This is the 50th AMPLIFY profile that we’ve published.
County of Residence: Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: She her hers, they them theirs, anything as long as it isn’t said in a manner of disrespect
How do you describe your identity? Queer, Gender Fluid, lipstick butch.
** Please note I use Queer as an inclusive catch-all. This is a personal choice and not meant to be read as an insult. I frequently switch back and forth between the word Queer and the acronym LGBTQ
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face?
The first person I come out to was my mother and much to my surprise, she reacted very negatively. I was confident my mother would be cool with this, because she was so accepting of everyone else. I was wrong.
I had it all planned out. I was going home for the weekend. I’d sit down with my mother have a cup of coffee or two, smoke some cigarettes and we’d just talk at our kitchen table sanctuary. That’s not what happened. What happened was I had a verbal slip talking to her on the phone a few days before I was to come home and she yelled until I explained what I meant. I took a deep breath, said look, mom, “its not big deal, I’m a lesbian I’m not dying or anything.” She yelled and cried and hung up the phone. This may not be a huge deal to some, but it was. Growing up at my house, you started saying good-bye an hour before you actually wanted to get off the phone and in person, hugging had to start at 3 if you wanted to leave the house by 5pm. Her hanging up on me was like getting hit in the face with a brick. My youngest brother called me directly back and spat into the phone” what the fuck I did you do to mom!?” I asked him to calm down and give mom the phone. I did my best to explain myself and reassure her that I wasn’t trying to punish her for all of her “bad decisions”, she continued to cry for what felt like hours.
It took us years to get back to the level of closeness we had had previous to that verbal slip. She didn’t hug me and struggled to look at me for a long time after. I ended up feeling very resentful about the entire interaction because as my model of compassion and love, her lack of acceptance for me exemplified none of the virtues she raised me with. I was grateful that she was able to finally get past the whole thing enough to stop trying to set me up on dates and leaving cross stitches of bible verses espousing God’s plan for women. She did eventually came all the way around before she died. Despite how this journey began with her, I will always be grateful for that.
Support came in unexpected places. My grandmother and one aunt laughed when I came out, saying they’d known since I was different since I was 16. My other aunt and uncle have always loved me regardless. They didn’t understand but they have always been there for me, we just didn’t talk about it much. I was very grateful for the support I received because I was devastated by my mother’s reaction.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I describe myself as ‘so queer it hurts’ *L* so I’m pretty damn out.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life?
The first LGBTQ people I met were Ms .Donna and Ms. Eileen when I was 7 or 8. They were my occasional babysitters. I just thought they were good friends. I only found out after asking my mom how long they’d been friends and she replied, they are not friends they are *whispered* gay, that I found out. I was really confused at why she whispered the word gay, It took me forever to figure it out and I really did not understand what that meant at the time anyway.. What I did know is that they were kind and funny and always nice to me.
Later in life when I started to figure myself out, it was remembering their kindness that helped me get through some of the worse parts of my coming out process. This was especially true when I had to deal with general ignorance when people tried to convince me that gay people were awful, ungodly creatures.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why.
My favorite GLBTQ character is Dred, a drag king I met at an event put on by Rainbow Alliance in 2000 at the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty. A couple of my friends and I went, little did we know it would change all of our lives. Dred’s performance was transcendent-super funny, smart and hella sexy. I had never seen anything like Dred’s act and I was immediately hooked on drag kings and the art of gender performance. It is from this performance that Mr. Pgh Pride Drag King Contest was developed, Distinguished Iron City Kings subsequently formed and later, Hot Metal Hardware.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I utilize social media like Facebook and local blogs.
Describe your geographical community. I reside in Beechview, just outside of downtown. It is an unlikely GLBTQ neighborhood as when most people think of queer places in Pgh they talk about the Mexican War Streets or Shadyside, but Beechview is definitely home to many of our community. In addition, the folks in charge of the Beechview community are very open and friendly, and have gone as far as to list events on the clock ticker in the middle of town when asked.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. We have a growing and awakening local and regional community. There have been a lot of changes and quite a few growing pains in my years as part of the community, and in the end we are bettered for them. We are growing in the number of resources available as well as the number of collaborations that occur in the community to bring those resources to the people. There is still a lot more work to be done however.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public.
In my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to only have worked in spaces that are the queerest places on earth. I am grateful. I’ve faced discrimination in many other facets however.
There was a time when I would only leave my house if I absolutely had to for work. I would have hateful things said to me on my way to the bus stop, on the bus etc, and sometimes I’d be followed down the street as insults were hurled at me. It was about my size, my presumed orientation and/or gender identity or all three. It was really horrible for a long time.
At my ex’s church, my then 2-year-old son and I were running through the back of the meeting hall , laughing and giggling- as he was trying to run past another parishioner she scooped him up without a blink. She looked me in my face and said to my son, “now… where is your mother?”. My laughter died in my throat. It was at that moment I understood just how much I loved my then partner because I was able to hold back the string of obscenities that popped into my head, calmly took my son from her and said to her, “His mother, is right in front of you, thanks.” and walked away without another word. The woman was well aware that my partner and I were raising him and she was intentionally hurtful.
A few years ago, I tried to come out as Gender Queer to my then partner and a mutual friend, they both laughed at me, guffawed actually. One went so far as to hold their belly as they laughed, the other pointing at my breasts, still laughing and asked me where I was ‘gonna “tuck” them’ or “that”, and pointed at my ass. The humiliation I felt at that moment was indescribable. These were folks from my community, people that were supposed to love and care for me, who I accepted fully in their own identities. I did not get the same in return. It’s almost worse when the discrimination comes from within because it makes life feel extremely unsafe. I know I am not alone in this experience.
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not) My community is very LGBTQ friendly, I do my best to surround myself and involve myself only in things that are GLBTQ friendly/affirming. I am very lucky that is the case.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue?
I think there are a lot of issues impacting my LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the general dialogue. Our community, in general, is still hyper focused on moneyed, cis white generally male communities and while there have been great strides in visibility for Trans, POC , women, differently abled , the poverty-stricken, homeless and other facets over the last few years in our community, there remains a lot of work to be done.
My hope is that current community dialog around race, poverty, diversity and inclusion in general will continue and more active steps will be taken to make processes of inclusion more transparent. I think there have been a good many strides made in this department already but more is always better.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians?
I think one of the best things that can be done is to find a way to increase available funding that can be directed to our community to bolster current and forming non-profits and community organizations that are best suited to serve us. I think more money in general spent on advocacy and outreach for the GLBTQ community specifically would be wonderful.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. People make too many assumptions about you once they discover your label. Life would be easier for everyone if folks stopped making so many assumptions about others identity , orientation etc.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Even though the general community at large is led to believe that GLB folks are loaded with money it’s not true, many of our LGB community lives in low income households and TQ lives are not often included in these assessments overall.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western PA is that we will back slide. People that fought so hard and helped to win our right to marry (a thing I thought I’d never see in my lifetime and am grateful has happened) will sit back and forget about the other intersectional struggles that our community faces. Our legal right to marry does not eradicate poverty, homelessness, discrimination against brown, black and other non-white bodies, does not do a thing for job discrimination either among many other issues. The right to marry was a huge fight to be won, but the war still rages on.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My greatest hope that more groups, communities and leaders will lock arm and arm and see the greater good in working collectively toward the goal of uplifting the entire community and not just look out for our individual groups
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Allies can work hard to proactively educate themselves on the language, terminology and culture of LGBTQ people and not tokenize their individual queer friends. In addition they can donate money to worthy LGBTQ Causes and or attend events supported the community.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? I think this is mostly the same answer as above. I think many folks tend to live in a silo of self-involvement and do not see past their own struggles. We are all stronger together. Do not make people who are not a reflection of yourself or personal beliefs, the butt of jokes. Speak up when you see discrimination, every time you see it. The ally card is not a one and your done membership, it’s something that you must actively and opening work on throughout your whole life.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Sue asked me to participate. I am a very active member of the queer community and I’m involved in several organizations including Transpride Pgh (Steering committee Member), GLCC ( Director), Persad ( Youth Programs Manager), Hot Metal Hardware ( Den Mother), I believe it is important to be locally vocal and if given a platform to speak or talk, to do so to the best of my ability sharing my thoughts and/or experiences in the hope that it may help someone else who may feel alone or unheard.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. No response.
Thank you, Lyndsey.
This is our 50th published AMPLIFY q&a. I can’t think of a person I’d rather profile in this slot than Lyndsey. Not only is this the eve of the second annual TransPride Pittsburgh Conference, but Lyndsey’s story is humbling and raw and genuine. She’s one of the best we have in Pittsburgh.
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.