County of Residence: Allegheny. Grew up in Crawford. College in Mercer
How do you describe your identity? Gay, Trans Guy, Polyamorous, Christian, Parent, Husband.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I first came out to my husband as trans in 2012. I was terrified to call Persad. I was nearly ready to pick up the phone and call, then overheard my 3-year-old daughter’s daycare teacher say something about “some [trans expletive] picking up their niece” and I ran face-forward back into the closet. In early 2016 I had what could be best described as a breakdown on “Trans Day of Visibility” where a lot of folks I knew were trans came out publicly. If they could do it, I thought, so could I. I told my husband “this is happening,” and called Persad and set up my appointment for my first therapy session. I was very lucky to have support from my family, trans friends and an online community of LGBT+ tech folks to guide me through hormones, name change, and surgery.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Coming out and deciding to transition was the hardest but best choice of my life! I’ve noticed that I never smiled in photos before transition, and not I’m beaming.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? We had neighbors in our very conservative town in Crawford County, where I grew up, who were gay. They were Kevin and Kevin. My mom told me that they were “just like mom and dad, but both boys.”
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Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe. She crafted a world of feminine agender characters who tackle queer themes – and it’s for children!
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, Twitter, LGBT Tech community
Describe your geographical community. I grew up in an area that was not LGBT friendly. I went to college in Mercer county in the early 2000s, and we tried to start an LGBTQ alliance, and were told by the college that we could not be an official group. Currently, the on-campus club is official and flourishing! My immediate neighborhood is unaware of my transition, officially. Neighbors no longer approach me, but we’re all “keep to ourselves” types.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I used to sing with Renaissance City Choir, but I’m waiting for my testosterone-changing voice to settle. The fine folks at Persad. There’s a small group of trans guys in the area who get together.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Not specifically. People around me say that I pass 100% as male, and I’m always perceived in public as such. When I’m out with my husband and my daughter, though, I’m often called “m’am.” We’ve chalked this up to heteronormativity that my kid “can’t have two dads.” Having that happen hurts.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) My original PCP I had for 10 years was not skilled in trans health (if at all). I found wonderful care at Metro Community Health, for both my primary care and for hormones.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? As with most of the trans community, there’s very little space for transmasc folk. When trans people get together, the composition of trans masculine folk is about 1/4 of the population. With such small numbers, we (transmascs) have a difficult time relating to conversations about dresses and makeup that are a huge part of the transfemme experience. I think this is the reason there’s not a lot of inter-mingling of all trans folks, and a solution needs to be found.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Make it so that we don’t have to publish our names and visit state police for fingerprinting when we change our names! I never felt more like a potential criminal than when I changed my name.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I’m organist at my church, which is attended mostly by people over the age of 50. When I came out, they wanted to learn more and promised that they still loved me and would be there for me. I wish more churches were like this.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Psychological care. It’s very difficult to get in for therapy as a transgender person in Allegheny county.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad, GLCC, Renaissance City Choirs, Aids Task Force.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we who are not white, cisgender gay men will feel left out at Pride, yet again. I’m hoping that this year has major improvements.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? To see more people of color and gender non-conforming folks feel more comfortable in the greater community.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Attend marches. Write your representitives when you hear about LGBTQ discrimination.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Please, PLEASE just hear our voices. Understand that a lot of us don’t desire heteronormativity and don’t want to play respectability politics.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I figured I’m out – why not be out and loud? 🙂
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Can’t think of any
Thank you, Joel.
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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.