County of Residence: Allegheny County, grew up in Jefferson County
Preferred Pronouns: I’ve been defaulting to “she” and “her”, but “he” and “him” are usually ok too
How do you describe your identity? I am a human being, who is attracted to other human beings. I identify as Genderfluid. Gender is a social construct and I don’t ascribe to a gender binary. That said, my resting headspace far more resembles female than male.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Like many people I’m kindof still in the middle of it. I told my sister pretty early on; she was great.
Identifying as non-binary, it took a long time to feel comfortable talking with much of anyone about it. I had a few close people who were there and helped me figure some things out, but I didn’t know how to tell people for a long time. I still don’t really; I’m not a guy in a skirt, despite my facial hair, and drag or cross-dresser never resonated with me.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? It’s been the early phases of an exponential curve. I’ve started talking/posting about it online some, so there are a bunch more people who have some idea from that. As for day to day, I walk around wearing a skirt and eye makeup, but it’s still jarring to run into someone I know when I’m not presenting as masculine and that’s the only way they know me.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I think the first LGBTQ person I met was one of my childhood best friends. At the time when they told me, I wasn’t prepared for what that meant. Even less so for what it meant for them to share. It was rural PA, there wasn’t exactly a thriving scene for anything non-normative.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. There’s a character in an anime called Princess Jellyfish named Kuranosuke. He’s the son of a politician and dresses in passable drag, primarily as a means to escape inheriting the life of a politician. I discovered this at a seminal time in my personal discovery, and it was one of the first times I saw a character turn gender on its head quite like that.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I read a lot online. I’m also fortunate to have a pretty good number of activist friends who provide a pretty steady trickle of articles, thoughts, and conversations.
Describe your geographical community. My neighborhood of Pittsburgh doesn’t look like it’s super LGBTQ friendly. Somebody will yell something at me from their car a couple of times a month or so, but I was happily surprised by the pleasant reception with which I have continually been met by the store owners and neighbors around.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Pittsburgh seems to have a pleasant amount of community resources. I stopped by the GLCC shortly after moving up and go to Persad a few times a month. I’m not extensively involved in the community, but it’s nice knowing that there are facilities and options available.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. At 6’3″ I tend not to get too much other than confusion or fear of the unknown. My arm-span is longer than most and I’m told I can be an imposing figure. It has felt like someone would REALLY need to mean it to get into something with me outside of the brevity and safety of hollering from their car. I’ve not been ungrateful for this privilege. Also, being non binary it’s easy for people to write me off as some quirky guy in a skirt which for some reason seems to incite less ire than asking them to think of me as explicitly feminine.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think the horrific statistics faced by the Trans-Umbrella are widely unknown to the non LGBTQ world.
John Oliver did a really touching episode about it earlier this season in his show Last Week Tonight. Regarding those statistics, I think he sums it up well with “Those statistics are so depressing it’s enough to make you angry at the very concept of numbers.” Most people in my experience just don’t know that that’s the reality for people
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Truthfully, I’m more than a little disillusioned. There is progress to be made, and progress being made, but I’m past thinking I know how to fix things on a policy level. I would like to see people treated with decency and dignity. I don’t think it’s that hard to see people as people.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The first time I went in public wearing a skirt, I was waiting for food at a Sheetz and clocking all of the sidelong glances, stares, and grimaces. It was a scary experience, but not too long into it I realized that the general level of attention that I was receiving was not all that different from the looks and catcalls that so many women receive, and not a whole lot (if any) worse intentioned. It was a startling moment of appreciating a privilege I had experienced; simply not being looked at by so many people. I still haven’t figured out what to do with that.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? If not things rooted directly from discrimination, the secondary and tertiary effects thereof. Trauma, Isolation, Mental Illness, Poverty, Health Care struggles, etc.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? GLCC downtown the Persad Center. Steer Queer
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? A failure to understand that it’s all of us or none of us. This is line from the song ‘Hell Y’all Aint Talmabout’ by Vita Elizabeth Cleveland a friend of Alec. Video is at the bottom of this post.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That rather than asking what people we need to treat like humans, we start asking how we can treat humans better.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Flex your empathy a little
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Stand in solidarity with the people who are invisible or undeserved
What motivated you to take part in this project? Gender is a big part of our identities and these are matters deep and dear to my heart. I carry a lot of passion and frustration for them. Not taking opportunities to be heard in endeavors to increase understanding would be in a way succumbing to and perpetuating the status quo
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Did you always know?
Yes and no. Now that I have some understanding attached to it, a lot of events from my past are somewhat re-contextualized and in makes sense in its way. But if you had asked me 2 years ago if I could imagine going by feminine pronouns I would have replied with an assured no. The pieces didn’t fit together then; my understanding of gender as a concept as well as my understanding of myself were both too limited to connect the dots and think of my identity and my relationship with gender like I do today. Gravity didn’t work any less before I knew that it was a force. So yeah, yes and no, and no and yes. What can I say, it’s confusing outside the binary.
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.