County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? Gay
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Many. I was raised in a small town in Ohio. Most people come from a Christian background and not a particularly liberal one. I was lucky enough to have fairly liberal parents on most subjects. When it came to me being gay, however, it was not okay. I was out at school and at work and though I’d faced the typical redneck response here or there, for most people it was a non-issue. One night my mom went into the restaurant that I worked in and my boss told her about a date I’d gone on. It didn’t go over well. I got every lecture in the book. “What would God say”, “You won’t find love”, all of them. I made a misguided attempt to leave home (I was 17) to stay with a man I’d been talking to online. My dad came and got me and brought me back home. Although we struggled from time to time my homosexuality was largely ignored.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Very out but respectful and quieter around certain people.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I honestly don’t remember.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. This will sound so superficial but Michael Novotny from Queer as Folk (US). I found so much of myself in him. He was a hometown boy who loved his mom fiercely. He was a beautiful mind who didn’t know how beautiful he was. Hell, he read comics and owned that. Though I found a lot of myself in Brian Kinney as well Michael was me through and through. I learned it was okay to be that person.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Mostly online. Though I do my best to steer clear of Facebook except for the magazines and sites I follow.
Describe your geographical community. I live in a semi-suburban area. We aren’t far from downtown Pittsburgh. The people here are for the most part very gay friendly. Our immediate neighbors, save for a few, are very welcoming. We fly our Pride flag year round and it has never been met with anything but a positive response.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Drama. There always seems to be drama. Many people in the local community are so fickle and will drop you in a second if it suited them. It’s all very superficial and sometimes cruel. It’s a struggle to find real friends in the community, if it can be called that. I’ve had the unfortunate circumstances of finding too many users and people who just don’t care about anyone but themselves but I’ve also had the extreme other end of the spectrum where I’ve found my family.
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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. Fortunately, no I have not.
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, most definitely. But I feel like I’ve learned to live with it.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have excellent health care. I live with HIV and I am never without care. Be it for my physical or mental health both are greatly provided for.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Healthcare. That’s a leading issue for many of us. True, strong, interpersonal relationships and being able to find a close group you can trust are another.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Assistance with finding health insurance, housing and peer counseling.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I’d really rather not. I feel like I’ve talked it all to death.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Self awareness and self esteem. Depression and anxiety. Internalized homophobia and racism.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? None are completely friendly.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Republicans. Seriously, the GOB gaining control and slowly eliminating us.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I’m a pessimistic, artist. I’ll talk about hope once Trump is gone.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Just support. Don’t act like you’re one of us or as if you completely understand our struggle.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? I’m not the right person to answer this question.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I was asked.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Can you, in detail describe your life post coming out? There isn’t enough space, time or energy to tell someone’s story. Let’s just say it did get better though it is not how I thought it would be.
Thank you, Eric.
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.