In 2022, the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Blog went to Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh, PA for her Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents Blog. The Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog, despite its name, doesn’t just chronicle the life of a lesbian in the city. What the blog has become known for is Kerr’s tireless In Memoriam section.
The In Memoriam section pays tribute to those in the transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming communities who have lost their lives to violence. Kerr chronicles these deaths by year, spanning back to 2013, almost a decade ago.
This work is important to Kerr, who grew up in the West Mifflin area of Pennsylvania, in a family that she says was plagued by violence. She describes her childhood as “chaotic and traumatic” because of a member of the family that was a predator who preyed on children and adults in the family.
“It really wasn’t until I was an adult, and, you know, started to go to therapy and started to explore that, that I could see that I just had these forces around me because that was happening in my family,” says Kerr. “I grew up almost next door to a Catholic church, our Catholic Church, our parish, which I found out later, had been staffed by sexually violent predatorial priests for about 26 years.”
Going through the trauma and chaos of grooming and having abuse occur in the home and next door taught Kerr a lot about silence and the secrets we keep. It might be safe to say that her experience growing up is why she has become such a fierce advocate for the trans community now. There is a myth that these communities are “voiceless” which isn’t true, their voices are often drowned out by cis, white, and straight actors.
Kerr cites the influence and work of Monica Roberts who ran the popular blog TransGriot. Kerr says that other publications have positioned her as “picking up the mantle” of Roberts’ work, but she wants to avoid that kind of comparison as she, a cis, white woman, could never “pick up the mantle” of a Black trans woman.
“I am also a person who is disabled. I have multiple mental health diagnoses and permanently left the paid workforce in 2010. That’s tied into the trauma and chaos of childhood. It is important for people to understand that I can only maintain this level of community work because of supports,” Kerr states. “My wife works FT with benefits that cover me, my student loans were forgiven when I was legally disabled, and my experiences as an organizer and activist have stood me well in fighting for my own government rights, and I go to therapy 2x week. I’m not a martyr nor a miracle.”
One thing Kerr repeated throughout and after our talks was along the lines of that last part, not being a martyr or a miracle. She doesn’t do the work that she does for accolades or to be heralded as a hero for the trans community. The point of the work she does is to be an advocate, not the shout over the voices she is seeking to highlight.
Kerr personally is an out and proud lesbian and says that having out, gay friends, when she was in high school, helped her when it was time to come to terms with her own sexuality in her late 20s. Having them in her life still at that point, they were the first people she reached out to when she developed a crush on a woman for the first time.
She says that like many girls growing up during that time period, thinking you were cis and/or straight was the default and considered the norm. She says that it was hard to tell her parents, not because of any bigotry but because they hardly talked about things like that to begin with.
“Suddenly, I was aware of homophobia in a way that even though I had considered myself a strong ally, to my friends, you know, and suddenly, I was on the receiving end, and I saw it everywhere,” she says.
Being on the receiving end of homophobia and misogyny made Kerr want to start investing in her community more. She started by moving through the world with what she calls a “charity mindset.” She was studying Community Organizing at Pitt in the early 2000s and becoming more engrained in the local LGBTQ community when she saw in local newspapers that there were stories running about community members that were positive in nature.
She says that because these stories were in the paper, they weren’t getting a ton of reads, and she thought that someone should do something about it. Kerr started with sending emails to people she says “got mad” at her before she learned what a blog was, a space where she could combine and curate the positive stories about the community she craved.
The Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog started in 2005 and has now led Kerr to being a nominee and winner of GLAAD media awards, and even to throwing out the first pitch at a June 17 Pride-themed Pittsburgh Pirates game.
Kerr’s work to protect trans members of the community has now culminated in a non-profit organization called Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities (PLC). The non-profit was formed as a way to make sure the work that Kerr does has systemic support, and the organization has found notable support from the likes of F. Dok Harris, son of Franco Harris, as well as Gisele Fetterman, Joy KMT, and Andrew Lane.
Kerr also spearheaded the “Protect Trans Kids” yard sign project that started after a local trans teen had been harassed by a neighbor in Pittsburgh’s Northside neighborhood. The initial 50 yard signs that Kerr made were first just distributed throughout the Northside to show support, but demand quickly grew for them across the city and beyond to the tune of 700 yard signs.
The signs are free, but the project does rely on donations to keep up with the costs of production.
Mon., Sept. 12, 2022, was the first “Protect Trans Kids Day” in the city of Pittsburgh.
The signs may seem small, but they are a message of support for trans youth who need as many people in their corner as they can get. Kerr herself has proven to be a worthy advocate for the cause as she continues to serve the community in the simplest way: by showing up where she is needed.