Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pittsburgh film and upcoming Film Festival

Chris and Don: A Love Story Comes to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Filmmakers Bring LGBT film to Pittsburgh

What: Chris and Don: A Love Story
Where: Harris Theatre (downtown Pittsburgh)
When: October 4 - 9

Description: One of the most deeply-felt love stories ever made, this one happens to be true. Writer Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy met in 1952 and fell in love, and this documentary is a beautiful tribute to their 34-year love affair. It combines historical footage, home movies, celebrities, and whimsical animated sequences to create a comprehensive portrait of two remarkable lives.

Isherwood is perhaps best known for The Berlin Stories, the inspiration for Cabaret, and his story is covered in detail through autobiographical writings. Dovetailing with Bachardy's own accomplished career in portraiture and painting, his remembrances are interspersed with comments from Leslie Caron, John Boorman and even Miss Liza herself. Features a wonderful jazz-inflected original score. (Tina Mascara and Guido Santi; USA; 2007 90 min)

For showtimes and more information, go to www.pghfilmmakers.org.
Get Ready for the 23rd Annual Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival starting on Friday, October 17

Need Tickets?

Diva Passes (gets you into everything at the festival, Screen Queen Packs (ten tickets) and Cheap Thrills packs (six tickets) are available for purchase now at A Pleasant Present in Squirrel Hill and Banner Coin Exchange in downtown Pittsburgh.

Individual tickets are available at SouthSide Works Cinema during the festival.

Need a Movie Schedule?

A limited number of programs are available at LBGT friendly businesses around the area and you can always check our website for a complete listing. You can also download a .pdf copy of the program at www.plgfs.org.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pittsburgh Looks to Attract More Gay & Lesbian Tourists - Might They Also Venture Up To Venango County?

WTAE-TV Jan. '08

Tourism is a multibillion-dollar business and fighting for a slice of the action means getting the word out about your city's offerings.

Pittsburgh is trying to attract more gay and lesbian visitors, but that means battling a few misconceptions about the town.

The city wants to show the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community or GLBT, a group that accounts for 10 percent of the U.S. travel market, what the city has to offer.

"Statistics tell us there is a lot of money to be had, a lot of money to spend," said Beverly Morrow-Jones of Visit Pittsburgh. "They like spending money and they like having a good time, and I think, just like everybody else, the gay and lesbian community wants to feel welcomed."

So, Visit Pittsburgh is making its pitch, selling the city through inclusion in the gay-friendly NaviGaytor travel guide.

Gary Van Horn heads the Delta Foundation, which helps to unite Pittsburgh's gay community. "I think it's huge," said Van Horn. "I think they see that there is a huge market there and to kind of encompass that and bring them to Pittsburgh, I think, is great."

"I am still afraid there is a perception out there this is not the most progressive town or the most modern city, and it's a completely wrong perception, obviously, as we all know," said Peter Karlovich of the Delta Foundation.

In the end, the formula for attracting gay and lesbian tourists is no different than what you would use to attract any tourist to Pittsburgh: Be friendly and fun.

Things Are Changing in the Right Direction

Thursday, September 25, 2008

October is GLBT History Month

In the 1990's, teachers and community organizations determined that a month should be designated for GLBT history. They chose October because public schools are in session and traditions, such as National Coming Out Day, occur then.

Modeled after Black and Women’s History Month, GLBT History Month highlights annually the achievements of 31 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Icons—one each day—with a free video, bio, bibliography, images and other resources. Take the Trivia Challenge each week and the Rainbow Challenge at the end of the month.

How It Works

Beginning October 1, 2008, a new GLBT Icon video is presented daily. Each day you’ll have access to the current Icon and his or her bio and resources, along with all the preceding Icons.

Here's a preview:

For more info, go to GLBT History Month

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pittsburgh Anti-Gay Bishop Defrocked by Episcopal Leaders

A leading bishop against the inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the U.S. Episcopal Church has been defrocked. The vote on Thursday by the church’s leaders removed Bishop Robert Duncan, head of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, from ordained ministry.

Duncan has been a leading dissident voice in the Episcopal Church ever since the consecration of openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. The Episcopal bishops voted 88-35 to remove Duncan, arguing that he has abandoned the unity of the church through his various statements and attempts to organize Episcopal dissident churches into a structure outside the control of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

Despite the actions of leaders like Duncan, the Episcopal Church continues to move toward full inclusion. Recently, Episcopal bishops in California announced their support for marriage of gay and lesbian couples.

Close Encounters of the Philanthropic Kind

Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw donate big to stop California's marriage initiative

from the LA Times, Sept. 22, 2008

As it now stands, backers of California's Proposition 8, the initiative to ban same-sex marriage, have the fundraising lead, nearly $18 million to the foes' $12.4 million.

But that could change. Hollywood is starting to play a big role in the effort to defeat the initiative. Director-producer Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, announced today that they would put in $100,000 to kill the initiative.

The donation matches a $100,000 No-on-8 contribution announced last week by actor Brad Pitt.

Proponents of the initiative include many of the nation's most prominent conservative Christian individuals and organizations, including Focus on Family and the American Family Assn., a group based in Tupelo, Miss., that singles out the entertainment industry as being at the root of many of the nation's woes.

In a statement, Spielberg and Capshaw denounced the initiative: "By writing discrimination into our state constitution, Proposition 8 seeks to eliminate the right of each and every citizen in our state to marry regardless of sexual orientation. Such discrimination has NO place in California's constitution, or any other."

Bruce Cohen, producer of the film "American Beauty" and a Los Angeles finance committee co-chair for the No-on-8 campaign, said the Spielberg-Capshaw donation affirmed "their unwavering commitment to equality in such a significant a way."

The donation comes as the No-on-8 campaign begins airing the first ad of the campaign. The spot features a gray-haired heterosexual couple, Sam and Julia Thoron, explaining that they raised three children, all now adults. Their daughter, Liz Thoron, is a lesbian.

Soft music plays and a family picture appears. "My wife and I never treated our children different, we never loved them any differently, and the law shouldn't treat them differently either," Sam Thoron, 69, says.

"If Proposition 8 passes, our gay daughter and thousands of our fellow Californians will lose the right to marry," says Julia Thoron, 68.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Invisible and Overlooked

A growing population of lesbian and gay senior citizens seeks recognition for their unique needs and challenges.

by Jessica Bennett for Newsweek Magazine Sept. 18, 2008

Bob McCoy is a youthful, active 78-year-old. He sings in his church choir, takes a weekly computer class, and regularly attends social gatherings organized by a gay senior citizens group in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lives. But McCoy worries about a day when he can no longer care for himself: he has no close family, no partner, and he's outlived most of his friends. "I'm used to having friends I can call up and say, 'Let's go to [a movie],'" he says. "But now there's nobody to call."

Newly engaged, Jim Fetterman, 62, and Ilde Gonzalez-Rivera, 56, look forward to growing old together at their home in Queens, N.Y., where they share a garden and a green Cadillac. But the couple isn't sure if or when they'll be able to marry. Their house is in Rivera's name, but because the couple can't legally wed in New York, Fetterman won't automatically inherit it, should his partner die. And even though they are registered domestic partners in New York City, neither man will have access to the other's Social Security, because the federal government doesn't recognize their relationship. "It's not something we like to think about, but there's a certain amount of anxiety that comes with not having those things," says Fetterman.

These are typical faces of the gay and aging—a growing population often overlooked by mainstream advocates. Gerontologists haven't traditionally viewed sexual orientation as relevant to their work—and, according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, most national health surveys of elderly citizens fail to assess sexual orientation. But gay seniors confront unique challenges: they're twice as likely as straights to live alone, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker should they fall ill. Older gay men are at high risk for HIV, and many suffer the psychological effects of losing friends to the AIDS crisis. (See our report on HIV and aging.) Many face discrimination in medical and social services, and on top of it all, they're less likely to have health insurance: one survey, by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law, at UCLA, estimates that gay seniors are half as likely to have coverage as their straight counterparts.

"In many ways, this population is a mirror opposite of what the mainstream aging community looks like," says Karen Taylor, director of advocacy and training for the New York-based Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, or SAGE, the nation's oldest senior network. "The average senior in the United States lives with one other person; two-thirds of LGBT seniors live alone. If you don't have those informal support networks built into your life, then everything else becomes a bigger issue. Who forces you to go to the doctor? What happens if you fall?"

Continue reading here

SAGE Video:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Voices of Freedom

The Personal Side of Civil Liberties

Thursday, September 18, 2008
5:30 pm
Frick Fine Arts Building
Schenley Drive, Oakland
Across from Carnegie Library, between the fountain and the bridge to Phipps.

The Muslim Rocket Scientist: removed from his position for criticizing U.S. government’s treatment of Muslims -- Free Speech, Discrimination

The High School Students: suspended for showing their support for gay and lesbian students -- Students' Rights, Free Speech

The Newlyweds: denied a marriage license for not having clergy perform their ceremony -- Religious Liberty

The Young Mother: had her newborn baby taken from her after being secretly tested for prenatal marijuana use -- Privacy, Due Process, Right to Parent

Admission is free but reservations are requested by September 12. Call 412-681-7736 or email VoicesOfFreedom@aclupgh.org

Friday, September 12, 2008

Turn, Turn, Turn

Do you believe in Karma? Or as the Bible puts it - you "reap what you sow".
It seems to be true - sooner or later, the ills you wish upon others tend to come back on you. Like boycotts, for instance. Encourage people to boycott and vote with their dollars and that same audience could turn the table and vote against you.

We need to be careful what energy we put out there.

Just a thought for this day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Be a Part!

By Linda Henderson

Have you had visitor's who came and were full of exclamations about the beauty of Venango County and it caused you to pause a moment? It's easy to take for granted. It's also easy to become focused on what's wrong and what's missing.
I'm happy to be surrounded by people who are seeing the positive and determined to turn whatever negative exists INTO positive. In order for any dream to come true, you first have to create the dream. See things as they can be and then become so focused on that vision, that the solutions become obvious. Visualize the perfect race, then run it. Most of all, understand what strengths you have.
Sound simple? Far from it. It takes training and determination. It requires seeing past the pain of the present, and the reality of the moment that may make the dream appear impossible. It requires a huge heart and an open mind.
In Oil City, that is happening. It's the new people I am meeting who have helped me take full measure of it. They are delighted with their experiences here - the people they meet, the Arts Revitalization efforts, the recreation and beauty here - and I am rejuvinated because of them. They are full of creative ideas and bring great experiences from other places to show us how to make good things happen.
Be part of this - Venango County natives! Welcome our newcomers and seek their input and stories. It's uplifting and a whole lot of fun!
And if you want to see some evidence of what can come of it - go see the Latonia's front window. You will see a collaborative effort - Venango County natives and transplants, young and old, gay and straight. And we had a great time creating it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mother of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard at SUNY Fredonia Sept 14

Judy Shepard, mother of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard, will bring her crusade for safer schools and communities for everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion or gender identity and expression, to SUNY Fredonia.

In an address to be presented Sunday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Juliet J. Rosch Recital Hall, the mother-turned activist will explain how the tragedy of her son’s murder in 1988 spurred her campaign for justice and ultimately led to the founding of the Matthew Shepard Foundation to help carry on his legacy.

Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming who was fatally attacked by two men because of his sexual orientation. He was robbed, severely beaten, tied to a fence in a remote area, and left to die. Two men pleaded guilty to felony murder and kidnapping charges and were both sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

The brutality of the crime and subsequent murder investigation drew extensive media coverage, including reports on ABC’s “20/20” newsmagazine, and led to efforts to include gay and lesbian individuals in hate-crime legislation. At the time of Matthew Shepard’s murder, Wyoming had no criminal statute that addressed hate crimes.

Ms. Shepard has become an activist speaker and appeared in two Human Rights Campaign advertisements advocating an end to anti-gay violence and promoting a greater understanding of gay issues. An active member of PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), she urges officials to make schools safer for gay students by promoting tolerance and diversity.

“We’re very excited to present a woman so dedicated to changing the acceptance of diversity on campuses and in communities,” said Erin Mroczka, assistant director of Campus Life at SUNY Fredonia. “She does only a handful of lectures and appearances throughout the year, so we were very fortunate to get her.”

A question-and-answer session is included in Ms. Shepard’s appearance, which is co-sponsored by Spectrum Entertainment Board and Pride Alliance, both SUNY Fredonia student organizations.

Ms. Shepard’s lecture also ties in with this year’s convocation theme of human rights and responsibilities at SUNY Fredonia, Ms. Mroczka said.

Tickets, at $2 for students and $3 for the general public, are available at the Rockefeller Arts Center Box Office, located in its temporary space within the lobby of Marvel Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in person, online at www.fredonia.edu/tickets or by calling 716-673-3501.

DIRECTIONS AND MAP http://www.fredonia.edu/prweb/maps/

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Love, Friendship and the voting booth

OPINION | washingtonblade.com

Love, friendship and the voting booth

Sep. 05, 2008

IT IS HARD to imagine an election more important to the future of our community than the one we face in November. That is why we must do all that we can to prevent our families and friends from voting for candidates who oppose our equality. They must be made to understand that how they vote affects our lives in the most fundamental ways possible; that when they vote for homophobes, they damage our shared bonds of love, trust and friendship.

The reality is that they can’t truly love or respect us, and knowingly vote for candidates who would deny us the same equality and freedoms they enjoy. The two concepts are simply incompatible. While they may be unaware of their candidates’ positions on these most basic human rights issues and are supporting them for completelyunrelated reasons, they are nevertheless complicit in a political struggle that seeks to deny us our full equality.

Those who see themselves as our friends and yet vote for opponents of our equality need to understand that friends treat each other with respect and dignity, and as equals. They need to know this is not an act of friendship and certainly not one of love. The same is true for family members.

Friends and family can disagree about the economy, national security, taxes and the environment, and still genuinely care about each other. Can the same be said when one participates, however passively, in the oppression of the other? It doesn’t really matter whether the issue is race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. The behavior is shameful and excruciatingly painful. To paraphrase Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the greatest injustice “is not the strident clamor of bad people, but the appalling silence of good people.”

MOST AMERICANS TODAY would not knowingly vote for someone they thought to be racist, anti-Semitic or misogynistic, yet they don’t think twice about voting for homophobes. They just don’t make the connection and we let their actions go unchallenged. Shame on us! Friends tell me about their Bush/McCain-supporting republican parents, but go on to say how accepting they are of them.
When I ask how that is possible, how loving parents could support someone who wants to hurt their child, I get a blank look or a glib comment about how “that’s just the way they are.” It isn’t the way they are — they just don’t know any better and it is our job to teach them.

Sometimes I hear (and sadly, this often comes from gay people) “they aren’t single issue voters and consider many issues when deciding how to vote.” What does it say about our sense of self worth when we accept from our parents the explanation that taxes are more important than our dignity, safety and equality? Why are we are so reluctant to challenge them when their behavior so adversely affects our lives?
Ending our silence is the only way to educate the people we cherish most that our equality is important and that it requires respect. Love and friendship demand nothing less.

Imagine our electoral power when we, our families, friends and us, vote as a bloc. The 2008 election promises to be a cliffhanger, providing us with the opportunity to determine the outcome. Never have the stakes been higher or the issues clearer.
If we fail to put a friend in the White House, if we fail to elect a more gay-friendly Congress, if we allow the far right to select the next Supreme Court justices, our long battle for equality will be stalled for decades. This threat is horrifyingly real. We have come too far at too great a cost to be silent now. Let’s do our part to make certain that our families and friends have our equality in mind then they enter the voting booth.
© 2008 The Washington Blade | A Window Media Publication

Saturday, September 6, 2008

FOLKS! Get out and VOTE!

Associated Press
Sept. 5, 2008

VP Candidate Has Not Yet Expressed Views On 'Pray Away the Gay Movement'

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Gov. Sarah Palin's church is promoting a conference that promises to convert gays into heterosexuals through the power of prayer.
"You'll be encouraged by the power of God's love and His desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality," according to the insert in the bulletin of the Wasilla Bible Church, where Palin has prayed since she was a child.

Palin's conservative Christian views have energized that part of the GOP electorate, which was lukewarm to John McCain's candidacy before he named her as his vice presidential choice. She is staunchly anti-abortion, opposing exceptions for rape and incest, and opposes gay marriage and spousal rights for gay couples.
Focus on the Family, a national Christian fundamentalist organization, has scheduled the "Love Won Out" Conference for Sept. 13 in Anchorage, about 30 miles from Wasilla.

Palin, campaigning with McCain in the Midwest on Friday, has not publicly expressed a view on the so-called "pray away the gay" movement. Larry Kroon, senior pastor at Palin's church, was not available to discuss the matter Friday, said a church worker who declined to give her name.

Gay activists in Alaska said Palin has not worked actively against their interests, but early in her administration she supported a bill to overrule a court decision to block state benefits for gay partners of public employees. At the time, less than one-half of 1 percent of state employees had applied for the benefits, which were ordered by a 2005 ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Palin reversed her position and vetoed the bill after the state attorney general said it was unconstitutional. But her reluctant support didn't win fans among Alaska's gay population, said Scott Turner, a gay activist in Anchorage.

"Less than 1 percent of state employees would even apply for benefits, so why make a big deal out of such a small number?" he said.

"I think gay Republicans are going to run away" if Palin supports efforts like the prayers to convert gays, said Wayne Besen, founder of the New York-based Truth Wins Out, a gay rights advocacy group. Besen called on Palin to publicly express her views now that she's a vice presidential nominee.

"People are looking at Sarah Palin as someone who might feasibly be in the White House," he said.

Moving on - Maybe?

It may be time for this blog to end - Time to emerge into something new. Has bigotry ended in Venango County? Afraid not. But a new era truely is here. And it may need a new title. "Hope in Venango County"???
Today, a good friend made a few comments which told a huge story. That story touched me in a profound way. I recently got to know a gay man much my age who never left this county. His half decade life reflects what I experienced here (but I left) and returned expecting to live the closeted, isolated life I would have been destined to live had I not known otherwise. He has lived that closeted life here. And when he felt the need to find like souls, he left here for a day or two. Returning to live a closeted life - a lonely life.
He was amazed to learn that a group of independent people - some gay, some not - are creating a new space and a new attitude right here in Venango County. He is surprised to learn those people are NOT being dismissed by the community. And he is hopeful. He is ready to contribute those talents and skills he never thought he could. He's ready to contribute because he now sees Gay and Lebian people who are contributing and not being persecuted! He's seeing that there are good people asking good people to get involved without a test of heterosexuality.
I had no idea how he felt last weekend when a wonderful group of eclectic people met at the Littler home. We had a traditional family picnic with music and wonderful companionship. This is what a welcoming place can be. This is what community means. A simple, safe space that touched one soul in a special way.
Can you imagine being 50 something and certain that your neighbor's, your community - will not welcome you? That volunteering for anything may mean exposing yourself to ridicule? Can you imagine isolating yourself year after year, night after night because... FOR any reason? Because you are bald.... Because your eyes are blue not brown? Because you are too short or too tall? Isolation because of something that is NOT a threat to anyone.
Think about the people who would stop this person from contributing to our community. What do they contribute? The people who call for exclusion of gay or lesbian or artistic or left wing or blue eyed - if they went away, what would the community loose? What do they contribute? Do they offer solutions? Do they offer inspiration? Do they offer hope? NO, they don't. They keep people away.
Let's open our hearts and minds. Let's build a community. Let's bring home a generation of citizens who have been standing in the shadows. It's time - long past time. Welcome home! Home is welcome!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Oil City Gay-Straight Alliance Event

This week an event was announced "Night of the Living La La's" - sponsored by the Oil City Gay-Straight Alliance. In case you are not on the list, the event is November 1 at 8 pm at the Latonia - A costume ball.
The name of the event has great meaning. The emerging alliance has great meaning. The event itself has great meaning.
This event, publicized as a gay-straight alliance event, says that this is a welcoming event for the GLBT community. If you are straight and welcoming - come have a good time.
The emerging alliance and it's meaning? You'll have to come to discover that. And the name of the event? You'll have to come to discover that as well.

Something very different is happening in Oil City. The days of negativity and stereotyping are gone - done! If you are ready to have fun, to create good things, and bring an attitude of true community building - you belong here!

Monday, September 1, 2008

A New Era

Something special is in the air. Do you feel it?
Many of us have often joked that Venango County is 10 years behind the rest of the nation. I believe that has changed and am most amazed! There's a new attitude sweeping the county. It's in Emlenton. It's in Kennerdale. It's in Cranberry. It's in Seneca. It's in Oil City. And it's in Franklin.
I first felt it at a Whitewater Recreation Park meeting several years ago in Oil City where I was welcomed at the table with a very ecclectic mix of people. Professors, a Council member, an artist, outdoor enthusiasts, a Chamber member, business owners - all with a common dream. And each month, I watched as the members welcomed newcomers, young and not so young without hesitation. Welcome! Be a part! Help us build something new.
Change and growth are not being driven from the top down. There are grass roots efforts popping up everywhere. Neighborhoods are coming together and talking about creating something better. There are street dances, neighborhood celebrations, art shows, and more. We are seeking common ground with one another. We are looking for ways to work together to create a brighter future.
Last week, a young black senator whom the nation just met 4 years ago, spoke elequently about grassroots change in a historical Presidental nomination speech. A new attitude to seek common ground in solving problems. I marvelled that it is already happening in Venango County. We are actually at the forefront of the nation.
No matter what your political persuasion, background or beliefs - become part of this new movement. Let's find the common ground. Let's open our hearts and minds to embrace the good in one another to create a brighter future for all.
It's already happening here in Venango County. The only choices are to "lead, follow or get out of the way."