County of Residence: Beaver County, previously lived in Allegheny County
Preferred Pronouns: she/her/hers
How do you describe your identity? I am a transgender woman 100%. That’s the easy part.
My sexuality is a convoluted mess. I am demisexual. I wasn’t real sexual before starting HRT. Now there is little interest. However I have a strong desire to be romantically attached. The only people I am not attracted to are men. Women in addition to non-binary, genderqueer, or genderfluid individuals peak my interest.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out was terrifying. It was looking at each person who was important to me and drawing a line on the ground. I didn’t know who would be receptive and who would reject me.
I took a methodical approach, because I wasn’t sure what it meant to be transgender in terms of myself. I looked on psychologytoday.com for a psychologist who specialized in trans patients. It was with her support that I started coming out to friends and family.
I was my biggest challenge. I had to understand what was going on inside my own head before I could tell anyone. I had to work through all my anxiety about coming out. I had to learn how to be me.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am out full-time as of July of this year. I am now working on changing my name legally.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The very first person who was out would be a cis, gay, man of color in high school. In 1996, it was different to see someone so flamboyant. My general attitude was “whatever.” The first people who are out now but were either in the closet or denial would be a bunch of my friends starting around middle school.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. My favorite is Korra from the Nickelodeon show Legend of Korra.
Over the four seasons, the creators allowed the character to explore her own sexuality. There was a slow but solid build-up of her relationship with her girlfriend, Asami. Korra learned how to be a spiritually strong woman while she kicked some butt.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Everything is so new to me. I’ve been focusing on the transgender issues more as they are more relevant.
Describe your geographical community. I live in a river town of about 5,500 residents. It’s not the most progressive town, but it’s not terrible either. I feel relatively safe shopping in the nearby area. I know that this is not true depending on the direction of travel after about 10 minutes. The county quickly becomes rural once you travel away from the river.
My neighbors have all been pleasant about my transition. I have had no problems walking around my neighborhood as myself.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. My local community is the few friends from high school whom I still speak with. I find it quite amusing that the people who I still communicate from high school include 2 gay men, 2 lesbians, 2 bi and/or pansexual individuals and me, the trans woman. None of us were out in high school, but here we are now.
I am part of two separate PFLAGs. There isn’t a strong community in Beaver County, so I have found the PFLAG in Butler County and Pittsburgh to be very helpful.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I have not. My housing was stable before transitioning and remains so. I was afraid of work causing problems as I work in a rural area in Butler County. They worked with me in providing a safe work environment.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I would like there to be more open support for all LGBTQ individuals. There seems to be a lack visibility that there are places like PFLAG who can and will support you.
I would like to see more events that aren’t after 10pm and involve alcohol. I turn into a pumpkin at 9:30 every night and I rarely drink. All the visible events are late at night and involve alcohol.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Pass non-discrimination legislation. It is ridiculous that one man is holding up a bill that has a lot of support in the PA legislature.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The most important overall moment for all trans individuals is we all just want to pee. We don’t want to cause trouble.
And we all don’t know what we are doing. Being socialized as the male growing up has left me in the dark about so many things. I find it strange that I have to look up on the internet “How to make a hair bun.”
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Navigating the burocracy to get healthcare, legally changing your name, updating your ID and birth certificate to the proper gender are all issues for trans people. The gatekeeping involved wears a lot of people down.
Microtransgressions in everyday conversations with friends and loved ones. I just had a younger family member ask me what bathroom I use. I have been fem socially for over a year. I am lucky enough to pass well. Why would I ever use the mens room. I had to discuss what bathroom I use and why with a supportive person.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? PFLAG Pittsburgh and Butler, Persad, GLCC, The Facebook Transgender Alliance, Following the right people on Tumblr, Trans related info on Pintrest, me. I try to make myself available as much as I can to help people.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? A backlash from the conservatives in the non-Allegheny Counties. The hate and ignorance is strong in the rural areas. This could either be bathroom legislation, or stronger discrimination laws.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That being queer isn’t an issue. We are all people. That all ways of life can be accepted and we can learn to help each other.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen. No really. Listen. We know what we go through. Don’t assume you have the answers.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We know our gender. We know or sexuality. Respect it. A lesbian dating a trans woman is still a lesbian. A gay man dating a trans man is still gay. You don’t have to be bi or pansexual to date trans people.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I want more voices to be heard. I know my experiences are limited, but that doesn’t make them invalid.
I also know I have a lot to learn. The more I get to take part in the discussion, the more I will want to stick around.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. unsure
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.