County of Residence: Allegheny. Other than Great Lakes Naval Base from ’73-’76 (baby to toddler) lifelong Greater Pgh Area resident.
Preferred Pronouns: She/her
How do you describe your identity? Officially: Queer. Subtitled: Bisexual, bi-romantic, and Demi all the way.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I’m both bisexual and demisexual. The biggest challenge: vocabulary and accepted existence of those things. I came out when I was 32 as bi. My mom was…Accepting but still doesn’t quite grasp why being vocally out matters to me. I was probably 40 when I learned about the asexual spectrum. A lot clicked for me, then. I’m lucky that my employer for the last 11 years is a very Queer-embracing environment. I decided that I prefer to id as Queer about 2 years ago. My mom still hears it as a slur, and explaining a reclaimed word isn’t easy. Bisexuality, and both intra-community and heteronormative erasure, is the hard part. If I express an attraction to a man, I’m not queer enough. If I express an attraction to a woman, and people don’t already know me, I’m a Lesbian. How I specifically identify is part of me, and it would be nice if I didn’t feel like I had to constantly SAY I’m bisexual in order to have people stop assigning and identity of THEIR choosing, to me.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Out in my :life: not out in my neighborhood. Too many right wing people. I’m scared to be out to them. I want nothing more than to get out of this area.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My godfather. He and his partner were surrogate fathers to me after my parents split up.He’s also my cousin and he’s still… forcibly closeted within the family. We’re no longer close for other reasons. But I grew up not thinking being gay meant you were bad (Important, in my Catholic experience.)
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Creator: the Wachowski Sisters. Characters: Nomi Marks (Sense8)
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Twitter, friends, orgs I support.
Describe your geographical community. Suburban. East of Pgh. Not especially QUILTBAG friendly, no. I wouldn’t talk about going to Pride around here, in Public. I grew up in Pgh, and lived through the ’70s where my mom would party at Pegasus with my godfather and his partner. I lived through the ’80s where my godfather went to too many funerals. I’ve seen the changes, but it still feels like not enough. I visit Canada regularly and it’s just… normal, there, to see businesses advertising to Same-sex couples. To see those couples represent an average family, because they do, numerically.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I have a fairly good group of friends and colleagues, but my home area is… Not great and I’ve had some negative experiences with the Pgh community being very white, very cis, very class privileged, very LG dominated and very trans exclusionist. I may be cis, but I’m not going to sit by and ignore that. It’s a little… Lonely. I commute into the city, but coming back in isn’t always easy just to socialize and I’m not in my 20s, clubbing is just not my thing.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. No
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) It’s not something I bring up with my providers. Largely from fear.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? In my home area? Probably everything. There aren’t many visibly out people, here. In Pgh? I think the Intersectional aspects of LGBTQIA identity, race, class, and gender, aren’t getting enough attention.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? ANTIDISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION AND FUNDING.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. It’s 2017 and even though I work in a metropolitan area where there’s less overt discrimination, and the city has anti-discrimination ordinances, I live less than 15 miles away and I’m still scared to be out. In 2017.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Access to enough LGBTQIA competent, low-income accessible health (incl mental health) services. Non-alcohol oriented social spaces or events. (Not even SOBER events, just things not designed around a party atmosphere.)
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Home area? I don’t know of any.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That the new federal administration will not only take us back 50 years, but embolden the state legislature to do so. And how much young out kids (or not out at home kids) will suffer.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we survive the next 4 years without too much harm and that we break down as many intra-community barriers as possible in order to grow.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Show up. Listen. Do more than the basics. Get uncomfortable with their own privilege.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Stop excluding and questioning our identities’ validity.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I saw the link and said, “Why not.”
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I can’t think of one. This is the first time I’ve every done a questionnaire with this many essay form questions about this and it kinda exhausted me.
Thank you, Kristen.
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.