County of Residence: Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: They/Them
How do you describe your identity? I identify as pansexual and genderqueer, or possibly agender. I just don’t “get” gender I guess? I don’t care about it in my partners and don’t feel it applies to me personally.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I never had a coming out experience in terms of my sexuality. I didn’t realize there were different sexualities until high school — I thought everyone was attracted to everyone. So I’ve never hidden who I am or who I’m attracted to. My parents knew I was dating a girl in high school. However, when my mother came out to me as a lesbian, I told her, “I’m queer too — I’m bisexual” (I now identify as pansexual). But she said that wasn’t real and it had just been a phase. My family was not supportive.
In terms of my gender, I had always been uncomfortable with being thought of as a “girl” or “woman”, but didn’t have the vocabulary to express what was wrong. Then, when I was in my mid-twenties, I learned about genderqueer people and knew that that was closest to what I thought of myself as. So I came out as genderqueer in my mid 20s. Everyone I knew personally was very supportive. I came out at work, too, at least to the people I interacted with most. I never came out to my parents, as I feel my gender identity is none of their business. They’re not really in my life anymore.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I feel like I’m out to everyone who matters. It might be nice to tell my parents they were always wrong about my gender, but that would mean talking to them in the first place, and I’d rather not. I easily tell anyone who asks my gender identity or my sexual identity, and have no problems telling strangers or people I care about.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first queer person I met was probably my mom, but she didn’t identify as queer until I was in my mid 20s. However, she now says she was always a lesbian. She was abusive and did not have a positive impact on me. The earliest person I remember meeting who actually identified as queer at the time was probably my girlfriend Lindsey. We met when I was 14 and dated for a little over a year. She got kicked out of our high-end magnet school for a minor infraction because the principal was a bigot, and her parents, finding out she was dating me, didn’t support her or push back against the school. We kept dating in secret for about half a year after that, though. I maintain ties with her to this day.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. For creator, it’s probably Rebecca Sugar, who has worked on Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Steven Universe is a very queer-friendly show, and it may be my favourite TV show of all time. For character, I’m very excited that Wonder Woman has been recently confirmed as canonically queer. She’s a very kind and compassionate character, and it’s really great to have one of DC Comic’s Big Three (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) be queer (and not closeted, looking at you Batman).
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I read a lot about queer issues on the internet. Most of my friends are queer. I check what’s going on at Persad when I come there for therapy.
Describe your geographical community. Pittsburgh seems to be pretty queer-friendly. I’ve never run across any trouble here.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I don’t really engage with the physically local community here. I have a couple of friends in the area who are queer, but most of my friendships are online. I do know about Persad center, and went there because it was explicitly queer-friendly.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes, I have experienced discrimination when dating girls or women. My girlfriend was kicked out of our school, as I mentioned in an earlier reply, over a minor infraction because the principal was a bigot. We were questioned about our relationship and called names while together in public.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Yes, I go to Persad and Metro Community Health Center. Both are explicitly queer- and trans-friendly.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I wouldn’t know, I’m not very involved in my community.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? There need to be more resources for homeless queer youth. Also there need to be more gender-neutral bathrooms.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I can never tell if women can’t tell I’m hitting on them or if they can tell and don’t mind. Either way, I’ve never had a problem flirting with women in Pittsburgh, and it’s nice to not have to worry about it. No one has seemed put off or offended.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I think financial barriers, probably. Queer people seem to have smaller earnings/savings and need access to more low-cost resources.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I know of Persad and Metro Community Health Center.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I’m afraid of what would happen to us if Donald Trump were elected president. The GOP platform advocates conversion therapy, and I think I’ve even heard Republicans recommend electroshock to “cure” queer people.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I hope I get to know the community better and that it continues to flourish.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Advocate for queer-friendly legislation and believe our lived experiences.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Accept us as part of the queer community, as legitimate gender and sexual identities that do not “take away” from us or anyone else being “really” queer or “queer enough”.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I saw a flyer at Persad and it looked interesting.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I liked the question about queer creators/characters. I think I would have liked a question about my opinion of queer representation in the media. It’s getting better, but there’s still a really long way to go, especially when it comes to bisexual people, nonbinary people, and trans people, particularly people of colour. Some places that have done work on this are The Legend of Korra (bisexual main character of colour), Steven Universe (multiple queer relationships that can be read as being people of colour), and Marvel Comics with Young Avengers.
Thank you, Ira.
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.
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.