County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Butler
Preferred Pronouns: She/Queen
How do you describe your identity? I am a bi-sexual queer feminist scholar.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? For as long as I remember I was attracted to girls. In middle school I started explaining to girls how awesome it can be to be intimate with other girls. For a few years I had some great friendships that also involved innocent adolescent sexual experimenting. Once I turned 14 I started paying attention to boys, too. I told my friends that I was “bi-sexual” in eighth grade, a term I overheard being used from an older girl who was in a theatrical production with me at the time. Growing up in the theatre I was constantly surrounded by non-heteronormative individuals. I remember one morning walking into the locker room for gym class and seeing my entire group of “friends” standing together talking about something. The leader of the group, the tiniest and meanest of the bunch, informed me that no one was going to be friends with me anymore because I’m “bi-sexual” and “that’s gross.” I was pretty devastated for a while (it is middle school after all) but then found my true community of friends in the theatre and performing arts world.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am very fluid with my sexuality and advocate queer politics in all aspects of life, not just sexuality. My family knows I’m attracted to both sexes, as does anyone who knows me. I’ve had both female and male (sexual and emotional) partners. I love being queer!
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? When I was about four years old my Mother told me my Aunt Samantha, her very best friend from back in the day, was coming to visit. When Aunt Samantha arrived I was surprised to meet a man! Sammy, my Mother’s best friend from her disco days in New York City, was an out and proud homosexual male. I was mesmerized by his loud, cackling laugh and loved sitting around the two of them as they reminisced about Studio 54, the Chelsea piers, and breakfast at diners. I was in love with my Aunt Samantha!
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Diane di Prima is my favorite writer. She is a bi-sexual Italian-American woman from Brooklyn who was part of the Beat counter-culture in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 1960s.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? By reading academic scholarship from authors who are concerned with LGBTQ issues and by reading pop culture writings through websites and magazines such as, Bitch, Autostraddle, Feministing, The Gaily Grind, Huffington Post Queer Voices, etc..
Describe your geographical community. My community is being gentrified right now so it’s going through an interesting shift in demographic and identity. For the most part, the community is friendly, although there have been hate crimes enacted on my friends in the recent past. Usually these hates crimes stem from white, heterosexual males in their 20s who drive into the city from the suburbs (North Hills).
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. My friends in Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and Polish Hill (the East End) are the most smart and funny people I know! The Blue Moon bar on Butler street is a constant source of community and performance. My next door neighbors are a homosexual male married couple. We often have martini and piano parties! Several of my colleagues at work identify as gay and I often see them at local bars like Blue Moon, Cruz, Brillo Box, Gooski’s.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Not professionally because I am a white femme individual who does not “confuse” people’s notion of gender. However, people close to me often perceive my fluid, bi-sexuality as an excuse to be greedy with sex, and I’ve often heard things like “Would you ever marry a woman/man?” “Eventually you’ll have to decide,” “You’re just confused,” “You’re trying to be sexy for men,” etc..
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Awful modern-looking condos being built in the East Side are kicking out lower-income, communities of color. LGBTQ people of color tend to suffer more discrimination than white LGBTQ people. LGBTQ people of color tend to make up a large proportion of the homeless population as well. Gentrification in Pittsburgh is getting so visible now I fear the original people in the communities are getting left behind.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Speak about LGBTQ issues out loud! In the media!
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Dancing is the best way to be happy. I wish there were more queer-oriented dance parties around the city. I specifically wish there was a disco-vogue party! I have always wanted to start DJ’ing one. Perhaps I will!
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Fear of fulfilling stereotypes. No one wants to police or censor themselves because they’re worries about being acceptable in the heteronormative public eye. We need to be unapologetically queer!
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? If you’re in the mood for a mix of experimental and classical gender/drag performance, check out the Blue Moon on Saturday nights! Show starts around midnight. Steer Queer zine! Sappho dance party. Girls Rock Pgh! The Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will continue to be safe in our presentation of self, and therefore remain marginalized.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will be visible and audible in all aspects of society, without apologizing for our flaws and fierceness.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen to members of the community, read LGBTQ literature, listen to LGBTQ sounds and music
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Embrace the spectrum theory of sexuality and realize that just because others sexual identity/orientation is not as easily defined as theirs they are still part of the community.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I helped organize some events for Steer Queer and I contributed some poetry.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What kinds of LGBTQ spaces would you like to see?
Queer-owned businesses, especially sex shops! I wish there was a feminist oriented sex toys shop. I wish there were more public speakers doing master classes and workshops on LGBTQ issues.
Thank you, Maggio!
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.