Name: Staci B
County of Residence: Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: she
How do you describe your identity? As a writer, I have often pondered the question, “Who am I?”. I still don’t have an answer. I have come to understand, especially in the last two years or so, the privilege that I’ve experienced as a white person, even though I haven’t really identified as being white. I do identify as being Irish, even though my heritage includes other nationalities.
I think the biggest piece of my identity is as a storyteller. I’ve been telling stories since I was a kid and I grew up to be a professional. Writing is in my blood; and it doesn’t matter the form.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I never really officially came out. I just fell in love with a woman. It seemed not many of my friends were surprised, even though I felt like I was in shock. There are so many labels within the community today and I’m not really sure which one fits, to be honest. My family was very supportive, and continues to be, so I feel very fortunate. I also have amazing friends who except me for whoever I am in that moment. I never really sought support outside of my own circle. I’m not much of a joiner, so I’m sure that played a role.
I think the biggest challenge that I faced in my new relationship was that she was black. Running into racism and segregation within a community that asserts being affected discrimination blew my mind. I remember the two of us going to a professional networking event and she was the only person of color there. I didn’t understand then and I still don’t understand it now. How can you perpetrate the very thing that you claim has hurt you?
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I don’t really know that I have a formal description. What I will say is that I have gotten more comfortable with the term bisexual. I really don’t like labels because I feel that it puts people in boxes. At the same time, I understand it is how we, as humans, sort and arrange things in our minds.
I think the biggest challenge for me is dating. Which gender do I look under on a dating site? I still haven’t figured this out and I’m trusting that I will feel a connection with someone that I meet doing the things I love.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? There’s a difference between the first LGBTQ person I ever met and the first that I knew was a member of the community. There were various boys in high school, whom I now know to be gay, including one I was in love with. There are plenty of others I met in college, but I was raised in a fairly sheltered way on the subject. The other part of that is many of them did not have a label they were comfortable using with their friends regarding their sexuality, and there are also some who have not identified that way even though they probably knew they did not conform to what most considered to be normal.
The first open person I met was my roommate Lee when I lived in West Palm Beach. He was and continues to be my guardian angel, maybe even more so now that he is no longer with us on this plane. I was in a horrible situation living and working with business partners, who did not have my best interest at heart. Lee ran an ad in the Palm Beach Post looking for a roommate. It was an instant connection, and we ended up being roommates for a year. I literally feel like he saved my life because it gave me the courage to walk away from the people who were hurting me.
After I moved to New York, we kept in touch, so I knew that something was up when he wasn’t answering my phone calls. Months later he contacted me and told me that he had been HIV-positive the entire time we lived together and had been told earlier in the year that he had full-blown AIDS. He had a psychotic break, and was put in a mental hospital. He slowly learned to accept the diagnosis and was on the mend when he finally called.
We met in Orlando that fall and he introduced me to his partner Alan. We had a fabulous time playing at Disney and Universal, and they actually came back over to Tampa to visit with friends of mine. Around Christmas, I got a call from Alan telling me that Lee had been admitted to hospice.
I was working in a high-pressure sales job, but took the time to fly down to West Palm Beach because he meant so much to me. He died at the exact time my plane touched down on the runway. I realized later, that he held on until I arrived So that someone was there to care for Alan, because he knew his family wouldn’t take care of him.
I stayed for a few days and helped Allen navigate the viciousness that Lee’s family perpetrated, including evicting him from Lee’s house. Before I left, he told me how much it meant to him to have someone who he could share stories with as he went through the life he and Lee had built together. And to have someone stand up for him and his relationship.
I am so grateful I have the chance to give back just a piece of what Lee gave to me.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Nan from the novel Tipping the Velvet. I love her tentativeness and her curiosity, and most importantly her willingness to trust her instincts. As I have contemplated my own journey, I see there were questions and curiosities that I had but I found a way to suppress or ignore. Her journey of back and forth in discovering her sexuality mirrors mine in a lot of ways.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Mostly on Facebook, to be honest. There are so many groups and I have plenty of friends who post community news and keep me apprised politically, socially and culturally.
Describe your geographical community. I live in Friendship, which is a fabulous and friendly community. As I said, I tend to surround myself with like-minded people who are open and accepting, and when I find someone who thrives on drama and conflict, I do my best to either step away or inquire of myself the buttons they are pushing. I have always found this leads to peace.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I am a city girl, largely because of the diversity that it brings. I know Pittsburgh is not perfect by longshot and I have lived in cities like New York and Tampa that run the gamut of acceptance, so I have seen different levels of it. I think Pittsburgh has a lot to offer and that there still room to grow. I have seen growth in the four years I have been back, largely due to advocates who are tireless in their efforts to have a community represented.
I tend to surround myself with like-minded people, so my experience here has been very positive. When I have reached out to someone I have connected with on Facebook for a face-to-face meeting, I have never been rejected.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. No.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think the community is very reticent to discuss the discrimination and negative perceptions that exist about each other within the community. Tyra Banks did an episode of her talk show that revolved around the hierarchy within the LGBTQ community a few years back. She found it eye-opening. I didn’t bat an eye.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Especially after this travesty in North Carolina, it is important to continue to put anti-discrimination laws on the books.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I wrote for community blog when I lived in Tampa, and was assigned to interview a transgender woman. I didn’t realize how incredibly uncomfortable I was with the assignment until I found myself canceling and rescheduling with her several times.
During the interview, I admitted to her what I had realized. She graciously told me that I certainly was not the only one and that she had committed to herself that she would talk to anyone and answer any questions in an effort to make it easier for the people who came after her. She shared with me some of her experiences at her local grocery store after she transitioned. Some of the questions she received, especially by the people who worked at the store and had known her since she was a young man, were genuine and based in curiosity more than anything else. She handled these questions without being defensive and with the intention of fostering understanding, which negates fear.
I have taken her commitment to heart, and am willing to answer, as honestly as I can, any and all questions regarding my experience as a bisexual woman. People have asked me all kinds of questions, like “how can you be attracted to both genders?”. For me, the answer is that it is not about parts. It’s about soul. Not everybody understands. But it is my hope that my willingness to be honest helps to create an authentic connection even if the intellect doesn’t fully understand.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Perception. People have lots of perceptions about lots of things. Communication and the willingness to be honest go long way in helping to modify the lens through which the perception was created.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? The GLCC does a fabulous job for the community.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That there will continue to be a pervasive victim mentality that often generates perpetrator like behavior. I hope for all of our sakes that this paradigm is destroyed. The absurdity around last year’s pride really put this in perspective for me. The world will always have assholes. And I certainly commend those who are willing to call them on it. At the same time, I feel it reaches a point where blame only keeps you in a victim role. And energy is better spent creating what it is you want to see rather than blaming others for not being able to see it.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My greatest hope is that the community will acknowledge the racism and segregation that exists with in it and begin, or continue to, take steps to obliterate it. The hypocrisy of expecting people outside of the community to acknowledge discrimination and “otherizing” when it is prevalent in our own community needs to stop. Whether it is because of skin color or the label that one is comfortable with, i.e. bisexual, equality is necessary for us to really walk our talk.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? become aware. Recognize when discrimination exists I don’t be afraid to call the Emperor naked.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Become aware of and examine your own biases and perceptions.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I don’t think that there is enough representation from the B part of the community.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How do you discriminate among members within the community? What perceptions do you have of community members that foster disconnection?
Thank you, Staci.
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.