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.
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.
Name: Patrouious Anthony Achatz
County of Residence: Allegheny/McKean
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first person in the LGBTQ+ community I met was 2 or 3 and they are my cousin.
How do you describe your identity? I identify as a Trans Man and I identify as a heterosexual. I consider myself as an Ex Roman Catholic because I was baptized, confirmed, and had my first communion in 2010 and left the church in 2012 because the church I went to was very conservative. I switched to Unitarian Universalism because I wanted to be in a church that respected my values as well as my identity.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I am the Vice President of The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s LGBTS Alliance. I also follow-up with LGBTQ nation, I watch YouTube videos from Gay Family Values, and so on.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Spencer and Ashley from the TV show South of Nowhere. Laverne Cox from Orange is the New Black. Caitlyn Jenner Olympic Athlete and reality TV star. Chaz Bono who is Cher’s Son and was on Dancing with the star. I also am a huge Ruby Rose Fan.
How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? I describe myself in the terms of “being out” as people knowing who I am. I also consider being out as you being willing to accept yourself because that’s the most important part when it comes to coming out. You have to be willing to accept yourself and loving yourself. Because if you can’t do that…. How are you going to accept others and love others?
Describe your geographical community. I live in Pittsburgh most of the Summer and parts of the Fall/Winter. I live in Bradford from August-April because I am studying interdisciplinary arts with the concentration in theatre and music at The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. When I was very little I lived in Saltsburg PA which is rural. I lived there from birth until 2002 when my grandfather retired from being an English and Theatre teacher at Kiski Prep. My mother and I lived with my grandparents since I was little and we live with them currently (when I am home from school of course).
Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. Well I live in two different places in PA. I live in Pittsburgh when I’m on break from school and on occasional weekends. Pittsburgh I feel has a bigger LGBTQ+ community and I feel there is more acceptance in Pittsburgh because Allegheny County has protection for LGBTQ+ residence. While during the school year I live in Bradford PA which is in McKean County and their isn’t much acceptance outside of Pitt Bradford when it comes to certain areas. There are accepting churches. People in general mostly the younger generation are accepting and regardless if they are Democrat or Republican they support me being a Transgender Man and they accept me being attracted to women. They say that this is who I am and if they are religious they tell me that God made me Trans and he loves me for who I am. However if I were to apply for a job in McKean County I could be denied a job because of my gender identity because in PA there is no state-wide protection against discrimination when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.
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 only had jobs in Pittsburgh so I never faced any kind of discrimination. In McKean county I do have a fear of being denied service at a store, restaurant, etc because of my gender identity. Regardless if I am in Bradford, Smethport, Kane anywhere in McKean County I have the fear a manager at a restaurant or store will say “Get out we don’t serve your kind here” or say stuff like “Leave you freak”
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) Pittsburgh is very LGBTQ+ friendly and there are a few narrow-minded People but there aren’t as many narrow-minded people but of course you’ll bump into them anywhere you go. McKean County I want to say the acceptance is mostly coming from young adults. The adults who are older tend to be more conservative.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I don’t really don’t know any LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in McKean County. I do however that in the Avonworth Community their are more people being opened about their sexuality and/or gender identity. The issues that are not being recognized is public schools. Public schools in Allegheny County are discriminating against Trans and gender non conforming students. One of my friends got Expelled for wearing a dress and makeup as well as use the girl’s bathroom because their assigned sex at birth was male and they identified as female. I don’t know about the schools in McKean county but all I can say that public education is an issue when it comes to LGBTQ+ students. There are no anti bullying laws protecting LGBTQ+ students, no anti harassment law when it comes to LGBTQ+ students, and their are no anti discrimination laws in PA when it comes to the LGBTQ+ Community.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Absolutely. I want to see an elected official improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. I want to see them change the birth certificate gender mark change policy from showing proof by your doctor that you had sexual reassignment surgery and change it to a letter from your therapist, or doctors saying that you are the gender you identify as instead of saying they did have sexual reassignment surgery. I also want to see a law that allows Trans people to use the bathroom they identify with. I want to see anti discrimination laws that includes LGBTQ+ protection.
Please share any anecdotes about life as a LGBTQ person in your community that might help outsiders better understand. On May 4th 2015 I spoke to the Avonworth School Board meeting and I proposed gender neutral bathrooms, a transgender policy that would include respecting pronouns. I introduced my self as Mr. Patrouious Achatz and I said that even though the district knows me as Miss Anita Achatz because I graduated from Avonworth High School in 2012 that doesn’t mean that I am automatically a woman. The school board’s president thanked me for speaking and said they’ll look into the proposal and the Superintendent said that he saw a Dreams of Hope performance after I mentioned being a Dreams of Hope Alum. He also said they needed to do more to support LGBTQ+ students. In June of 2015 they approved the minutes, however the minutes said Ms. Anita Achatz and referred to me as she, her, hers instead of Mr. Patrouious Achatz and referring to me as he, him, his like I clearly told them. My mother and I were very angry about this that the board would act all accepting but then behind my back they would use my birth name and female pronouns. It made me feel like they don’t care about their LGBTQ students. It made me feel like they didn’t want to believe the fact that I was uncomfortable using the girl’s bathroom and locker room when I was younger. I live with gender dysphoria and I have lived with it since I was little and for Avonworth not respecting that I am transitioning from female to male and for them to not respect my gender identity is absolutely disgraceful for a public school.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? When we are little we learn gender roles. We learn that girls are supposed to wear dresses, like pink, play house, play dress up, and play baby dolls and Barbies. We learn that boys are to be tough, play with cars, play with toy guns, play with army men, and like blue. These expectations we make for our kids is 100% harmful because it leads to shame, or even bullying other student who don’t conform to these roles.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? In Pittsburgh we have so many different resources like Dreams of Hope, The GLCC, Persad, The Shepard Wellness Center, UPMC, Forbe’s Hospital does offer Hormone Replacement Therapy for the Transgender community, and so much more. In McKean County as a whole there are only two resources and that would be Pitt Bradford’s LGBTS Alliance and Colors. Other than that McKean county doesn’t really have any other support groups or places that provide support,
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I have the fear of being discriminated when I go back to school in August. I fear that if I go to a restaurant anywhere in McKean County that I will be denied service. I have a fear of being banned from stores and so much more because of my gender identity. Most of all in general regardless if I am in Allegheny County or McKean County I have the fear of being killed.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I hope one day we can all live without fear and I hope one day we will be considered equal.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Tyler Morris the President of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s LGBTS Alliance sent an email about this project.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Have you been involved with LGBTQ Activism? Yes I have been involved with LGBTQ Activism and I am still involved with LGBTQ Activism.
Thank you, Patrouious.