“He was just thin, lived in NYC, and was gay so in the early 90’s, and being a kid of the Nancy Reagan fear generation, I assumed he had full blow AIDS and that someday I would, too.”
Name: Shain Kish
County of Residence: Mercer County, also lived in Allegheny. Now lives in New York City.
Preferred Pronouns: He
How do you describe your identity? Charming, gay, white, quite strong, sleepy eyes,
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was born into a Hungarian family that owned an old motel turned honky tonk on the seedy side of Stoneboro. My entire family lived in the old hotel rooms above the bar. When I say entire, I mean Charlie Bucket Status – grandparent, aunts, uncles, parents, etc. A handful of mediocre country stars would grace the stage and my grandfather held illegal auction in the back on Sundays. My grandfather was old-world Hungarian scary; he had a nose with no direction and only 3 fingers on his left hand – he told me there was a snail in his nose that bit off his fingers. He was a horrible man with a horrible past that eventually caught up with him. And when it did, my family lost everything. Everyone in town knew the stories and I was just another Kish from that shit show of a bar. My parents divorced, I moved to the woods. I saw my dad every other weekend for 6 years.
My dad was loved as hard as my grandfather was hated. That was always my golden key. I looked like him, I laughed like him, and people were drawn to us. From an early age, kids’ parents would make them like me, even if the kid had different opinions. In 8th grade, my father died. I was the first kid in my school to lose a parent and no one knew how to deal with that. Everyone was very nice, even the kids who hated me. I felt lost, not because of him, but because I barely knew him.
I turned to art, to my art teacher. He pushed me, he pushed me so hard, he knew I was gay and lost so he taught me about Keith Herring and Robert Mappelthorpe. He helped me to find a place to lay my roots. I came out when I was a sophomore and everyone laughed and whispered for a few months, and then they tucked it into the same place they put that fatherless boy. There were a few really poor and rough kids and they were the only ones that would threaten me or call me faggot. I always had a feeling it was because they knew oh-so-well what dick tasted like, either by their choice or not.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? EXTREMELY GAY. My partner is the creative director for Next Magazine and I am a makeup artist. We live in NYC with our beautiful dog and hold hands whenever we feel like it.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My mom’s cousin Gayle. He lived in a trailer at end of our road. He was older than my mom, and thin, very thin. He moved back after a run in NYC. My mom laughed a lot when he was around and would talk about how wild he was. Sometimes I would see him around town and he would look let his gaze linger at me, no necessarily in a sexual way, but in a ‘I see you kid – I know your secret’ way. I always assumed he had HIV or AIDS, but to be honest I don’t think he did. He was just thin, lived in NYC, and was gay so in the early 90’s and being a kid of the Nancy Reagan fear generation, I assumed he had full blow AIDS and that someday I would too.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Rufus Wainwright. An old lover played his album for me while we were fooling around and it felt like he was in the room adapting his voice to our movements. At that point didn’t know any men who sang love songs to he. A decade later, I would be asked to do his makeup for a benefit concert. A year after that we would run into each other again in the East Village and he would ask me to take a walk with him. I was really high and it was all very surreal LOL!
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Social media
Describe your geographical community. Yes, I live in NYC. I had it very easy in Stoneboro, they let me slide, they made it apparent – but they let me slide
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. A shit show. Social media is reminding queer culture of their voice, but not the history. Sex apps are the new sex club. Racism is a set of offensive letters in a Grinder Bio.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. not really.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Molestation and alcoholism.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Make harsher punishments on bullying and ANYTHING to help with TRANS equality.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The sooner you come out the more time you give people to see the authentic you. Reaction will happen no matter what, but time will move on and most people will come around.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Education.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? The LGTB center.
Callen-Lorde. I mean honestly the list goes on, its NYC
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? People will stay ignorant.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That people will grow more tolerant and understanding with every positive moment they experience with queer culture.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Ask questions before they assume.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Open their minds.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Taking a few moments to visit this chapter in my life.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I’ll email you if I think of anything.
Thank you, Shain.
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.