Peduto5_1Blogger’s note: Today, Bill Peduto is sworn in as mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. Without a doubt many people want his time and attention, and I’d add myself to that list. I know Bill, though not really well. We have conversed on Facebook and at a variety of gatherings. I’m hoping I can maintain a good relationship with him through the Mayor’s office. For his predecessor, I had a relationship with one of the staff, but my efforts to speak with the mayor himself always went unanswered. I would be told, that his scheduler was working to fit me in. My hope is that today starts a new era for Pittsburgh. To that end, I penned the open letter to the new mayor.

Dear Mayor Peduto,
While many constituent groups are celebrating your election, one that is especially glad to see you take office is Western Pa’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities who have known you as a friend and supporter for many years. We know that you will hit the ground running as an advocate on issues impacting Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ residents, but I wanted to articulate my thoughts about what that may include. While I don’t speak for the whole of the community, I believe I am expressing thoughts, ideas, and wishes that are reflective of the whole of the LGBTQ communities which proudly call Pittsburgh “home.” Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are already fairly comfortable places for those who identify as LGBT or Q, but there is still plenty of work to be done, and I thank you in advance for your efforts towards these issues.

An open dialogue with the whole community

First and foremost, I would ask that as Mayor, you lend an ear to the diversity of our evolving community. Too often we get acknowledged as the gay community, or the lesbian and gay community, or sometimes as the LGBT community. In reality those labels make invisible Pittsburgh’s Queer community, made up of many gender non-conforming and individuals who don’t choose to fit into the neat cubbyholes created inadvertently by silos of identity. So, please understand us as more than the LGBT community. Many of us use LGBTQ as a way to be more fully inclusive as we talk about the community.

Remember that no one organization or group speaks for, or represents the whole of our community. Your predecessor maintained a close relationship with one organization. Please treat all LGBTQ organizations as valuable and be open to work with all, so that the best interests of the whole of the community can be served.

Your predecessor began an LGBT advisory board which was a very good thing. Please advocate to make this a permanent part of Pittsburgh and the mayor’s outreach to our diverse communities. Encourage this board to be available to all areas of Pittsburgh government and serve as a tool for building awareness and dialogue. However, remove the secrecy of the board by encouraging the advisory board meetings be open to the public and their minutes available on-line. Grow the board and encourage greater participation by all the divergent areas of the LGBTQ community.

Focus on Public Safety

To listen to the news, one may think that the only issue the LGBTQ community cares about is Marriage, but nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly, the right of couples to seek the legal protections and civil support that marriage provides is important, and your support for that has been important, but at the City level there are many other, almost more important issues.

Many within the our diverse communities are unsure of or untrusting of Pittsburgh Police. In my own experience, the Police are respectful and supportive of the LGBTQ community, yet this mistrust keeps many from filing police reports or working more closely with the police. There may be some with in the Police who are individuals who harm the fragile relationship with the LGBTQ community. As LGBTQ issues become more visible and discussed in the media, it is not unreasonable to believe that hate crimes could increase. This has been the case in some other larger cities, and if that happens here, we will need a strong bridge between the Police and the community. Please seek out ways for outreach to occur and communication bridges be developed.

One of the segments of the LGBTQ community often most at odds with the police are queer youth, trans* youth and homeless LGBTQ persons. In some regards their situations are not different from other disadvantaged individuals while in other ways there are specific differences. This is a segment of the community often overlooked or ignored even by the LGBT community itself, let alone by larger governmental agencies. It is estimated that there are around 1.6 million homeless youth and between 20 and 40% identify as LGBTQ. It is reasonable that Pittsburgh’s homeless community mirrors these numbers. Please seek ways that the City can begin to understand and address ways to assist these youth as well as all who end up on the streets.

Zero Tolerance for Discrimination

While a non-discrimination ordinance exists and a Human Relations Commission has been active for many years, a renewed effort to communicate the Pittsburgh’s zero tolerance for discrimination is important. As the city changes and our community changes, are efforts in place to assure that the Commission also evolves and adapts? This message of non-discrimination is essential too, as Pittsburgh seeks to attract and welcome businesses. Please encourage all aspects of city government to thoughtfully express in many ways that Pittsburgh is a welcoming and comfortable city for all.

While both the City as well as Allegheny County have nondiscrimination ordinances, the same can not be said for outside of these areas, yet many of the folks who call Pittsburgh their home or their place of employment travel daily between areas where they have protections and where they do not. Please continue to be a leader in Western Pennsylvania showing other cites, towns, and counties how non-discrimination protections can assist them in being thriving successful areas where people want to live and work.

Pittsburgh’s Long History of Diversity

Pittsburgh has a long history of diversity in many ways and the visible inclusion of the LGBTQ community is simply an extension of that existing history. This community like many others can add to the cultural and social wealth of Pittsburgh and play a role as the city continues to grow and succeed. Thank you in advance for your efforts to treat the LGBTQ community as one of the many valuable communities that make up the whole of Pittsburgh. In ways we are very like everyone else and in ways we bring a difference which adds to the whole in creative and special ways.

Please treat issues surrounding the LGBTQ community, as you have in the past- as if they are just one part of a larger equality, respect and diversity practice. Pittsburgh is a great city because we are not simply a collection of neighborhoods and communities, but because together, in concert with one another we are greater than the sum of the parts.

Comments are closed.