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.
AMPLIFY LGBTQ is supported by Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery. Read all of the interviews here.
I met Joyce in the early 2000s as part of an LGBTQ community discussion working group. We’ve kept in touch over the years, but Facebook has really helped us reconnect. She was one of the people who inspired me to launch this series because she’s never hesitated to share her lived experiences as an openly lesbian women living in rural Beaver County. Joyce’s faith is very strong and she actively lives it. Joyce’s responses highlight significant differences between Beaver and Allegheny County.
Name: Joyce L. Shulick
County of Residence: Beaver County
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I had an openly gay supervisor at a job I started in 1981. She and I went to Wild Sister/Bloomers many times together. She gave me hope that I too would be able to eventually live my life as an openly gay person.
How do you describe your identity? I identify as a lesbian.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook mostly. Reading the information on the GLCC and MCC Facebook pages and things posted by Sue Kerr. I have several gay friends on Facebook as well.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Cosima from Orphan Black.
How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? I am very open. I tell everyone that I meet for the first time that I am gay. I came out to family and friends many years ago beginning in 1990.
Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. There is absolutely nothing for the LGBTQ community in Beaver County. I stay connected through Facebook and friends in Allegheny County. I tried to start a Christian LBGTQ group in 2014 in Beaver County and had no response at all. Gay people here do not trust the church.
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. I was very fortunate to be able to be open about my sexuality for the past 28 years in my positions at Achieva. All of these jobs were in Allegheny Co. I have never been discriminated against by a business.
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) Beaver County has a mix of friendly and unfriendly people. There are some churches at this point who tolerate us. This to me is not acceptance. There are no services, stores, restaurants, bars, churches, etc. that I am aware of, who openly advertise that they are gay friendly. I do not see this changing in the future.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? There are no issues impacting the LGBTQ community that are part of the local dialogue. It is pretty much as if we don’t exist.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Allow us to be visible without fear. Pass legislation that affords us the same rights as all citizens.
Please share any anecdotes about life as a LGBTQ person in your community that might help outsiders better understand. I have been a member of my Lutheran Church all of my life. The members there know that I am Gay and that I have been in relationships. Not a single soul in that church has ever asked me how my partner and I were doing or ever asked me anything about our lives at all. Again, to them I exist as a single person.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? It is simply hard to live in a vacuum. Everyone wants to be able to talk about the person that they love and the ups and downs of live, including big, life changing events, and small everyday things. Not being able to live openly takes many tolls on people. I think the worst thing is having no support when a relationship ends.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? There are none in Beaver County.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Increased discrimination in all aspects of our lives, now that we are allowed to marry. Someone will always be looking for new ways to make us miserable.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we truly become equal citizens able to live without fear.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer Share a funny story about being Gay in Beaver County. I was in Giant Eagle at Northern Lights Shopping Center. There was an extremely obnoxious man in the check out ahead of me ranting to the woman at the check out about Gays wanting special rights. I said excuse me sir, but we want equal rights, not special rights. He muttered something about Fags and Dykes under his breath. I said excuse me sir, but how does who I spend the night with impact your life? Please tell me, I really want to know. He grabbed his items and literally ran out of the store. The woman at the check out thanked me for speaking up and getting rid of him.
Thank you, Joyce.