways, like MLK Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

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