County of Residence: Allegheny, I work in Westmoreland Co. and Allegheny County & have lived in Washington Co.
How do you describe your identity? Queer
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was socialized to be a straight female, but as I got older, and as my children came out, I finally felt free to be out myself.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I feel freer than I’ve ever felt in my life. I become more fully myself every day.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I had some gay and lesbian friends in high school, but the most significant was my deep friendship with David Young, a brilliant artist and fashion designer. I was his muse and model. He was among the first casualties of aids and died in 1989, just as he was about to launch the first fashion collection under his own name. I was crushed by his death, and I still miss him every day.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, specifically Frank ‘N Furter. The first time I saw RHPS in the Kings Court theater in Pittsburgh, I swooned with delight. It was a defining experience, and I saw it with my dear, departed friend David Young.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I’m involved in the LGBTQIA Community in Pittsburgh, I attend conferences, use online and printed resources. I’m also a performer in the queer community. I learn a lot from my children, and we have a running conversation about current issues. I am a counselor in private practice in Westmoreland County and in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh and one of my specialties is LGBTQIA issues. I take as many trainings as I can find, but there aren’t as many resources out there as I would like.
Describe your geographical community. Washington county, where I went to middle school, high school, and my first two years of college is mostly rural, with a lot of small towns. It is just as clueless and judgmental now as it was when I lived there many years ago. I don’t believe there is even a gay bar. The family members who still live there are kind people, but white, privileged, racist and homo/transphobic. I love them, but I have to limit my exposure to them. I live in the East End of Pittsburgh, which is more inclusive and less judgmental than some other areas.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. The City of Pittsburgh, particularly the east end, is very LGBTQIA friendly. There are health care resources and counseling centers, gay bars, queer events, burlesque and drag shows, etc. Two of the best resources are the Persad Center which provides counseling and support, and the Allegheny county department of human services, which provides a monthly newsletter with many resources for the community. The Delta Foundation puts on pride events every June. There have been some problems with that. They’ve done good work in the past, but they haven’t been inclusive and intersectional. People of color and trans folks have started their own pride events. I hope the Delta Foundation can make the needed changes. The sisters of perpetual indulgence appear at many events, spreading their message of joy, love, and inclusion.
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Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Like most women I have experienced sexual discrimination in the workplace and in the world, throughout both of my careers. Since I became a business owner and licensed professional counselor in 2002 I have been the happiest and most comfortable I’ve ever been.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) My access to healthcare has been great. Our PCP is very inclusive and sensitive to our issues. The Midwife Center for birth and women’s health where I had my children, has provided most of my well-woman care and they are amazing. There are two specifically LGBTQIA medical practices nearby. Family members and a number of my clients have had great experiences there. They are Metro family health center and Central Outreach wellness center.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I fear for my trans-masculine son in so many ways. Micro aggressions, macro aggressions, misgendering, lack of job protection, personal safety, the simple human need to use the bathroom, civil and human rights issues, the new administration and its supporters who have declared open season on LGBTQIA people. In addition, I fear for the clients in my counseling practice in Westmoreland County. The population that I work with there is 50% middle to upper middle class white folks, and 50% rural working class folks. Most are closeted. Both groups experience a lot of shunning and discrimination. The rural folks in particular are in some degree of personal danger every day. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified two of the three hate groups in southwestern Pennsylvania to be in Westmoreland County: A KKK chapter and a gay conversion center. There is also a chapter of the Pagans motorcycle gang in the area.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I’d like them to address all the issues I noted above, especially civil liberties and job protection. I would also support trans care and women’s care as part of federal health care.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Our son was the president of the rainbow alliance at Pitt and was the first person to receive his diploma in his chosen name. He also represented the rainbow alliance in its lawsuit against the university regarding restroom access on campus. They were successful and both sides behaved respectfully and appropriately.
Our new church directory came out this year, and we are the first family in the parish to have a family photo which includes our son and his new name. These things give me such satisfaction and joy!
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Matters of faith, religion, and spirituality. I find that some folks don’t think one can be both a person of faith and LGBTQIA. This is currently my biggest personal struggle and the cause of a lot of pain when my faith community and my LGBTQIA Community are at odds.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I recently joined a new Facebook group for parents of trans masculine spectrum sons. I hope it becomes an effective resource and safe space for parents to discuss their concerns.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Transphobia and all of its awful outcomes.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That lesbians and gays will more outwardly support and advocate for BTQIA folks. That Pittsburgh will grow to be ” Best City to be LGBTQIA.”
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Learn as much as you can, and don’t assume that you know everything there is to know about this .
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? See above answers. I don’t want to be redundant .
What motivated you to take part in this project? Living my truth, parenting non-binary children, wanting to do the best for my family and my clients.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Q: What other “isms” have you experienced? A: Ageism. In some circles, I’m treated as if I must be clueless due to my age.
Thank you, Tracey.
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.