On December 29 in the year 2005, I had a whim -- why not start a blog about LGBT (I added Q a few years later) issues? It would be a fun way to share information about the community, I thought. So my website guy got me started on the blogware platform and I was off. I was 35 and antsy.
I was never one to keep a journal or aspire to be a writer. There was no great American novel in my heart and I had no intention of planting one. I just wanted to share information about the community, information I had been churning out via email lists, Yahoo groups and AOL chatrooms. Blogging was more an extension of my social work/community organizer identity than a substitute for stunted journalist aspirations.
So I began blogging. I blogged at 6 AM before I left for work and at 10 PM before I went to bed. I blogged about LGBT events, letters to the editor and current affairs. I blogged about our cats. I referred to my partner, Laura, as 'Ledcat' to protect her identity. It wasn't long before most acquaintances forget her real name and stuck with Ledcat.
I was the first person in Pittsburgh to live blog a City Council meeting. I cofounded the Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society. I organized countless "day of blogging" events to support marriage equality, protest sexual assault and raise awareness for lots of charities. Blogging was always a tool in my arsenal of social work resources.
There were tough moments. The time the candidate for Governor yelled at me in front of an entire room of people (he lost, btw.) The insults, slurs and never-ceasing attempts to silence me -- mostly by cis gender gay white men and lesbians, surprisingly. I have had relatively little pushback from rightwing zealots. Mostly my own community has tried to stifle me. I was TERFd (as much as a cis lesbian can be TERFd.) Twice.
I moved to WordPress. I learned a little coding and a little graphic design. I stopped blogging entirely for a few months. Then I embraced the NaBloPoMo challenge and blogged daily for six entire months. I made a pledge to myself to blog about each individual trans woman murdered to honor their lives and dignify their deaths. I dabbled in product reviews -- my assessment of the Keurig 2.0 proved not only prophetic but also became one of the most popular blog post that I ever wrote, just behind the posts about our trans sisters.
I became known as a political blogger even though things political were not my primary topic. It took me years to realize that the simple act of voicing my opinion as a queer woman (especially a disabled queer woman) was a political act. In 2011, then Pittsburgh Councilman (now Mayor) Bill Peduto described the blog thusly:
"Sue provides an honest and informed dialogue on Pittsburgh's political scene."
In 2015, I took on an entirely new project -- a blog chronicle of LGBTQ neighbors' lived experiences in Western PA. Called #AMPLIFY, the project was sponsored by Most Wanted Fine Art gallery which had recruited me to be their first blogger artist in residence.
Suddenly, this blogger was not only a writer, but an actual artist. Hashtag that as irony. I even joined the National Writer's Union. I realized my blog was the longest running community based LGBTQ blog throughout Pennsylvania. I don't even mind being paid with exposure because that's a valuable commodity for a community organizer. Well, most of the time. Perhaps because NO ONE compensates social workers for 'advice' the lack of compensation for creative content doesn't sting so much.
On the actual tenth anniversary, the 100th AMPLIFY post will have been published. 100 Q&A's from neighbors with ties to 16 out of the 26 counties of Western Pennsylvania. I've diligently worked to be as representative as possible -- over 20 percent of the respondents identify as QTPOC, over 20 percent as transgender, and over 20 percent as bisexual. 15 percent of the respondents are 55+. While most of the responses are from Allegheny County (home of Pittsburgh), that's not surprising this early in the process. I'll need a lot more time on the road to build relationships in the other counties.
#AMPLIFY has reinvigorated the blog as an established platform to give a signal boost to the voices of other people. The process is simple -- participants complete a Google form, submit a photo if they like and I handle the formatting. I published 3x a week and continue creating my own original content as well.
Recognizing the scale of this endeavor, Most Wanted Fine Art has asked me to stay on through 2016 and 2017. Grant applications have been submitted. Plans are underway to work with queer artists on a multi-issue zine to distribute the information. My calendar is packed with PFLAG and GSA meetings as well as lots of one-on-one conversations. A queer owned transcription company will help me with the interviews of community elders who don't have access to a computer. I was even invited to join the planning committee to establish a regional LGBTQ historical archive with the Senator John Heinz History Center.
In a way, #AMPLIFY has embodied both the original vision of the blog as a space to share LGBTQ information and my somewhat reluctant entrance into the local political scene. By redirecting the narrative to the voices of neighbors who don't get invited to meetings or asked to give media interviews or even invited to events, I'm still engaging in acts of political resistance. I can literally create a space that's more inclusive and reflective of the actual LGBTQ residents of Western Pennsylvania.
Blogging has also tapped into my education -- BA in political science, MSW in community organizing. Who knew I'd find a hobby that would fuse my Con Law courses with Saul Alinsky and cats?
I can only imagine what the next ten years of blogging might bring. Hopefully, at least one big fat grant to redesign said blog to better promote #AMPLIFY and the other content. Ahem.
Oh, my first blog post? Here's the link.