County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Erie
Preferred Pronouns: she, her, hers
How do you describe your identity? I’m a white, cisgender, bisexual woman.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I feel like I don’t have a real “coming out” experience, because for years, on and off I didn’t even realize it myself, even though I slightly suspected I wasn’t straight because I had every once in awhile had crushes. I remember telling a good friend I thought maybe some day I might be gay, and her saying I wouldn’t be allowed to go to her wedding because of if. I dated men mostly, as it turned out. I dated a girl briefly after college, and even before I could tell my parents that we were together, not just best friends, my mom guessed it. She said that even my dad, who can be a little oblivious knew. I asked if it was okay, and if they cared, and she said that my dad (who is very Catholic, and a lot older) said that as long as I’m with someone that treats me right, it’s all good. It was another 4 years until my next experience, and at that point i had a supportive friend group, where I finally felt I had the space to be open to others, including myself, that I was attracted to women. It wasn’t confusion, it wasn’t a passing phase, if was real. I’m so thankful for that.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I would say I’m pretty damn out? I don’t really feel as if I’ve had to “come out,” but I will be open to using she pronouns when talking to coworker’s, friends, really anyone about a woman I’m interested in. If they ask, I’m totally open about how I’m attracted to men and women, and that gender just doesn’t really matter to me.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? When I was in 4th grade, my best friend who lived 3 doors down from me had a single mom. One day, she explained to me that a woman was moving in with her and her mom, and that they were “together.” She told me to keep it a secret because her mom wasn’t ready to tell everyone yet.
Over the years, their house was a place I could go when things were bad at home, or when I just needed to get away for a little bit. They were incredibly supportive of me, and I felt like I had two more moms.
I went to catholic school, and knowing them made me deeply question my ability to remain Catholic, because when I asked a priest why they were considered sinners, he didn’t have adequate answers.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I feel like this is too big a question to answer! This is cliche, but I adore Ellen Degeneres. My mom and I used to watch her show, and we would talk about her being gay. It was an event to watch her coming out episode, and I’m thankful because that show, and her addressing her sexuality created discussions with my parents that informed my own opinions, and also put up the antenna that they’d be okay about my lesbian neighbors, and maybe me. On a personal level, I think Ellen helped me when I was super young, when I sensed something was “different” about me, but I couldn’t verbalize it yet.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I work in the reproductive rights movement which is deeply connected.
Describe your geographical community. I live in the suburbs, and I don’t even know my neighbors. I work downtown, and I think it’s pretty LGBT friendly.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. My work is amazing. The first place where I was asked “do you have a partner?”‘rather than boyfriend. Tons of my close personal friends are LGBT, so I feel comfortable and not alone. There is tension in my area because of the tumultuous relationship with LGBT POC groups and the larger, more affluent, primarily white cisgender gay men-led group.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. No.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Our lack of an anti discrimination act in PA!!!
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Pass the PA Fairness Act.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. As a bi woman, something that is hurtful is when people, even in a lighthearted manner, make jokes about me being “greedy” or “selfish” or worse, “confused” because I’ve dated men and women. I feel that hurts, and it’s probably the root of why I feel apprehension at calling myself “bi.” Ive heard this even from folks in our community, which hurts! Even in jest, I wish folks would stop. So, don’t do that 🙂
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I feel like it’s still hard to always meet people in the community.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Delta, Persad, planned parenthood
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That issues that effect the most vulnerable folks in the LGBT community are looked over, just because progress has been made in other areas (i.e. Marriage equality)
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That people can walk down the street as their true authentic selves, with their partners or not, without fear of violence or harassment.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? … Listen. Don’t reinforce erasure which is already a thing.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I’m in the best place I’ve been in as far as being honest with myself and others about my sexual orientation. I didn’t always feel like I was part of the community, but, I am, and I want to be represented too, because I don’t want to contribute to more bi erasure, which is part of why I felt not always part of the community to begin with.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Not sure!
Thank you, Jessica.
Tell us your story – it takes about 30 minutes to complete our Q&A.
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. Crisis