County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Dauphin
Pronouns: she, her
How do you describe your identity? I am a woman
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I remained semi-closeted from high school through my mid-20s. I dated women and men, but no one for very long. When I was 25, I met my now fiancée. She pushed me to come out of the closet to my family and co-workers. It was uncomfortable to share with my parents that I hadn’t shared a significant part of my life with them. I remember my mother saying that she would have wanted to be there for me as support. After they knew, a great weight was lifted off of my mind. I realized how much of what I was afraid of was in my own head.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I can pass as straight. I have long brown hair and rarely wear clothing that would make me stand out as a lesbian even if it isn’t necessarily feminine. As a result I don’t endure the subtle and sometimes overt harassment that my partner bears. I have become more affectionate in public. However, there are places that I feel more comfortable holding my fiancée’s hand than others. For example, Lawrenceville feels more accepting than the South Side. I am also much more comfortable stating that I am gay to new people I meet or correcting them when they make references that assume I am with a man. Overall, I am so much happier “being out.” I have found a life partner and we are supporting one another as we follow our paths.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I met a classmate in high school who played basketball, had spiked green hair, and owned her sexuality as a lesbian. She introduced me to Ani DiFranco and helped me realize that it was okay to be attracted to women.
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Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Jeanette Winterson – Her books gave me a window into a human narrative that included lesbians.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook
Describe your geographical community. I live in Pittsburgh which has its welcoming pockets for the LGBTQ community. There are people that make me feel more welcome in some places than others, but as a woman that passes for straight I do not receive the microaggressions that I know my friends receive.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I feel well-supported with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family that are kind and understanding.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. As a woman, absolutely. Women are discriminated against in all sectors and by both men and women alike. It is hard for me to distinguish what I feel is discrimination because I am a woman versus because I am a gay woman.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) When I meet a new medical professional about half of the time their questions are open and allow me to share that I have a long-term female partner. The other half of the time, it is assumed that I have a male partner, and I need to correct them.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think everyone is affected by our education system. We need to be taught compassion and understanding for marginalized communities. So often the narratives of people of color and people in the LGBTQ community are either not told or not given the equal space of white narratives. It is easy to see people that are seemingly different from you as “others” when you are not exposed to their stories, their kindness, their humanity while growing up and come to the realization that their narrative is our collective human narrative.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Help us by protecting our civil liberties. Do not allow discrimination to be made acceptable through lawmaking.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Assumptions about people we interact with happen all the time. It is really important to use language that promotes inclusivity and demonstrates one’s openness and acceptance. I was at a brunch for a new group that I am volunteering with and purchased a silent auction prize of a fishing-themed wreath. It was a perfect addition to the office door where I work.The woman that made the wreath approached me and asked if it was for my husband. I felt obligated to share that 1) I did not have a husband, 2) my partner is a woman, and 3) that I work for an organization that promotes fishing among other outdoor recreational activities. It was awkward.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I think there is a lot of self-care that we can be educated on. Having been through a mental health first aid class, I realize how much I can struggle and need to take steps to promote embracing my feelings and knowing how to get back to a positive place. Now I have more tools to help others. Listening and knowing what resources are available to help others is really important.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I know that Pittsburgh has a number of organizations that support the LGBTQ community. I do not have much experience working with any one in particular, but am appreciative that they are there. When I seek support, I go to places that I know are welcoming of the LGBTQ community, like certain coffee shops and attend performances that have a pro-LGBTQ narrative.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? A witch hunt. To have what is currently happening to undocumented immigrants happen to me.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Inclusion and equity.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen, show up, and talk openly with others about being inclusive.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Listen, show up, and talk openly with others about being inclusive.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I wanted to share my story.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What is your coping mechanism for day to day stress? I go outside. I take a walk, bike ride, kayak paddle, or just go sit in the woods. Nature is a great healer.
Thank you, Lora.
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.