A Decade of Pitt News

The Pitt News did a news story montage in December of the big stories of the 00’s. I am proud to say yours truly made the cut.

Pitt extends benefits

Staff report

Sept. 2, 2004

In a University Update issued Wednesday, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg announced that Pitt would join the two-thirds of Fortune 100 companies and the nearly 80 percent of Association of American Universities members that offer domestic partner benefits.

Beginning January 2005, Pitt will offer domestic partner health insurance benefits for eligible employees. The benefits, which will be available to both same-sex and opposite-sex partners, herald the beginning of the end to a battle that has spanned the coming and going of chancellors, Pitt professors, students activists and Pitt spokespeople.

“I’m totally excited. It’s about time Pitt decided to do the right thing and catch up with the rest of the world,” said Josh Ferris, former president of Rainbow Alliance, Pitt’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer organization. Ferris devoted much of his time as a student leader to activism and education about the the case.

“I feel like I could give money to Pitt right now. Well, if I had money, I could give them money,” Ferris added.

Although the eight-page University Update was distributed throughout campus in University media boxes, the health insurance coverage issue was not addressed until the fifth page. Preceding the topic were sections addressing individual achievements of students, faculty members and alumni; governmental support; meeting challenges; and building Pitt’s collective strength.

Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill said the timing of the announcement affected how the chancellor chose to present it.

“He thought that it was a good time to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous year,” Hill said of the chancellor’s use of the University Update. “And it’s also a good time to indicate important news.”

Hill said the three pages of text surrounding the announcement and providing background on the case and debate were included “so the people would have a full understanding of what brought us up to that moment.”

In the past, Pitt’s argument for not providing the benefits depended largely on the fear that state legislators might react negatively to a same-sex benefits decision and cut Pitt’s appropriations. Pitt discussed the issue with many state lawmakers as the University moved toward the decision, Hill explained, saying he hopes legislators will recognize that “this is an appropriate action for Pitt at this time.”

But not all readers found the presentation appropriate, and most student leaders on campus still did not know about the decision by Wednesday afternoon. For Ferris, the experience reading the letter was bittersweet.

“You sneak it in there, and you sound like the good guys,” he said of the letter. “Why couldn’t this have been accomplished eight years ago?”

On campus, student opinion was largely in favor of the provision, even among those, such as freshman Amar Mehta and Dan Sheidy, who personally oppose homosexual relationships.

“I can’t say that I would view a heterosexual marriage and a homosexual marriage under the same terms,” Mehta said, but added, “I’m not against gays having the same rights.”

Sheidy also voiced concerns over eliminating differences in treatment of different sexual orientations.

“I think, stereotypically, [homosexual relationships] are less monogamous,” he said, but added that, if a couple could prove their monogamy, as in the case of a signed affidavit like the one Pitt will require, they should be granted benefits.

Sophomore Jennifer Hopkins went further.

“We are all humans and we have equal rights,” she said. “Maybe this will bring more and better faculty to the University — insurance benefits are important to people.”

Although the announcement pleased Rainbow Alliance President Monica Higgins, she pointed out that the process of obtaining domestic partner benefits will probably still prove tricky to navigate.

“I figure it will be a fairly difficult process, but they are making concessions,” Higgins said, noting that applying for any benefits at Pitt entails a complicated process, and that she doesn’t expect Pitt to change that process.

Gary DiNardo, who is also involved in Rainbow Alliance, believes Pitt’s decision marks a victory, regardless of complications that might arise in the coming months.

“No matter what this includes, it’s a step up,” DiNardo said.

Addressing fears that Pitt’s offering might be as disappointing to supporters as Temple’s 2002 benefits deal, former Pitt student Cecilia Frerotte suggested that Pitt would not offer an unrealistic solution after such a long battle.

“I can’t imagine that they would make this concession, then go only one-fourth of the way,” Frerotte said of Pitt’s effort to meet the demands for domestic partner benefits.

The following article ran in a prior edition of The Pitt News. It has not been edited or updated from how it was originally published.

A Smoker, A Theatre Lover, a Fabulous Mayor

Last night I was watching the Fox 43 10 o’clock news in Harrisburg, and their was a story about the city council passing a smoking ban on all city owned or leased property. The mayor of Harrisburg, a guy by the name of Reed, thinks the city council is attacking him personally, because he is a smoker. Blah, blah, not too exciting, typical petty local politics, but then Reed ended the segment with:

“A Plague on both their houses!” Yeap, he likened himself to Tybalt, cursing with a foreshadow. Who would have guest he loved the theatre so much.  🙂

My submission

In response to the Tacky trysting let’s be very upfront, it is no secret that the fruit loop is a secluded cruising ground. Who really cares what consenting adults do there?

If this was about straight people it would be called “make out mountain,” a place where high school sweet hearts end up after the prom. We all know the scene and we are okay with it, because Wally probably got slapped for being fresh one time. What really happened was Wally wanted to have sex, but we don’t talk about that, so the scene is cute.

You are almost correct in saying gay men do not have to go to the park to have sex. Some men who are there are not gay, but have wives and other significant others. Pittsburgh is not an easy town to be out in. Can you imagine what it is like to be gay and have your entire family living next door? Not easy.

There has been very little progress if we still consider lights-out-under-the-cover-silent sex to be progress. The Queer rights movement was not about assimilating into straight society, but about expanding the sexual revolution as far as it can go.

A Rumor in Pittsburgh

Well this is strictly rumor, because I have not seen the press release yet, but one of my most trusted comrades told me this story. I have been a member of the Pittsburgh queer community for over four years and I feel like I am very comfortable here. The story I am about to relay makes me sad and angry about the community I have trusted for these years.

My friend AJ went to a Pride Fest organizing committee meeting the other day to offer some help. While he was there the group went over things that had been accomplished. One of these was a press release sent to the local media agencies. It specifically requested the press not to focus on drag queens and/or leathermen. The group then proceeded to talk about how only one drag performance would be allowed this year to try to present a less outrageous front for everyone.

I am working on obtaining a copy of the press release right now, and as I find more information I will post follow up information. I find this entirely unacceptable and I do not support trying to gain strength by shoving some of us back in the closet. We are a community and we need to have pride in all of it.


Today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is an op/ed by Dennis Roddy. It is titled Happy ‘Death to America Day’. I am not really sure hot to respond to this column, other than; “what?” Myabe it is too early but the narrative that was laid out was utterly, and I kept thinking “what in the hell is Roddy talking about.” Though, that is not really important for the point he is trying to get across. The Point of the story sits in this one sentence:

The larger portion of Iranians seem to favor some form of democratic republic.

The media, it seems, is slowly turning it wheels in order to prepare the public for an utterly insane mission to enter Iran. Good god, I hope Hersh is not right about this.