County of Residence: Westmoreland, attends college in Allegheny county
Preferred Pronouns: he/him
How do you describe your identity? I am a bisexual transgender male
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Most of my friends had said in terms of their sexuality that they “always knew”, but for me, I was in a lot of denial about it. I finally realized I was bi in high school, and fortunately had LGBTQ+ friends who took the news better than I did. They helped me accept myself and gave me the support to come out to my family. My family has grown in their perceptions of LGBTQ+ people as I have, fortunately, as this wasn’t always the case. They were mostly supportive. In college, though, a much more challenging realization hit me: that I was trans. This one was harder to deal with, and my parents were a bit less accepting of this one. With your sexuality, it’s not usually something that comes up in conversation and so there isn’t as much of a need to define yourself by it, but with your gender identity, it is constant, and so you never seem to stop coming out to people.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Both aspects of my identity took some time for me to come to terms with. At first I still tried to be in denial, then eventually moved into accepting it and just sort of having to deal with it until the last stage where you can be confident that this is who I am. I’m still not out to my extended family, which I will have to be soon, so wish me luck! haha
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? It turned out a girl I was friends with in the start of high school had a girlfriend. We were from a really homophobic town and I was incredibly ignorant, myself, at the time. I was in denial about my own identity and wasn’t sure how to handle her sexuality. Over time, I came to realize the prejudices I had been brought up on were ridiculous. She became and still is my closest friend, and we have been there for each other ever since.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I’m not sure if she is my favorite, but Sameen Shaw from Person of Interest ranks pretty high in importance for me. I related to her a lot, and it helped me to realize things about myself.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I’m a member of an LGBTQ+ club at my college, which hosts events and works with other organizations in the city, and just pay close attention to news that is LGBTQ+-related
Describe your geographical community. The city itself is obviously urban. My hometown is a somewhat rural town that is extremely conservative and there are plenty of issues for people who may be out in the area, especially in school. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s not great.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I go to a fairly liberal university in Pittsburgh, so the school itself is a pretty good community, and there are a lot of centers, groups, and clubs in the area that are very supportive. At home is a different story.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I personally haven’t had problems *knocks on wood*. I wasn’t “out” in high school and I don’t have any issues in college. I am concerned for the summer, however, trying to get a job in my hometown that would be supportive of my preferred name and pronouns.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think overall Pittsburgh does a pretty good job, and there are a wide variety of groups working towards progress so even if one isn’t covering something, another one is.
In Westmoreland county, however, there is a lot of trouble. Underclassmen when I was graduating were afraid to go to meetings because they didn’t feel safe if they were outed. People don’t seem to realize how many queer youth there are in the towns and there is very little conversation at all besides slander.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? More laws put into effect to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace, and particularly schools that don’t allow trans* individuals to use the correct bathrooms.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Something that has made me very fortunate is that most of the people I have come out to were much more accepting than I thought they would be, and younger generations are already making it part of their vocabulary. I hadn’t even begun choosing a new name since I was struggling to accept myself, and I told someone who I was afraid wouldn’t be cool with it, but they replied with “Okay, cool! What name do you want me to use and what are your preferred pronouns?” This is something that certainly wouldn’t have been normal a few years ago, but people are really becoming more open-minded about trans* individuals, especially in urban settings.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? A lot of the organizations are kind of quiet, and so I lived in the city for a year before I even heard of many of the organizations, so you sort of have to be active and search for them yourself because many aren’t terribly vocal, making it appear as though there aren’t places to reach out to.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? In the city, PERSAD, GLCC, many of the colleges have LGBTQ+ clubs and organizations, and I know the GLBT hotline has been helpful to some.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I’m terribly afraid of things going backwards for the community. We are making slow progress in many fields, but there is a still a long way to go, and while that is daunting,
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I just hope we can keep moving forward with gaining understanding and that LGBT things won’t be treated as just a subject of discussion and that people can just go about their days treated like normal people regardless of their identity.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Ignorance is the biggest enemy of the community, so just learning as much as you can and just try to be open to other people’s identities.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? A lot of lesbian and gay individuals treat polysexual people as though they will be unfaithful or are “greedy” or are on the fence about their sexuality. The effort to normalize instead of demonize them is key.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Something that really helped me was hearing stories from other LGBT, but especially T people. Visibility and references are huge, so the more people who share stories the more it helped someone like me, so hopefully I can help do the same.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I think this questionnaire was pretty thorough.
Thank you, Elliot
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.