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. During Pride 2013, we are trying to feature someone each day.
I met Christopher through a storytelling performance at Bricolage Theater – he’s a thoughtful, well-informed social media curator and has taught me quite a bit. One of the best things about this feature is the chance to learn more about my friends and his story about his grandfather is another delightful example of how people always amaze me. We are very fortunate to count Chris among our allies. Christopher was also a guest contributor this past fall during “Spirit Day” to highlight allies. What strikes me is how he is a storyteller at heart – both in his blog posts and in creating social media content – a skill that we need in order to tell our own stories.
Name: Christopher Whitlatch
Affiliation: The Pittsburgh Foundation
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. This is kind of a different way to answer the question, but I love to tell this story. I grew up in Uniontown, PA. Very small. I decided to go to college at New York University despite the fact that I had never been in New York City. My first trip to NYC was for college orientation in which you spend 3 days on campus the summer before you begin classes. My grandfather, an Archie Bunker type has worked his whole life to save up for a big red Cadillac. My parents, grandparents and I piled into it for the trip. We stayed at a hotel off of 42nd street, which at the time was still a seedy neighborhood and did the standard touristy things like the Statue of Liberty. When it came time to drop me downtown for orientation, we found our planned route down 5th Ave. was blocked for the Gay Pride Parade. Needless to say, we got lost and ended up on Bleecker Street which may be the only street in NYC that runs crooked. We pulled up to a cop from the Bronx to ask directions and my father leaned over my grandfather and asked “how do you get to Warshington Square Park.” I thought “oh my god they are going to shoot the hicks from Western PA.”
We did finally make it to Washington Square Park, which also happened to be the end point for the parade. My grandfather popped the trunk and took out my suitcase. He looked at the park and back at me and said, “You want to go to school here?” I got as big as I could because no one defied my grandfather and said in the deepest voice I could muster, “Yes!” He did not say another word and got back in the car and drove it all the way back to Uniontown without stopping.
I knew that I had made the right decision though from that day on. A community without diversity and all the benefits that comes with that diversity is not a true community. And yes, even my grandfather admitted (not to me of course) a couple years later that I had made the right choice.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? Twitter allows me to stay up to date with our local organizations. I also check out the blogs on Huffington post to stay informed on relevant issues.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? I would have to say equality in marriage is the one we hear the most about, but I believe the undercurrent of bullying that is happening to our young people is most important to me.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? I would love to erase the unfortunate incident of abuse that occurred in one of our bars a year or two ago. I believe it is a stain on our city as it continues to transform and grow. Opportunities great and small need to be available to all people in our city.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Hope you will let me deviate a little here as well as I answer the question. I am a huge fan of Brittany Griner. She has a special talent on the basketball court and is electric and exciting to watch. Off the court she has a charm and charisma that make her an ideal role model.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Stay informed so you know the whole story not just a sound bite.
You can follow Christopher on Twitter @CSWhitlatch