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Op-ed: Pittsburgh Is Still Cool as Folk

Op-ed: Pittsburgh Is Still Cool as Folk


People like to take shots at Pittsburgh, but as demonstrated with Iggygate, this city has balls of steel.

Pittsburgh, a remarkable city that's evolved from an industrial wasteland into a modern metropolis, has taught me a great deal about the importance of reinvention in today's technologically informed and rapidly changing world. Don't get me wrong; Pittsburgh is not New York or Los Angeles, but what cities are? It's smaller. It's not coastally accessible. And if you're intent on finding a career in film, this probably isn't the right home for you.

But Pittsburgh remains affordable, there are opportunities here, and as has been made clear by the impassioned Iggy Azalea-related protests and backlash by LGBT people and allies, including people of color, Pittsburgh is the home of outspoken, socially informed, and politically active people who have every intention of making our city more livable, progressive, and welcoming to those of us who stay or visit here.

Until now, I've participated only peripherally in the conversations about Azalea being selected as a headlining performer by the Delta Foundation, which sponsors Pittsburgh's annual week-long Pride celebration. I felt that my privilege as a white, middle-class male has limited my understanding or appreciation of the kinds of discomfort and unease that a performer like Azalea has caused communities to which I do not belong. In solidarity, I support my queer and trans brothers and sisters, and I want all of the people in Pittsburgh who feel that their racial histories and realities have been insulted or capitalized on by Azalea to know that I am listening to the struggles that you have the courage to share.

Contrary to Richard Lawson's recent post in Vanity Fair, I don't believe the decision for Azalea and Pittsburgh Pride to part ways had any bearing on the fact that "nobody likes [Iggy Azalea]." What I can say with a great amount of certainty is that Pittsburgh is not the kind of city that takes kindly to those who say things that cause many distress, as Azalea's tweets have. As Lawson stated in his headline, "Iggy Azalea Can't Even Catch a Break in Pittsburgh." But just because we're not New York or L.A. doesn't mean we're going to roll over and accept intolerant behavior just so we can have a big name come to one of our events. The truth is, I live in a city where people care deeply about the well-being of others.

Like anywhere in the world, Pittsburgh is a place where conversations about equal rights and fair treatment of people are happening. Personally, I have been physically assaulted for my sexual orientation, and I am hardly alone. Yet I have never been so proud to live here as I was when I experienced people here putting aside differences to publicly stand up against what I had gone through.

"Drummed out of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh! Oh, Iggy," Lawson laments in his article. He expresses a kind of tired sympathy for somebody who, in all honesty, failed to engage in dialogues about race and sexuality in light of her objectionable tweets. Even with his backhanded support of Azalea and snide swipes at my metropolis, I'd like to thank Lawson for recognizing Pittsburgh as "truly one of the great American cities." If you got one thing right in your piece, Mr. Lawson, it's that we've shown the world we have "true character." Come visit sometime. I'll show you around. Just be careful what you say around here. We're a proud people, and we have each other's backs.

Ben-stoviakx100_0BEN STOVIAK is a Pittsburgh native working in higher education. He is a writer and teacher and has volunteered with numerous social, political, education, and arts community organizations throughout the greater Pittsburgh area, including the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, and Three Rivers Arts Festival.

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Ben Stoviak