Hi, My name is Melissa and my grad school friend Sue needs your help! A beloved and respected LGBTQ blogger based in Pittsburgh needs support with legal fees in an unexpected court battle to remain safely in her home and continue her advocacy via her award winning blog, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. We need to raise $5000 over the weekend to help her and preserve her blog, an important archive of 18 years of LGBTQ experiences.
Note that Sue’s legal situation is complicated, nuanced, and emotional. We can’t discuss certain details, but hope you will trust her accomplishments and reputation to help.
Unexpectedly, Sue's partner of 20 years and wife of 2 years filed a petition for a warrant to commit her to a psychiatric hospital. Sue was handcuffed, removed from her home and taken to the local psychiatric hospital in her pajamas and faded rainbow flip flops. After five hours of evaluation, Sue was deemed not to need civil commitment, that she posed no threat to others or herself - she was discharged. But it might remain on her record and impact her future. When friends picked her up, they had to inform her that the locks on her home of 18 years had been changed, stating she was not welcome back. This in spite of Sue’s marital rights to live in her home until a judge declares otherwise.
She’s a legal occupant of her home of 18 years under Pennsylvania law. But she doesn't have the keys.
Sue has been safe with friends as she fights for her rights. She has been represented by attorneys from the pro bono clinic of a local domestic violence shelter. She obtained a temporary Protection From Abuse order that explicitly states Sue has the right to live in her home of 18 years. But no one can compel that she be provided keys. This caused Sue to be without some of her long-term medications and limited clothing. She’s still wearing those flip flops everywhere she goes.
The only authority who can compel anyone that her rights be enforced is a court. Hence, she needs a lawyer.
Given the complexity of her legal case, the pro bono lawyers suggested she retain private counsel. Sue has relied on Social Security Disability Insurance as her source of income since she became totally and permanently disabled in 2010, about $1200/month. Her wife's income from her FT job is Sue's primary source of support. She does not have enough for the retainer. She has no family and thus her friends are working together to help her.
Sue needs to raise at least $5000 for a retainer. The costs may go up as things proceed.
Sue’s only personal asset is her blog. It is the only thing she can possibly sell to raise this money. It would break her heart and ours if we lost access to the important archive so she could pay for a lawyer to defend her rights. We are asking readers, friends, family, LGBTQ advocates, and anyone who believes survivors to consider a donation.
Sue had already been recently struggling with significant physical side effects reacting to a new medication. She has been under the care of a psychiatrist, her PCP, and her therapist as she weaned off that harmful medication. She’s been in survival mode since these latest incidents and has had no time to process her latest traumas. These are topics she’s generally discussed quite openly on her blog. We need more bloggers and media destigmatizing mental illness like Sue.
We cannot lose this important blog but more importantly we cannot lose Sue. She deserves legal representation.
To focus on her legal case, gaining access to her home, and managing her own health, Sue has temporarily taken down her blog. She misses blogging, we miss reading.
If you don’t know Sue, she’s a 52 year old cis lesbian. She grew up in Pittsburgh in traumatic chaos. She has a MSW and has worked both for and without pay in social services for nearly 30 years. After her disability no longer allowed her to do paid work, she focused on volunteering and continuing her blogging.
Sue founded the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project to connect gently used bags with local food banks. She established the Pittsburgh MasQue ProjecT to ensure members of the LGBTQ community had access to face masks during the worst years of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, Sue worked with others to create the Pittsburgh #ProtectTransKids project distributing 2000 yard signs through the region to send a positive message to trans youth.
Adding insult to injury, Sue and her blog along with five others have been named in legal action around defamation in the #ProtectTransKids project. She was harassed online, called vile names, and had her Wikipedia page defaced. Prior to her illness she was considering filing harassment charges as a gesture of solidarity with transgender media colleagues enduring similar tactics.
As a blogger, Sue has documented first person stories from more than 300 LGBTQ folx through the #AMPLIFY project. For ten years, she has given voice to the lives and deaths of transgender neighbors through her In Memoriam Project. She also works with advocates through the Trans Doe Project to bring visibility to this epidemic of violence. Also for ten years, she has interviewed politicians and elected officials to dig deep into their LGBTQ competency.and educate voters.
From 2015-2016, she was an blogger artist in residence with renowned art gallery Most Wanted Fine Art.
Sue and her blog have received numerous awards and honors. They were the first blog to ever earn the ‘Best Local Blog’ category in the local alt-weekly’s annual ‘ Best of Pittsburgh’ in 2016, winning again in 2019 and placing in the top three other years. In 2019, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents was honored as the Outstanding Blog in the national GLAAD media awards. Sue won that again in 2022, just the second person two win that award twice. Also in 2022, Sue was named one of 12 People of the Year by The Advocate Magazine. In 2023, she was named a Lesbian Icon by national website LGBTQ Nation.
In 2021, Sue founded the 501c3, Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities. Also in 2021, Sue was confirmed to the inaugural LGBTQIA+ Commission for the City of Pittsburgh where her co-commissioners elected her as a co-chair for three consecutive terms, a post she currently holds.
She has raised countless donations for her local food pantry, holiday projects, after-school programs, neighbors who have lost their homes to fires, many pet and animal causes. She has shown up over and over for us, all of us, even those who do not know her. Sue maintains a community cat colony on the Northside and has not been able to check on her colony. She also has helped foster 34 kittens and cats since 2019.
Sue has few family ties so that is not an option for financial support to defend her rights in court.
We are sure you have questions. We don't have a lot of explanations as details unfold, but know a lawyer is key to untangling this and helping Sue move forward.
She's been working very hard on survival details, but continues to be worried about decisions made by others. She’s terrified of losing her health insurance and other benefits. Sue is aware that taking care of herself is paramount to making long-term or major life decisions. If this could happen to her … what about the rest of us?
Sue also grieves being separated from her beloved cats and has no information on their welfare or current locations.
Yes, she is connected with pro bono PFA lawyers (aka legal aid) but it is undeniable she needs her own attorney right now. Once again, our goal is to raise funds for the retainer. If there’s an avenue to get back home and make sure her cats are okay while protecting her safety and healing, she’s explored it. That’s what Sue does.
Life with a mental health or ‘hidden’ disability is fraught with difficulties. She’s sleeping in a strange bed with three pairs of shorts and three tee shirts, a few pairs of socks and those flip flops. She wore them to PFA court. She wears them to the store. She has no other footwear - it is all at her home = and is dreading going back to court in these shoes that are inextricably tied to a painful experience.
Please give what you can. Time is of the essence.
Anything not used for legal fees will be dedicated to help Sue to rebuild her life.
Note - I have been a friend of Sue’s since we began graduate school in the University of Pittsburgh MSW program in 1998. We met on the first day of orientation and have remained friends all these years. It broke my heart when she called me to update me on this situation, but I also felt honored that she trusted me enough to let me support her. Each time we talk, she takes care to ensure her nephews are not exposed to the ‘adult’ details, prioritizing their well-being even when she is at her lowest.
I don’t want to lose her blog because I know how important it is for the entire community, especially allies. But I want my friend to live safely in her home with her cats and have the opportunity to heal
I included Sue as a manager on this fundraiser to assure donors she is aware and agrees to this action.