AMPLIFY! Sam Prefers The Ambiguity of Queer Identity to a Specific Label

Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.

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. Western Pennsylvania

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 or visit the online Q&A.

You can read the other Q&A responses here.  AMPLIFY! LGBTQ is a project of Most Wanted Fine Art and Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.


 

We’ve talked with Sam in the past about their experiences and hope to be working with them on the forthcoming AMPLIFY zine. I didn’t know they were from a rural community so I’m happy that I asked them to participate in this Q&A. That rural/suburban/urban queer contrast adds a unique perspective to our stories.

Sam Thorp
Image: Sam Thorp

Name: Sam Thorp

Age:  45

County of Residence: Allegheny

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? the first person i KNEW was gay? they were probably like a testing ground or a practice field. i wanted to see how much I could actually talk about… what subjects i could broach that I couldn’t with any one else. how far could i go about being honest and open about….. wow… that poor person having to put up with my awkward crap. I should probably send them flowers.

How do you describe your identity? I prefer the term “queer” because it is ambiguous. it has room to move around in. trying to nail down an exact label has never been that easy for me.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I grew up in a very isolated rural community… the internet has been a godsend. following a few good sources on twitter, tumblr and facebook keeps me informed.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? when i was very young the only thing I could identify as “gay ” was Daffy Duck’s drag career. Later on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had some amazing “queer coded” characters and story lines. Nowadays I’m amazed at the openness of gay characters and story lines. I recommend Avatar: the Legend of Korra to anyone.

How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? I’m very out. it wasn’t easy. It took a while to get my life to a point where i did have to worry about anyone’s opinion or any backlash. And i wish I could easily sum up instructions so everyone else could be in the same position with their own lives.

Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. I think overall Pittsburgh is a cool place to be gay. It’s not that bad.  It could be better. We still have room for improvement. We (All of Us) have to listen more to the POC and Trans communities and make sure their needs are met…… but i’ve been out there in “Pennsatucky” and the conservative wastelands….. it could be a lot worse.

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. These days, no. I’m on the alert to avoid such situations before they can happen. There are some places i will not shop or come in contact with to avoid any problems.

Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) i’ve managed to weed out anyone from my life who isn’t supportive or open minded. i would suggest everyone else do the same.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? the recent “dialogue” (aka passive aggressive FB posts) about the recent Delta/ Iggy scandal really highlighted a rift with in the local community.  there were those who seemed in line with popular “white male dominated culture” that were furious about having their party time ruined and the pride fest not being popular enough. and there was everyone else who had an incredible diversity of issues OTHER THAN throwing the biggest most popular party on the block and having a real fun time.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? access to healthcare. end the drug war. de- militarize the police. affordable housing. invest in renewable energy instead of propping up “big oil”….. these may not seem like gay- specific issues…. but they tend to cause more damage on the gay community…. especially low-income POC queers.

Please share any anecdotes about life as a LGBTQ person in your community that might help outsiders better understand. can’t think of anything right now.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? the only barriers i can think of are the result of discrimination.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I always point people towards the GLCC. they work hard for people.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? bears…. actually… sometimes I fear that the “Pennsatucky” population will outnumber the rational progressive population. I still remember the bar in Johnstown that was always under attack from anti- gay groups.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? intersectionality.

What motivated you to take part in this project? you asked me to. 

 

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. these are all great questions.

Thank you, Sam.

If you would like to participate in a future Q&A, please visit our survey or contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com.

Good news – AMPLIFY is going on the road this summer. We’ll be traveling to some Western PA events where you can meet with us face to face to complete the Q&A or learn more. Upcoming events include:

  • July 11 Pittsburgh Dyke Trans March
  • July 19 at Butler PFLAG Pride Picnic
  • July 26 at Pittsburgh Black Pride BBQ
  • August 14 at Washington County GSA Summer Picnic
  • August 16 at Westmoreland PFLAG Pride Picnic
  • August 29 at Erie Pride
  • October TBA Johnstown Halloween Parade

Pittsburgh Lesbian