Niki Talks About Living as a Gender Queer Trans Woman in Pittsburgh #AMPLIFY

The counties where Niki has lived.

Name:  Niki

Age: 32

County of Residence: Allegheny. Washington county where I grew up. Crawford county, Erie county. I went to college in both places

Preferred Pronouns: she/her

How do you describe your identity? My sexual orientation I describe as either bi, pan, or queer. I don’t care too much about those specific kinds of labels, just that gender isn’t important to how I feel attraction.
I identified as a trans woman now, who sometimes likes to present in a more gender queer way.
I identified as just gender queer for the longest time, wearing nail polish and to a lesser extent other feminine clothing or a little eye liner.
But I think that was sort of just a way for me to justify to myself not starting HRT and more fully transitioning. I want to wear men’s clothes occasionally in the future though, especially fancy things like suits and ties.

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I am still coming out to people. I’m working on coming out to my family. I’ve accidentally outed myself to a bunch of old friends online. But everyone who I talked to specifically about it has been very supportive. It was difficult to bring up my gender identity with my partner, because it seemed like she was so invested in me having that male role. But she took it very well overall. She acted kind of weird when we were first dating and I told her I was bi.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m out to almost everyone I speak to outside of my family. A lot of that was accidental on my part, I just started using a female name and wearing more women’s clothes than before and everyone sort of figured it out about as quickly as I did. I am working on how to come out to my family now. It sort of terrifies me. I have a huge extended family most of which is Catholic and often very conservative religious.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I don’t know if I can even remember this. I think I knew I was bi before actually meeting anyone who was out, but it took years for me to understand my gender identity. There was one guy at our school who I didn’t really know who was out as a gay man, and he got picked on a lot. I think all of this made me very distrustful of straight cis society, especially cis het men. I never had real role models or any real understanding of what being trans or bi meant growing up. It was extremely isolating and lonely.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I like Korra from legend of Korra, and her partner Asami. It is just such a well made show and two of the main female characters end up together.
The best thing I had growing up was reading and watching X-Men, which works as a metaphor for queer and trans people but no character was out back then.

I liked reading the manga Wandering Son recently. It’s about a trans boy and a trans girl growing up in Japan.

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Mostly online. I liked a bunch of pages on facebook so they end up in my feed. Sometimes I browse the sites I like too. I’m not well-informed about local Pittsburgh stuff, though, which I keep meaning to work harder on changing.

Describe your geographical community.  Urban. I live on sort of the border between Bloomfield and Lawrenceville. It seems mostly friendly on the surface, but I’ve faced street harassment a fair amount and I know some people who’ve been assaulted in this area. I am very wary. Some anonymous person keyed my car and threw dog crap at my door in the past few months.So it seems like it might be kind of dangerous too.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I have friends who I know, but it’s mostly from college or doing unrelated activism work in the area. Queer and trans people I know are sort of randomly dispersed among people I know.

Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I had a bad experience at an old job I wasn’t out yet. A client sexually harassed me over the phone and I was scared to hang up for fear of getting fired. But they were supportive of me (sort of) when I told my bosses, but it seemed more like they were grossed out by this guy being gay than about him violating my boundaries. I had to quit that not long after as the environment seemed too hostile. That was a few years ago and I haven’t found a non-temp job since.

I’ve been yelled at on the street in Bloomfield a fair amount, like I mentioned. Someone seems to be targeting my car and house for harassment. As I mentioned in the last comment dog poop was thrown at the door of our house and my car was scratched recently.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I don’t know enough about the local dialogue to answer honestly if it is serving my needs. I would guess the local groups still ignore bi and trans people, since that’s how it normally works.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Strong anti-discrimination laws.
Social spending for things like domestic violence and rape survivor centers and helping LGBT people who are poor in general, like more homeless shelters and food banks. I think a lot of our needs intersect with anyone in precarious financial position, which is most people.
There should be something like the WPA to provide jobs for people and building more affordable housing. These kinds of programs could give special preference to people who are minorities in other ways, like race or religion as well as LGBTQAI+ people.

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. IDK. I found that lased place across from Children’s hospital on Penn ave. is trans friendly (but expensive!). And Metro community health has been supper helpful to me and very responsive and easy to talk to about hormones etc…

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? MONEY. Specifically not having enough of it. Racism and sexism are important too, but class issues seem to affect my day to day life more.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I don’t know much about this unfortunately. Persad isn’t very far away I guess. I volunteer at the Big Idea bookstore and we try hard to make a friendly space for LGBTQIA+ people.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Violence in general and the right-wing control of the state and federal legislature could lead to who knows what.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania?  For it to be safer to be open and out everywhere.

What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? educate yourself and speak out when you hear bigotry, support LGBTQAI+ friendly politicians

How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? acknowledge we exist and educate yourselves about our struggles, work to include us and our specific needs in your organizations, don’t be a TERF

What motivated you to take part in this project? My friend asked me to on facebook. It seemed like it would be useful. I didn’t realize there would so many open ended questions that I had to put this much thought into.

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I would have asked more demographic questions people could opt out of.


Thank you, Niki.

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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