Sue Kerr Is Keeping Lesbian Blogging Alive

feature image courtesy of Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress

When Oklahoma high school student Nex Benedict died in February, Sue Kerr was one of the first people to report that Nex had been nonbinary and trans, posting about it on her blog Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. As the news went viral, people all over the world flocked to Sue’s blog, many of them for the first time, unaware that Sue Kerr has been a unique fixture in the queer media landscape for over 18 years.

Since 2005, Sue Kerr has run Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. She’s never made any money from it. She’s won numerous awards — including being named one of the People of the Year by The Advocate — for her outspoken and intrepid coverage of queer life, local politics, the lives lost to anti-trans violence and transphobia, and her openness and vulnerability about her personal life and history. Now 53 years old and deeply beloved, Kerr has woven herself into the Pittsburgh community with a neighborly, loving, justice-seeking spirit not unlike Mr. Rogers.

When I first reached out to Sue Kerr in early March 2024, my email found her living with friends and locked out of her home of 18 years — the home she once shared with her wife — for several months, with no access to most of her personal belongings. Her dad had just died the week before. She was overwhelmed, had not yet published a proper obituary and was in the midst of swirling legal difficulties. Though she was excited to be interviewed for a feature for Autostraddle and was so incredibly kind to me, we ended up putting off the interview until things were more stable. At the time of our emailing, her hard-fought-for return to her home was just on the horizon. She’d been battling against just about every conceivable barrier in order to get back home since September 2023. In late March, Sue finally made it, and in May, we reconnected.

Hearing Sue Kerr’s voice for the first time in my life — over a Zoom call because Pride was happening exactly between our two houses that day (Pittsburgh’s started May 31) — felt like slotting puzzle pieces into place, a voice to a face, a face to a name, a person in real-time, finally connected to a web of actions I’ve felt the impact of for years.

In my front yard, on a Pittsburgh street, stand two “Protect Trans Kids” signs. Throughout our city, you can see these signs in yards and stickers in windows or on cars. I knew the story: A trans kid was being harassed by a neighbor who put up all kinds of anti-trans signs in their yard, directly facing the home of this minor, who lived there with two gay dads. In response, the neighborhood, our neighborhood, then the city, came together to display signs in support of this kid and all trans kids. At the time, I didn’t know Sue had founded the whole darn thing. She was the one to ask: What can we do? to the young Black trans teen at the center of the situation. She helped come up with a solution, and then, with a whole crew of invested people, executed that vision until our city’s supporters visibly and clearly outnumbered the transphobes. Her work and her legacy were and are probably one of the first things you might notice about my house.

There are other examples of things just like this: ways her continued advocacy and activism and just willingness to step up and do something within her skillset have seeped into the community and created tangible change. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to surge in the United States, Sue, as always, thought of her community, and took action. She formed the PiTTsburgh MasQUe ProjecT with TransPride Pittsburgh to connect people who could procure or sew masks to queer and trans people who needed them. As of December 2020, the project had distributed over 10,000 masks. I was distinctly aware of the MasQUe ProjecT in 2020, and I know people who got masks through them. Here, again, was Sue Kerr popping up in my life and community.

Others might know her for her work with local feral cat colonies, where she and others take care to ensure these cute but homeless creatures have access to food and shelter. And you, as an Autostraddle reader, might have encountered her work before, too. Because the queer internet really is small.

Sue Kerr has an MSW in community organizing, and she worked in the field as well as in politics, including interning for Rick Santorum (which she knows is shocking to everyone), prior to her official disability determination at the age of 40. Her background in politics and organizing is critical to her work — she’s an astute researcher, fact-finder, and political writer with a close eye on local politics.

Sue’s journey towards blogging began with the proliferation of listservs in the early 2000s. “We didn’t really talk about spamming back then, but I was sending email to every queer person I knew,” she says. Sue would send email blasts featuring local news and articles she’d reads, like if a student got a nursing scholarship and happened to be a lesbian. “And this is like 2004. You wouldn’t expect to see that in a lot of the articles in the papers,” she says. Sue doesn’t remember exactly how she learned about blogs, but one day she did, so she took a week off of work and said: “Let me try this.”

Sue set up a blog with her webmaster and dove right in. She had no coding knowledge or web design skills herself, but she had a desire to share her opinions. “So that’s what I started doing,” she says. “And really, it was a chance to weigh in on topics that were interesting and then also to share some perspective.”

She’s careful to give credit where it’s due, noting that blogging had been around for a while and that in the early 2000s, plenty of queer people were using Diaryland, LiveJournal, MySpace, and similar microblogging platforms to connect. Sue Kerr says she didn’t necessarily break ground and was in no way the first LGBT blogger. In fact, there was another one locally named Jason, who used the URL and sold it to her when he retired. She got to know other women bloggers and feminist bloggers. “And we developed this rapport,” she explains.

She didn’t set out to be a political blogger, “but it didn’t take long.” She was afraid she “didn’t have what it took,” even with a degree and graduate work in political science and experience in campaign politics. (I was about to suggest imposter syndrome when Sue named it herself.)

After some time blogging, Sue started getting mixed up with one of the only other white women bloggers in the scene which, Sue points out, was quite the irony since “some of the men that were having this conversation did actually resemble each other.” So, as a general response to her general reception and the reception of fellow bloggers, Sue co-founded the Pittsburgh Women’s Blogging Society.

“And I mean, the men went bonkers,” she says. “They were so angry because we got one little writeup.” The local paper acknowledged the work Sue and her collaborators were doing as innovative. They were co-blogging together, hundreds of bloggers contributing their own writing. It was important to Sue to show just how many women bloggers there were.

Then, of course, the men created the Pittsburgh Men’s Blogging Society.

Still, the women persisted, hosting a series of blog-a-thons around urgent topics such as sexual assault and, when Pennsylvania was on its way to passing DOMA legislation, a blog-a-thon dedicated to marriage equality. Sue noticed, then, that while she was often pigeonholed into writing about LGBTQ topics because heterosexual bloggers would leave them completely alone, people did feel like they could step up and blog as allies in that context.

In 2013, Sue wrote her first memorial post. Over 10 years later, the memorial post for Nex Benedict was one in a line of what Sue estimates are over 340 such posts memorializing the lives of trans and nonbinary people who we’ve lost too soon.

“That was because a trans man named Jacob, who lives in Ohio, asked me to write one about Cemia Acoff, because he said he needed a decent article that would share the information around her death, but also acknowledge her life,” Sue explains. “And so, that’s the balance I was striking. It wasn’t an obituary, but I was trying to alert people that this thing happened to this woman in our community. And then, at the same time, centering her.”

Monica Roberts, the late founder of the trans blog TransGriot, gave Sue advice on how to do this kind of memorial writing.

“I really thought, I guess I was foolish, I thought, ‘Oh, this will be a one-off, and I’ll write this and move on,’” Sue says. “And I followed the case a little bit, and then suddenly there were three more murders in Cleveland that same year. And I was like, ‘Well, I have to write about them too.’ And I just kept going.”

Sue Kerr

Sue’s approach to allyship and being an accomplice via her blog’s documentation of violence against trans people was influenced by the traffic trends she saw emerge on her blog, which reflected broader media trends. Specifically, “young white female syndrome.”

When she wrote memorial posts about a teen trans girl, she explains, especially if they had been killed by a family member, a domestic partner, or a boyfriend, those posts would be very popular and get shared by high-profile people. “And then the next post I would write would be about someone the same age who was a Black trans sex worker in Chicago who was murdered, and then nobody would share it. And so, I would see this, I could see it on my data, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. What is wrong with us?’”

Sue began including the list of all the memorials she’d published that year (or linking to others if she happened to not write a memorial for a person) on each psot so readers could navigate from the more popular pages to, she hoped, other memorials where they would learn about victims who did not fit that “young, white, female” profile. Throughout her years of doing this vital work, documenting the violence faced by the trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming community and lives lost, Sue’s developed some long-standing frustrations with the ways people react to and interact with these stories.

“The thing I hear the most often is, ‘It’s so sad.’ And I’m just like, ‘It should be sad. Someone was murdered. Of course, it’s sad,’” she says. “But the thing is that the trans community has repeatedly said that we need to talk about this. We need to have this be visible.”

“And my constant refrain when someone says that is like, you’re right, so share this or whatever link related to this you want to, and then go find two positive affirming links and share those, and then maybe keep up sharing affirming trans content,” she continues. “Don’t just say, ‘No, I’m disengaging. I don’t want to make people sad.’ Because, well, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to meet a trans person who doesn’t know this isn’t happening.”

Much like the straight people who left LGBTQ coverage to Sue, she feels cis people too often leave coverage of the issues faced by the trans community to trans people to document and address. But, as Sue points out, “this is not going to stop until cisgender folks stop it, and do so by listening to what the trans community tells us.”

News of Nex Benedict’s death in February 2024 quickly went viral, with multiple news outlets and countless social media accounts weighing in. When I ask what Sue thinks caused this particular death to become highlighted in the general public consciousness, she again points to the “young, white, female syndrome,” which is a nuanced thing to discuss given Nex’s transmasc identity, but we’re talking about media and public perception, as opposed to this young person’s lived truth. She says she thinks people’s “young white missing” syndrome was activated, especially since a lot of the mainstream cis public doesn’t really understand what nonbinary means. She says she also thinks Libs of TikTok being involved contributed.

“I just think Nex became a symbol about these larger issues,” she says.

Sue brought nuance and complexity to her coverage of Nex’s death in a way that was largely missing from the mainstream media. Then, that very same week, Sue wrote about Jacob Williamson, an 18-year-old trans man. He was brutally murdered by a man who he’d gone on a date with and that man’s girlfriend. His murderers livestreamed before and after the killing. Because of the sheer horror of the violence, Sue thought that even though it wasn’t the finding of the body — that had happened the year prior — but the release of details of the case, that this story would, too, rise in the public consciousness.

“Not a peep. Nothing,” Sue says of the response to her post about Jacob.

Then, in April, Sue reported on the death of Navaeh ‘River’ Goddard. Sue connected with a classmate of River’s on social media, who told her that she saw River posting on Instagram and knew she was missing (River used she and they pronouns). The police were called, but they wouldn’t listen. This classmate “stood up for this kid who wasn’t even her friend. She did the right thing that many adults didn’t do… And she is carrying this guilt around and probably will always.”

It frustrates Sue to know outlets like People Magazine who wrote about Nex— almost fetishized Nex — won’t write about all of these other victims of violence. She advises cis people looking to plug in and participate when facing a wall of indifference from mainstream media, “Don’t assume you don’t have skills to offer. I mean there’s a thousand ways that you can get involved.” Sue notes that even making quilts or sewing blankets for trans youth living in community centers provides something. She also uses the Protect Trans Kids yard signs as an example. “Being involved in a project like that is a way to create resiliency, because it’s awesome. You drive around, you see the sign…It’s just like there’s something that it does to you inside.”

Sue also mentions she’s been working with the Trans Doe Task Force that finds and researches cases of LGBTQ+ missing and murdered persons. Sue will be taking a forensic genealogy course to be better prepared to volunteer with the task force. When it comes to sharing news on social media, Sue says “The more people that share it, even if you have a low follower account, it still has an impact. So you can’t have too few followers to participate. Even if you just send it to one person, it still matters.”

Sue, herself, demonstrates how to make activism sustainable. She knows when to pull back, when to pace herself. She asks for support.

This activism hasn’t come without risk, without cost, though, but when Sue gets pushback from TERFS and transphobes, “ that just means we’re doing our job.”

But, while secure in her beliefs, she’s now facing a lawsuit because of her work on the Protect Trans Kids project.

Although the woman who originally put up the harassing signs was convicted on one count of harassment, she proceeded to start a legal action accusing Sue and her blog of defamation. Sue had to hire a defamation lawyer to defend herself, yet another expense for this blogger who’s never made money to do her work, only spent it.

Facing a defamation suit in Pennsylvania is stressful for other reasons. Some states have laws that require the plaintiff to cover legal fees if the defendants are found not guilty, but that’s not the case in Pennsylvania. Even if the defendants are found not guilty, they may not be able to recoup their legal fees.

It was a horrible experience, though her lawyers were fantastic and willing to do some work pro bono. But the lawsuit keeps hanging over her head. “She was trying to shut us up, and she succeeded,” Sue says. “Because then that played a part in what happened to me in my personal life.” The actions also slowed down the work of Sue’s nonprofit and unfortunately demoralized volunteers. They’re getting their feet back under them as they seek funding, now, but it was a significant setback.

Sue writes a great deal about her life, opening up about the neglect and trauma she’s experienced. She grew up working class, raised by parents who didn’t really parent, a survivor herself of abuse and neglect. For Sue, the personal really is political. If something could happen to one person, if something could happen to her, then surely it could happen to others. She’s not quiet, then, about what she’s facing. “I’m like, ‘I’m going to write about this, because if it happened to me, I always say that it could happen to somebody else.’ And I want them to know that they’re not alone.”

In September of 2023, something else happened to Sue that made her say, once again, “if it happened to me, it could happen to somebody else.” From her Gofundme page:

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.

On Tuesday, June 4, Sue’s attorney’s filed suit in federal district court around the attempts to involuntarily civil commit her the previous August 2023.

The official statement from Sue’s lawyer reads:

Last year, LGBTQ activist and writer, Susan “Sue” Kerr suffered an inexcusable violation of her civil rights when multiple officials deliberately disregarded established processes meant to protect those who are involuntarily committed under false pretenses in order to be removed from their homes or otherwise deprived of their property. As a result of these officials’ failures, Ms. Kerr was locked out of her home of over 18 years and was not able to return for 196 days. Earlier this week, my firm and I filed a federal lawsuit on Ms. Kerr’s behalf alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This lawsuit is meant to seek justice for the violation of Ms. Kerr’s rights, but, also, in the hope of preventing others from suffering the same fate due to the failures of officials entrusted with upholding the law.

Massimo A. Terzigni, Esquire

This suit is a continuation of Sue’s decades-long work in advocacy, for herself and others. As a disabled person, she’s again put into a position where the personal is political, fighting for disability rights, and as a victim of this traumatizing experience where a 302 call was used against her, possibly, in my opinion, as a tactic to kick her out of her home, can’t be the only one of its kind.

Keeping watch on the small legal things that can upend a person’s life is a core part of Sue’s work. “But I am a lesbian blogger in Pittsburgh, so I pay attention to the local government stuff around LGBTQ people more than anyone else in this region,” she says. “I know the history of the mayor’s advisory council, the city commission, all those little laws, all that stuff.”

Her existence is like a manifesto, proof that local, community journalism makes a world of difference in our everyday lives — and when it comes to fighting the erosion of our rights.

When former Mayor Peduto elevated the advisory group to a LGBTQIA+ Commission, Kerr decided to put her experience to practical use by applying. She was the very first person appointed to this historic Commission, then elected for three consecutive terms as co-chair. She stepped down after her first term ended in February 2024.

“Working inside local government gave me a new perspective on advocacy. I brought unique experiences to the table, helped to draft innovative foundational documents, and when I was no longer effective, I rotated off. I’m open to serving in another capacity, perhaps a state advisory group.”

“I guess the best analogy is the Emperor’s new clothes,” she says. “I’m the kid that’s like, ‘The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.’ It turns out there’s a lot of emperors, and a lot of them are naked. And then I have to constantly say something because people aren’t going to. Because it’s too sad or they’re afraid or they don’t know what to say. And I’m willing to take those risks, because I know the consequences are too great.”

But there are things to look forward to on the horizon, as well. Next year will be the anniversary of Sue’s #AMPLIFY LGBTQ Voices project, which began in 2015 while she was in residence at local gallery, Most Wanted Fine Art. She hopes to get foundation support to do it again and give the folks who originally contributed a chance to update their parts of the project.

Her blog is a living archive of nearly 20 years of LGBTQ history and struggle and culture and joy. It’s a place where the memories of the people who’ve had their lives cut short by violence live on, and it’s a record of the people who’ve fought for our rights — even when there have been setbacks. As for Sue, she’s healing, taking things one step at a time, and staying strong.

“I’m excited that I’m still here as a blogger,” she says. “I have received tremendous support and opportunities over the years. But at the end of the day, I’m a disabled queer blogger trying to keep my blog running with my $1200/month Social Security Disability Insurance income. That’s a precarious position. I’d like to secure enough funding to keep the blog sustainable. I’m not ready to retire, there’s work still to be done. I don’t want to be revered, I want to be resourced.”

You can read Sue’s archives, donate to her Gofundme, and follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

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Nico Hall

Nico Hall is a Team Writer for Autostraddle (formerly Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director and For Them's Membership and Editorial Ops person.) They write nonfiction both creative — and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret longform project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 229 articles for us.


  1. Really great profile of someone who has been holding it down for queers for so long- way before it was a thing people used for their own visibilty as an influencer. Its hard to see someone pay such a high price for trying to advocate for others… the 302 stuff is heartbreaking and awful, I can’t imagine.

    • Thank you Ari! If you want to support Sue, the best thing to do is spread the word about her, her blog, and her fundraising efforts. She truly is an awesome person. <3

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