County of Residence: Cambria, Indiana, Lancaster, Dauphin, and some others in the Commonwealth that escape me at the moment.
Preferred Pronouns: she, her, mademoiselle, and other female pronouns
How do you describe your identity? I identify as a trans woman. To a lesser extent, I identify as a lesbian. I say to a lesser extent because while I’m attracted to women, I’m not really sure if I can handle being in a relationship right now. I also identify as an Atheist, a Humanist, and a Skeptic but I’m not sure those monikers really have much of a place in this survey so I’ll leave it at that.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I haven’t come out to everyone but my coming out experience took me a bit by surprise. What surprised me was how well the two people I came out to took the news. I suppose I would describe it like shooting a BB gun at a brick wall where the news of me being trans was the BB and the people I told being the brick walls. Needless to say, I’m not expecting it to go that smoothly with everyone I come out to in future.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? That assumes that I’m “out” to being with. I still live a bit too much of my life in “guy mode” for my liking. It’s my hope that perhaps I can start living a bit more often in “girl mode” and be myself…soon.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I’m a girl who tends to keep to herself. I’m not a social person by nature and so most interactions I have are via the internet. That said, the first LGBT person I met was a bartender named Davey who owns a place called Davey’s. At the time, I wasn’t aware that he was gay but then again I’m not entirely sure that I would have cared that much either. I’d like to think that I see people for more than the labels that society applies to them or that they apply to themselves.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. The Wachowski Sisters easily come to mind here. The films they were responsible for creating are masterpieces in not only their storytelling but also in how they relate to even modern day events taking place before our very eyes in the real world. I really liked V for Vendetta for more than the action scenes in the film.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? The internet, mostly Twitter. After all, this is where I spend most of my life these days.
Describe your geographical community. N/A
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. For the most part, the LGBT community in Cambria county as a whole appears to be conspicuous only by it’s absence. While sources like Keystone Alliance/Gaylife Newsletter, operated by John DeBartola, are a valuable resource for the LGBT community here, I feel as if the trans community has next to nothing available to them here. If there are trans specific resources here, the providers seem to be in “speakeasy” mode.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Seeing as I’m not out yet, the answer is “no”. Rather, I think it would be more appropriate to say that the answer is “not yet”.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Seeing as I’m the kind of girl that spends quite a lot of her waking hours in front of a computer monitor, I have a hard time believing that I have any LGBT neighbours. Then again, the local media doesn’t seem to acknowledge our existence very often so I suppose I can blame my ignorance on that.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Seeing as another budget impasse in Harrisburg could be imminent, the onus is on officials of county and municipal governments to provide protections for LGBT people living within their jurisdiction. Only Allegheny and Erie counties, along with a handful of local municipalities in the commonwealth, have actually stepped up to the plate to protect LGBT citizens living within their jurisdiction from discrimination in housing, employment, and accommodations. Elected officials in local and county governments need to step up for us until Harrisburg starts working properly again. Once the General Assembly and Governor Wolf manage to pass a budget, assuming they can, maybe they can get to work on passing LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation (emphasis on maybe).
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. N/A
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? N/A
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Resources? I’m not sure there are any here.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? The neighbourhoods in which they reside. I suspect that those who can leave will and those who can’t will suffer until enough people stand up and say no to the abuse they face merely because of who they are or who they love. I fear that when protections are written into the law that they will be written in the blood of those we lose needlessly, figuratively speaking.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My hope is that our contributions to society will be recognized in the same way as our straight cis-gendered peers and that no LGBT person faces unnecessary hardship without proper recourse, that includes LGBT people of colour.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Think before you speak. While we’re not your research team, ignorance is no defence and Google is your friend. As Charles Darwin once put it, “…ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge…”.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Don’t push us away. Doing so makes you no better than the bigots who would see you oppressed just because of who you love. We’re to the point where we need each other more than ever before.
What motivated you to take part in this project? It was René Lévesque who once said “Est Québécois qui veut l’être.” Translated from French, it means “Whoever wants to be a Quebecer is one.” I believe this statement was a declaration of inclusiveness on the part of Monsieur Lévesque in which he made clear that any who wanted to be apart of the community known as Les Québécois were welcome in the Canadian province of Quebec. It’s this spirit of inclusiveness that I feel we need to embrace when it comes to the wider LGBT community and our allies in the western counties of our commonwealth. Our commonwealth is a place I’ve called home for my entire life and I would prefer to see all Pennsylvanians feel welcome in this place we call home. When we can honestly say that anyone who wants to be a Pennsylvanian is one is when I feel that we as a people have done our job.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Q) Past or present, favourite LGBT person/people (outside of movies, film, and literature)? Please tell us why.
A) While he’s not trans, my answer would be Alan Turing. Alan Turing was an openly gay man in a homophobic Great Britian following WWII. Alan Turing was responsible for helping MI6 to break the codes created by the Enigma machine deployed by the German military in WWII by creating the Bombe machine. He also pioneered research into what we know today as computer science. He was the creator of the Turing test (which inspired the creation of CAPTCHA) and pioneered early research into what we know today as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Reading into Turing would be a good idea for those interested in his story.
Thank you, Delilah.
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.