An occasional series where we pose some questions to local LGBTQ folks (and Allies) to learn more about their personal experiences with LGBTQ culture. Click here for a complete list of all LGBTQ&A profiles.
I can’t remember how/when I met Matt, but he is one of the first people to come to mind when I think of the words “ally” or “feminist.” Not kidding in the least – Matt embodies those concepts. Matt has directed some of the major progressive victories in this region and is currently spearheading Bill Peduto’s campaign for Mayor among others. What I really like about Matt is that he believes in a better Pittsburgh & he dedicates himself to that vision. And Matt is one of those rare people who can really laugh at himself – a great quality.
Name: Matt Merriman-Preston
Affiliation: Political Consultant / Principal, Ampersand Consulting
Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. I was the first person in my family who my sister came out to. I was really honored that she trusted me in that way at a time when she was really uncertain about how the rest of the family would react. (They were supportive and quite loving through the whole process.) I had to teach myself how to rise up to the responsibility of being a loving and supporting older brother — was it better to show excitement or nonchalance? In the end, it came pretty naturally to continue to be a friend and to keep equality as a central part to my political identity.
How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? My twitter & facebook feeds are a constant stream of news and information that’s important to me, including local & worldwide news on issues important to the LGBTQ community.
What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? The fight for marriage equality and the rapidly increasing acceptance are going to be judged by history as one of the most important social movements of this time, but I still think that the most important immediate issues facing the LGBTQ community are bread and butter, pocketbook issues. There’s a continuing fight for workplace equality. Pennsylvania lags behind other states in terms of protection from housing discrimination. Young people who are LGBTQ-identified are at a much higher risk for homelessness and suicide. It’s hard to really narrow all of our needs down to one over-riding issue, but with each political victory that we gain, the next should be that much closer.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? It shouldn’t be a shock, considering my profession, but I’d like to see more outright, grassroots activism in support of candidates who are good on our issues. I’d like to see more people voting & volunteering for and giving money to good candidates. I’d like to see real organizing within the LGBTQ community that supports elected officials — like Bill Peduto, Natalia Rudiak, Bruce Kraus, Erin Molchany, and others — who have a real and demonstrated commitment to equality. When I see leaders of LGBTQ-focused organizations supporting candidates who have been openly hostile to equality, it’s no wonder to me that real, significant organizing can seem like such an impossible task.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? I always really loved the way that Michael C. Hall’s character was portrayed in Six Feet Under. His struggles always felt more real to me than the caricatures that I was used to seeing.
What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Vote in each and every election. Support candidates that support equality.
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