Forget about selfies and social media. We need organic growth in Pa.’s LGBTQ community | Frank Pizzoli

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, speaks to LGBTQ advocates and their allies during a rally on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, 10/2/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

By Frank Pizzoli

My most recent Capital-Star column on hope and resilience for 2020 drew lots of comments. And we’re grateful. We’re happy whenever anyone in our media-saturated culture puts eyes on our words.

It used to be that we put eyes on each other. Not so much anymore.

Before all-things-queer evolved into triangulated communications – online everything – I remember the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. Influencers were people who one actually wanted to be like. Not a screen image.

Organic.

That’s because you “talked” to them face-to-face.

Now, I often attend functions where one queer is nervously smiling at another queer, often with years between them. And one doesn’t know the other has significantly contributed to the quality of their lives. We need to change that for the better.

A while back, Michael Hobbes wrote in The HuffPost that:

  • Gay people are now, depending on the study, between 2 and 10 times more likely than straight people to take their own lives.
  • We’re twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. And just like the last epidemic we lived through, the trauma appears to be concentrated among men.
  • In a survey of gay men who recently arrived in New York City, three-quarters suffered from anxiety or depression, abused drugs or alcohol or were having risky sex — or some combination of the three.
  • Despite all the talk of our “chosen families,” gay men have fewer close friends than straight people or gay women. In a survey of care-providers at HIV clinics, one respondent told researchers: “It’s not a question of them not knowing how to save their lives. It’s a question of them knowing if their lives are worth saving.”

Our lives are worth saving, even as organized religion, and now elected officials, come out the closet of hate, and opine that it’s okay to discriminate.

I know we can create change because I’ve seen us do incredible things.

We’ve met at the ‘intersections’ before and not collided. We’ve built volunteer AIDS Service Organizations in Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg when no one wanted us.

LGBTQ advocates, allies rally at the Capitol for nondiscrimination law

Organic, like that last carrot you ate.

The first week of December 2019 reminded me of the times we gathered face-to-face. There were three World AIDS Day programs that drew about 200 people to them.

Organic.

That’s what AIDS was like when the hideous disease first confronted us. There was no way to be a Buddy (one who volunteered to care for someone) without showing up. Literally, you had to be there. Bedside.

Hamilton Health Center was 50 years old last year. They celebrate March 5.

Alder Health Services is 35 years old this year. They celebrate Sept. 25.

Our organic face-to-face built community centers, first in Harrisburg, and now they’re growing roots in Lancaster and York.

There’s nothing wrong with adding items to your resume. But there’s also nothing wrong with promoting the community too.

Over and above yourself.

Eventually, there’s going to be a ‘first openly gay’ everything and everybody. Then what?

Perhaps doing the right thing will be done because, well, it’s the right thing to do. And you have to show up to do it.  That can’t be emailed, selfied, or posted online.

Capital-Star Opinion contributor Frank Pizzoli is the editor and publisher of the Central Voice, where this piece first appeared. Readers may email him at frankpizzo[email protected].