County of Residence: Allegheny, Westmoreland, then Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: complete person, happy woman
How do you describe your identity? I am an American, who is a white bi-sexual woman, of German, English, and Scottish background.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out as bi-sexual to my ex-husband, before we were married. He was understanding, because he said he already knew. He saw my attraction to women, but never told me, until I told him. I was in the Navy, as was my husband, at this time, so I never told another person. My uncle, and his partner already knew, but kept it private. I came out to family, and friends, when I retired. It was a a feeling of freedom, when I did this. I got support from the local LGBT center.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I feel like a complete person now. I sometimes feel unsure relating to gay, and lesbian friends. I like both sexes, and people try to understand this, but have a hard time with it.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My uncle Dick, and his partner Peter. They were partners my whole life. They both are dead now, and are buried in the same grave.(creamated). They loved me my whole life. I did not understand they were gay, when I was young. When I got older, they explained that some people loved the same sex. They said people were born this way, and it was OK. When I was about 12 years old, I found that I liked both boys, and girls. I called their home ,confused, and Peter explained I was bi-sexual, what it was, and how to live with it. This helped me feel normal.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. The actress, and comic, Lilly Tomlin. She showed a lesbian woman can play a wide range of characters.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I belong to a local over 50 LGBT group. I also attend a LGBT church. I find out about activities, through them.
Describe your geographical community. I live in the Eastern suburbs, of Pittsburgh, PA. Where I live, Oakmont, PA, is a small, suburban community, with a central area, with stores. I do not know if it is LGBT friendly, due to only telling a few close neighbors, and friends, about myself.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. The Pittsburgh,PA area has a wide variety of activities,and support groups, for LGBT people. I feel that the area I live in, Pittsburgh East, lacks activities, and support groups. I would like to have more groups in areas other than just Pittsburgh. The church I sometimes attend, is in Monroeville, PA, so this is more local for me.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I stayed in the closet most of my life, due to fear of being fired. I also did not tell any landlord I had, because I did not want to be evicted. My state still has legal discrimination, in employment.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I feel that bi-sexual people could use more support, from the local community.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I want then to end all discrimination in employment.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. The church I attend, had a webinar about bi-sexuality, at the church. It helped people understand us better. Maybe other LGBT friendly groups could do something like this.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Getting retirement housing, in a LGBT friendly building. Finding LGBT accepting personal care, and nursing homes.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? In Pittsburgh, PA, there is the LGBT center. We also have a local clinic, and social center, in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I do not want the support system we have, to weaken, or go away.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That it is more accepted in local communities. People should not have to hide, anymore.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Help support activities, that everyone can enjoy, like Outrageous Bingo. It is a LGBT activity, open to everyone. Straight, and LGBT people attend together. This lets people get to socialize together.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Learning more about them, and their issues.
What motivated you to take part in this project? A local, over 50 LGBT group, I belong to, sent me the link to it. They asked people to fill it out, if they wanted to.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How can closeted people find support, safely. I feel that the local LGBT community can have joint gay, and straight, activities. This allows people to get support discreatly.
Thank you, Jean.
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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