John is a Geeky, White, Cisgender, Queer, Pagan, Proletariat Hippie #AMPLIFY

Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.

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. Western Pennsylvania

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.

You can read the other Q&A responses here.  AMPLIFY! LGBTQ is a project of Most Wanted Fine Art and Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.


John saw a reference to this series on the Steer Queer site and decided – literally – that since he was bored, he would participate. I’m quite glad he did. Not only does he ask some thought-provoking questions about how we access health care and find like-minded people with whom to socialize, he is unafraid to talk about his privilege. I don’t agree with everything he says, but this is his story in his voice.

Name: John

Age: 34

County of Residence: Allegheny

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? His name was Dante. We went to the same high school in NE Ohio and he was about eight years older than me at the time. He had a masters in dance from UCLA and had moved back home to get his head clear after his diagnosis with HIV.

We talked a lot and he kind of set me on the path away from the shit hole we grew up in. He showed me that no matter the bullshit this homophobic and racist culture throws at you, you got to keep moving forward and living your life.

How do you describe your identity? I am a geeky, white, cisgender, queer, pagan, proletariat hippie.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Towleroad, my FB feed, The Mary Sue for the more geeky and feminist related stuff.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? It’s a toss-up between Willow from Buffy, or captain Jack Harkness from the DR Who universe.

How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? Completely.

Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. Even though I live in the city my boyfriend and I are rather cut off from the wider community. We hang out with an awesome crew of geeky people of which we are the token gay men. A lot of our lady friends are bisexual and some are kinky, but live mostly hetero lives. The exception of being two of our friends from Pennsic who make regular appearances at the game nights. we’ve known these two awesome ladies for years and were ecstatic when they finally got together!

We want to get out more often and meet more queer folks, but its difficult meeting guys who share our interests and aren’t racist or misogynist assholes. and with both of us working demanding careers we need our weekly geek-togethers to recharge!

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. In terms of being served by a business… we are two tall bears. No one really messes with us. That’s privilege for ya.

On the job its been… different. With my soon to be husband moving into work for the city, and being represented by AFSCME, we won’t have to worry about much on that front. But in his previous employment he stayed closeted out of fear of how his suburban coworkers would react.

Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) Our circle of geeks are totally cool. No heterosexist comments. Active discussions about privilege and rape culture. Deconstructing the bullshit around us one sarcastic quip at a time.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Well. Given my own personal struggles trying to acquire PrEP on a bronze level health plan I’ve noticed that there is very little dialogue about access to this prevention method on the national level, much less the local. Just so you are aware, it’s really difficult. I had to apply for a grant; that will only last me for about three months worth. Then I don’t know what I have to do to stay on it.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Improve access to health care and economic opportunities for transgender folks. Cuz that situation is fucked up.

Please share any anecdotes about life as a LGBTQ person in your community that might help outsiders better understand. So this one time, My BF and i are walking hand in hand in Friendship Park. This douche-bro driving in a sad, beat up little corolla yelled, “Faggots!!” as loud as he could muster.
I started laughing, and yelled back, “YUP!”
“what?” my boyfriend asked.
“That backwoods, Natrona heights asshat called us faggots.”
“Whatever.” he said and he kissed me.
it didn’t last long because I was waiting to see if the creep would circle the park and come back for more, but he never did.
It was then that I realized that as long as I have this blissfully unobservant man, and ready access to trash can lids, I would be all right.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Not having decent paying work.

Being shackled with shit loads of student loan debt.

Worrying about what that bronze level health plan doesn’t get you.

the usual anxiety about getting run over in East Liberty.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? the Persad center moved to Larryville, but it’s still in the city at least. The Pittsburgh Aids Taskforce is an awesome resource too. They’re some cool folks.
And the Univ of Pitt Aids Center for Treatment has been doing some awesome things too.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? that we’ll become more complacent than we already are in regards to racial justice and economic opportunity for our people who need it most.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we can achieve Zero new HIV infections in ten years.

What motivated you to take part in this project? I’ve written for Steer queer and think y’all are cool. And I’ve read the PGH Lesbians Correspondents for a while now and am head over heels in love with their editorial perspective.

Also I’m bored.


Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer Would you be interested in attending a public water balloon fight? The answer is Yes.

Thanks, John.

If you would like to participate in a future Q&A, please visit our survey or contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com.

Good news – AMPLIFY is going on the road this summer. We’ll be traveling to some Western PA events where you can meet with us face to face to complete the Q&A or learn more. Upcoming events include:

  • July 19 at Butler PFLAG Pride Picnic
  • July 26 at Pittsburgh Black Pride BBQ
  • August 14 at Washington County GSA Summer Picnic
  • August 16 at Westmoreland PFLAG Pride Picnic
  • August 29 at Erie Pride
  • October TBA Johnstown Halloween Parade

Pittsburgh Lesbian



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