AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a new occasional series of blog posts designed to give a “signal boost” to the voices of our LGBTQ neighbors throughout Western Pennsylvania. We are using a Q&A format and will mostly avoid editing their responses. The questions, however, may change as we ask each participant to tell us what we’ve missed asking. It is one of the vibrant elements of a blog format – evolution & growth.
Our intent is to highlight the voices of marginalized members of our community who are not always invited to the table or whose voices are not heard (because “we” are not listening?) Obviously, my choice of questions does shape the conversation, but beyond that – these are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices. If you would like to participate, please email me pghlesbian at gmail.
For perspective, here’s a map of the counties of Western PA.
I met Donna in 2013 as part of a social media outreach project. I was really impressed with how well she was using email and Facebook to organize & provide supports to the regional transgender community. She’s a terrific, loving woman who quite honestly gives the shirt off her back to help other.
County of Residence: Allegheny
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? It was a drag queen when I was 16. I didn’t know anything about the lgbt community back then. I worked 11-7 am at a gas station and this guy would come in on weekends and Wednesdays for gas around 2 am . He was always pleasant and we would chat. He drove a Lincoln Mark 4 sapphire blue with a paisley padded roof and running boards with wide white wall tires. He never told me he was gay. One night a lady came in in his car, she looked like Elizabeth Taylor. I waited on her and she left. The next night he came in and I asked if she was his wife. He laughed and said it was his sister. He always had time to talk. He finally told me he was gay and a female impersonator. I was confused by this. We still talked and I told him about my situation with dressing as a female after about two years. He said it was ok to be that way and to always be who you are. I never learned his name and only seen him a few more times after that as I left for a better job. His words never left my mind and stick with me today.
How do you describe your identity? Transgender, bi sexual, non op transsexual as I can’t do hormones or surgery due to health
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? kate bornstein
How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? partially out
Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. Pittsburgh has a diverse community. problem is that groups and people are segregating themselves. To gain equality, we need to work together.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity in a job setting? How about in terms of being served by a business? Please explain. My job does not know as there is no diversity policy and I could be fired for being trans*, though we now have offices in DC and Michigan where there are trans protections. Things are changing as they put in a gender natural restroom.
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) My area is 50/50 on being accepting and non accepting.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? health care, jobs, housing, homelessness, bullying, harassment ,violence and death. Misgendering is also a problem as public is confused with all the pronouns other than he and she. Mental health care.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? pass legislation to give us protection in employment housing etc. also a hates crime law. Help change health care policies.
Please share any anecdotes about life as a LGBTQ person in your community that might help outsiders better understand. live everyday to the fullest and as who you are. don’t worry about how others view who you are, you have to live for yourself not them
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? poverty, unemployment, resources, affordable housing, health and mental health care.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? glcc, persad, project silk,
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? division of the community.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Working together to better our community together
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer Where do you see this community in the future?
Thank you, Donna.
If you would like to participate in the AMPLIFY Q&A series, you’ll find the survey online or you can email me pghlesbian at gmail dot com. I’m very eager to connect with people throughout Western Pennsylvania – so please share with friends in Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Forest, Jefferson, Indiana, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren, Washington, or Westmoreland.