“The Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog is the longest running LGBTQ blog in Pennsylvania, shattering the average two-to-three year life span of most blogs,” reads the proclamation, sponsored by councilor Bruce Kraus, the first openly gay person to be elected to Pittsburgh's city council.
In her 15 years of writing the blog, Kerr has won not only local awards, including Best Local Blog in Pittsburgh City Paper’s 2019 Best of Pittsburgh readers’ poll, but also the national award for OUTstanding LGBTQ Blog in the highly competitive 2019 GLAAD Media Awards.
In addition to interviews with local LGBTQ community members and allies, Kerr also isn’t afraid to keep local media in check, and keeps an ongoing list of trans persons killed throughout the year. Her blog is a mix of fun, news, and accountability, and an important resource for not only Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, but the surrounding area.
Pittsburgh City Paper talked to Kerr on her anniversary about her proclamation, her beginnings, and her future.
Congratulations on 15 years! How are you celebrating Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents Day?
Thank you. I just finished a blog post with suggestions on how others can observe the day — after I fed the cats and made the coffee. My partner just informed me that we are cleaning part of the attic this afternoon. Then I'll go feed our feral cat colonies. So a fabulous day!
What was the inspiration for first starting the blog in 2005?
I have always loved what was then described as "new social media" as a method to share information and build community. So when I learned about blogs, the social worker/community organizer in me was curious. It seemed more effective to post things I thought worth sharing in one central space versus sending email blasts to every LGBTQ person I knew. It took me awhile to realize that the being a queer fat disabled lesbian who shares her opinions is inherently political. It took much longer for me to be comfortable referring to myself as a writer and artist (thank you, Nina Gibbs Sauer.)
Do you have a favorite interview from all of the people you've talked to over the years?
My favorite is always the next one coming up. I'm aiming high right now and trying to get [Washington Post] columnist and MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart to do a quick Q&A. I also hope to interview some of the regional LGBTQ folks who were active in the 1970s to document those years.
What's been your proudest moment?
I'm proud of the work we did around the billboards in Worthington Borough, Armstrong County, because it was necessary to address the hateful content. But also because it was queer folks who came to me quietly and asked for my help. They stepped up in a big way, even at risk of outing themselves, to do the right thing while so many other people just drove by those billboards.
I am also proud of our work lifting up and engaging the trans community. I think it is critical that all lesbian-identified people actively resist attempts to erase transgender identity in our name. So I seek out as many opportunities to put my blog name behind trans led efforts as possible. We can always do more and do better in this regard, but it is essential that we do something to offset the harm and trauma. My most recent effort has been the Pittsburgh MasQue ProjecT; when the idea came to mind, I knew it required the investment of the trans community so I approached TransPride Pittsburgh and asked them to co-found it with my blog.
It isn't so much my saying, "Hey, look what I did" for attention as my showing how all of us lesbians, especially cisgender lesbians, can find ways to be good allies to our trans neighbors.
In documenting the city's LGBTQ community over the past 15 years, is there anything you think Pittsburgh is doing better now in terms of LGBTQ rights than when you first started?
Yes. Pittsburgh has refined and clarified the nondiscrimination protection ordinance. Pittsburgh elected the first openly gay member to City Council. The City created the domestic partner registry that is flawed but still has utility. There's the forthcoming LGBTQ Commission (I applied to serve, but haven't heard anything.) There is also an entire new generation of LGBTQ leaders and voices at the table, so to speak.
Where do you think the city still needs to make improvements on?
The absolute priorities for me are racial justice, affordable housing, and LGBTQ competent health care.
As for the city itself, the domestic partner registry needs revamped, the leaders need to break their habit of relying on the opinion of that one lesbian or one gay guy and find ways to create a broad swath of relationships that represent the actual community, and every city employee needs to regularly ask about pronouns (and understand why it matters) when they have contact with the public.
A lot of LGBTQ media have come and gone during the last 15 years, but you've held on. Do you ever feel a responsibility to Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community to keep going?
Yes, I do. But I want to clarify that while my blog is a media site, I am not a journalist and I don't pretend to provide comprehensive coverage of all LGBTQ news. If the community wants a genuine LGBTQ media site, they need to consider investing in QueerPgh.
What's been your absolute favorite part of writing Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents?
Creating and curating the #AMPLIFY archive. It is an honor to have these stories to preserve and project into the future. My second favorite part was being offered an opinion column to write. That ended, but it was great.
Are you going to keep it going for another 15 years?
I'm going to try. One advantage of being permanently disabled is that I have the time to devote to the blog. I had plans for a political blogging residency with two local political consulting firms in 2020. That obviously didn't happen, but it is still on the table for the future. And in the meantime, the Pgh MasQue ProjecT arose. So I'm never lacking opportunities. I can see myself having opinions to age 65.
My efforts to build sustainable investment via Patreon and our Steel City Snowflakes app are helping with the operational costs, but the blog is a huge mess from a coding perspective. My web guru team of Anna, Delta, and Gretchen have bluntly told me it will take upwards of $10,000 to do a thorough revamp. There aren't many grants for disabled queer women bloggers to fix their code. And each new blog post contributes to that quagmire. But I am hopeful we'll find the funding somewhere to ensure the blog is here for years to come.
How can readers support you?
Steel City Snowflakes