County of Residence: Westmoreland, formerly Allegheny and Fayette
Preferred Pronouns: she
How do you describe your identity? Female, lesbian
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was 20. I fell in love, but was too afraid to admit it. Eventually the girl (who i knew was a lesbian) told me how she felt about me. I was so scared so I told her I didn’t feel the same way, but then i felt bad for lying to one of my best friends (her), so i texted her at 3am because I couldn’t sleep and told her everything. We started hanging out and dating. I was living with my mom at the time, but couldn’t tell her. One day she saw a hickey and asked who it was from. (She was already suspicious and I was tired of hiding), so I yelled my girlfriend’s name and ran out the door. It was a relief more than anything, but my mom was furious.
The next 4 years were really hard. I only had the support of her family for most of it and friends I met through her. It was tough because I didn’t really have anyone to talk to when her and I were arguing. It was really one-sided. My girlfriend didn’t like any of my friends because they weren’t excited to hear the news and still wanted to hang out with me without my new gf. (My gf was also really insecure and thought my friends would try to change my mind about her) Everyone on my side liked to throw religion in my face. There are no supportive Christian churches in Fayette county and hardly any in Westmoreland, so I felt like I couldn’t talk to God anymore and it was really lonely. Allegheny county (I discovered years later), has much more welcoming, affirming churches. No wonder most straight people have the view that LGBT people choose to be this way and are wrong, sinners, etc. because they aren’t being taught any different.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? More confident. People I’m close to already know, so it’s not as big of a deal
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first Lgbt person I actually got to know was my friend, Blaine in high school. We became best friends. Both of us were in the closet when we met.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Shane from the L word bc she’s sexy and I haven’t watched any of the newer series to name any others.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook mostly and I still get emails from a church I was attending while living in Pittsburgh
Describe your geographical community. Suburbs/rural where I’m at now. I lived in an urban area (Pittsburgh) for 9 months. Only Pittsburgh was Lgbt friendly. The other places, not so much.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. People are really stuck in the past around here.(Westmoreland county and Fayette county) It’s way more accepting in Allegheny county. I think there is a P flag in Westmoreland county, but not much else.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. yes at a job. Not by the managers, but other employees.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? we need more resources and open-minded churches in Westmoreland and Fayette counties
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? stop making stupid laws about bathrooms and actually protect the rights of Lgbt people at their jobs etc
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. When I was attending East Liberty Presbyterian Church I really felt a strong sense of acceptance. I learned that it was ok to be an LGBT Christian and God loves us the way we are.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? They just aren’t exposed to many gay people, so they don’t know how to act. They will do airquotes and say “your ‘friend'” or be telling a story and say something like “I used to work with a lady who was a lesbian… no offense. I’m not making fun of lesbians or anything, but she had a girlfriend…” like they have to apologise for saying the word “lesbian”. There are people that say hurtful things, but a lot of people just with ignorant comments because they just don’t know any better.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? There is a PFlag in Greensburg. That’s all i know. You pretty much have to go to Pittsburgh for real support.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? If a certain candidate gets President, I think a lot of progress that has been made, will be reversed and instead of people opening their minds and hearts, they will become even more ignorant and hurtful.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That some of the organizations and churches will branch out into Greensburg and Uniontown to open people’s minds and provide resources for Lgbt people who live in these suburban and rural areas.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? speak out when someone says something hurtful to an Lgbt person, encourage their churches to be open and to get involved in the community, letting people know that it’s a welcoming church, and educate people who are ignorant
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? learn more about them and try to understand their struggles and victories and get to know them as people
What motivated you to take part in this project? The fact that it was based on western pa because so many people are still living in the past here. Changes need to happen
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What are your religious views and what would you like to see from churches in your area?
I felt really comfortable in the Presbyterian church I was attending. I wish more Presbyterian churches were affirming and just churches in general so it doesn’t feel like anyone has to choose between god and being true to their sexuality.
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.