James, 54, Is a Gay Pittsburgh Dad Living in Texas #AMPLIFY

Gay Allegheny County

Name: James

Age: 54

County of Residence: Allegheny. I grew up in the Pittsburgh area. I now live in Texas. What a difference.

Preferred Pronouns: Mr.

How do you describe your identity? I am a gay man. I am attracted to other gay men. I look for loving tender relationships. I keep my priorities right.

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out with the help of my sister. She helped me understand my feelings. I went thru a divorce. Moved south and started my new life.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Life is rewarding if you choose to be truthful with yourself. I still have trouble with relationships because I’m stuck in old ways of thinking. I hold on because I attained custody of my five children. My youngest just graduated High Shool. I’m trying to live for just me now. Hope I can succeed. It does get better with time. I have a lot of family love supporting me. Nine grandchildren. I could never see me in a closest again.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My childhood best friend. We expressed our care for each other thru love. I didn’t understand it then. My mother was a devout Catholic. My parents fought my sexuality all the way. I didn’t come out until my late twenties.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Ellen rocks. Because she Ellen. I also adored Robin Williams. You can feel it if someone is right or wrong just by listening to them talk. I am quiet at first to take in what a person is about. I’m good at perceiving a person who are ok with the way I am. I follow people’s good actions not what they say.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Thru the internet I stay informed about what going on. I stay in the game to help younger gay people come to term with their sexuality. I read and sign many forms. I live as a leader to get others to understand LGBTQ better. Life not one bit easy for me but i wouldn’t have it any other way.

Describe your geographical community. Well it seemed a lot more friendly in Pittsburgh. It’s only 18 percent friendly here. I plan on changing that. We have more people here then in Pittsburgh. The only problem is our city is bedroom city. No night life but strip joints. I believe you have to show courage everywhere you go. People meet me and say I am the first gay person they ever met. They say I’m so normal. I laugh so hard. It brings me joy to teach someone something.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I live by an army base. Not a strong community for LGBTQ issues. I escape to Austin when ever I get the chance. Reminds me of Pittsburgh. My neighbourhood is some what quiet. The people I know here know I’m gay and really don’t bother me about it. Some people are just stupid. I don’t mind living here. There is a lot of man candy to look at. I have a thing for men in uniform. Lol

Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public.  Yes and still do. I can only shine my colors hoping the world can just simply understand. I’m just like everybody else. We all bleed the same. Dream the same. Need to be treated the same. You give me respect I give you that much more back. Should be simple but it seems like there is so much confusion in the world today. I pray one day it can change.

Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) All the hospital. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Some like me some don’t. To each their own. I’m not going to change.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Just make equality real. Pass fair laws to bring everybody up.

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I showed my children that even if people are different then us that don’t make them wrong just different. I have them plenty example of showing love to the people who didn’t understand us. My one daughter graduated college and teaches high school students. She shines in her job. Her students love her. I think I made a different. I worry that if I did right by my children. My daughters prove I did just fine. They are becoming beautiful women.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I think fear is a big part of it. They look at me so funny but after I reached out to them and they got to know me everything changed. You have to lean in for it to get better. It was scary at first but I’m a old pro now.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Pride parades in Austin. Online publication. I’ve took many. They had a blast.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Not sure I moved away eighteen years ago. 

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Freedom to be true to one self. Understanding acceptance. 

What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Understanding.

How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Passing bathroom laws is a start I guess.

What motivated you to take part in this project? Missing my Pittsburgh LGBTQ. I felt like sharing. I read your blogs and feel maybe it can help someone struggling with their feelings.

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Does it get any easier? Yes by all means. Have faith. Someday you wake up and realise that you need to love you most. Everything else falls into place. Just give it a little time.

Thank you, James.

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.

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.  If you would like to participate, visit the online Q&A which takes about 30 minutes. 

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