County of Residence: Allegheny County. Also,
– Multnomah County, Oregon
– Penobscot County, Maine
– Fairfax County, Virginia
– Orleans Parish, Louisiana
– Frederick County, Maryland
Preferred Pronouns: he/him/his/etc…
How do you describe your identity? I epitomize privilege in almost every way. Although I am disabled and am married to a man, these two things are easily concealed and most people assume that I am able bodied and straight in my day to day interactions. Thus, I have the privilege of existing as the epitome of privilege in most situations. I am married to a man, which is how most people find out I’m not straight, but I also feel strongly that the Pittsburgh region (and most major urban areas in the US) have moved to a place where gay cis white men have leap frog-ed over most other populations to a place near the pinnacle of privilege. So, to discuss my identity is to discuss my privilege and responsibility in society. I have a responsibility to be aware of my privilege and advocate for others, while also knowing to step back and not allow my privilege to silence and push out differing identities.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? The first person in my real life (as opposed to the clubs I used to sneak out to) who I came out to was my sister. She was 23 at the time and had just gotten back from a year away in Honduras after college and I was 18. It was two nights before I was leaving for college in Maine. We used to go for long drives because it was one of my favorite things to do to just think about life and drive aimlessly. I was trying to get up the courage to tell her and kept telling her stories and driving around randomly. After a while, she said, “we need to get home, are you trying to tell me something?” And I just blurted it out – “I think I’m gay.” She has been a consistent support since then. In college I slowly came out to everyone over the next year, but that first contact was the most important. My mother, whom I lack a relationship with at this point due to her views of my sexuality, was the hardest issue and definitely caused the most strain.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am 100% viewed by most as being out as a gay man, which is funny since I have spent most of my adulthood as bi- or pan-sexual (I adopted the pan-sexual identity after first hearing about it). But, I am a cis-gender man who is married to a cis-gender man. Since most people just assume that means I am gay, that is what I am generally seen as. So, I suppose I am “out,” just not everyone knows the full story.
Share your LGBTQ story with our project. It takes about 30 minutes. Click here for the Q&A.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? When I was a kid growing up in suburban Virginia outside of Washington, DC in the early ’90s, I remember seeing a truck at the entrance of my neighborhood with a sticker on it that read “Family Truck” over a rainbow background. I to this day do not know who owned that truck, but seeing that truck parked in my neighborhood full of conservative southern-ish suburbanites was so powerful to me. I was the youngest child of a former military father and a very conservative catholic mother. I was terrified by what my sexuality could be and having to tell people. It was incredibly lonely – but suddenly there was someone in my neighborhood like me and I speculated on who it could be, excited by the idea that it could be anyone around me. I remember going home and writing a letter that I was going to put under the trucks windshield wiper. I wrote something like “I’m here, too.” But, I was 12 and I was too afraid to put it there. But the power of that sticker was incredible.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Maxwell Dillon – Electro in the Marvel Universe. He was always my favorite supervillian because he is such a tragic and reluctant villain. He is not “bad” and defers to being good in many situations – he is just in constant pain due to the “gift”/ super power he has been forced to bear. Marvel decided to elude to him as bi-sexual in the early 2000s and I went nuts. I always related to him and loved him as a character (I have a tattoo inspired by him) and now he was even more like me.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? News sources, Facebook, friends, word of mouth, etc…
Describe your geographical community. I live in Upper Lawrenceville. It is a very accepting community, for the most part. There is a bar my husband and I hang out in, Nied’s Hotel, that has been around for over 70 years — the locals that hang out there accept us without hesitation and it really affirms that we live in the right place.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. It is a solid place for my identity, for the most part. Certain things could be better, representation wise. There are only three openly LGBTQ+ elected official that I know of, so I would definitely like to see more. The Pittsburgh region, while it has its struggles, has consistently felt like a safe space for me. Again, I need to acknowledge that my privilege plays into this, as I know other identities do struggle more. It could be worse, but it definitely could be much more inclusive for all and I am hopeful the community is committed to working towards getting there.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I have been discriminated against in employment, but not in Pittsburgh. There is a sort of reverse discrimination I have felt here where I was told a gay person was needed so the workplace did not seem discriminatory. This is obviously not the norm, but it has happened.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I am very privileged and have good health insurance through my work at UPMC. It is pretty GB competent, aside from the insistence that I get tested for HIV every time I’m there with the subtle “all gay men need to be tested frequently” (despite my emphasis that I am monogamous). Other than that, it’s been great.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. It has become “trendy” as of late to acknowledge it, but not enough is actually being done about it. There are a large number of our youth on the streets or couch surfing and in a city like Pittsburgh, it is very easy for this invisible population to hide even more. We need to be allocating resources for these youth and taking care of them. They are our family and our future and we have a responsibility to them.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Allocate funds to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. The trans and community of color are especially vulnerable and I would like to see this discussed and addressed.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I moved to Pittsburgh to attend law school. While my original intent was not to stay here past those three years, I quickly fell in love with both the city and my now husband, thus keeping me here for the foreseeable future. While in law school, I experienced having to come out again. I was an older student, in my late twenties, surrounded by 22 year olds. One particular group of women upon hearing of my sexuality went out of their way to touch me every chance she got, giggling to friends, “he doesn’t care – he’s gay, so it doesn’t mean anything.” This was a new form of discrimination I had not encountered before – I was being treated as a novelty and an animal whose sexuality some how granted cis white liberal women the right to touch me whenever and however they desired. I was truly thrown off and had to think on how to put an end to it without hurting these women’s feelings (a sign of the privilege held by these women). I did not want my chest or crotch touched and I surely did not want to touch these women’s chests. I will acknowledge that if this is the worst discrimination I’ve felt in the past five years, I am doing quite well, but it was just so unexpected and such a bizarre sign of progress mixed with sexual assault, that it felt worthy of not.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? The general barriers that face most Pittsburghers, I suppose – access to healthcare, fair wages, feeling safe in the community as themselves, etc…
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad, Proud Haven, GLCC, PATF, PFLAG — the usual amazing people doing amazing work 🙂
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That gay/ bisexual cis white men will continue to move away from supporting the rest of the community.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will continue to grow as a community and stick together and advocate for one another. So long as one member of this community is suffering, we all have an obligation to be an advocate.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Step back and listen, step up and advocate
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Be aware of your privilege within the community and learn from others.
What motivated you to take part in this project? It felt important.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What is great about being LGBTQ in Western PA or some variation of that 🙂
Thank you, Kyle
We have a very supportive network of people here.
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.