By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
When you scan the list of nominees for the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards, you’ll notice there are a some repeat nominees like sitcoms Will and Grace and Modern Family and Hulu drama The Handmaid’s Tale.
But there’s another back-to-back nominee that people in Pittsburgh might be familiar with. Sue Kerr was nominated for the second-straight year in the category of “Best Blog.” The awards will be announced March 28 in Los Angeles and May 4 in New York.
She began her blog, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, in 2005. And not only was it the first blog dealing with LGBTQ issues in the region, it was one of the first Pittsburgh-based blogs, period.
“I was definitely a witness to the dawn of blogging in Pittsburgh,” Kerr says, also mentioning that 2019 is the 20th anniversary of the word blog. “It really was a grassroots effort. There was me, Bram Reichbaum (Pittsburgh Comet) and Two Political Junkies; there were also a lot of anonymous people and journalists,” most of whom have dropped from the blogosphere.
“I think that shows that blogs never were supposed to be a tool for the media,” says Kerr, who is also a columnist for the Pittsburgh Current. “It’s for folks like me who are not doing this to make a living. It‘s an Investment of time effort, and some money; it’s a passion project.”
That’s why the GLAAD nomination means so much. According to its website, the GLAAD Media Awards “recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and the issues that affect their lives.”
“It is exciting to be nominated again because it’s just one of five blogs singled out in the country,” Kerr says. “It also says to me that I’m still producing relevant, engaging and timely content. It’s very rewarding.”
As she enters her 14th year of blogging, Kerr says there are times that she wonders how much longer she will keep it up. But her blog is still making waves and shining light on several issues in the LGBTQ community that might not otherwise be known. Her AMPLIFY project gives exposure to the stories of LGBTQ people from across the region.
As a blogger and an activist, Kerr is tenacious and committed to what she does. She will handle any important topic even the ones that she knows will cause her problems from legions of hateful, cowardly trolls who not only disagree with what she’s saying, but also make personal threats and comments.
Recently, for example, she wrote about a series of billboards in Armstrong County that promote white supremacy. Kerr received 10 comments on her post, which were blocked and scores more online and on social media that weren’t. None of the commenters found anything racist about the post and decided instead to call Kerr names. While none of that is pleasant, of course, one commenter took things to unimaginable depths by making rape threats. Kerr responds in the post: “It is not so funny or wry when the rape threats start up, but that’s very much part of the blogging life for women. Always has been, always will be.”
But the criticism and hate comments aren’t new, last fall when she wrote about anti-LGBTQ business Chik-Fil-A sponsoring the Pittsburgh Marathon, she received backlash. And in 2013 she began one of her most-read features, an In-memoriam posts for trans people who have died. The feature still runs, but Kerr says they’re not obituaries, it’s a piece meant to “honor their life and death.” But even on these pieces, there was still pushback and some folks told her that she should let the transphobic comments through, so everyone can have a voice. But the reality is, those people already have a voice; it’s the marginalized members of society who need a voice and a blog like Kerr’s
“I realized that I was exposing my stuff, to some really ugly sentiments, some of the harshest condemnations,” Kerr says. “But I wouldn’t let someone treat me like that in my own home and that’s how I began to think about my blog.
“This is my space; you can share your views wherever you want. I work really hard and I don’t owe anyone a chance to be a jagoff.”
As she approaches her 15th year blogging in 2020, Kerr says she doesn’t have a set timeframe in her mind as to when she plans to stop actively producing content for her blog, she hopes that it will in some way continue to stay alive.
“I see this eventually being a curated, archival project,” she says. Kerr says she would like to see a sustainable fund set up to pay for the blog’s hosting fees until it can be donated and archived somewhere.
“It is my legacy as well as one documentation of queer life in the early 21st century,” she says. “But, I’ll keep going for now because there are still stories and voices to be heard.”
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