County of Residence: Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: Male, He, Gay.
How do you describe your identity? Gay male with asexual tendencies in a polyamourus relationship
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out was a matter of lie, deny or try. I was outed by a female friend that had a crush on me in 8th grade. She decided to tell the only out gay male in our class / school – which led to everyone soon bringing the question up to me & family members. At the time I was seeing a fellow classmate on the wrestling team. He denied and I chose to try and not lie.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? After experiencing much in the strictly male “gay world” I now prefer to be associated with a queer community than just men. There has been more open arms, plus understanding amongst a community made up of all genders + sexualities & identifications. Not just one orientation alienating my personal views.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My first exposure to someone LGBTQ was a fellow peer in grade school. He was out, popular, good looks & style; I was silent, not out (later outed at age 14) and came from a lower-income, religious, agricultural family background.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. James Dean – the mythos surrounding his sexuality plus a small body of film work. Short life, long-lasting film history. Very similar to Van Gogh with more fame after death. I’m trying to do the opposite while alive.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Friends, internet news, magazines (national / local publications), the PERSAD center.
Describe your geographical community. Currently I live in the Polish Hill neighborhood on Pittsburgh. A very hardworking, urban gardening, connected community. Similar to the small-town farming community I grew up in back in Michigan. Sexuality does not have much of an appearance as much as hard work and care for the community at large.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. LGBTQ community for me consists of support from the PERSAD Center and a “family of choice” that is small, but dense with quality of care even if we are all spread around the country.
When I first moved to Pittsburgh it was connected to finding the Hot Mass community. They held a few events with Detroit’s “Macho City” underground gay club nights. After moving I realized the hyper-sexualized, drug/party nature of that groups reality. I tried gaining support from others but advocacy/awareness/social causes were not part of the agenda for Hot Mass to be connected with. I’ve since built all of that through my own struggles and life trials to find community.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes. In the past my partner and I had to write a 21 page deposition and put our rent in escrow after being called “faggots” by an apartment manager who even told her kids to not speak to us after we had a problem with community destruction caused by them.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Health care options for the average LGBTQ individual in Pittsburgh have been astonishing in contrast to Michigan. Care options such as PrEP/Truvada are still not even known by many healthcare professionals there. As well as many public health options being cut back that would strengthen the queer communities of Michigan.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Mental illness, depression – stemming from a relaxed view on drug use amongst an underground gay dance culture in Pittsburgh that exists. If you can’t handle what is being done by people you care about or see struggling with the extreme sex and infections that happen as well – then you are ostracized and given less respect for speaking out.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Be more openly vocal, plus specific with dialogue relating to LGBTQ communities. Less stigma of the past and more thought of a new future.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Working for a former employer, I was called a faggot by a co-worker. During this time I had suffered a PTSD breakdown related to realizing the drug and sex prevalence amongst those I trusted in and out of work. My resignation had started due to a lack of competitive wages and then I retracted it because I wanted to give the job another shot; then I was called a faggot and had no support from management in response to how I handled and reported the situation.
Learning how to truly rely on myself plus instincts that may contradict the views of others experiences in the same area.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Mental health issues; acceptance versus discrimination.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? PERSAD center, the GLCC of Pittsburgh, the Trevor Foundation
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Steps backwards politically/socially that would affect adversely the progressive thinking to keep queer social issues from advancing forward for future generations.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Hope for me is to see a normalized sense of all sexualities acceptance past just a heteronormative standard that has been pushed for too long.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Educate themselves on dynamics of community needs during the daytime – not just the elaborate nights out to bars or extreme sex/drug use.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? By not seeing a divide between sexualities and relating to others struggles as their own story of strength also.
What motivated you to take part in this project? My voice feels very silenced right now after some of my experiences in Pittsburgh being against the norm for others to have went through here.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How is your sense of community within Western Pennsylvania? Has it contradicted/expanded past other places you have lived?
Thank you, Dean.
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.