Jesse Talks About Living as a Trans Woman in A Culture of Fear

Transgender Pittsburgh

Name:  Jesse Oak Rise

Age:  32

County of Residence:  Allegheny

Preferred Pronouns: She / her

How do you describe your identity? While physically I appear more masculine, spiritually I feel more feminine and doing what I can to make my physical self aligned with my spiritual self while trying to avoid (more) harassment, beatings, and the possibility of death.

My identity down the road may evolve more as I do. After all, spiritually speaking we’re neither male or female but the embodiment of both.

While sexually I am attracted to men, this has nothing to do with one’s body. Both my last and current partner are Trans Men. This is not to exclude women, but never tried.

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out as gay for 14 years of my life was one of those unspoken about things when it came to everyone in my family but my father and stepmother. I was bashed when I was a teen.

Only recently have I found myself under the Trans umbrella per how I see myself inside which coincide with my spirituality. Recently I experienced true and utter hate towards my Transness.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am out to my family and friends, but still do not feel safe in being out in any way in public.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? It’s between Sarah-Wade and Dizzi. Dizzi I met in school, and Sarah-Wade I met at the GLCC back when it was in Squirrel Hill. That was, oh… 16 years ago I met Sarah-Wade and around 18 or 19, I think, when I met Dizzi.

They both, in their own way, guided me to be the person I am now.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. The biggest impact on me when I was young was the US version of Queer as Folk. I honestly can’t pick one character from it because there are a few that resonated with me. If I had to pick one, it would be Justin Taylor, because his beginning journey was similar to my own at the time.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Usually through Facebook friends and groups.

Describe your geographical community. I live within the city limits, so I’d have to say urban.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Many people have described the overall community in Pittsburgh, PA. What more can I say?

I just wish I could participate more.

Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes, I was physically assaulted in 2000 / 2001 when I was at Job Corps when I identified as gay. My lower chest was black and blue and I was made to swallow powdered bleach.

As Trans* I was verbally assaulted on 9/6/15 being called “it” and “thing”.

Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not) The community at large I find friendly and inviting. Like community, there are aspects one may choose to avoid, like the bars, and people who may not show the best of the community. *This is not aimed at anyone particularly, if you think it’s aimed at you, it isn’t*.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Pittsburgh has a long way to go in improving civil rights and laws for the community at large. I still use the men’s room for the sake of avoiding arguments and embarrassment.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I would like elected officials to bring members of the community on board more than they have, especially when it comes to Trans members of rhe community.

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Clothes are clothes in my eyes, but I have fear of wearing anything but “male” clothes if I am on public transit and off I’m not going to a GLBTQAI friendly space. Too many Trans Women have died for being themselves and, if I don’t become one of those statistics, then I will be one that continues to face unemployment unless I improve life for me.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Lack of proper mental or physical health care for Trans needs.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? The GLCC in downtown Pittsburgh and PERSAD come to mind.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That things will get worse before they get better

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That, one day soon, we will come together as a true community.

What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Educate yourself more about what people are going through before you judge them.

How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Educate yourself more about what people are going through before you judge them.

What motivated you to take part in this project? I owe it to myself, the community, and to my previous mentor, Nancy Evelyn Gold.   Plus I promised Sue I would.

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer.  None. 

Thank you, Jesse.

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.



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