County of Residence: Cambria
Preferred Pronouns: Him/His
How do you describe your identity? I’m a bisexual man. I happen to be Latino, and I happen to also be transgender.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I sort of had two, I guess. I was openly bisexual for a really long time, but had been nervous about addressing it to my parents. When I finally did, no one was surprised. Coming out as transgender was a more nerve-wracking experience all around. My immediate family eventually became very supportive, and my close friends were all very supportive (and some were like, yeah, that makes sense, honestly). A lot of people were just entirely new to the whole idea of transitioning, but were willing to learn. And the people who reacted adversely or who left my life as a result aren’t people I miss, to be perfectly honest.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m an openly bi guy, and for the most part I’m stealth as far as being a trans man. I’m open about my experiences to friends who already know and ask me questions, and I’ve been open to talking to other people when asked to educate them and help them learn more about what it’s like to be trans.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? It wasn’t really an open, talked-about thing because he was still in the closet at the time, but one of my friends in middle school was gay. Later on, a close high school friend later came out as gay. In truth, cis gay dudes have been some of my best allies and supporters in various ways and stages of my life.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Oh boy, this is tough. He’s probably not my favorite, but I’m going to say Frank-n-furter from good old Rocky Horror. The first time I saw it I was a young teen struggling with my identity as a man who appeared female to everyone else and was suffering in the closet, and to see a guy like him on-screen who threw gender roles out the window and played with gender and sexual identity so fantastically was really freeing. It’s easy to imagine I’m not the only one who had that kind of experience watching it.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Online publications, word of mouth, and Pittsburgh-based groups, for the most part.
Describe your geographical community. Rural, and not really.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Way out here where I moved to complete my undergrad (which I just finished), it’s not exactly the most LGBTQ-friendly place. It’s hard to be very open about things, but there is a small community here, if you know where to look for it. I discovered it through people I met at the university. From my perception, at least, I wouldn’t say it’s thriving, but I’m sure locals in the community are glad that it exists.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I’ve found it really hard to pick up minor (retail and food service) kinds of jobs since coming out (my ID documents haven’t all been changed yet). It could be coincidence, but it might not be. It’s hard to say, because I don’t imagine most places are going to say it to my face if that’s their reason for not hiring me.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I mean, out here, as I kind of mentioned, just being openly LGBT is likely to draw a lot of negative attention. I have heard in-person some really transphobic and homophobic stuff from locals. I can’t imagine what it must be like to grow up here and what kinds of things you end up internalizing as a result.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Protect our rights! It’d be nice to know that I wouldn’t have to worry about facing discrimination from using the men’s restroom, should anyone somehow find out that I’m transgender. I pass, but I worry about people who don’t, and therefore face that kind of discrimination and potentially, violence.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. A couple of facts of life for me, that my friends tended to be surprised to realize: one a week I give myself an injection of testosterone, and in public I’m often wearing a chest binder, which can put a lot of strain on my ribs and isn’t the most comfortable to wear.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? For trans folks at least, it is actually a pretty expensive and frustrating process in PA to get your name legally changed. To start to change your gender marker on ID documents, you often need proof of surgery. Surgery which is very expensive and most insurance companies won’t cover.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Honestly, in my immediate area, I wouldn’t know.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Discrimination and violence against members of the LGBT community, especially in rural areas, is always a real fear.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Expansion, and more opportunities to educate people outside of the community who would like to learn more about us. Ultimately we are just people who want the same dignity and respect as anyone else, nothing more or less. To see our (especially for trans folks; our legal protection tends to lag behind) rights protected and respected someday would be a nice.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Vocal support when relevant, I think.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Support us! Don’t let us get thrown under the bus after legislation has been passed that protects you guys. It’s hard to fight a war on two fronts, and a unified response from the LGBT community could be a powerful push against people who would continue to discriminate against trans folks.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I don’t know, I guess I’m used to being asking to answer questions about my experiences at this point by people who want to learn. If educating others can help changed the understanding people at large have about LGBT (and particularly the T) individuals, than I’m happy to take some time out of my day to help.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Not sure!
Thank you, Avery.
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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.
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