AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a new occasional series of blog posts designed to give a “signal boost” to the voices of our LGBTQ neighbors throughout Western Pennsylvania. We are using a Q&A format and will mostly avoid editing their responses. The questions, however, may change as we ask each participant to tell us what we’ve missed asking. It is one of the vibrant elements of a blog format – evolution & growth.
Our intent is to highlight the voices of marginalized members of our community who are not always invited to the table or whose voices are not heard (because “we” are not listening?) Obviously, my choice of questions does shape the conversation, but beyond that – these are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices. If you would like to participate, please email me pghlesbian at gmail or visit the online Q&A.
Bob Langley is an openly gay member of the Meadville City Council in Crawford County (Northwestern PA.) He was appointed to that office in February 2012 to fill a vacancy. I was surprised to learn that there is an openly gay man in public office in Northwestern PA, but pleasantly so. I was even more pleasantly surprised when Bob reached out to me to participate in this Q&A.
Name: Bob Langley
County of Residence: Crawford
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? A class mate in High School that was much younger than me. He was out, proud and unashamed. There was a strength that this young man had that I had never seen before. Growing up in a conservative rural community it opened my eyes.
How do you describe your identity? Male, Gay, White, Episcopalian, British and Italian. From a very open and accepting family here and in the UK. A husband, son, friend, supporter, and community advocate.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? By attending conferences throughout the country. Networking with other local LGBT individuals. And keeping abreast of LGBT Politics. As the first openly gay government official in Northwestern Pennsylvania. I must be ahead of the curve on all issues effecting and affecting my constituents. There is a responsibility and accountability to my role not only for my LGBT constituents. But others of all backgrounds that I serve in public office.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Jonathan Groff, John Barrowman, Russell Tovey, Alan Cumming, Guillermo Diaz and Zachary Quinto.
How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? As the first openly gay government official in Northwestern Pennsylvania I started the conversation. And its my responsibility to keep it moving forward. If I am not open and out there talking it will stop others from coming out. And it will help draw away from those who try and stop progress who are against our basic civil rights. After getting married I was featured in a piece in our local newspaper about getting married in New York State because at that time marriage wasn’t allowed in Pennsylvania. The publication was worried about our safety as it was front page. During that time I was not concerned it was my duty to talk about who I am. And be proud of my husband of loving him and who we are together. He is an amazing part of my life and I am very lucky to have him.
Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. We have a strong group of people in our community. I don’t know sometimes if they don’t really realize how strong they are together. They help each other everyday and are a huge support to others in the community. Crawford County is a very conservative rural community. But the LGBT folks here are the backbone of larger conversation that is happening all over this county.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity in a job setting? How about in terms of being served by a business? Please explain. My first job out of High School I was just terrorized by my co-workers. And Management did nothing to help. They kept letting it happen and I was eventually driven away. That was 25 years ago and I look back and think look how far we have come. Even though there are not employment protections in the state for LGBT people. I am very lucky to work in an environment where people respect me for what I can do and who I am. The co-workers I have in my job are great people and I love all 300+ just the same. We are a family and we stick together. It was scary when I first started there 5 years ago but now I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. n
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) The conversation of a local ordinance came up to city council where I serve. And there was a huge amount of resistance from people in the community. It was very sad and a lot of religious figures presented themselves even though they were not from our community. It was sad an even one of my fellow councilmen said he didn’t believe there was discrimination of gay people. That was very upsetting and is still very raw. People just don’t realize how hurt they can make people feel. I was told I was going to burn in hell and asked if I was a Christian.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Yes there is no discussion on PREP which is a huge health issue in this county. Beyond using protection from STD’s the use of Truvada has shown significant benefits for all not just LGBT Individuals. There is a lack of public education. We have a lot of resources that need to be utilized.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Have a State Wide non discrimination ordinance. I will fight for this long after I am in office. We have a lot going for us in Pennsylvania let’s make it better.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. People don’t believe that a gay couple can be married and successful in our area. John and I are a big part of our community and are proud of where we live. People identify us from the newspaper and television. It’s a good feeling.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Young people being terrorized in their places of worship. I have received a lot of feedback from pro LGBT religious leaders. That they have talked to a large amount kids whose churches preach hate. However, they don’t know there are churches for them who care and love.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? NW PA Pride Alliance, PFLAG, and other community resources throughout this section of Pennsylvania.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Hate Crimes, Health Issues like not having access to Medications for those effected with HIV and AIDS. Access to PREP (Truvada). And unfortunately suicide. This has become a current issue and is not discussed. That continued Discrimination will foster an environment that allows it to grow.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That they will continue work to band together in the face of discrimination.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Any outlet or resource to tell your story is important.
Thank you, Bob.
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