Please note that this is our 70th published AMPLIFY q&a since we began in late May 2015. Thank you to Kaley and everyone who has shared their story.
County of Residence: Allegheny, Grew Up in Butler County
Preferred Pronouns: she/her
How do you describe your identity? I am first a human being, then a woman, then transgender when it comes to who I am. As for sexual orientation I consider myself to be queer or pansexual. I don’t have to know what someones gender is or what is in their pants to find them attractive.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? My coming out was a very frightening experience to deal with and face. My family did not want anything to do with me after I told them and were in a state of shock. I heard things like why can’t you just be gay, we can accept that but not this. My Dad told me he would rather me have murdered another human being than for me to be a transexual woman. So we have had very limited contact since I started transitioning and that’s how I see it continuing for a long time.
On a more positive note when I came out to my best friend his response was ” cool I think I get it, are we still going to Denny’s later?” And he has been a great support to me ever since. But going out into public when you first come out is a very terrifying experience. I tried to meet and talk with as many people as I could that were like me for support. Getting on hormones was a challenge and I had to wait longer than I wanted to but it was worth it.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m not exactly sure how to answer this but ill give it a shot. I put effort into so to speak “passing” on a daily basis because it helps with dysphoria and feels good to look good. But the reality is ive found that the more you pass the better people treat you in our society. But when it to the people who I have friendships or relationships with they all know that I am Trans.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I knew people in that were in the community in my late teens but the first transwoman that I ever met was named Sabrina.She invited me in her home, talked with me on the phone, even let me stay with her for a while when I had nowhere to go. I was so happy to meet someone who I could identify with on a very deep level. She helped give me the strength to push forward and start my transition.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I would have to go with Kate Bornstein on this. Someone gave me a copy of Gender Outlaws and I couldn’t get enough of it. I like how it gives all different perspectives and experiences of Trans masculine, Feminine, and non binary identifying individuals.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I would say that the internet is what I use the most but also through word of mouth.
Describe your geographical community. I grew up in Butler County and would say that is not a great place to be LGBTQ because of the limited resources and lack of rights. I live in the east end and find it to be pretty good.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I like the community in the east end of Pittsburgh and that is where I feel the most comfortable here. I feel like it is a good community and that trans identifying people have a place in that community but there is much room for growth for people who are not white cis gay males.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. This is a yes for sure and it continues to happen.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? The thing that I find the most difficult is finding a working environment that is both safe and healthy for myself. If you are in the community and know of places that are inclusive to all it would be great to share that information because the reality is that the workplace is a scary place for some of us.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? To give equal rights to all when it comes to discrimination of housing, workplace, and any kind of public space. And to go after people who discriminate, harass, and assault people in our community for simply being who we are.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The reality is that I am really hyper aware of where I can and can’t go if i want to be comfortable and enjoy my day. I stick to where I think I will be able to go without harassment. Certain stores, gas stations, restaurants, public bathrooms all do to past negative experiences and fear.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? The separation that exist within the community itself I think is one thing. Lack of resources when it comes to healthcare and community programs.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? The Persad Center , Translifeline, PFLAG.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That it stops continuing to progress and stays at relatively the same point without pushing boundaries.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Unity and respect for all where we work together to lift each other up.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Stand up for people if they see something that is wrong
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Try to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible while respecting our identities as people.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I just felt like It was a good idea to try to voice my experience as a trans identified person because my perspective could possibly help others in some way or make positive change.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Have you ever faced discrimination within the LGBT community and how well do u feel connected with community as a whole.? I have been told im not a real woman and made a mockery of in some environments and feel pretty isolated from the community as a whole overall. I am a part of it but it feels like im not as valid or important and am at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak.
Thank you, Kaley!
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.