Name: Carina Nicole
County of Residence: Washington
Preferred Pronouns: she/her or they/them
How do you describe your identity? Plus-sized tattooed monogamous queer femme.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out as bisexual at thirteen, and pansexual at sixteen. I still have not fully come out as genderfluid. My family is a traditional Catholic one, and they weren’t really excited about me dating girls and deemed it a phase. They’ve slowly becoming a little more accepting, but they’d definitely prefer I date men.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m much happier, much more comfortable with who I am. I came out when I was relatively young, and I suffer from serious depression. In being more open with myself, I’m definitely more willing to put myself in situations outside of my comfort zone. I’ve started casually dating and I finally feel like myself, not like I’m hiding.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first LGBTQ person I met was a friend of mine when I was twelve. She was thirteen and already identified as a lesbian. She sort of sparked me to start evaluating my sexual orientation since she was so open. I definitely started developing romantic feelings, thus awakening my queerness.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. David Levithan is my idol. I’m a creative writing major and I adore his literature. Boy Meets Boy definitely was a great motivator for me wanting to get into writing. It’s always been my dream to meet him so I could thank him for how much he’s inspired me.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I’m a huge fan of Buzzfeed, and their LGBTQ articles are super helpful. It’s a great balance between serious and tongue in cheek. I also love Huffington Post Gay and The No-H8 campaign.
Describe your geographical community. My hometown of Canonsburg is a small, conservative, and religious town. It’s definitely an older community, and I feel like it could be more inclusive. As someone who does identify as religious, I sometimes feel uncomfortable sitting in church knowing some people are secretly judging my lifestyle.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. On campus at Chatham University, the LGBTQ community is wonderful. It’s so accepting and I love how we are such a tight knit community. I’m a part of our queer-straight alliance as well as an officer of our feminist coalition, so I’m constantly exposed with greater opportunities for learning about intersectionality.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I was bullied for my sexual orientation a lot in high school. Even though there were many out students at my school, I was one of the only ones in a committed, non-heterosexual relationship. My academics definitely were compromised, because people often times ridiculed my sexuality in classroom settings.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? A problem I think that is often associated with LGBTQ people is that we are perceived as promiscuous. I may be sex positive, but I firmly believe in monogamy. I do not date more than one person at once and I do not engage in sexual relationships until I truly know the person. I think that myth that we are ravenous sex fiends needs to be debunked.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I would love to see a greater interest in government scholarship opportunities for LGBTQ students. I see a lot of other young people struggle with getting into school since their parents do not accept their lifestyles, which is unfair because everyone really the opportunity to attend the school of their choice. Scholarship is essential for these students who otherwise would not be supported financially for university.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Quite recently, I started dating again. I went on a date with a young lesbian woman I met on Tinder. Usually, I don’t use dating apps, but I was curious. We had just a normal times as if we were friends, but she reached for my hand as we walked to the theater despite people being around. Some people gave a couple dirty looks, seeing two women holding hands, but she seemed so happy. It made me realize that yes, you can’t please everyone, but if the person that you’re with enjoys your company, gender shouldn’t matter.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Personally, I struggle with several mental disorders. LGBTQ people are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, all that jazz. Sometimes being queer seems like the biggest challenge, but mental illness wrestles with it a lot.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I used to be a verified listener for help site 7 Cups of Tea in the youth LGBTQ division. The site is an awesome opportunity just to rant and share similar experiences with people around the world. I also love the work the Trevor Project does. As someone who has gotten through many suicidal thoughts due to their help, I encourage all questioning youth to check it out.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Being a queer person in the church is difficult. Some people choose to be religious, some don’t, but for those of us that are? It’s quite complicated. I feel like we are constantly viewed as less than others and I wish we could become more equal in the church.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I love, love, love the establishing of GSAs in high schools. After I graduated, my high school started a GSA. This is their first year and they already have 100+ members. Young people are the future and I’m proud to be a part of such an inclusive generation.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Something as simple as reading an LGBTQ article or attending a seminar can make all the difference. Showing interest definitely shows that you care about the LGBTQ community.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Don’t belittle fellow LGBTQ people. We are all in the same boat and we have to be there to offer support one another.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I’m really young. I think that showing that we young people want to make a change is important, and I want to show that being pansexual does not mean I’m greedy. It just means I’ll love someone as long as they love me too!
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Q: Who was the first person you came out to?
A: When I was young, I used a lot of online chat rooms and I had a friend (who I still speak to every day!) from London who I shared that I may be bisexual with. She also shared that same belief! We kind of helped each other through our coming out process and now, nine years later, we are both out, proud, and closer than ever!
Thank you, Carina.
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a 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.
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.