County of Residence: Allegheny County,
How do you describe your identity? cis polyamorous bisexual/queer woman
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out at 18 to most people, and overall my friends and family were very supportive. I was very thankful to be mainly in a university environment at the time.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am pretty out as bisexual/queer, mostly everyone I know knows that I am queer, and I even post about it on social media from time to time. However, I am more hesitant about who I tell that I am polyamorous.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? Hmm, I think the first LGBTQ person I knew was a set of parents (two moms) of one of my elementary school friends. I don’t think they had a direct impact on me at the time, but they showed me that families do not have to consist of typical heteronormative structures.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. It is so hard to choose just one but I have to say Freddie Mercury (of the band Queen) because his work was genius and reached so many people at a time when it was not yet accepted fully to be any kind of LGBTQ.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Through social media mostly, but also local and national organizations and websites.
Describe your geographical community. I live in the city of Pittsburgh, in the Shadyside/Oakland area; this is also where I grew up.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I have found a strong community through my university (Chatham), as well as locally with various organizations and groups.
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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. I have not that I know of, thankfully.
Have you experienced microagressions based on your identity? Think everyday indignities & slights that you experience, but would not characterize as discrimination. Please describe in your own words. Yes, especially in the dating scene people assume I am promiscuous or up for anything just because I am poly and bi. I have also had friends be judgmental at least about my polyamorous lifestyle, even calling out my dating habits in public before.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) My healthcare access has been fine, but I am not sure if my doctors are LGBTQ competent or not because it has never really come up. I have received STI/HIV testing at the Allegheny Country Health Department and the Allies for Health + Wellbeing, where I did disclose my identity and in both cases was met with understanding. Specifically, Allies for Health + Wellbeing was very affirming and knowledgable.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think the dangers that trans women, especially trans women of color, face every day are highly ignored, especially while the major pride events are focused more on partying and celebrating than human rights. We all need a space to feel open enjoy ourselves authentically, but not when that same money could help keep people safe.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I think the biggest issues I would like to see resolved are homelessness, health issues, and discrimination.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. When I first realized I was poly, I was dating a man and a woman casually at the same time. We were at a cast party for a show that we had a all been a part of (I think “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown”) and we were watching the movie Whiplash and I was cuddling them both at the same time, and it is one of my most fond memories.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I would have to say mental health issues and poverty.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad Center, The Trevor Project, The Trans Lifeline, Allies for Health + Wellbeing, Central Outreach, Human Rights Campaign, People’s Pride, and so many more that I can’t think of right now
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Violence against us
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That people will continue to accept us more and more, and everyone can live authentically and openly
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Support our rallies, our events, our businesses. Put their money where their mouth is. Keep posting on social media, but do more than just that too.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Recognize that they can also be biased and to avoid prejudice against these groups. Also, gay men and lesbians need to recognize that out of the this community, they do generally have the most privilege.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I think visibility can help people feel more accepted and help others gather understanding too. People fear the unknown more than anything else.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. When did you realize you were queer? I think the first time I really recognized I was attracted to women was middle school when I had my first crush. I realized I was poly in college.
Thank you, Jess.
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.