County of Residence: Formerly Allegheny and Butler counties. Now, New York State.
Preferred Pronouns: she/her
How do you describe your identity? I’m a gay woman. I very rarely refer to myself as a lesbian.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? That is an interesting question. Because coming out is not something that just happens once in a person’s life. I come out all the time. Every time I meet someone new I have to come out all over again. Or not. I might decide I don’t want to come out to this particular person. It is one of those things that you just finally realize – you’ll spend your whole life coming out. It’s a drag.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m OUT, baby! The older I get the more I don’t give a rats ass if the person I’m coming out to is going to be okay with it or not.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I’m sure I met many LGBTQ people prior to my best childhood friend coming out to me, but I was in deep denial about my own sexuality and oddly very homophobic. It was 1988. I had just married my now ex-husband. We sat in a trendy Shadyside bar and she told me that she was a lesbian. I played it off like it was no big deal, but in reality it was HUGE. If it was ok for Amy to be gay then it was damn sure ok for ME to be gay too.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Ellen Degeneres. She represents all of “us” in the most acceptable way. She is who she is. She makes no apologies. She is genuine and real and flawed like the rest of us. But she is also kind and warm and hilarious.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? My news feed is full of LGBTQ information. The Advocate, Huffington Post Queer Voices, Empire State Pride Agenda, Sue Kerr!
Describe your geographical community. We live in an urban setting in a very rural area. Hudson proper is VERY gay-friendly. Once you venture out into the weeds it tends to run a tad more conservative.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I live in Upstate NY with my wife who I’ve been with for 24 years. Hudson, NY is a lovely little town in the shadow of the Catskill mountains on the bank of the Hudson river, about 2 hours north of New York City. We started a local LGBTQ community organization & organized the areas very first gay pride parade and festival in 2010. We give scholarships and partner with other local LGBTQ organizations to provide education and support to the community. There is a large gay and lesbian population here. We feel completely at home here. I think it is much more liberal here then it ever was in Pittsburgh – at least when I lived there as an adult.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. No. Thankfully, no.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? The school system is still very much in the dark ages when it comes to providing safe, nurturing spaces for young kids just beginning to come to grips with their gender expression, sexuality, identity… It is something we as Hudson Pride continually try to address with the schools and local administrations. Older LGBTQ individuals also need vocal advocates.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? All politics are local, so it’s very important to work to get LGBTQ individuals elected. This is the only way to insure that LGBTQ issues and LGBTQ people will always have a voice in local gov’t.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I had the privilege of meeting a man that was there the night the riots broke out at the Stonewall Bar in NYC. He talked about being a gay man in NYC at that time. The constant raids, the fear of being outed. Friends losing their jobs and apartments because they were gay. His family had long ago disowned him. It was so very impactful to realize the risks he took and the sacrifices he made to be who he was and just how very lucky we all are to live in these times, when the sacrifices aren’t always so dire.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I think quality healthcare for transgender individuals remains a huge hurdle. Access to public transportation is also a huge issue.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? We live in a great area, full of wonderful organizations and resources. Plus we’re just a few hours north of NYC, aka Gay Mecca!
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Republicans
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Progressive liberals
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Speak out, speak up
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Be inclusive in all efforts and programs
What motivated you to take part in this project? an opportunity to participate in an open forum is always a great pleasure.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I think this was pretty great just as it is!
Thank you, Martha.
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a 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.
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. 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.