County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Adams and Franklin counties
Preferred Pronouns: she/her
How do you describe your identity? I am a white, lesbian, pescatarian, feminist woman.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I fell in love with a student in college. It was the typical “falling in love with a person” that turned into noticing many women suddenly and then realizing all the signs throughout my childhood. Support was pretty great at the small women’s college that I attended. My parents took some time to come around but have always been supportive. I was lucky. I realize that I enjoy probably a great deal of privelege but my wife (partner of 22 years) and I have always been open and honest and have tried to “live by example” and have rarely met with discrimination or homophobia.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m out and proud however, my wife and I opted for self-marriage a few years ago and I’m pretty sure that is because we didn’t want to navigate parents/family and any type of ceremony. I’m not sure if that is just because we are sort of shy about those kind of affairs or if there is some latent fear in not being wholly accepted when it comes to that traditional institution.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I think the first queer person I was aware of was my uncle. He is about 10 years older than me and I had a crush on his boyfriend! I thought my uncle was fabulous but I couldn’t see any of myself in him. As I began to discover myself in college I also began to see students and professors who were queer and they sort of made me realize that there were all shapes, sizes, kinds of queer people.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Sarah Waters, author. I think she has really embraced the community, she is accessible, and writes rip-roaring novels. She would be an enduring creator for me.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? AfterEllen, Autostraddle, local queer forum, friends
Describe your geographical community. Suburban…very lucky to have several gay couples on our street as well as single parents, black and white, Jewish and Christian, kids and dogs. I would say it is LGBTQ friendly.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I think the Pittsburgh community has really evolved over the years but even in the early 90’s there was a sense of strong support and activism. It sort of mimics the whole change that we see…yes, we are more out, our issues are more in the forefront, we are represented more in media, we are excavating more and more history to reflect what has happened in the past and is not taught in school but we (Pittsburgh) no longer has Heads Together (bookstore and video rental), we’ve lost a lot of bars and coffee shops over the years and maybe some sense of what people had to endure not that long ago. I guess I qualify as an oldie…but you know, I never really thought that I could be married. It is pretty amazing. And I didn’t know entertainment would be so much better than Claire of the Moon. Having said that, Pride events here are inspiring and we are up for supporting horrible tragedies such as Orlando and celebrating landmark decisions such as striking down DOMA.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Luckily no.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I don’t have this experience.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I think better training for police. I believe we still need to pass an anti-discrimination law in PA for the workplace.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I totally admire in your face radical activists but I am not one of them. But I truly believe that if you live your life in a responsible, caring way; if you give back to the community and if you are open and honest in your life that it helps people develop a true sense of what it means to be a queer person. If straight people can see that at the core, we are all the same, seeking the same comforts and rising to the same challenges – then they can understand why it is imperative that we all share the same rights and protections in this world.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Pittsburgh is the land of neighborhoods…it probably is a challenge to find community if you don’t have a car or are of limited means.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Being in the ‘burbs.. I don’t find myself needing LGBTQ resources other than knowing what is going on in the community, what events are pending, what people are discussing or concerned about locally. For that, I rely pretty much on the Queer Events calendar and email group in Pittsburgh.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Orlando.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? We keep that Pride feeling all year long.
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 and learn.
What motivated you to take part in this project? So much sadness in this world that I can’t do anything about…I want to help promote positivity, support, service, health.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Would you choose any other life for yourself if you could? ~ Hell no.
Thank you, Hayley.
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.