Miss Erie Pride 2015: Embrace Who We Are Meant To Be #AMPLIFY

Erie Gay
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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 minimize 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.

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

In recognition of Erie Pride, I am publishing Erie based folks this week. Our final entry is from Valerie Valentino, Miss Erie Pride 2015.

Name: Valerie Valentino

Age: 23

Preferred Pronouns: He

County of Residence: Erie

How do you describe your identity? i am an openly homosexual male.

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out at the young age of 14. Not many individuals in my age group were able to voice openly but I was always very open about myself to others and simply explained it was ok to be who you were meant to be. But unfortunately there weren’t any groups that we had to break out of the shell of being closeted.

How would you describe yourself in terms of “being out”? i live my life to the fullest never letting anything stand in my way. I get to experience so much while being involved in the art of female impersonation. So many unique and different people that I consider friends and great company. So my experience has been pretty amazing being out.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The very first person I met was my High School guidance counselor. He helped me to learn to embrace who I was and to use my talents to embark on a career that I would be happy in for the rest of my life. I may not have thought then that I would be a female impersonator but I know now that this is how I embrace myself as a person and how I feel all of my talents can come to life through Valerie.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? i read local news articles through online database. I also stay very focused on what’s relevant in LGBTQ issues with my job as a female illusionist because I here all the latest news and buzz while being in the gay nightlife on a daily basis

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? Ellen Degenerous she is talented witty and kind to all those around her. I hope to be able to express myself the same through my art

Describe your geographical community. suburban

Tell me about your local or regional LGBTQ community. the groups and centers available to the youth amazes me. If only myself and the children of my generation could have had those resources maybe then they would have been able to experience life a lot easier.

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. yes been discriminated because through the art of female illusionism although it maybe very beautiful and well thought out I get ridiculed by patrons all the time because being a biological male and wearing woman’s clothing is out of there ordinary

Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) i believe my community is coming up in the times and is becoming more understanding.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? no

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? no comment

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. no comment

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? nothing honestly

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? not anything but newspapers and articles for them to read

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? the amount of transgender killings that keep growing not necessarily in Pennsylvania but all over the world

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? that at some point people will not judge but be accepting of all kinds because no one was made the same

What motivated you to take part in this project? because I feel as Miss Gay Erie 2015 is was right that viewers were able to see a little bit about myself and personal experiences. That I may have a piece to give back and give to others that may need advice or to help them feel a little more at ease

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. you asked everything that is very important

Thank you, Valerie.

If you would like to participate in this Q&A series, please visit our online form. You can also email pghlesbian at gmail dot com to participate. We welcome voices from across the community – everyone has a story to tell.

Pittsburgh Lesbian
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