County of Residence: Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: I don’t care what other people say.
How do you describe your identity? I don’t bother to define it or claim any term. People can think/say whatever they want. I don’t feel responsible for what’s in other people’s heads.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? In one sense, I didn’t have a coming-out–I just started dating a woman. There was no “aha, I’m THIS” moment. I just dated whoever I pleased.
On the other hand, I had to come out to my parents twice. I dated a woman in the 90’s (in my 40’s), they met her, we talked about it. Then I didn’t mention any of my short-term relationships for years. Then I met the woman I eventually married. When it started to get serious, I thought I should tell them. I started off with my dad: “Dad, you know how I’ve been dating women the past few years?” Turns out he had honestly forgotten. So I explained it, and then I went downstairs and had the EXACT SAME conversation with my mom.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Belligerently out, I would say.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first one, I believe, was the head of the IT Support unit I worked in at Pitt as a student–in 1977. She was an out lesbian heading up a technical team (I answered phones). She was so out that she had our department holiday party at her and her girlfriend’s house. Did I mention this was 1977? Life has come full circle, as now I’m heading up a technical team, and am an out lesbian at a law firm.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Oh, Tim Gunn, hands down. He’s the single most fabulous person in the world.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Hmm, interesting question. I think Facebook is probably my best news source on that subject.
Describe your geographical community. My wife and I live in the city (Pittsburgh). I grew up in the suburbs (Wilkins Twp), but I’ve been strictly urban since college.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. For some years now, pretty much everyone I know has been gay. Even before I started dating women, all my friends were gay men. I’ve even started contemplating where we should retire to–not sure I want to spend my “golden years” with a bunch of straight people.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. If I have been discriminated against, I never knew. As I said, I just barrel on through and expect compliance, and I generally get it. I am the only out LGBTQ person at my firm, and I hammered on them for a couple of years to get my health insurance for my wife (before our DC marriage was legal in PA). They eventually just gave up and instituted Domestic Partner benefits for everyone.
Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not) I honestly don’t even notice where my geographical area is LGBTQ-friendly or not. I just barrel on through doing my thing.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? We have a gay African-American son (teenager), and he’s very much aware that his family and community of origin aren’t gay-friendly, particularity to boys. I don’t feel able to address this except to support and encourage him individually.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Approve the anti-discrimination bills.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The only thing I can think of is how much I love when people stumble over my saying “my wife.” I look totally conventional, and people often don’t expect it.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? It’s all discrimination, isn’t it? No matter what the issue, if it isn’t about some form of discrimination, it’s not an issue.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Really, I’m only aware of online stuff, except for Persad.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That having gotten pretty much what everyone else has (marriage, eventually the non-discrimination act), the community will gradually disappear. Already there are fewer & fewer bars & gay gathering places. remember Bloomers?
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we manage to actually STAY a community, if only for the sake of kids who have trouble coming out.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Vote.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Vote.
What motivated you to take part in this project? It was a whim. A time-consuming whim 😉
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How large IS your community–how many LGBTQ people do you interact with regularly? For me, almost all outside of work.
Thank you, Diane.
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.