Melissa, 23, is Androgynous and Queer in Butler County #AMPLIFY

Queer Butler County

Name: Melissa

Age: 23

County of Residence: Butler, formerly Allegheny

Preferred Pronouns: She/Her/They/Them

How do you describe your identity? I consider myself more of an androgynous person. I identify my sexuality as “queer”.

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I didn’t have a big to-do with my coming out. I told my closest friends and family, who were receptive, but didn’t make a major announcement otherwise. I just proceeded to live my life out of the closet, and if anyone questioned my sexuality, I would answer them honestly from that point forward. I think the biggest challenge has been finding a place within the community. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and already had their friend groups established. It was hard to rub shoulders with other local LGBTQ+ people when many of them didn’t seem interested in a “newcomer”.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’ve been “out” and just living my life as best as I can! I’ve found a place within the community online. They’re a great support system for me.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I didn’t really know any other LGBTQ+ people before I came out. I sought the community out myself. I can’t really say I’ve had a role model in my experience. I’ve just sort of steadily gotten to know other people getting their toes wet in the same LGBTQ+ situations.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Saki in ‘From the New World’! Such a realistic character in an amazing, thought-provoking piece of work that holds a lot of relevance to many of the issues we’re seeing in the world today. I highly recommend it!

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I’m a member of many Facebook groups and even help run one where these issues are discussed as part of an open forum.

Describe your geographical community.  I’m currently living in the more rural part of Butler. I’m assuming the demographic is not particularly LGBTQ+ friendly, but I don’t explore the area a great deal.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I’m a part of many Facebook groups where I can interact with others in the community. Most of my LGBTQ+ friends are across the country, but we all speak regularly.

Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I have been extremely fortunate in the fact that I have not experienced discrimination of this nature.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I have many bisexual friends that are constantly judged and dismissed by the community. Biphobia is rampant. There is still a lot of weird animosity towards trans individuals as well, which is disheartening. They face a tremendous amount of mistreatment from all sides.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I want LGBTQ+ protections to be truly secured. It should be illegal to discriminate in the workplace, for housing – for everything. Rights must remain protected.

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Your gender does not have to define how you look, what you like, and what you can do.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Biphobia and transphobia. Labeling other members in ways they don’t wish to be labeled based on their appearance, and expecting certain behaviors from them as a part of this.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Online support. Those in my group always look out for each other.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That the discrimination we’re seeing more in the south will work its way up here. That religious, conservative agendas will repress the rights of our community.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I would love to see the community be more receptive of those who are “different”.

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? Protect them

What motivated you to take part in this project? It’s nice to be invited to have a voice in something that’s important to me.

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What new activities would you like to see within the community?

Thank you, Melissa.

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.

You can read the other Q&A responses here.  AMPLIFY! LGBTQ is a project of Most Wanted Fine Art and Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

AMPLIFYQueer Butler County