Name: Just another lawyer
County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? I generally don’t. It’s the advantage to presenting the way I do: I don’t have to describe anything.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? To a large degree, I never have. See above. It is just very easy (for me) to live my life as a cisgender straight guy. I’m a cisgender polyamorous bisexual guy, but nobody asks.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am not out in any real way as to bisexuality (nobody trusts bisexuals, and I just don’t want the damn trouble) and only to a fairly close group re: polyamory.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? Probably a friend and neighbor of my grandmother’s. He was a gay man, but of the generation where he married a woman, had children, and lived that part of his life in the shadows. I didn’t know he was gay until many years later, although I did know he was a fascinating, highly educated and erudite man. At the same time, though, I was growing up in Shadyside and the neighborhood had a significant out gay community (I mostly met gay men – this was in the worst days of the AIDS crisis, and I think it was becoming a survival necessity to be out then). I guess that was the first time and place in Pittsburgh that you could grow up in a place where having out gay neighbors was just an ordinary thing.
My grandmother’s friend was so close, geographically, But he was of his own time, I suppose. And he had a good life, in many ways. I often wonder what he would have been like, though, if he had been forty years younger. What does that lifetime of self-abnegation do to a person?
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Possibly Rock Hudson, on the strength of the movie Seconds.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I am a member of the ACBA LGBT Rights Committee. And Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, of course.
Describe your geographical community. It’s urban, trending to suburban.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I am involved with a couple of LGBTQ rights groups, presenting as an ally (again, nobody wants to hear that you’re bisexual). I have LGBTQ friends and neighbors – which I suppose is why I am a member of LGBTQ rights groups. It’s not for me: I can disappear anywhere.
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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. No, never.
Have you experienced microagressions based on your identity? Think everyday indiginities & slights that you experience, but would not characterize as discrimination. Please describe in your own words. No. Not as an adult, anyway. When I was a teenager I experimented with being out as bi in a limited way, and it went poorly. That is the reason, I suppose, I am not out today.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Because of how I present, this is not really something I am competent to answer.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? The soft bigotry built into the willingness of people who should be allies to allow discriminatory beliefs to be dismissed as “just politics” and not the sort of thing that is worth raising a fuss over. I see it in myself all the time. It takes very real work for me to overcome that impulse, because it’s so easy. And it’s even harder to hold other people to a standard I can’t always meet.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Proper national, or failing that, statewide anti-discrimination laws with real teeth would be a good start.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. A strange thing about being kind of half-closeted, but wanting to have romantic and sexual relationships nonetheless creates a segmentation of identity that I suspect is not created by other ways of being closeted. It has become such second nature that it mostly doesn’t even occur to me that there are things that everyone knows, and things that few know, and things that almost no one knows. It’s almost like creating multiple personalities for different situations. Which, of course everyone does to some degree (cf code switching), but I think that it may be more so for someone in my position? It’s been beneficial in my work to be able to do that — as a lawyer, the job is to represent the positions and interests of the client, and sometimes different clients take very different positions. It’s hard for some people to go argue one principle, then go argue an entirely other principle for another client. I find it easy.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I have a difficult time drawing the line where discrimination ends, but if it’s short of the limited cultural representation of different ways of being LGBTQ, it’s probably there, tying in with the assumption that cis, straight, masculine-presenting men and feminine-presenting women are the norm, and everything else is a deviation – and often a deviation set within its own limited range of tropes. Obviously this is a problem that intersects with a lot of other things (race, disability, national origin, religion, and a many others). This obviously has changed since I was a kid (to the degree that there were gay people in media when I was a kid, they resembled the gay people in my neighborhood not at all – and I think trans people weren’t even allowed in media that kids could watch then). But where in media is someone like my friend and former coworker, a trans man, and also a lawyer, and also a scientist, and also a kind, clever, fascinating nerd who is all of those things in equal measure? Maybe humanity is too much to capture in fiction. But surely everyone can be more than one or two things.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I don’t know what to say that any reader of this wouldn’t already know. Persad. GLCC. Proud Haven, of course.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? As our politics get crueler and more dangerous, that LGBTQ people find themselves the chosen scapegoat and target for violence again. This doesn’t require a significant change in public opinion to happen: one of the features of violent oppression is that it can be done by a small minority if the majority is too frightened, or simply too lacking in conviction to act sufficiently.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That it becomes like the Italian community or the Irish community one day: a source of pride and identification, a happy community to be part of, but no longer necessary to individual daily survival.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Speak. Don’t go the easy way. I know that I am the wrong messenger for this message, but I can see my own faults and hope others can do better. Maybe even help me to do better.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? It’s the same as allyship – but harder. It’s not an enviable position.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Sue asked. The work she’s done over the last years has been extremely important, and I wanted to help. I could have helped more, at other times, but characteristically I didn’t. Maybe this is the start of doing more? Hope so.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I don’t know one.
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.