County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Washington County
Preferred Pronouns: she
How do you describe your identity? I’m white, bisexual, female, italian-american, monogamous, a wife, and a mother.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was villified by my family for being good friends with a lesbian in high school so I kept my bisexuality from them for a long time. I don’t really think about “coming out” to my friends, they just always kind of knew. I think when I had my first real relationship with a woman in college is when I really started identifying as bi. My mother hated everything about me then, but my friends were warm and supportive. I just didn’t bring up my sexuality with my family because it wasn’t worth all the fighting.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I settled down with a man and had a kid, so aside from my presenting as kind of butch, people just assume I’m straight a lot of the time. or that I’m a straight ally. I don’t hide my sexuality, I post about the issues that matter to me online, and if asked, I (and my husband both) are honest about my bisexuality. I don’t really consider myself OUT because I don’t think I was ever IN. My parents are gone now, there is no one to hide it from or hedge around it with, and I’m too old to pretend to be something I’m not.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My neighbor growing up had an adult daughter that was gay. She had a “roommate” and her sexuality was known but not discussed. I remember thinking that the veiled way her elderly mother talked about the “roommate” was bizarre. And then when I figured it out, I came to really admire them. i think they were some of the first friends my mother ever had that were openly gay. They were the first real world example I had that being a straight family type wasn’t the only possible future for me. And that sexuality wasn’t only for young people – people in their 50s and 60s had long term monogamous relationships just like everyone else I knew. It gave me hope that whether I settled down with a woman or a man, I could have a real life.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Syd and Lucy from “High Art”. And Ani Difranco. I relate so much to the nature of their loves and attractions and how they aren’t tied to one gender, sexuality, binary – and how, with the range of people they are attracted to, they can still wind up making traditional choices along with the not-so-traditional ones. It validates the way I feel about my own bisexuality. it isn’t gone just because I settled down with a man. It isn’t just no longer a thing for me. I’m still bi. I’ve still got attractions to all kinds of genders and orientations and colors etc.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Through friends, facebook, news, twitter – I am lucky to be connected to a lot of people in the trans and gender fluid community and I’m learning a lot about gender identity and sexuality through them.
Describe your geographical community. urban. friendly. smart. progressive.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I live in Regent Square so I feel lucky that my neighborhood is a mix of colors and orientations and genders. I am surrounded by grounded gay families, transgendered people, etc in my everyday life. I also attend Sixth Presbyterian Church, a More Light Presbyterian congregation. Becoming active there has let me be involved in LGBTQ issues, it’s helped me become more aware, and it’s let me become friends with LGBTQ community members. It reassures me about the relationship we can all have with God.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Only in high school when I was teased for being butch by other kids. I haven’t seen much descrimination in my adult life.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think the issues surrounding addiction could be of more focus.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Let’s pass some bills and laws that make it TRULY illegal to descriminate. Like, being fired for being gay, or not being allowed access to your partner of 15 years when they are sick, not being able to have your partner on your health insurance because you’re gay, etc. it’s about employment and property rights, not just the right to marry. it’s about being truly equal now.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I have friends in a polyamorous relationship – all 3 identify as female. Two of the partners are legally married. One partner is the biological father of their child, who is friends with my child, and is being raised by all 3 parents equally. Recently, one of the partners announced she was pregnant, and without thinking, someone said “oh you’ll make such a great mother!”. That person was corrected by one of the other partners – she had been a great mother for years now, and this pregnancy would be no different.
Language matters. Sometimes it is difficult to know the particulars of someone’s personal life, especially if it’s not a traditional nuclear family setup. It was a reminder to me that I need to be more sensitive and think more carefully about the kinds of assumptions I bring to any conversation.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? No response.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Sixth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Wilkins School Community Center, GLCC, Persad, PFLAG
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Self-destruction and an inability to gain truly equal status in the job place. Teen loss.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Fair wages, a sense of safety, and healthy gay children.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? become friends with real live gay people and have conversations so they can understand how NOT black and white these issues really are.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? I’ve had as many bad assumptions made about me by gays as I have by straight people. Leave all that crap about picking teams and promiscuity behind and just be open to bisexuals like you are to everyone else.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I don’t talk about this part of my life a lot, and when I saw Sue’s post on FB, I thought, sure. I actually hesitated as to whether I was an ally or a member of the community, and then I thought, I’m doing it. I’m doing what I hate for others to do to me – I’m marginalizing myself as “not truly a part of the community” because I’m bi, but living a heterosexual lifestyle. It’s not OK. I am bisexual. I can contribute.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. No response.
Thank you, Heather.
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.