Q: What did the QLC take away from the Town Hall? ————– A: A little bit of info, loads of disillusionment.

Four members of the QLC attended the following event in Pittsburgh on January 27, 2011, and were basically underwhelmed by it. Feedback and extended commentary are below.

EVENT INFO (taken from EqualityPA.org):

Equality PA, HRC & ACLU Invite you to a Town Hall Meeting & “Equality on The Rocks” Event

Considering the loss of pro-LGBT candidates in the past election, the political climate in Pennsylvania promises to be rough. Now is the time for everyone to do everything that that they can to work together. Equality Pennsylvania in partnership with the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Human Rights Campaign is travelling the state in the hopes of starting a conversation on the future with a series of town hall meetings.

Hear what we have planned and share your own ideas for moving forward. The meetings will be open to the public of all ages.

Meetings begin at 6:30 pm and will run till approximately 8:30 pm.

MEMBER FEEDBACK:

A.H.: Very educational. / D.D.: Learned that I need to go out and look things up on my own. Some of the speeches were uncalled for. They should have used a talking stick or something. / P.F.: It was O.K. / A.C.: Lip service was briefly paid to intersectionality, but depth was avoided entirely during that discussion. The hosts should’ve went around the room and had everyone introduce themselves (like what was done at the 2009 PA Equality Summit).

A.C.’s COMMENTARY:

Some of the main questions on my mind during the event were, “What do any of these host organizations do to educate the public about LGBT issues and LGBT people in general? It’s nice for us to get together every so often and have our little insular powwows like this, but how does it help thaw the social climate? Where are the non-activists? The straight allies? Where was the diversity? Why were these events only advertised within activist circles? HRC, EQPA, and the ACLU have massive budgets… couldn’t some of that money be spent on widening their audience?”

Aside from those frustrations, I was also stunned by just how disconnected the general LGBT activist milieu is from rural queer needs.  This was made particularly clear when a man from the Delta Foundation [2/15/11 correction: Persad Center] commented on working to reach out to LGBTs in counties bordering Allegheny County.  I had to refrain from laughing when he described those areas as horrible (i.e.: hard to work in because they’re ultra-conservative and rural).  Sorry to break it to ya guy, but the counties around Pittsburgh do not qualify as “rural.”  To my mind, they are relatively metropolitan at best, suburban at worst.  I invite all privileged, middle-class, urban advocates to visit the QLC’s home base of Bedford County, PA and discover the meaning of ultra-conservative and rural.  We have an active KKK chapter and a small youth neo-nazi group here (Both of which currently have greater numbers than we do.).  About 75% of all voters here are registered Republicans. Our total population is about 50,000.  We’re a two-and-a-half hour drive from anything resembling civilization (Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and D.C.), and for the most part are too poor to even afford the gas to get there.  The list of horrifying attributes goes on (and on and on and on…). Point is, none of these big gay orgs are meaningfully connected to us (or any other genuinely rural area). Sadly, they don’t seem interested in becoming connected to us, either.

At one point during the meeting, an African-American gentleman, and seemingly one of the only people in the room besides us who wasn’t affiliated with big, well-established LGBT groups, spoke up about the Western PA ACLU chapter’s neglect of people of color in Pittsburgh.  Only by virtue of being forceful was he able to speak at length on the issue before being cut off by the ACLU rep, who said something along the lines of, “We don’t want to spend any more time on this.”  I wanted to get up and scream, “WHY THE FUCK DON’T WE?!”

Why don’t we concern ourselves with the struggles of people of color? Why don’t we draw more connections between our struggles and the struggles of other communities?  All struggles for human rights are our struggles.  What we are all fighting for is the ability to live with freedom and dignity.  WE SHOULD ALL BE SPENDING MORE TIME ON IT.

A handful of affluent advocates, unencumbered by the everyday realities of being discriminated against socially and/or of living in poverty, have less in common with we of the QLC than that black man and his concerns.  Which brings me to the central problem, as I see it, with the Town Hall Meeting and its sponsors: Poor people were totally excluded.  If you have no money or connections, you’re left out in the cold.  Organizational bigwigs dominated the discourse, and privileged politicians filled the remaining time with largely irrelevant twaddle and grandstanding.

While electoral politics and lobbying in particular are important up to a point (albeit only to help make people’s lives easier now), politicians are not heroes and will never hand us freedom from bigotry.  If our people must learn anything it is this: We must be our own heroes. I refuse to mince words about this.  Harvey Milk’s brains were blown out over 30 years ago.  It’s way past time for us to accept that no one else is going to do the work for us now, and putting our faith in an inherently classist “representative” system will never bring us what we need.  The root of bigotry is not a lack of legal protections.  The root of bigotry is ignorance.

Why aren’t the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations sent to the ACLU, EQPA, and especially the HRC used to cure more of that?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

On the other hand, at least they held the meeting in a pretty building:

Wealth, power, and a history of queer oppression. Obviously the perfect setting for an LGBT event.

About Queer Liberation Circle

Centered in Bedford County, PA, the QLC (klik) provides desperately needed support and education for local lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans people, anyone falsely perceived as such, and the merely curious. Our work also includes spreading awareness of diversity and encouraging its acceptance in our area.
This entry was posted in bedford, bisexual, gay, lesbian, lgbt, News, pa, queer, queer liberation, rural, social activism, transgender. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Q: What did the QLC take away from the Town Hall? ————– A: A little bit of info, loads of disillusionment.

  1. Nicholas Robley says:

    This is an awesome article! I am so happy that someone and some people from small towns and rural areas are finally getting up and doing something about this issue that has been a thorn in the sides of LGBTs for…well…a very, very long time. I, myself, being bisexual found it extremely difficult to be myself in such areas due to bigotry and ignorance. But, sadly, we tend to get ushered to the side which tends to make me a little angry as it more than likely does with others. Atleast this caught some attention. KEEP IT UP, QLC!

  2. allyson diane hamm says:

    The man that spoke about rural areas was not from the Delta Foundation. He was from the Safe Communities project of Persad. He does cover rural areas outside of Pittsburgh. That does not mean the immediate suburbs.

    I went with him on one of his outreach efforts. We drove approx. 2.5 hours to get there. It was an extremely tiny & rural town. We showed the movie “Out in the Silence” at a one room church that only has 10 members. There was only one restaurant, one bank, & one bar in town. The movie is a documentary about the plight of glbt people in a rural PA town. I was representing Equality PA at that event & at the Town Hall. There was also someone from the Delta Foundation present at both.

    Equality Pa does not have a plan specifically for rural people, however the laws we work on would cover them & we try to partner with organizations like Persad who do that type of work. We also do as much outreach as we can. We do not have loads of money or staff, & travel is expensive.

    If you want to discuss wealth. Equality Pa has only 3 staff members at present. We could do more with more staff, but we don’t have the budget for it at present. I know for certain that 2 of the staff have at some time, if not also at present, lived in poverty. I personally grew up in a rurual area. I do not know where my co-workers grew up. So we do have some personal understanding of poverty, & rural life.

    If you want to discuss race & the person that asked what the ACLU is doing about race, there are a few other factors to also consider. I spoke with that gentleman before he sat down. He had no idea what transgender is & he did not support glb people either. He told me this. He only came to talk about race.

    I agree that there is intersectionality in oppression & that it should be addressed. I personally work on race issues as well as disability & glbt issues. I know everyone has multiple idenities & that we have to work on all aspects of gaining equality. But the person that spoke was not interested in this. He only wanted to talk about race & he wanted to know why the ACLU was bothering to work on glbt rights because he thought the ACLU should NOT be working on them. He said the ACLU should be working on race issues first. He didn’t understand why they are working on glbt issues at all.

    He also was discussing leaders that had been retired for several decades. He did not seem to understand much of what the meeting was supposed to be about. The ACLU speaker wanted to move on so that we could get to some of the topics that we never really got to and because he recognized that the person in the audience was not going to be satisifed. He offered to speak to him afterwards. That was appropriate. He probably should have done that with more of the questions or comments. If he had, we might’ve had the chance to cover additional material.

    Most of the other town hall meetings we held covered many more topics. But in Pittsburgh, we had the same questions asked repeatedly, so we kept answering them. Yes, there was also the additional factor of some people talking for long periods of time. That is a difficult thing to control.

    We did spread the word on this event pretty far & wide. Their were straight allies there. There were non-activists there. There were people not associated with the larger groups there. Most of the people present had no association with the 3 sponsoring groups whatsoever. Yes, we could’ve used more diversity. If you have ideas on how we can do that better, we’d like to hear it. & I mean real suggestions, such as the name of a group you think we should contact, or a free news source we can send info to, not just complaints that we are not doing it right.

    And for the record & since it was brought up in the previous comment, I identify as bisexual & queer. So I’m not part of the gay & lesbian elite that you seem to think I am.

    Lastly, I want to be clear that even though I referenced Equality Pa, I made these comments on my own. I did not clear them through any official channels. So they should be seen as my own personal opinion & not neccessarily the opinion of my organization(s).

    • Well crap. My bad on mistaking the dude’s affiliation. But in his comments he only mentioned working in the five counties surrounding Allegheny County, which is what my comments were reacting to.

      And ew. Did not know that about the African-American guy. But then again, how would I? Neither I nor most of the others sitting there knew that he was THAT oblivious (aside from being a bit outdated). My comments in the article above were based off of the assumption that talking about race issues at an LGBT event was perfectly acceptable but had been shot down. Which is simply how it appeared at the time. And most of my commentary was directed at the HRC in particular (though pretty much all of the orgs present are rich compared to us :p).

      The problem I saw was with the structure of the meeting itself, which lent itself all too much to being dominated by experienced and long-winded speakers. Not directly involving everyone off the bat (no introductions), sitting in a block facing front, et cetera all discourages broader participation. Not to sound too stereotypically anarchist, but it was unconsciously set up in a hierarchical way… which makes for a much more limited discourse.

      “Most of the people present had no association with the 3 sponsoring groups whatsoever.” It wasn’t just the sponsoring groups. It was all of the more entrenched activist groups. I only recall one (somewhat) non-affiliated person speaking.

      Also, your being bi has nothing to do with anything. o_O?

      Real suggestions coming later as I’m currently being kicked out of the school computer lab. :p

      ====

      Addendum: Real suggestions:

      Every local radio station features a daily “community bulletin board” where local events are announced for free. Calling a bunch of them to set up announcements wouldn’t be that hard. Local newspapers likewise have similar event calendars in them where nonprofit events are listed for free. Local libraries also typically feature many free advertising opportunities, as well as free meeting spaces. Most UU churches also provide free space and advertising. Also, simply having the meetings in less metropolitan areas that are more accessible to poor people would help. Libraries and community colleges are key here.

  3. allyson diane hamm says:

    location:

    We chose that location because the church is welcoming to lgbt people & offered the space for free. We did not have the budget to pay for a space to hold the meeting.

  4. bedfordcub says:

    I found the meeting to be exactly as written above: focused on the “liberation” of those who really don’t understand what it is to be discriminated against. These are urban lgbt individuals who’ve never known the fear and humiliation of growing up in an area entirely devoid of the diversity needed to facilitate acceptance. Gay acceptance isn’t an issue in the city, where homophobics are the minority because tolerance is a necessity, it is a problem of rural communities where being a conservative straight white Christian male is the only guaranteed way to have your problems taken seriously.

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