County of Residence: Mercer County, previously Beaver County
Preferred Pronouns: Him, he, male, sir
How do you describe your identity? I am a pansexual male, I don’t see anyone for there penis or vagina, but for the beauty of who they are, yes I am attracted, but that is only a small portion of me, I see a person for the soul they have, the beauty of the love they have for themselves.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was very young when I figured out that I was different than the other boys in school. I grew up in rural Alabama so that alone was very difficult for me as the area I grew up in was part of what people called “the Bible Belt”. I will be honest I was very scared of coming out to my family, especially my father, so because of that I didn’t come out until I was 22, but when I did, my dad looked at me, and I was fearing the worst at the time, but he looked at me and said you are my son, I will always love you no matter what!!! The challenge for me was my grandmother, she was very set in her ways.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m at a very good point in my life, I have a beautiful family who accepts me for who I am, and a loving soon to be husband, I am completely out I don’t hide anything, I’ve done that for to long.
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Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first person of the LGBTQ community that I met was a good friend of my dad, I can remember his name as I was only 7or 8 at the time, but I knew that he was different because he was very feminine, although I didn’t know the word at the time, but I knew because I looked at my dad and how he acted and it was a little different with his friend.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I have a few that I like they are mainly tv shows and movies but the one that stands out would have to be the tv show Queer as Folk, if you haven’t seen it they have all the seasons on Netflix, but I gained so much inspiration from this show because it goes deep into the LGBTQ community and life itself, from the good times all the way to the thing you don’t ever want to think about (bigotry, hate crimes etc..) and it’s not just one particular character but all of the cast!!!
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Mainly social media, local tv, and the internet.
Describe your geographical community. The area that we live in is an urban area, lots of people around it’s not a big city but at the same time it’s not real rural either( if that makes sense). I have lived in a very rural community, and it wasn’t an ideal place to live at the time for the LGBT, but it has gotten a lot better. My fiancé and I just moved back to NW PA about 3 years ago from that same rural area, and I can say the entire time we were there we got nothing but love and acceptance in the community.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. For the most part everyone that I have met in my community have been very supportive of who we are (we as in me and my fiancé). Like I have stated we are a part of a group that was created for the LGBTQ community, and we want to do great things within our home!!
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I have had some discrimination happen to me but it wasn’t in public, it was on social media by one of my own family members at that. Some of my family are very religious and I guess me being out didn’t sit right with him so he had commented on a post that I was committing a sin, that I was going to hell, but I didn’t let it bother me because I have a great support system and people that actually do love me for the person that I am!!
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) This has not been an issue, both of us( my fiancé and I) have medical insurance through the place that we work.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Our main focus right now is in the trans community, we have had a few incidents where the persons have had issues, I will not go into full detail as I don’t have much information, but the issues that the community is facing at the moment are misgendering, and not having the proper resources to educate our teens and youth about the LGBTQ, and some of the adults living here as well!!
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Just show support and let us know that we have the acceptance that we need and deserve from our political leaders and not make us feel like second class citizens!!
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The one thing that I keep stressing about, and I can’t say it enough, is acceptence in the community, I have been very blessed to see that side of life for the most part
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Misgendering, stereotyping, and the bathroom laws!! When someone can’t use the bathroom they identify with is a very big issues in my eyes, I have a lot of good friends that are trans and my heart breaks because they don’t get the acceptance and love they deserve!!
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I have said before, I am part of an organization that was created on Facebook called Mercer county LGBTQ awerness, we open our hearts and minds for all people that have love and acceptence for our community, and for the ones that don’t we also have no problem with educating.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will loose everything that we have worked so hard to achieve, and be ” closeted” again, and I will say again, acceptance in the community, I have feared many nights, is this it, but luckily it hasn’t happened (and I hope it never does).
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I cannot stress enough, I know I sound like a broken record, but full acceptance in the community, not only for us, but mostly for our youth who are still struggling with it, in there home or in school, we want everyone to know it does get better and you are never alone!!!
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Dedicatio, acceptance, and learning to help educated others that we are also human, and members of society as well!!
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Acceptance, and not shaming or misgendering based off of what other people think and hear
What motivated you to take part in this project? I have always been motivated for my community, I want people to accept and try to understand that we can’t help who we are or who we love, just get to know your neighbors and don’t be so quick to judge and point fingers
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I think the biggest one of all is,
“What can I learn from someone?”
There is no definite answer to this, learning is so vast, but just listening to a voice can be so powerful, maybe enough to change or save a life.
Thank you, Jesse
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
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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.