An occasional series where we pose some questions to local LGBTQ folks (and Allies) to learn more about their personal experiences with LGBTQ culture. Click here for a complete list of all LGBTQ&A profiles.
Zack is someone I met online before we met in real life at a conference. He’s from Harrisburg so we occasionally chatted PA issues. Zack introduced me to Think Progress which is now a must-read site for me. I was intrigued when he mentioned smoking as a thing-to-change; I filled him in on the smoking ban and we chatted about the real barrier smoking creates in building community as well as the harm that has on everyone beyond our lungs. It is an interesting and too-little discussed concern. Just the sort of examination of progress we ought to think about more often, right?
Name: Zack Ford
Affiliation: LGBT Editor, ThinkProgress.org
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. I had a few family members who identified as LGBT, but I was not very close with them, geographically or otherwise. When I arrived at college, there were a ton of people my age who had already figured out their identities and were out and proud, and that had a huge impact on my own journey.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? I read a ton of content everyday. I’ve found many blogs and outlets that I read daily, and I also have Google alerts to find stories that I might otherwise miss. I try to be really attentive about finding stories on trans issues since they often don’t receive consistent coverage on the most prominent LGBT blogs.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? I think bullying is the most important issue, especially because of conservatives’ many attempts to help protect bullies and maintain ignorance about LGBT people. In that way, it actually intersects with all the other issues (marriage, employment discrimination, etc.). The great thing is that education is the key, and helping all young people better understand what it means to be gay, or bi, or trans, or queer, or whatever will help reduce stigma for generations to come.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? I’m not a Pittsburgh resident, so I can’t speak to that directly, but as a Pennsylvania native, I hate that smoking is still allowed in bars. Because of targeted marketing by tobacco companies, gay people smoke cigarettes at rates high above the national average, and that makes going out a much less pleasant experience.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Captain Jack Harkness, obviously. <Editor’s Note: we’ve corrected a typo – Zack is not a fan of Captain Jack Harness – apologies for the slip.>
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Just don’t be afraid to talk about sexuality and gender. The progress that we’ve made has resulted not just from people coming out of the closet, but from the issues themselves being more accessible. Every opportunity people have to think about the lives of queer people brings them closer to a point of acceptance and respect.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZackFord