Organizers of the upcoming Pride Week pledged to give the LGBT event new visibility this summer. But thanks in part to differing agendas over corporate sponsorship and other matters, at least one group will be conducting a separate demonstration during the week of June 16-22.
This is the first year that Pride Week will be managed by the Delta Foundation, which was originally founded by LGBT bar owners, who make up one-third of its current nine-member board. "[W]e want every nonprofit and every social group to be involved," Delta president Gary Van Horn Jr. told City Paper earlier this year. And one of the groups organizers hoped to include was the Dyke March, an annual event held by an independent group of radical feminist lesbians.
"There are a few lesbians on the board of the Delta Foundation who were interested in having Dyke March become bigger and better," says Van Horn.
"When it was decided the Delta Foundation was taking the lead with Pride this year, it was agreed that we should reach out to the previous planners of the Dyke March and see if they wanted to become part of the Pride umbrella," Delta board member Loni McCartney writes in an e-mail.
Dyke March organizing was already well underway, says Eli Kuti, who, with "three people in my living room" has been organizing the march since 2006. To facilitate a combined event, McCartney herself attended three of the meetings, during which participants worked on logistics for the June 21 march.
Things became contentious, however, when Dyke March was asked to run an advertisement in Pride Mag, the glossy magazine that hypes Pride Week which will be distributed across the tri-state area.
Van Horn notes that Dyke March was offered the nonprofit rate of $400 for the ad: "That's dirt cheap" for a full-color spot, he says. But it wasn't cheap enough for the Dyke March committee.
Kuti says that the group decided to spread advertising among "little local publications: We can get a lot of ads for not much money." She says refusing the magazine wasn't meant as a slap to Delta or a rejection of them as an ally. But the mockup magazine didn't sit well with the dykes: "There's two women in the whole thing," Kuti says. Economics, and a desire to stay grass-roots, were factors as well. "Pride is corporate enough," she adds.
In fact, among the sponsors for this year's Pride event is Coors Brewing -- a fact that rankles Kuti. The Coors family has long been linked to a variety of conservative causes, and members of the family have contributed to the anti-gay Castle Rock Foundation and the Heritage Foundation.
In recent years, however, the company has sought to rehabilitate its image, and Van Horn says its poor record on tolerance is a thing of the past. "I would refer that to the guidance of the Human Rights Campaign," says Van Horn of complaints against Coors. The LGBT civil-rights organization has given the brewing company a perfect score in its equality index.
Van Horn also takes exception to characterizing Pride as male-centered: The media kit for Pride Mag features "two women on the front page," says Van Horn, and others throughout the short document. "They look lesbian-ish to me."
Such disputes aren't confined to magazine layouts, or to the local LGBT community. In Pittsburgh and elsewhere, dyke marches have often been the scrappier kid sisters to cities' more established LGBT pride events. Some critics have faulted the events for being dominated by gay men, and lesbians began holding marches of their own to claim visibility and to participate in women-only spaces.
"Lesbians are kind of pushed to the side a lot," says Kuti -- especially poor lesbians. "A lot of things leading up to Pride cost 25 bucks!" says Kuti. While gay-pride events make accommodations for "rich white lesbians," she says, "It's hard when you're working class. We need space and time of our own."
"It became clear ... they did not want to be sponsored by any corporation, especially Coors," says McCartney. "It was also clear ... they felt the Delta Foundation was monopolizing Pride." Accordingly, the two groups decided to go their separate ways.
The Dyke March will no longer be included in Pride Fest marketing, and it will be removed from the broader event's parade permit.
Dyke March organizers are "very passionate about the visibility of lesbians and dyke women of the city," McCartney adds. "The Dyke March is evolving along with Pride and everyone is not always going to agree on what should or should not be done."
Both sides say it's sad to see any division in the city's LGBT community, especially because they have so much in common.
"We have a whole other battle with the right wing trying to take our rights as tax-paying human beings to fight," says McCartney. "We are all in the fight together."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the make-up of the Delta Foundation board.