Note: I’m publishing this a little early because on Wednesday I’ll be traveling to Erie to get ready for Pride!
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 minimize 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.
Erie Pride is next weekend (August 29) so we are focusing on individuals from Northwestern PA leading up to that event. Daniel is a member of the board of NWPA Pride and graciously took some time to respond to our questions.
Preferred Pronouns: he/him/his
County of Residence: Erie
How do you describe your identity? I am a white,cisgendered, homosexual male from a middle class background. I have one brother.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? In high school, there was the standard bullying and I was only officially out to a few friends, but found it difficult to hide. In college, many of my friends were very supportive once I came out, but many of them didn’t quite grasp what being gay meant. My biggest challenge was that I was attending a Catholic University so there were very few other out gay people, and closeted gay people avoided the out ones at all costs.
How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? I’m completely out of the closet and open about my sexuality in personal and professional settings
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My parents each had a friend from college who identified as LGBT later in life. I was 6 or 7 when I met Thaddeus. My experience with him was that it was normal to be gay, he had a life, job, partner, house etc, so he was just a normal guy.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Primarily the Internet. I am also a board member of NWPA Pride Alliance, so I get a lot of news from them.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Northstar from Marvel Comics. He was the first openly gay superhero, and he was inspiring to all those of us who were different. At the time, the X-Men (also by Marvel) didn’t have any openly gay characters but were a metaphor for being outsiders who were born different and even had their own allegory for HIV/AIDs, which also was thought of as a gay disease at the time.
Describe your geographical community. Millcreek, a suburb of Erie.
Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. Northwest PA is divided up along economic lines more than any other identifier. Erie has 1 “gay” bar, but the patrons there are Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual, Heterosexual etc. Because we only have the one bar, it forces us to mingle in a way that larger cities seem not to have (i.e. Lebsians go here, gay men go to this other place, trans women go there). The patrons do tend to be among the lower income brackets, and those with a higher income (which tend to be white males age 40 and up) have other events like the Gay-Guy-Gay-Girl Happy Hour (G2H2), which never has more than two women.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. No.
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) I find it very friendly, but I think you’d find a different answer from people of color, trans of both sexes and women.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Economic issues.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I think they need to bring more diverse employers to the region with strict diversity guidelines in their hiring practices.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I work for the Department of Human Services. I am currently the only LGBT employee at the Erie County Assistance Office (there are other employees but they don’t work for the CAO). I am the expert on LGBT issues even when they don’t pertain to my life experience, so whenever there is a question involving making the computer work in the way that the employee knows it should (i.e. two men have adopted a child together but the computer doesn’t recognize two fathers, how do we force the income of both men to count for the kid’s medicaid benefit) they come to me.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Economics.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Erie Gay News is a great resource. Trans Family Support and the Erie Sisters and Brothers Trans Support Group are wonderful. The Greater Erie Alliance for Equality provides educational opportunities for businesses to help make them more LGBT Competent and friendly.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we’ll get complacent and stop talking to each other.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we’ll unite and provide a region where everyone’s dignity is protected.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I received the survey
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer I think you covered it.
Thank you, Daniel!
If you would like to participate in this Q&A series, please visit our online form. You can also email pghlesbian at gmail dot com to participate. We welcome voices from across the community – everyone has a story to tell.