Sean, 29, Wants to Change the LGBT Climate in Western Pennsylvania #AMPLIFY

Name:  Sean Meloy

Age: 29

County of Residence:  Allegheny, formerly Centre County and Washington DC

Preferred Pronouns: He / His / Him

How do you describe your identity?  Gay male 

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Well, it was two-fold. Firstly was “coming out” to myself, which was formally realizing I was gay and it was something I had to address. I was watching TRL and Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” came on and on the scroll or someone in the crowd said something akin to “Your gay fans love you Kylie!” I was dancing by myself really enjoying the song and for whatever reason it just clicked…I’m gay.

I regret the way I came out to my parents, but I had to get it off my chest as I was unable to do it over holiday break. I called them with my girlfriend at the time who was super supportive and just said “I think I like guys too” — they weren’t surprised and they said they loved me. I think they only worried it would limit my ability to succeed in life and have been extremely supportive ever since. My girlfriend and then friends all were supportive when I told them, as they all were not surprised. I was very fortunate to have the support and love around me that I did. I know not everyone had that.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Well, I’m out to everyone, even my extended family who were on the later end of being told / finding out. I’ve worked actively for LGBT rights professionally, but the best way to promote LGBTQ rights is by being “out” and proud. In western PA there are still many who have not been able to be fully out or out at all and it is sad. The lack of LGBT protections I think has a lot to do with creating a climate that is not welcoming to coming out.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The “out” LGBT person was a very courageous kid at my high school who was one or two years younger than me. Was constantly made fun of, but very certain of who he was an his gay identity. I was more shocked that he was “out” as by then I knew I was gay but wasn’t out.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Although there is a lack of characters in general media I think Jack McFarland from Will & Grace is transformational in that he was unabashedly gay and on network television. It showcased to me that being out and open about my sexuality was something that was possible.

I think that my favorite characters thought would be Max from Happy Endings and Damian from Mean Girls in that they were unabashedly gay but not stereotypically so. I’d also add the LGBTQ characters of Sense8, which is the first series to start really working with the sexuality spectrum and diverse LGBTQ people from around the world.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Regularly read LGBT blogs and news outlets. Also talk to LGBT leaders and get involved in groups. Twitter is the best outlet as you can follow outlets, leaders, and people you respect.

Describe your geographical community. My suburban community growing up was not friendly. Very heavy Republican and conservative Christian presence. Bush was pushing for a constitutional amendment and people were loving it. A lot has changed since then, but i still wouldn’t consider it friendly.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. The community in Pittsburgh and Washington vary greatly, but both have their pluses and minuses. I see an ascendant LGBTQ community in both places and am happy to be back in Pittsburgh working to help make the community more visible and active in ensuring elected officials do what is right to make PA and Pittsburgh a great place for LGBTQ people to live. DC is just bigger and more diverse than Pittsburgh, but DC’s community is wired for political action.

Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public.  People have looked while in a group of gay folks walking on the street and I was definitely made fun of while in high school. Been fortunate thus far to my knowledge in jobs / housing.

Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have been lucky, but I have heard that in Pittsburgh and many other places, including some doctors in DC, that access to PREP is actively discouraged. I think that is due to a lack of medical understanding and knowledge of current medical success.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I mentioned the issue of PREP, but general access to doctors who are knowledgeable or capable of doing procedures that effect LGBT people, especially transgender people, is not something I see happening. Also, seniors being forced to go back in the closet as they become dependent on others who may cause them discrimination based on their identity or HIV status.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Basic a non-discrimination ordinance statewide that in encompassing of job, housing, accommodation, and credit. Ensure schools are safe places and help stop bullying. Cultivate safe communities for all and prevent Republicans from passing anti-LGBT legislation that embraces discrimination, conversion therapy, and cuts to HIV and LGBTQ centered care.

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I was so happy to see the hard work of so many LGBT people culminate in such success at the DNC’s LGBT Caucus meeting at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. So many LGBT people worked with their state parties to set appropriate LGBT delegate goals and then ensured they were met (or even exceeded!)

In Philadelphia a record number of LGBT delegates assembled at the LGBT Caucus meeting which brought together LGBT and political leaders to speak and engage with over 1,000 LGBT people from across the country. As I was organizing it, it was a stressful event, but when I took a breath and looked out at the diverse group of people who were there and saw the past, present, and future of our movement. It was quite exhilarating and was event better when the Democratic Party adopted the most pro-LGBT platform in US history. When our community organizes, we can do a lot. In this case we showed up and overwhelmingly showed in the election our community stands against Trump/Pence and the Republican’s most anti-LGBT platform in history. Even with Trump’s overtures, LGBT people rejected him at the highest rate in modern history.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Misunderstanding. So many people aren’t familiar with LGBT people. While millennials are much easier going about the gender / sexuality spectrum, bisexuality and transgender people are very much at the nascency of public understanding.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? GLBT Community Center, online support groups and political groups, hotlines.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Republicans in the state legislature passing an HB 2 style law that overrides the LGBT non-discrimination ordinances in the localities like Pittsburgh and Allegheny County that have them on the books already. 

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? We elect pro-equality Democrats to office to pass the laws we need. 

What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Get politically involved and make sure they make it personal for their friends and family

How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Help with understanding. Don’t presume and don’t judge. Be welcoming, compassionate, and conversive.

What motivated you to take part in this project? We’ve got a long way to go and if we can help change the climate in western PA, it will help us all

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer.  Most impactful figure or most important event within your life. – Harvey Milk, Barney Frank.

Thank you, Sean.

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  Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.