Name: Chris Rickert
County of Residence: Allegheny County. Born in upstate NY, moved to Pittsburgh to attend CMU. Never left.
Preferred Pronouns: she/her
How do you describe your identity? I’m an Aspie. A queer girl with some kinks. Italian-Scottish-Irish-German.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out was definitely easier for me than I think it is for many other people. I was in college when I realized that I had always been attracted to women as well as men, and my friends were supportive. I don’t think it was really a surprise to anyone who knew me.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I think the most correct term for me is “pansexual” but I prefer to label myself queer. It’s a wide umbrella, and I’ve always considered this part of my life an evolving work of art. My family and friends are aware of my preferences, and while I’m engaged to a man I make it clear that I’m no less queer than I was at any other time of my life.
I’m definitely much more vocal about this part of my identity than I ever was before. (I’m just not that much of a sharer) But I think that as a business owner and artist working in Pittsburgh, I can encourage others to be more comfortable with who they are if I show that I’m comfortable first.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first openly gay person in my life was my uncle Tony, who died of AIDS complications when I was 13. It’s impossible to measure Tony’s impact on my life. His kindness, his enthusiasm, his generous nature and his sense of humor were all qualities I treasure in others and seek to cultivate in myself.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. To hang out with: Willow Rosenberg from Buffy (loyal, awkward, smart) As a co-worker: Mr Humphries from Are You Being Served (bold, witty, empathetic) For a hot date: Shane from The L Word (I don’t have to explain this do I?)
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Social media, contact with my friends.
Describe your geographical community. Southside (where I live) is pretty mixed in terms of any demographic you can think of. Dormont (where I own a business) is less diverse, but very welcoming.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I think the Pittsburgh LGBT community is a wonderful, welcoming place. I work 60+ hours a week, and I’m not overly social, so I don’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities to meet people, but I’m so glad they are out there!
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Again, I have the privilege of “passing” as straight, so no.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I don’t know that any of my care would relate to my orientation (girl dating guy, doctors pretty much check off the “straight” box)
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think we have a long way to go on trans issues, but I’ve seen some good steps taken in the area related to bathroom usage in schools. I’m sure that more needs to be done to offer support to LGBTQ teens, especially those who need to get out of their living situations.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Ban discrimination for LGBTQ people in any legal matters, all public spaces. Create a comprehensive set of laws to ensure an individual’s right to identify their own gender, to seek medical treatment relevant to that identity and to have that treatment covered by insurance. Create support systems to aid in changing gender designations on paperwork/ ID etc.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I see so many people lifting others up right now, in our community and in other communities, I know that most of the country is as scared as I am right now. But If all the good people keep lifting each other up, we can reach great heights together.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Technically still discrimination, but I worry a lot about what non-intersectional feminism and LGBTQ groups that ignore the specific struggles of POC are the next hurdle we need to get past.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Refuge Restroom!
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Lack of intersectionality and openness to the constantly evolving understanding of identity.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Continued opening of our minds and hearts. Twenty years ago most people didn’t understand a quarter of what we know now about gender, orientation and the thousands of combinations of these and other identity elements that make up a person. I hope I can say that again in twenty more years.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Shop LGBTQ businesses, help identify opportunities to help others in need.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? (internal groaning) Understand and fight bi-erasure. Let go of stupid old stereotypes like “bisexuals just don’t want to admit they are gay” accept that gender and orientation are fluid, and for some they are VERY FLUID. If someone identified as queer and then they suddenly aren’t, support them.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I was asked!
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What’s one thing you do to practice self-care when you get stressed?
Count to ten and breathe deeply.
Play a video game for a few minutes.
Get back to work.
Thank you, Chris!
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.