County of Residence: Beaver is where I grew up. I also lived in Allegheny County. I currently Live in Chicago,IL
Preferred Pronouns: They/Them
How do you describe your identity? I am a first generation Cuban American. I am Trans Gender-Nonconforming.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? My coming out was the hardest experience of my life. I was rejected by my very religious mother and went through years of depression which included suicide attempts and drug and alcohol dependencies. Eventually I found friends who helped me through my depression and my sisters, step-mom, and dad are all very accepting of my identity. For me coming out has been a continual experience. I first came out as a lesbian and over the past few years I have began realize that I am Trans Gender Nonconforming. I have only recently accepted this I am and have never felt more free.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? “Being Out” is not only freeing but healthy for me. It also comes with a lot of responsibility. Meaning that there is still a lot of work that needs to happen. A lot of our community is oppressed and invisible, especially Trans-Women of color. It is the responsibility of the privileged LGBTQ community to earn everyone equal rights and ability to be “out”.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first openly LGBTQ individual I knew was in high school. I worked at this individual and was so amazed at how secure they were with their identity and how open they were about it. I knew one day I wanted to achieve that level of security and openness.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I am a very big fan of Alison Bechdel and her graphic memoirs. They were very influential in my understand and acceptance of my family dynamics and identity.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I am currently earning my masters in Counseling Psychology and Art Therapy at Adler University in Chicago, IL. In my internship I am working with LGBTQ youth struggling with their identity. I stay informed by being a part of the LGBTQ community not only here in Chicago but around the world. Networking is also a very important part of staying informed as well as volunteering your time with LGBTQ organizations. I also use Facebook and other social media outlets. The news is a good source if you remember it can be biased and many times misinformed.
Describe your geographical community. I live in Uptown Chicago which is close to Andersonville and Boystown. I live in a very LGBTQ friendly area. There are still some Anti-LGBTQ areas but that is not the norm in Chicago area.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Chicago has many resources for the LGBTQ community and continues to grow in their understanding of the community. Chicago also has Boystown and Andersonville know for it LGBTQ friendliness and acceptance. Chicago also offers housing for LGBTQ homeless youth and adults, mental health centers, and elderly living.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I experienced it more when I lived in Beaver and Pittsburgh where I would receive strange looks and hear transphobic and homophobic slanders especially on public transportation. I have only had one incident in Chicago where an individual asked me if I was a boy or girl and proceeded to call me a Faggot.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? YES YES YES!!!! The LGBTQ community at large is still not all equal. Racism, sexism, transphobia, ageism, etc. are all still very alive in the LGBTQ community. Transgender women of color are the least visible. They are the account for the largest percent of physical, verbal, and sexual violence in the LGBTQ community. They are also the least protected by the law.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Realize that marriage equality was not the end of the fight, there is still a lot till we are all considered equal,
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Educate those who don’t understand. Using hate to fight hate gets you no where. When someone doesn’t understand my identity or pronouns I try and take the time to educate them. Many times individuals are willing to learn and even if they are not you still exposed them to a helpful pice of knowledge.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Homelessness, survival sex, and drug and alcohol abuse are some of the most common epidemics I encounter. Many time this is due rejection from friends and family and/or discrimination in the job market. These are serious issues that are more common than not.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? We have the Center on Halsted an LGBTQ center in Boystown. There are also many LGBTQ centers throughout the Chicago area.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That LGBTQ youth will continue to suffer the discrimination and non-acceptance that I did. There is also a lack of resources for the LGBTQ community in Western PA.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That schools, and communities will begin to educate everyone about the LGBTQ community. I also hope that one day their will be accessible LGBTQ resources all over Western PA.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Learn and educate themselves, then use that education and put it into practice.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Same as allies, use your privilage to evoke change.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Growing up Queer in Western PA was not always the safest or most friendly, but it still had a part in shaping my identity. The more visible we become the more change will happen.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How can you help change Western PA’s treatment of the LGBTQ community? Education about the LGBTQ and providing resources for the LGBTQ community.
Thank you, Alyssa.
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. 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.