At the end of the day, your silence is damaging. Your story can heal and make people feel like they’re not alone.
Age: 26 ** Update – I made an error and listed Rain’s age as 44. I am sorry for the error. – Sue
County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Washington and Greene
Preferred Pronouns: he/him
How do you describe your identity? White, Demisexual, Straight man, Tuff fluff, World builder, Paradise seeker
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was always coming out in small ways throughout my life – one of those guys who could never be anything other than a guy from the time he was three, even when you stick him in a dress for Easter Sunday or force him to wear bras once he hit high school. I got so much shit for my masculinity too, especially since I grew up in a small rural town. Back then, I never could actually come out, even though I would have in the sixth grade if not a lot sooner. There was no support anywhere – aside from the two other people that lived on the same hill as my family did, my nearest neighbor was five miles away, and the nearest city was ten. Pittsburgh was an entire hour away. That town had a family doctor, family dentist, family funeral home, an elementary school, and about eight churches. That was it, aside from the corner market that still sold penny candy, that one diner, and the fire station. There were no services at all anywhere, and we rarely went into the city of Washington, so I wouldn’t really know much about services offered there. And despite my mother being from Pittsburgh, the Big City was totally out of the question. I was very isolated – my high school didn’t even have a GSA and wouldn’t permit one, and my isolation was made even more so by the fact that I wasn’t my step father’s real or even adopted kid, as well as being neurodivergent and the fact that it was utterly impossible for me to hide my masculinity.
So I had a lot of problems with coming to terms with my gender for a long time, and it wasn’t until a year after I had moved to Pittsburgh with my mother after she divorced my step dad that I finally started to. I was 19, and I first came out to my partner when they asked me one day after listening to my thoughts and feelings about it all: “Are you really my baby boy?” That sealed the deal for me.
Unfortunately, I came out to my family as a man two days later, and after about a month or so, I was kicked out and had only one place to go – my partner’s place they were renting while they attended university, a room too small for one person let alone two. It took me two weeks to move my essentials via public transit because I had to sneak into my mother’s house while she was at work to grab them. I had also lost my job at the time because of it too, so I had very little money and couldn’t find employment for five years due to legal things and the very legal and real trans discrimination that is alive and well. It’s been a long, hard road, but I never did look back. Not once.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m honestly just another guy. I’m not really “out” as a trans man to anyone other than a few select people, but for me, that is my truth – I’m just another dude. It’s not “living in stealth” or anything for me – by not being out, I am living my truth. I’m always looking out for the members of my community though, even if they don’t know I’m among them. I’ve kind of ended up as sort of a silent guardian for others in my community because of this – that guy you never knew you always had in your corner until he defends you or sticks up for you.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My great uncle Bobby. Gay, white, cis man with an impeccable sense of style, open heart, and amazing charisma. He was always there in my life, but I didn’t learn he was gay until I was in my teens. His sexuality was one of those “everyone knows but nobody talks about it” kind of things. Before I knew, I just loved being around him for a lot of personal reasons, and I loved how individual his personal sense of style was, even if it wasn’t something I wanted to emulate for myself. After I knew, all I could think about was how you had to be closeted if you were going to be any kind of queer in my family and wanted to stay in the family, and we sadly drifted apart.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I could never find one, so I made my own. My favorite characters, LGBTQ or otherwise, are my own.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I’m pretty much almost completely surrounded by the queer community – whatever I don’t find from social media, news, or my partner’s activism work, I learn by either being directly effected by it or from one of the many I’ve surrounded myself with.
Describe your geographical community. I’m not entirely sure? I’m inclined to say no though, even with some of the resources floating around. See, Pittsburgh isn’t so much of a city as it is a city made up of several small neighborhoods, each with it’s own feel and way of thinking. Anything south of Mt. Washington is Danger Zone, and really, other than the few gay bars that seem to be miles apart from each other, Persad in Lawrenceville, the GLCC downtown, Metro Family Practice in Wilkinsburg, and random events like Pgh Pride, Roots Pride, and the Dyke and Trans March, I can’t really think of many safe spaces or neighborhoods. You’re fairly safe if you stick close to a college campus though. And I feel incredibly lucky to have found the place I work at – it’s pretty much the only place I can think of anywhere in or around the city that hires trans people regardless of legal standing and will even accommodate names and such. The only work place for the poor, minimum wage, working class members of the trans community, at any rate.
This is all according to my personal experience though. I’m very aware that there’s probably a lot more I just don’t know about, and I have zero knowledge of the black and poc queer communities, though I hope to change that soon.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Other than how I live my everyday life at work and at home, I’m honestly not all that active in my local queer community. I’ve never really felt like I belonged there, even when I straddled the line between genders. And I don’t drink, so that alone rules a lot of my options out. I also suppose that, with how I live my life as just another guy, that also puts some distance there. But in my personal community, every one of the six room mates I live with is queer, several of my co workers are trans and otherwise queer, and my neighborhood is primarily a black and queer neighborhood. I do hope to get more involved though, with hopefully helping to organize the Dyke and Trans march coming up and seeking services at Persad.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Hooo boy, you bet I have. I lost my job when I came out, couldn’t find work for five years, went several years without an ID, couldn’t sign any kind of lease and would’ve been street homeless if it weren’t for my partner. I’ve been harassed by strangers and bored cops, attacked verbally and physically by family and drunk college boys and wandering teenagers, narrowly escaped groups of five to seven people who were following me and throwing stuff at me at least three times, parents would give me nasty looks and usher their children away when I’d walk too close to a playground while walking around the park, (fathers love to do this thing where they assume this very aggressive pose and stare at you from behind their sunglasses, making it clear that you aren’t welcome and may very well be attacked if you don’t move right the hell along), countless micro-aggressions… the list goes on.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Uhm, like the fact that several people I know are constantly afraid of rape, assult,police brutality, and death, especially if they walk home from work alone or are out alone after dark?
Other than that, pretty much everything trans people deal with is invisible to local dialogue – from money, transportation, housing, finding work, getting any kind of medical care let alone HRT or other transition related things, all the way down to “will I be able to eat tomorrow? I got enough money saved for rent (which I can actually afford most months since I live with eight other people!) that I can’t touch, but I got enough left over after that $15 co pay for the Adderall I need for my ADHD to pay for bus fare for the rest of the week. I really need to save that, but I might be able to swing dollar menu if I do this, this and this… man, guess hormones are put off for another month. Wait, maybe I can sell an Adderall to a co worker…”
Yeah. Shit like that.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I know very little about local politics, and it’s really hard for me to understand how politics even work, to be completely honest. So I don’t really know what-fuck-all they could do when they can’t even keep their cops in line and when they cut bus routes, jack up bus fares and make paying for a bus increasingly inaccessible, don’t provide services, make it hard or next to impossible to get or afford what services they do provide, and when they’re so fond of those red gentrification lines they call “progress” and “development,” to name a few.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Life as an LGBTQ person is tough – but you’re tougher. Been binding for ten hours five days out of the week and twelve that one day, and you don’t really want to on your day off? Don’t. On said day off, want to sit out on your front porch for a bit because it’s nice outside and you don’t want to coop yourself up, but you’re too afraid to do that without binding because of micro aggressions or worse from passersby? Wear that sleeveless tee without the binder underneath and go sit on your porch. Give that rando walking by the meanest look you can muster when he stops and stares and watch him scurry away. He’s already afraid of you – take advantage of it. Never be afraid to work people’s fear to keep yourself safe when you need to. You’re some serious tuff fluff, and you damn well deserve to sit on your own porch without killing your back.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I feel like I already covered this.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? If you know people, there are a few safe havens hidden away that people have made from their homes. There’s also Persad and Metro, and a few bars, my local bicycle place has a women and trans day at their workshop, Metro works with a pharmacy that offers a very affordable sliding scale payment plan, that one pharmacy clerk at the Walgreens in Wilkinsburg is really nice and doesn’t even bat an eye, uhm… and I’m sure there are several others that I either can’t remember at the moment or don’t yet know about.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I fear a lot for our youth, especially our black and poc youth who are our most at-risk, Other than that, I’ve never been too great at seeing into the future, so all else I’ve got are already existing everyday struggles like hunger, homelessness, death, and the possibility of all those things getting worse.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? All I want is for people like the little perceived female child with the self-given short haircut at my work today who strayed a little away from their mother to tell me they wished they could have a beard like mine when they grow up, to be able to grow up in a world where they don’t have to be afraid to walk down the street. And I hope that rural communities will come to embrace those among them who are any kind of queer, so that some little trans or otherwise queer kid won’t end up isolated and angry and suicidal. And the last thing I hope for: I demand exceptional queer and trans representation in media. ALL queer representation, and I demand it to be exceptional – that means casting trans men and women as trans people in movies and television, casting all genders out there as their respective genders, writing them well and making them real people as opposed to the butt of jokes or the side note to add to the cis/het character’s character growth. I want gay stories where no one dies at the end, no one’s the “gay exception,” no creepy age difference nonsense, no “married man/woman has gay affair on the side,” just.. everything going on now, just stop it all. Queer movies, music, books, art, tv – everything – get it all out there, make it exceptional, integrate it into society, make it normal. Our children are just like yours – they need to see themselves in stories. We all need stories, we all need media. I had to create my own stories so I could feel some kind of real – I don’t want our children to have to do the same.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? At this point I’d almost settle for Shut Up And Listen. Almost.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? They can start with not making us invisible, shutting us out, invalidating our identities, and treating us as sub-human.
What motivated you to take part in this project? At the end of the day, your silence is damaging. Your story can heal and make people feel like they’re not alone.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I can’t really think of anything… maybe something about the challenges of dating?
Thank you, Rain.
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.