Schism in Pittsburgh’s gay community bigger than Iggy

CONFRONTATION—Nina Randolph and Tanelle Robinson confront a religious protester with mega phone who came out to protest against gay pride celebration. (Photo J.L. Martello)
CONFRONTATION—Nina Randolph and Tanelle Robinson confront a religious protester with mega phone who came out to protest against gay pride celebration. (Photo J.L. Martello)

Pittsburgh’s Delta Foundation has found itself mired in a storm of civil war between itself and opposing groups in the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) community.
The firestorm started with a much publicized story detailing the outrage surrounding performer Iggy Azalea being chosen to be the headline performer at this year’s event. After the controversy went national, Azalea was disinvited to the event and replaced with Nick Jonas, but the damage had already been done.
Garden of Peace started the Root Pride parade in response. As a result, organizations such as the Sierra Club and New Voices Pittsburgh, amongst others, pulled support and participation from the annual event celebrating the LGBTQIA community based on the Delta Foundation’s perceived insensitivity towards Trans people and gay people of color in general.
Barbara Grover, chairperson of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, said she pulled her support from the Delta Foundation as a way to show more support for the LGBTQIA community.
“Some of the people we are allied with like New Voices Pittsburgh were very distraught and upset with the choice. In discussing it with other faith based and African American groups, we felt that it was bigger than just Iggy coming and we wanted to support the entire LGBT community and Iggy being chosen was clearly divisive,” Grover said.
“We felt pulling our support for the parade would be a way to show support for the gay and African American community.”
What is an environmental organization doing in the middle of an intra gay rights struggle, you ask? Grover said she is part of a nuanced left-wing coalition to involve all in the struggle for equality.
“When there is toxic waste to be dumped somewhere it gets dumped in communities of color so environmental issues are social justice issues as well,” she said. “We readily admit that we tend to be a very White organization and the Sierra Club is not happy about that…You have to fight with people power because the money is with the corporations.”
While marginalized members of the gay community are speaking out and demanding more,

​Flecia Harvey, president of Pittsburgh Black Pride and supporter of the Delta Foundation, said the Garden of Peace Project, a transgender organization, is doing more to hurt the movement for gay equality than help it.

“In the midst of them coming up with this made up Pittsburgh Pride, our organization keeps getting dragged into this. The Roots Pride came in and they’re causing confusion, division and it’s not what Pride is about.”
She continued, “Pride is a celebration about being LGBTQIA people in Pittsburgh celebrating in a happier way. Making it so people can understand us and what Root Pride is doing. They are tearing everything apart. In the Black gay community and gay community period.”
T.J. Hurt, an 18-year-old protester and attendee at the Pittsburgh Pride parade disagreed.
“People of color, trans-women of color get no respect at these events. They are only celebrating White gay sis-ness and no one else and that these parades are not safe for people of color.”
She said Delta Foundation is one of the reasons for this. “Iggy is just one example of their insensitivity. We are called gay slurs, racial slurs, transphobic slurs and physically attacked by people supposed to be in our community.”
Hurt also doesn’t believe they are appropriating the money they receive through the right channels.
“We aren’t sure where the money is going. They haven’t responded with meaningful paperwork; $100,000 for Iggy, but not for STD testing, homelessness, saving people in our community. We want more sensitivities (and the) ability to come to the events and feel welcome and not just a stain on the pearly White gay community that they think of us as.”

GAY PRIDE PARADE—Supporters walking in the Pride Parade fill the streets of 5th Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. (Photo by J. L. Martello)
GAY PRIDE PARADE—Supporters walking in the Pride Parade fill the streets of 5th Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. (Photo by J. L. Martello)

When asked if she thinks racial discrimination will end inside the gay community she responded. “Every community has splits in race. It won’t go away until racism goes away.”
Harvey, while still supporting the Delta Foundation, also said that the Delta Foundation has a history of not being inclusive of the Black community.
“There are people who have a problem with Gary Van Horn. The Delta Foundation is for White people, culturally, they can’t relate to that. We can’t hear any hip hop at their events. That’s fine. That’s why we created Black Pride. We’re celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.”
She said Root Pride was just created for conflict and division. When asked if she thinks they were created for malicious purposes, she said, “Yes. Iggy is not coming anymore why are they still having a Roots Pride?
“Michael Battle who is the head of this little forté, he used Pittsburgh Black Pride in it. I told him to take our name out of it. I said, ‘We are not a part of that and he got upset with me…it was a mess. He is losing it. I’m not sure what his motives are, but it seems he is trying to mess up Pittsburgh Black Pride and at the same time mess Gay Van Horn’s name up. They used to be close, but if you get on Michael’s bad side, he goes back to his woman phase, P.M.S. Iggy made that big apology and that was years ago.”
Nina Randolph, an attendee of the parade, echoed that sentiment.
“What does being gay have to do with race? All of it to me is about humanity. I believe that we all are human, we all are God’s children, but the biggest thing for me is them saying if you’re homosexual then you are going to hell. I believe there are more things going on in the world causing people [death] than who I’m sleeping with. I’m still being a productive member of society, I’m not hurting nobody, all I’m giving is love.”
The pride parade was a cross section of the Delta Foundation going back and forth with Root Pride supporters. They were spewing chants and insults at each other.
Also, Christian anti-gay groups protesting both organizations and vice versa.
Tanelle Robinson, an African American woman who is engaged and not affiliated with any groups, summed up her feelings as personally and apolitical as she could about the gay experience. “Yes, I made a choice to act on how I felt inside my body. Was I supposed to stay with a man and be unhappy, not have sex, be in a miserable relationship? I have kids to raise, I want my kids to see me happy. My kids (are) 9, 11 and 13, they see me happy. They see their step mom, they are happy.”
A religious activist was shouting on a bullhorn and an argument erupted. The religious activist said that homosexuality was “sick stuff” and they were dooming themselves to hell. A counter protester asked if God made her. The man said yes. “I am a lesbian, did he make a mistake with me?” she asked. He raised his bullhorn, back to his mouth. “You’re a lesbian? Well then you made your own mistake choosing that lifestyle.” She replied, “You are going to hell for being judgmental. Hell is here on earth with all of these rapists and molestations. This is hell.” The man replied, “If you are born again this is as close to hell as you will ever get. But if you don’t repent, this is as close to heaven as you will ever get.”
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