21.4.11

Gay Iconoclast Penny Arcade, the “Fuck You” Factor, and a Little About Me



 

Recently on an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race, one of her competing queens was asked why she thought she deserved to be the winner of the contest and she retorted with a very heartfelt and thought provoking response. She said that she has always been a drag queen and that she wanted to be an example for all the confused little boys out there who are scared about their sexuality and who don't know that its ok to be themselves, to accept who they are without self-loathing and grief. She wanted to tell them that its ok to be an individual and to accept themselves and that its ok to say FUCK YOU and stand up tall. RuPaul went on to say that there is "power in the fuck you factor." She's right!

For me, growing up in rural America was not easy. I felt different from a very early age and never felt really accepted by my peers, what few that I had, nor by my extended family. My Mother, Father, and Grandmother were very supportive once I came out of the closet. It was my other ultra-conservative, bible thumping, Baptist family members who never really treated me with much acceptance or respect. I once was told that HIV was "God's punishment for the queers" by a family member. My 12 year old cousin at the time, told me that his Mother said to him that she didn't want me coming to visit him anymore because I got on her nerves due to the fact that I "acted feminine sometimes." As soon as he said it, I punched him in the leg and made him cry. I was very hurt.

I grew up in Washington County, out in the middle of nowhere. We lived on a gravel road, and the closest neighbor was several miles away, and the nearest grocery store was a half hour drive. I lived with my Father, a business owner, former steel mill worker, and ex military army officer who served in World War II who only went through the eight grade but proudly managed to make something of himself and my Mother and Grandmother. My Mother was a foster child who suffered a lot and was bounced from home to home and finally made a career out of working for a dentist and also worked at my Father's glass and framing shop during my early years. My Grandmother did not work but in the past had wanted to be an artist and was quite good at hand sketches. She raised me during my early childhood since both my Mother and Father worked full time. Most of my childhood was spent alone, with not many friends, only my cousins who lived nearby worrying about hiding the big, self defined, dirty family secret. When I was a kid I was told that my Father was my Grandfather (or my Mother's foster Dad). It was a shock that haunted me for years in addition to bearing the heavy cross of being a homosexual. I have an adopted sister and brother. My brother had left long before I was conceived and made a career out of being a professional criminal starting at the age of 16, which was when he was first arrested for grand theft auto and then went on to things like armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and even had a SWAT team complete with helicopters after him at one point. I met him once while out on a parole break. Once was enough. My sister was with me as a baby and then moved to Florida and spent many years of her own trying to make sense of the family situation and to accept herself. She looked at me, and in some ways still does, as the root cause of why her family was dysfunctional.

The tone of the whole area in which I grew up was very anti- culture, anti-urban, and anti anything not involving a white, non-ethnic background. Diversity did not exist and being gay was not an option. I attended McGuffey High school with a graduating class of only 200. We had one African American girl in the entire school and 99% percent of the student body was Protestant and very lily white, and very country redneck. So redneck, in fact, that one summer on my way to school, the KKK actually had a road side meeting on Rt 40, trying to recruit new members. With southern flags, and white hoods, they stopped cars and handed out pamphlets about how blacks came from apes, and gays should be murdered for defiling the order of nature and going against God and how Hitler was justified in murdering a million Jews. It was something that I would never forget.

Most of my career in middle school was spent trying to survive, to blend in and not draw attention to my differentness. I knew, when I was 11, that I was gay. I had gone to the public pool with my parents and for the first time, noticed that my attention was drawn to the other naked men's bodies while changing in the shower area. I was attracted to the male body and it scared me and I repressed it for a very long time. I knew that deep down something was different about me. My parents would make comments about how soon I would be liking girls, and their friends would joke about when I would get a girlfriend. It made me very uncomfortable and very sad on the inside. I was so confused at that time. I didn't like girls. I liked boys. While most red blooded American boys going through puberty were in the bathroom with a playgirl, my time was spent thinking about boys.

Middle school was a nightmare. I had few friends and I tended to hang with the other kids who were forced out into the social fringe. They, much like me, were just trying to survive, to blend in, to go unnoticed, to avoid the pain of being tormented by the other "normal kids". High school was somewhat better, when I say better, I mean tolerable. Until this point, my only exposure to gay life was the few pathetic examples that I had seen on 80's television, all of which were portrayed as limp wristed, lisping, queens. Of course, there was the rumor during middle school of the "two queers who lived in Claysville who were caught having oral sex by the train tracks and were proudly beaten to a bloody pulp." It turns out that the "two queers" were the owner of the local bake shop in Claysville, and his newly found out lover. The bake shop closed within a month due to lack of business, and the owner moved out of town. The message to me was, it's not ok to be who you are. If you are open about who you are, you will be ridiculed, harassed, possibly beaten up, and socially shunned. I will never forget a boy named Michael Bonato who was my arch enemy all trough middle school and high school. He always sat behind me in homeroom due to our last names. For eight years I put up with harassment on a daily basis. We were in art class one day, and I can even tell you exactly what he was wearing during the incident because that is how burned into my brain it became. It was the days of Michael Jackson and the Thriller video and Mr. Bonato had on a red shirt with all those crazy zippers all over it like Michael Jackson wore. The class was working on a clay project and unfortunately I was pared up with him as my partner. He looked at me and said, "my Father says that faggots deserve to die." I knew what he was insinuating and it was something that always stayed with me.

My first crush was on a 30 year old man who worked at our church as an intern who was working toward becoming an ordained priest. His name was Tory and he had a full head of curly black hair, and a square set jaw with the most brilliant blue eyes that I had ever seen. He was also my Sunday school teacher. I was totally smitten at the age of 12. He never had a clue, nor did my parents.

When I was 13 I was told the true identity of my Father and that was the year that they decided to try to leave and run to Washington State. One Sunday morning my world changed in a flash. I awoke to my grandmother being gone to church and our family van packed up with all my belongings and my Mother in tears. She said this is your Dad, not your grandfather. I was hysterical. We rented a cheap motel, I tried to run away and they chickened out and went back home. The silence was deafening and no one spoke of it. I was told that I chose this and now I couldn't complain about being miserable. My already cracked foundation had completely crumbled around me and it would take years of future therapy to finally work through things.

During my late teen years , I had saved up enough money to have my uncle build a computer for me. This was my first real exposure of gay culture. The days of AOL, IRC chat, and message boards, introduced me to other gay people. In my senior year, I had an online friend who lived in Phoenix, who wanted to meet me in the worst way. I panicked and shut down. I started dating women, and actually had a fiancée at one point. I lost my straight virginity at the age of 18 in a cheap motel in Pittsburgh on my birthday. I wondered what all the fuss was about because it was not enjoyable. Needless to say that ended in a very angry mess during my freshman year of college. It was all about trying to force myself to fit in. If I married a woman, and lived a repressed life, like so many other married gay men out there, then it would all be ok right? In the end it turned out that the girl I was dating had called my father to inform him that "your son is a faggot." My father, being the person that he is, promptly informed her that it was none of her business, and " when my son is ready to talk about it he will." I had no clue that it had even happened since my parents kept it from me for years. When I was 18, my sister (or Aunt as she was called until the big secret was revealed) called me and said that she KNEW everything about the dirty secret and she was going to expose everything! This put me into a panic and into a depression. I felt like I was being asked to fix a mistake that I had no choice in. I was being emotionally blackmailed by my sister.

It wasn't until I went to college that I learned about the "fuck you factor". I attended the University of Pittsburgh and lived on my own in a roach trap of an apartment in South Oakland. I still kept to myself during my freshman year but then things began to change. I met other gay people and I realized that it really was ok to be myself. It was ok to be gay, it was ok to wear what I wanted even if it wasn't considered cool, it was ok to have my own thoughts and opinions, and most of all it was ok to say FUCK YOU, this is me and I am proud to be who I am.

My first gay sexual encounter was at the age of 20. I went out on a date with my soon to be partner and was seduced in a drunken mess on a couch in a friend's apartment later in the evening. I woke up feeling sick and even more scared and confused. I started dating and remember feeling very self conscious about being out in public with other gay people. I felt like everyone knew and was staring at us. I got over it quickly.

I partied my ass off in my early 20's and submerged myself in gay culture. I hit the club scene every weekend, I partied, I smoked pot, I started smoking cigarettes, and even tried cocaine once. I was into all things gay and thought that life was about bars, smoking marijuana, sex, and looking good. Thankfully I had enough sense about me to be safe during the height of the HIV epidemic. A lot of my friends were not so lucky. I managed to stay far enough from the drug scene to stay out of harms way. My friend Lisa, however did not, and died at the age of 30. I was warned early on by my on line gay friend from Phoenix about gay life. He said "honey, you will learn that a lot of guys will claim that they care about you, and then they will fuck you and be gone in a heartbeat." He was right and several did.

I found a partner with whom I had a seven year relationship with. The dog, the house, the joint bank accounts, the whole deal. After seven years, things fell apart and we both realized that we were too young when we had met and that neither of us really knew what real love was all about. It took me until the age of 38 to figure that one out! After my break up, or "mini nightmare divorce" as I liked to refer to it, I became a mess. I went from 195 lbs to 159 lbs in a few months. I was gaunt, and I couldn't walk across a room in my baggy size 28 pants, without feeling faint. My parents were worried and my friends disappeared and sides were taken. I was alone. My mother actually asked me if I was "sick", which was her way of saying do you have HIV. Until this point, my parents knew my partner as a "roommate" or so I had deluded myself. I finally broke down and called my mother and came clean. I said, "are you sitting down, I have to tell you something" to her over the phone with sweaty palms and quivering legs. She replied "yes, are you ok?" I went on to spill my guts about being gay. She never flinched. She told me that they had known for years and that my girlfriend had ratted me out a long time ago. She told me that it was ok and that I was her son and would always be. I then got a lecture about how "even though gay sex is with a man you can still catch things." I said "Mom, I am not a virgin!" My Father was equally supportive. My Grandmother, who was a staunch Baptist was the most surprising of all. She was my biggest supporter in the end and taught me that it was ok to love myself.

This leads me to discuss a recent article that I read about an actress and performer named Penny Arcade in this months Out Magazine. Penny, prior to her career, lived with a bunch of wild drag queens in NYC and according to Penny, they saved her life. Penny was a reform school runaway, whose father was in a mental institution, and whose mother was abusive. "My life was saved by gay men. Gay men recognized me. They taught me how to think. Everything that had made me wrong in the world made me just perfect," says Penny during her interview. Penny goes on to talk about how much gay culture has changed and why questions why we, as gay and lesbians, suddenly feel the need to find acceptance by the straight world.

"Now we're in this monoculture with this pathetic need of some gay people to have the approbation of heterosexual celebrities. When I look at people who are stars in the gay world—Margaret Cho or Kathy Griffin or even my most beloved Joan Rivers—all these people are always talking about their gays. And gay people accept that?? When Kathy Griffin says "my gays" I want to kick in the television. When Margaret Cho says "my gays" I want to take an axe and smash in the T.V. set. When someone positions herself along side and not along with, I don't understand that. Nina Simone was with. Judy Garland was with. Barbara Streisand was not saying 'my gays.''' "Being gay is not special, we need to cut that shit out." – Penny Arcade, OUT Magazine, April 2011

Arcade's point is that gays are part of, not separate from, everyone else. She goes on to say that there is no such thing as "gay rights", only human rights. This brings me back to the power of the "fuck you factor." We, as gays and lesbians, need to stop trying to gain acceptance from the outside and start accepting ourselves from the inside. We are all part of this planet and we should not have to seek acceptance as human beings nor should we be treated as substandard. We should not have to feel like it's a privilege to be included in society or to be accepted by heterosexuals. It really is ok to say FUCK YOU, I am what I am, and hold your head up high. I did it, and it was the best thing I ever did in my life. It took me most of my life to learn to love myself, and some days it's still very hard. I think that if you cant love yourself then you cant really love anyone else. You have to learn this lesson first!


I am not writing this for pity, nor am I writing it to make anyone feel anything other than possibly a light bulb going on in their head.  My story is not unique nor was my tumultuous past.  I am one of the lucky ones.  Many gay people lose their family due to being disowned, many hide their identity and get married and live tortured lives, some even commit suicide. I was lucky because I still have a family and surround myself with people who care.  I am writing this for all of the scared, closeted men and women out there and for the young men and women who are just starting out.  It is ok to say fuck you and be yourself and to love yourself. Be proud of who you are!

To all the people from my past who told me I was worth nothing, who called me a faggot in middle school and highschool, to some members of my family who made me feel ashamed and hate myself for being gay, for the teacher in school who told me that I would amount to nothing, and to all the others along the way who tried to trip me up and make me not believe in love and in life, FUCK YOU! Boy that felt great!

 

17.4.11

Theaters A Go Go….Photoplays, Porn Theaters, Rock, and Fine Arts Centers




Not so long ago, Liberty Avenue and the Arts District of downtown Pittsburgh looked very different. I remember coming to the city when I was 12, with my mother when she had to take a government exam for her job. We had to walk down Liberty to get the testing center. Liberty, in the 80's was a rough place full of porn theaters, adult book stores, and prostitutes and not a nice place to be! How the times have changed! Pittsburgh went through several renaissance periods and the late 80's and early 90's was one of those periods. The porn shops and theaters were shut down and renovated back to their former glory.

Prior to the age of prostitutes and peep shows, downtown once was home to a lot of great old theaters. The Benedum Center, or the Stanley Photoplay Theater was one of those great theaters, as well as the Harris, and the Byham (or the Gayity as it was known back then). I also have memories of childhood stories told by my Grandmother about how she used to take the street car, you know those things on cables that existed prior to the smoke belching, hulking PAT bus system went into place, to downtown to see movies at the Stanley Theater and would shop at all the numerous downtown department stores.

The first time I went to the Benedum, which was in my freshman year at college to see an opera, I was amazed at the gold guilded interior and the massive dome overhead, and also at the immense size of the place. What I didn't know was that this wonderful old theater was once a movie house, the very movie house that my Grandmother went to as a child to watch photoplays, as they were called back then!

Here is a brief history of the Benedum, and of how the downtown area has changed radically since the 80's.




A fully restored interior

The Stanly bosting airconditioning during its early days.
History

The Stanley Theatre, built at a cost of $3 million, opened as a deluxe movie palace February 27, 1928, and seats about 2,885 people (the original seating configuration was over 3,800). It was designed by the architectural firm Hoffman and Henon, who were most well known for their design and construction of 35 theaters in the Philadelphia area. The Stanley Theatre had the distinction of being the largest movie theater in Western Pennsylvania. Operated by the Stanley Warner Theater circuit division of Warner Brothers, it was Pittsburgh's main first run house for all Warner Brothers film releases.

In 1976, The Stanley was purchased and renovated by the Cinemette Corporation to be operated as a movie theater. In 1977, DiCesare Engler Productions bought the theater in order to present live rock and roll concerts through 1982.

As the Stanley Theater, it was named "Number One Auditorium in the U.S." by Billboard for several years when it was owned and operated by Pittsburgh based concert promoters |DiCesare-Engler Productions between 1977 and 1984

Restoration

On September 25, 1987, after a $43 million restoration was completed, the Stanley re-opened as the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. In converting the former movie palace into a full performing arts center, a new building including an extension to the stage and support facilities was built at the rear of the theater. The interior was largely preserved and restored to its original design, with the addition of a new acoustical baffle covering the original proscenium. The signature piece of the Benedum Center is the original main chandelier which weighs 4,700 pounds, is 20 feet high and 12 feet wide. It was restored in honor of the late H.J. Heinz II.

Today the Center is the home of the Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera who formerly were based at Heinz Hall, (the former Loew's Penn Theater) that had been restored by and is the current home of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The 3,800-seat Benedum Center is the crown jewel of the Cultural District and is one of the most utilized theaters in the nation today


 

The Cultural District Transformation in Pictures
Click on images to download full-size, print-quality versions.
For over 25 years, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has transformed one of the largest land masses "curated" by a nonprofit arts organization from a seedy red-light district into a vibrant Cultural District.
The 800 Block of Liberty Avenue: 1970s/1980s
460_Liberty_Avenue_Before.jpg 460_801-803 Liberty Ave BEFORE 2.jpg460_Liberty Ave Before XXX.JPG
The 800 Block of Liberty Avenue: Today
Today, the 800-block of Liberty Avenue is home to the offices of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Crazy Mocha Coffee Shop, Shaw Galleries, SPACE Gallery, Dozen Bake Shop, florist Fragile Paradise, and the


The Cultural District Transformation in Pictures (continued)
7th Street and Penn Avenue
7th & Penn Before.bmp
Before: Doc Johnson's House of Marital Aids and Love Potions,circa 1980s
7th & Penn Magnolias.jpg
After: A rotating public art park, curated by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, featuring installations by international artists. Photographed here: "Magnolias for Pittsburgh," two bronze trees created by Tony Tasset.
Agnes R. Katz Plaza
Katz Plaza BEFORE.jpg
Directly across the street, this former parking lot today is Agnes R. Katz Plaza, featuring one of the largest outdoor public art commissions by Louise Bourgeois.
Katz Plaza with people long view.JPG
Thumbnail image for Louise Bourgeois sculpture.jpg
937 Liberty Avenue
937 Liberty BEFORE.JPG
This Edwardian-style building once housed Turkish baths and adult bookstores. Today, it is the Cultural District home for the theater company, Bricolage, among other artists and performers.
Harris Theater.
460_Harris_Theater_AFTER.jpg
The Harris Theater...former Porn theater turned Art Film Theater
460_Liberty_Avenue_After.jpg

A Night at the Ballet

Alexandre Silva

Christine Schwaner

I had a wonderful weekend with David this week.  Friday we hung out at home and David was having a lot of pain from his recent neck problems so I was a bit (ok a lot) concerned about him.  It is not easy watching someone you care about go through pain.  Thankfully by Saturday morning he was feeling much better.

This weekend was a bit of a suprise.  Thursday we were sitting outside having dinner and enjoying the weather when David asked "do you like ballet."  I said yes I do enjoy it even though I dont get to go very much, and that it also depended on what the ballet was.  He said "good because we are going Saturday night!"  Two of his friends are soloists for the Pittsburgh Ballet Company and they had given David two free tickets.

The ballet was Balanchine, and was sort of a compilation of works.  The first part was very abstract and took place on a very blank stage with just a blue screen behind the dancers, who were clad in skin tight, no frills, white tights.  The rest of the show was much more enjoyable with the last piece being The Prodigal Son.  The dancers were fantastic.  David's friend Alexandre Silva was in the lead role.


I sat with my eyes glued to the stage as the dancers seemed to defy gravity and floated across my view.  I am not sure what was more beautiful, the costumes, the dancers themselves (the men and the women had perfect bodies), or the movements of the dance. David held my hand through most of the performance, which made it even more extra special.  I get into all that kind of romantic stuff!

After the performance we ran into Christine Schwaner, David's friend and wife of Alexandre, who is a dancer and soloist herself.  She whisked us backstage to meet her husband, Alexandre.  It was amost surreal walking  across the imense stage of the Benedum peering out into the audience area.  You dont realize how huge the backstage area is until you see it for yourself.  We walked across the stage with Christine into the dressing room area.  A long dimly lit hallway with the dancers names posted outside a row of doors. Halfway down the hall, a shirtless and sweaty Alexandre Silva came bounding down the hall to greet his wife and David.  I was introduced and we walked back out to the side stage where we talked briefly until the Director of the ballet came up to critique Alexandre's performance. Alexandre had a scene where he literally crawled across the stage on hands and knees, which took its tole.  His knees were very bruised up from the evening performance.   We spoke for a while and then left out the back stage door with Alexandre and Christine in the lead to head back to the parking lot to get our cars.  

Alexandre and Christine were both genuinely charming and I felt very at ease with them!  David, when he lived in Polish hill, used to rent to new Ballet artists and it turns out that Alexandre and Christine were former tenants of his.

The evening was exciting in many ways.  One, because I got to see a fantastic ballet AND I got to meet the lead performer backstage at the Benedum!  That was not the only reason it was fantastic.  It was exciting because I got to finally meet some of David's friends AND I finally felt a little more included in his life.  I have not seen David be so bubbly and happy in quite some time.  I could tell that it was a part of his life that mad him happy to think about just from his reaction when he saw them. It was a good feeling to see him so happy and a good feeling for me to meet part of his past! I guess part of me was happy to know that he cared enough and was comfortable enough to have me by his side when we met them.  Silly I know, but to me it meant a lot!








15.4.11

LGBT Population in the US is 9 Million........

LGBT population is 9 million, researchers say

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There are about 9 million LGBT individuals in the United States, says The Williams Institute, a sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy think tank.
About 8 million adults are lesbian, gay or bisexual, or about 3.5 percent of the population. About 700,000 people identify as transgender. This is significantly lower than the common understanding of the gay population as being 10 percent of the U.S. population; but Dr. Gary Gates, the study author, has pointed out that the count depends on how people define “gay.” He told About.com:
“If you mean people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in a survey, then the answer is that it’s likely not one in 10, but closer to one in 20. A recent government survey found that 4 percent of adults aged 18-45 identified as ‘homosexual’ or ‘bisexual.’ A similar proportion of voters identify as GLB. If you define gay as having same-sex attractions or behaviors, you do get higher proportions that are a bit closer to the one in 10 figure.”
The new study is available at http://www2.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/pdf/How-many-people-are-LGBT-Final.pdf

Gates said in a statement that the new Williams numbers support the call for more LGBT inclusion in federal statistics from the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies who released an analysis of LGBT health research.
Gates said, “The surveys highlighted in this report demonstrate the usefulness of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on large-scale national population-based surveys. Better data can provide the building blocks for critical information to understand the lives of the 9 million LGBT Americans who have been historically marginalized in both society and research.”
Among other findings from the study:
•       Bisexuals are a slight majority; 1.7 percent of adults identify as lesbian or gay while 1.8 percent identify as bisexual.
•       Women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual.
•       Those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex sexual attraction are substantially higher than those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual.  An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2 percent) report that they have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11 percent) acknowledge at least some same-sex sexual attraction.

A List of Pittsburgh Gay Resources



ALLIES

An organization located at Carnegie Mellon University for people of all sexual orientations who support gays, bisexuals, and lesbians, and for people who would like to know more about issues dealing with sexuality.

Bet Tikvah

An alternative synagogue for Pittsburgh's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community as well as their family and friends.

cmuOUT

A group of lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the Carnegie Mellon campus community, and their friends - working to make CMU a friendlier place for people of all sexual orientations.

Dignity - Pittsburgh

Weekly Catholic mass, social groups, Catholic sacraments and other religious support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their families and friends in Pittsburgh.

Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh

The GLCC of Pittsburgh is located in Squirrel Hill and provides a host of services to the GLBT communities of Pittsburgh including a phoneline, youth group, library, meeting rooms, office space, and events.

Living Proud Pittsburgh

Gay, lesbian and transgendered news and entertainment (formerly "Queer World" and "Living Proud by Design '99"). Includes Pittsburgh information, gay resources and a 'Remembrance Page.'

Marriage Equality Pennsylvania

Founded in Pittsburgh in March 2004, Marriage Equality Pennsylvania (MEPA) is a grassroots organization working to end discrimination in civil marriage.

PFLAG - Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is part of a national organization which works to promote education and advocacy, to end discrimination and secure civil rights.

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

Offering support, referrals, activities, as well as volunteer opportunities and a calendar of upcoming events.

Pittsburgh FrontRunners

Pittsburgh's lesbian and gay running club. Weekly walks and runs for runners and walkers of all speeds and capabilities.

Pittsburgh International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

PILGFF provides Pittsburgh area residents an opportunity to explore diverse, alternative and experimental films and videos with exclusively gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered themes.

Pittsburgh's Out

The Tri-State's gay and lesbian newspaper. Subscribe by mail or get it at a local gay-friendly business.

Rainbow Alliance

Fostering an atmosphere of awareness and acceptance of all individuals, this organization serves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at the University of Pittsburgh.

Thursday Night Live

Pittsburgh's Gay and Lesbian professionals organization provides social and networking opportunities for gay professionals. Monthly meetings offer a forum for discussing trends and issues facing gay professionals in Pittsburgh.

Western Pennsylvania Freedom to Marry Coalition

Working for the legal recognition in PA of civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Crewheads

Organization for gay and lesbian rowers in Pittsburgh.



Gay Guy Happy Hour (G2H2)

A social function for gay men that meets at a different local venue every month for happy hour.  Very good thing to attend if you are looking for young, professional single men.

Lez Liquor Hour 
  
Just like the one for the guys, only for single, professional, women!

  Dreams of Hope
Through the arts, Dreams of Hope develops lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied youth leaders who promote social change by educating audiences.
2 Link   GLEC
An all-inclusive GLBT networking organization comprising of an array of Gay and Lesbian Professionals in the Pittsburgh area and surrounding counties
3   Link   Glenda
Fosters appreciation of gays, lesbians and all people by working together with diverse communities to make western Pennsylvania a better place to live
4   Link   GLSEN
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.
5   Link   Persad Center
The nation’s second oldest licensed counseling center specifically created to serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community
6   Link   Pittsburgh Aids Task Force
Dedicated to supporting and empowering all individuals living with HIV/AIDS and preventing the spread of infection
7   Link   Transpitt
A social support group for the transgendered community
8   Link   Shepherd Wellness Community
the only AIDS Community Center in Western Pennsylvania - celebrating 20 years of Wellness for people affected by HIV/AIDS



14.4.11

Is gay bashing on the rise?

Is gay bashing on the rise?

Vigil in Trafalgar Square

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

Just as gay and lesbian people are starting to enjoy equal rights, the number of attacks against them seems to be rising. Why?
Ten years ago, a nail-bomb exploded in a gay bar in the heart of London, claiming three lives and maiming dozens more, the final act in a series of attacks on the capital's minority groups.
The intervening decade has seen significant steps in changing attitudes and legislation that give gay people - and their civil partners - equality enshrined in law.
But now another shadow has been cast over the UK's gay community. A series of homophobic attacks, at a time when crime figures suggest such incidents are on the rise, has mobilised people to voice their anger.
Over the weekend, candlelit vigils were held in London and Liverpool, at the scenes of two of the most recent acts of violence to make headlines, and also in Brighton and Norwich, while gay venues across the country held a two-minute silence on Friday evening in an act of solidarity.
RECENT ATTACKS
London, 25 Sept: Ian Baynham, 62, beaten in Trafalgar Square, later died
Liverpool, 25 Oct: PC James Parkes, 22, suffers multiple skull fractures after attack by youths

Of the thousands who gathered in London's Trafalgar Square - at the spot where Ian Baynham was attacked in September, later dying from his injuries - some headed afterwards to the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, the scene of the nail bombing 10 years ago.
Although it looked like business as usual, some punters were in reflective mood. Jeff, 32, said he sensed "more tension" in the last 12 to 18 months and some people had stopped coming into central London as a consequence. He said he had always been wary about showing public affection to his civil partner, for fear of inviting abuse, but even more so recently.
"I'm nervous when we're out and about in case we draw attention to ourselves and get a bad reaction from someone."
One 28-year-old, who asked not to be named, said he and his boyfriend had recently been threatened with a weapon and foul language.
Montage of pics of victims
Assaults and murders have made headlines
The pair had been getting off a bus when a man with a knife began spouting insults, calling them "queers".
Such incidents have always happened, but are they happening with more regularity now?
There are no national figures for homophobic crime, but individual police forces have reported an annual rise in their latest figures - 40% in Merseyside, which covers Liverpool, and 34% in Strathclyde, which includes Glasgow.
Third-party reporting
In London, where there was a series of attacks over the summer on people outside gay bars in the East End, there has been an 18% rise, mostly in common assault and harassment, prompting Mayor Boris Johnson to seek assurances that enough is being done.
The police say this rise, at least partly, is due to improved relations with the gay community. After decades of mistrust and a resistance to reporting homophobic crime, gays and lesbians are coming forward in greater numbers, say police. Some forces have introduced third-party and online reporting in an effort to address the under-reporting of these incidents.
WHY LONDON'S EAST END?
'In recent years it's true that there has been a big drive by the police to encourage gay people to come forward and report hate crimes but I'm not sure that accounts for all of this increase,' says editor of QX magazine, Cliff Joannou.

'In areas like Shoreditch in London, there seems to have been a significant rise in incidents, particularly violent ones, and that is an area where many gay bars have opened up in in recent years. Whether this is a case of the local residents of the area clashing with the new communities that are moving in, I'm not sure.

The perpetrators do seem to often be teenagers, primarily, and it is sad that there seems to have been a growing acceptance of the word 'gay' as an insulting term.'
People are now more likely to report incidents to the police, says Phil Nicol, who works at a London-based advice service that receives complaints of abuse from people in cities across the UK such as Glasgow, Manchester and Belfast. It ranges from name-calling in the street, neighbours hurling objects through windows, damaging cars, to serious physical assault.
"A lot of people feel a lot more comfortable with the police, because they have specially trained lesbian and gay officers and there's a better understanding among people of what homophobia constitutes, that it isn't only physical."
But gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell sees a more worrying picture. The higher level of reporting to police has masked an accompanying rise in attacks, he believes. This is partly due to more people coming out as society becomes more accepting, plus there's probably a backlash happening against equality legislation, he suggests.
"As more people come out they become more visible and more easily identifiable. That makes them easier targets for people who want to target them.
"The second thing is there's probably an element of people who are losing what they have until now taken for granted - their right to be homophobic. They are angry and it's a last desperate gasp from people who are used to doing what they like to gay people.
"I remember there was a similar backlash in the US in the 60s, a big rise in racist attacks in the wake of the civil rights movement."
DOES THE MEDIA PLAY A PART?
Michael Cashman
Michael Cashman MEP, who played one of television's first gay characters, Colin in EastEnders, says religious homophobia has a huge impact in influencing attitudes among young people.

'Within faith schools we are still getting a message of anaesthetised hatred - 'we don't hate these people but they're not equal'. If that is said enough, it softens the brains of young people and that's so dangerous. And it's a message echoed by sections of the press.'
He thinks the real figure is probably double the official one, because up to three-quarters of gay men and women simply don't report because they still don't trust the police. And he expects this spike in offences to last two or three years before subsiding again.
A link between gay equality and the rise in homophobic abuse is also identified by Ben Summerskill, chief executive of campaign group Stonewall. Civil partnerships, he says, have reminded people who harbour prejudices that gay people are everywhere.
And he is particularly drawn to the fact that many of the antagonists are in their teens or early 20s. To him, that suggests a link with school where he says homophobia is still going unchecked.
Youngsters looking for scapegoats may be turning their fire on gay people because other forms of prejudice have become unacceptable.
"For years people said schoolchildren used words like 'Paki' and 'spastic' and there's nothing that can be done about it, but when schools said these expressions were completely unacceptable, they stopped using them.
"We know from our work with schools that - partly in the shadow of Section 28 [a now repealed law which prevented councils from promoting homosexuality] - many schools still feel ambivalent about addressing homophobia, even when they want to."
This "serious problem" in schools is hardly helped when BBC Radio 1's Chris Moyles is allowed to use the term "gay" as an insult, he says.
Perhaps the experience of Liverpool explains the paradox of rising tolerance at a time when homophobic incidents are growing.
Carl Alderdice, who organised Sunday's vigil, says the city has become much more gay-friendly, although it is still some way behind Manchester. But he knows that with greater prominence comes greater risk.
"Liverpool could have a [gay festival] next year and it's getting its first official gay quarter. This means we could become more of a target so we need to make sure the police are aware of that and we hope they have more visible policing on the streets."

11.4.11

Light....A Study of the Human Form

Often times the use of shadow makes a photograph dramatic.  Lets take a look at the use of bright light to add a dramatic effect.  

Please scroll down to enjoy the show..it will start automatically.

3.4.11

Meditation and Changing My State of Mind













It has been five months since I first started meditating. When I first started it was a very hard thing to get used to doing and I wondered if it really did anything. I was frustrated and found it very hard to focus because I had all sorts of thoughts racing through my head. It was like trying to control a raging tempest. Gradually I learned to focus, and to calm my mind.

I got into the routine of doing this several times a week in the evening and it really did help. For the last several weeks I have become somewhat lax in my practice and have lost the discipline that I had. I miss it. I had a period of stress today with some personal things going on and I thought about how much I miss the inner peace that I got when I did meditate on a regular basis. I hadn't realized what an effect it had on me until I stopped doing it.

The best way that I can describe it is that it feels comforting, first of all. When you meditate it feels like the world stops spinning for a brief period and you are allowed to catch your breath. It is just you, and your thoughts, and nothing else. It forces you to observe yourself with no distraction. You focus inward and sometimes what you see, or feel, can be scary, or sad, or happy. You never know what will surface until you focus, and then, out of nowhere, from somewhere deep down, things start to surface. Sometimes its stuff that you didn't even know that you were stressing over! After you get used to doing this on a regular basis, it becomes sort of a haven for you.

I guess my whole point to this blog entry is that I hadn't realized what a positive effect that mediation has had on my life, until it wasn't there. It's the sort of thing that creeps up on you, just when think nothing is happening, you realize that it was. It was just subtle.

The History of Buddhism

The History of Buddhism

The history of Buddhism traces back to the teachings of Lord Buddha after He attained enlightenment in 528 BCE under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, India. Ater attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha spent the rest of His life in making others aware of the truth of life. It was after His Mahaparinirvana in 483 BCE , when the first Buddhist council was convened at Rajagriha in India , when 500 monks assembled under the guidance of Mahakashyapa, and the teachings of The Buddha were compiled by His chief disciple, Ananda in the form of a holy Pali canon, Tripitaka, which meant the three baskets.


The Buddhism In India
  • 483 BCE - 250 BCE
    The Second Buddhist council that was held in Vaishali in 383 BCE, one hundred years after the Buddha's death, witnessed the conflict of the Buddhist ideologies, which ultimately resulted in the formation of two schools - Sthaviravadins and Mahasanghikas. The Sthaviravadins, later known as Theravadins were of orthodox views and wanted the monks to lead an ascetic's life, whereas the Mahasanghikas or the Mahayanas were of liberal view and wanted the conducts to be flexible. The conflict between both the sects became so intense that later The Indian emperor, Ashoka had to convene the third Buddhist council in his kingdom's capital at Patliputra in 250 BCE to purify Buddhism and reconcile the two sects.

  • Ashoka (269 BCE - 232 BCE)
    There is a story which tells about a poor young boy, who once when went to see Gautam Buddha, had nothing to give Him as a gift. The poor young child was desperate to present the Buddha something, and so, he collected a handful of dust and innocently presented it to the Buddha. The Buddha smiled and accepted it with the same graciousness He used to accept the gifts of wealthy admirers. That innocent boy, it is said, was reborn as the Emperor Ashoka. The rise of Buddhism had not reached the height prior to the upcoming of Ashoka, who when converted into a Buddhist, gave the sect a glory that it should have got earlier! Ashoka made 'Dhamma' his state religion, which was entirely based upon the teachings of Lord Buddha, and got the Dhamma engraved on the rock edicts throughout his empire. He also sent the Buddhist monks, including his son, Mahindra and daughter, Sanghamitra, to different parts of the world as far as Egypt, Palestine, Greece, Southeast Asia and Central Asia to spread the philosophy of Buddhism. Though Ashoka had convened the third Buddhist council to establish harmony between two sects, but unfortunately he could not succeed. However, both the sects agreed upon the purification of Buddhism.

  • 233 BCE - 1st century BCE
    After the death of Ashoka, Buddhism again went through the period of suppression especially by the Sunga rulers, during 185 BCE - 73 BCE.

  • 1st century CE - 8th century CE
    The following era till 8th century CE was an era of Buddhism, in which a large section of people followed the principles of Buddhism. Again the Indian emperors started giving royal patronage to Buddhism. Kanishka, a Kushana emperor, convened the fourth Buddhist council in 100 CE in Kashmir or Jalandhar, which is generally associated with the rise of the Mahayana sect.

  • 8th century CE onwards
    Buddhism in Sri LankaBut the 'dark age' began in the 8th century CE with the revival of Hinduism in India as people started going back to Hinduism. The Buddhist school was further shaken by jolts from the luxurious practices of the Buddhist monks, intermingling of the Tantricism with that of Hinduism and finally, the Turks' invasion of India, who targeted the Buddhist temples and monasteries. As a result, Buddhism got confined to parts of the Indian Himalayan region till early 20th century, when the establishment of MahaBodhi society and conversion of an Indian leader, B.R. Ambedkar with his followers into Buddhism favoured the revival of Buddhism in India.


Buddhism Outside India
  • Sri Lanka (3rd century BCE onwards)
    When Ashoka's son, monk Mahindra reached the contemporary Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura in the 3rd century BCE, he was warmly welcomed by the Sri Lankan ruler, Devanampriya-Tissa. The Sri Lankan emperor was greatly influenced by the teachings of the Buddha and culture of the Buddhist India which were preached by the monk Mahindra, and converted into Buddhism. Soon, Buddhism became the state religion of Sri Lanka.

    Later, when Ashoka's daughter, Sanghamitra, reached Sri Lanka, she is believed to have brought the southern branch of the original Bodhi tree, which was planted at Anuradhapura, and still is worshipped by the Sri Lankan Buddhists.

    During the reign of the Sri Lankan ruler, Vatta Gamini in the 1st century CE, the monks assembled in Aloka-Vihara and wrote down the Tripitaka, the three basket of the Teachings, known as the Pali scriptures for the first time. The Sri Lankan nuns introduced the Sangha of nuns in China in 433 CE. Although Buddhism in Sri Lanka had spread once from Sri Lanka to other parts as well, but from the 16th century CE onwards, it nearly died out due to competition from Hinduism and Islam, as well as war and Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialism in Sri Lanka.

    But a major Buddhist revival movement as a result of nationalism not only brought back the glory of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, but also flourished it in other parts of the continent.From that period onwards itself, the Sri Lankan monks have had an important role in spreading both Theravada Buddhism in Asia, the West and even in Africa. Today, about 69 per cent of the total Sri Lankan population adheres to Theravadin Buddhism.

  • China (475 CE onwards)
    Before the arrival of Buddhism in China, the Chinese were either following Confucianism, Taoism or folk religion. China recorded official contact with Buddhism with the arrival of an Indian Buddhist monk and scholar, Bodhi Dharma IN 475 CE. Bodhi Dharma introduced the philosophy of the Buddha's teachings to the Chinese, who were influenced by them. Gradually, Buddhism and Chinese Taoism intermingled with one another, thereby resulting in the Ch'an school of Buddhism in China. The philosophical inspirations of the Madhyamaka and Yogachara, as well as the Pure Land and Ch'an Sutras, interacting with the already sophisticated philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism, led to a regular renaissance in religious and philosophical thought in China.

  • Tibet (173 CE onwards)
    Buddhism in Tibet Buddhism was first introduced to Tibet in 173 CE in the reign of the 28th Yarlung king Lha Thothori Nyantsen, but it had hardly any impact on the Tibetans. The Buddhist scriptures were for the first time officially introduced to Tibet around 500 CE during the reign of the 28th Tibetan king, Hlato Ri Nyentsen. The Indian scholar, Shantarakshita went to Tibet during the reign of the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen (CE 740 - CE 798), but due to the opposition from some of the king's ministers, he had to return back. But before Shantarakshita left, he convinced the king to invite the tantric adept Padmasambhava, whose arrival asserted that Shantarakshita's efforts had been ruined by the demons of the country. Padmasambhava defeated all the demons in a personal combat which impressed the king and his court who then invited Shantarakshita again and the first monastery in Tibet was built at Samye. This marked the beginning of the 'first dissemination' of Buddhism to Tibet, which ended when the devout Buddhist king Relbachen (815-836) was assassinated, which further led to the beginning of an interregnum period for Tibetan Buddhism, which again ended in 1042 CE, when Atisha (982 CE - 1054 CE), one of the directors of the monastic university of Nalanda, paid a visit to Tibet. Tibetan historians consider this to be the beginning of the 'second dissemination' of Buddhism in Tibet. Atisha was so successful in bringing back the Dharma to Tibet that Buddhism quickly became the dominant religious tradition in the country.

  • Buddhism In Japan (550 CE onwards)
    Buddhism was introduced to Japan by Korea and China in the 6th century CE. Trade via 'silk route' not only brought different regions of the distant world together, but also developed the 'mutual understanding' among the neighbouring nations. China and Korea were no exception and along with trade relationship, Buddhism reached Korea from China.

    Later, as per Nihonshoki in 552 CE, the Korean state of Paekche sent Buddhist texts and images to Japan so as to convince the Japanese emperor to become an ally in its war with the neighboring state of Silla. In the initial stages, Japanese inclination towards Buddhism was majorly related to the magical powers of the Buddha and Buddhist monks. But when the emperor Yomei (CE 585 - CE 587) converted into Buddhism, the Japanese began to travel to China in order to learn from the Buddhist teachers there, and a number of indigenous Buddhist schools developed in Japan, Zen being the most prominent one of all others like Shingon and Tindai.

    Yomei's son, Prince Shotoku (CE 574 - CE 622) propagated Buddhism, built various Buddhist temples and sent Japanese monks to travel to China for further studies on Buddhism. Besides these, he also wrote commentaries on three Buddhist texts. Undoubtedly, in later period, he was viewed in Japan as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

  • The Western Nations (1850 CE onwards)
    The West came to know about the Buddha and His philosophy as a result of the European colonies set up in the Asian regions. However, Buddhism was officially introduced in the western nations in the later half of the 19th century CE. The western scholars, who were influenced by the ancient cultures of India and other Asian regions such as China and Sri Lanka, started learning Asian languages and translating Asian texts into European languages. The religious people started coming down to India, Japan, Sri Lanka and China to understand the depth of the Asian religion and culture.

    In Great Britain, societies like 'Pali Text Society' (By T.W.Rhys Davids) and 'Buddhist Society' (By T.Christmas Humphreys) were set up for the Buddhist devotees. Similarly, Buddhism was also encouraged in countries like Germany, France and the United States. During the world war II, when many Zen Buddhists went to England and the U.S., the Zen Buddhism became more popular in those places.

    Similarly, the Europeans and Americans, who acquired the wealth of knowledge from Asia and were impressed with the Buddhist Philosophy set up Buddhist monasteries and societies back at their home, which became source of the Buddhist Idealogies for the Westerners.

Buddhism and Hinduism....a comparssion.

Buddhism & Hinduism

"Buddhism, in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism."

Guatam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism was born and brought up and lived and left this materialistic world as a Hindu. And this particular evidence is enough to explain that the concept of Hinduism predates to that of Buddhism. Hinduism, better known as the 'Sanatan Dharma' to the Hindus, is believed to be the oldest religion in the history of human civilisation. Practiced majorly in the secular India, the origin of Hinduism is still a mystery!

According to the historians, the origin of Hinduism dates back to 5000 or more years, whereas, the origin of Buddhism came into existence in a much later period, that is in & around 563 BC. After Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment, He preached whatever He learnt from His experiences and His teachings came to be known as Buddhism and were well received by the people.

It was during the later part of the Vedic Era, when Hinduism was on the verge of decline owing to the orthodoxy, superstitions and staunch practices, prevailing in the religion, when Buddhism with lesser complexities and rituals was accepted by the common people of India.

This was the time when Buddhism arose out of the atheistic strands of Hinduism.

It is a fact that Buddhism evolved and developed because of the complex nature evolving in Hinduism, but still despite some differences, these two sects have a lot of things in common.


Similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism
On Reincarnation
  • Buddhism : Buddhism believes in the process of reincarnation based on deeds of the present life.

  • Hinduism : Hinduism also believes that everyone is a part of an impersonal world and therefore, one's soul reincarnates into another body of any being, based on the deeds of the present life.

Buddha Statue On Salvation
  • Buddhism : One has to work for salvation oneself and therefore, cannot blame others for the same. The salvation depends on the good deeds of a person.

  • Hinduism : In Hinduism also, one attains salvation as per one's own fate and deeds. There are four paths or four yogas to attain salvation : Karma Yoga - Way of good works, Bhakti Yoga - Way of love and faith, Jnana Yoga - Way of knowledge, and Raja Yoga - Way of salvation.

On Enlightenment
  • Buddhism and Hinduism : Both of them believe that there are many paths to attain enlightenment such as overcoming through your feelings and desires and controlling over the six conscious senses.

On Sufferings
  • Buddhism and Hinduism : Both the schools of thought believe that excessive attachment to things and people in the physical world causes pain and suffering. Therefore, we must get ourselves free from the illusions of 'Maya' or worldly desires.

Yogic Practices
  • Buddhism and Hinduism : Both of them gives an emphasis on the practice of meditation and other forms of yoga, which not only helps one to concentrate on the truth of life, but also facilitates the path of enlightenment and liberation.

Tantric Practices
  • Buddhism : Buddhism has a major sect, 'Tantrayana', which is mainly based upon the tantric practices.

  • Hinduism : Tantric practices are also prevalent in Hinduism, especially among the worshippers of the Goddess Kali and the god Shiva. Likewise Hinduism, the Mahayana Buddhism believes that the original teachings of the Buddha are from the Hindu practices, including prayers and the concept of God(even the Buddha as God in all His incarnations). Mahayana Buddhism also introduces the idea of (temporary) heavens and hells.

Differences Between Hinduism And Buddhism
On God
  • Buddhism : The original Buddhist doctrine does not entail any godly figures, though the later Buddhist sects introduced some Godly figures.

  • Hinduism : The Hindus believe in 300,000 Gods.

Buddhist Rituals On Rituals
  • Buddhism : Buddhism do follow some rituals but only in the form of meditation, and bowing and different forms of worship while offering prayer in the Buddhist temples. Buddhist practices also do not require any priests.

  • Hinduism : The rituals, being followed by the Hindus are more complex and vary from birth to death of a person. Besides, priests do play important role in all the rituals.

On Caste System
  • Buddhism : There are four major sub sects in Buddhism, but none of them follow the caste system.

  • Hinduism : On the contrary, there are a number of castes and sub-castes in Hinduism, and the Hindus follow them rigidly.

On Asceticism
  • Buddhism : As the middle way, Buddhism rejects extreme asceticism as well as great wealth.

  • Hinduism : Most of the Hindus believe in extreme asceticism.

On Vedas
  • Buddhism : The Buddhists do not believe in the Vedas. Rather they firmly believe in the teachings of the Lord Buddha and the Buddhist scriptures.

  • Hinduism : Hinduism believes in the supremacy of four Vedas - Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.

On Stages of Life
  • Buddhism : The Buddhists do not believe in the stages of life. People can join any of the stages any time depending upon their spiritual preparedness.

  • Hinduism : The Hindus believe in the four stages of life, also known as the 'ashramas' - Brahamacharya Ashram or Student life, Grihastha Ashram or family life, Vanprastha Ashram or the age at which a person leaves all the worldly desire and home, and Sanyasa Ashram - when a person meditates and awaits for the ultimate truth, death.
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