County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Venango, Philadelphia
Preferred Pronouns: Just don’t call me Mrs.
How do you describe your identity? Gutter trash who happened to meet the right people, have the right fate, and got to see the world as an out gay man.
It’s been a blessing I tell you. Thank you Jesus.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I feel like every single day is a coming out experience. Unfortunately, heterosexuality is still the norm. I don’t understand why. They are the ones destroying nature. If they keep breeding like this, soon we will all be facing the consequences.
But as I came out in the early days, I always found support in the bars. That may sound funny, or sad, today, but back then, that was the place.
Of course it was dangerous and that was a challenge. But over the years, the bars were the places where all of the political work got done. Yes we partied, we had lots of sex, and then we organized.
I saw lots of my friends and lovers face real consequences for being gay. That deeply affected me. My take on life was this. It didn’t matter how good you were, or how talented, when they found out you were gay, you were in danger and they would mistreat you.
I met my first partner in West Hollywood in a large disco. He was a very successful businessman with a large insurance company. He owned a lovely condo in Solano Beach and owned four new luxury cars.
He was the youngest regional manager they ever had, at twenty two, and the most successful. He got sick for a while and decided to see his sales staff in our home in the office. One day a salesman left, and I walked over and kissed him. We didn’t realize the salesman had turned around and come back. He saw us.
My partner was fired within an hour. No recourse. He never got to say anything. I won’t got into the rest of the story, but let’s just say he had his day. But, again, I learned, it didn’t matter. You could be the most successful person, and as soon as they found out, you were done.
That challenge has stayed with me my entire life, for better or worse. I still do not trust heterosexuals. However, over the years I have found my own power in responding to those who would harm us. But sometimes it isn’t easy having seen the wreckage first hand.
I knew many people back then who felt that our goal was not to assimilate but to take down the heteronormative society. Dismantle it. Take over, and make a new world.
That sounds so quaint these days.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Do you actually have to have sex to be homosexual? Because if so, I am in big trouble. Do they come for the toaster oven and my membership card?
I am out. The only people who care are a bunch of ridiculous Catholics who live in senior housing with me.
Send help. Twenty year old Italian men get special attention.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I don’t remember the first. I started early. But the first gay men I do remember who had an impact were from Atlantic City, on the notorious New York Avenue. First was David, the first drag queen I ever met. I saw him on stage when I walked into my first gay bar and I was mesmerized. We tricked for a while, but I was not really into drag. Still we had a little crush on each other.
On my nineteenth birthday, a group of drag queens, including the first trans person I ever met, (Billy,) held a birthday party for me in one of those old run down hotel rooms. Billy baked a cake and it was wonderful. So, that impacted me a lot. People were being nice to me and they were colorful and fun. (My biological family not so much.)
Then I met a couple, Ralph and Jason a few weeks later. Long story short, we hung out together for about eight months between Atlantic City and Philly and they showed me all the different aspects of gay life. They took me to a gay beach. We went to John Waters movies, first run, in seedy theaters. We watched gay porn, which I had never seen.
They were kind, loving, very sexual. Jason was super hot and could not keep his hands off of me. We all slept together, had sex, and enjoyed life for about eight months. My first polyamorous relationship as well. I loved them both and it was a very positive experience.
Between the two experiences I feel lucky. This was during a time when there was a light in the back of the bars and when it came on that meant the police were on their way in the front door, busting heads and harassing us.
As a cute young gay men, the older gay men would hide me in the corner until the cops had left.
You could not go onto the dance floor with another guy unless there were equal number of women out there, and visa versa. So to dance you had to find a guy, and two women. Then when the cops came in, you switched.
It was very brave to walk into a gay bar, but braver to walk out. That’s when you could get hurt or arrested. But it never phased me. The people in the bars were groovy. Ralph and Jason were just endless fun. I still remember them as my guides to my new gay life. And the drag queen were fierce, funny and protective. So what’s not to life?
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. My first gay read was Christopher Isherwood, which I found in the Carnegie Library in Oakland. Oh the thrill of checking it out. So, yeah, his characters had a huge impact on me.
I do not like corporate media’s representation of my life. Will and Grace had nothing to do with my life and I found it dull beyond comprehension.
I think Sharon Needles was hilarious, at first anyway. Where is she these days? Did she die in a motel on Santa Monica Boulevard of a drug overdose?
I liked the movie Lilies.
But mostly, I like that there are thousands of choices these days. Millions if you count things like YouTube. And I love my YouTube. Cheddar Gorgeous and Anna Philactic are great. I watch Gay Comic Geek. I watch The Capitol Hill series. And Go Go Boy Interrupted.
The list goes on and on. I spend too much time online. Is there a real world anymore? I forget.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? These days, I have subscribed to as many eco queer groups as I can find. Out for Sustainability is one.
Amazingly, many news sites now include news about our lives. I watch Democracy Now. The Guardian has the most famous gay journalist in the world, (No not Mr. Handsome on tv.) Glen Greenwald. I think he is brilliant. I read The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Harpers, The Atlantic, Utne, and on and on.
When I do check into what is known as gay news sites, they usually are talking about Paris Hilton, or Lady Gaga, Absolut vodka and gay cruise ships having a party. It’s very disappointing.
Describe your geographical community. It was rural for the past seven years. I will spare you the long story. it was friendly with some people, but few and far between. Things are getting better with the younger people. But I lived in a neighborhood where people frequently wore camo and had guns. People frequently came to my door and asked if I found Jesus. I eventually asked them why they kept losing him and why they thought he was here.
Moving to a rural area is wonderful as long as you don’t talk to anyone. I loved the forests and lakes. But, the conversations often started at a place that left me stunned. Oh, really, climate change is caused by the heat of God’s wrath? gee.
I had people trying to convert me to heterosexuality. Why are heterosexuals so insecure? I had people worrying about my soul.
Boring. But I found moments to speak up and make a difference. I wrote letters, I started community groups. I did what I could, but mostly I was often afraid and anxious. Did I mention the guns?
So I moved to the city. People are friendly here. I think. It’s all so confusing. Did they legalize pot yet? If so, please contact me on how to get some. I am an old gay hippy. Have mercy on us.
I keep hoping to find my tribe, but something tells me a walk in the cemetery would get me warmer.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I hear there are things going on in Pittsburgh, but every time I leave the traffic is insane.
Really, I do not have one. I know you’re out there, but I guess I need to make more effort.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Every single day for my entire adult life. Really, until we have completely taken over this planet I will not be satisfied.
It’s endless. We are forced to watch them have Hetero Pride Day every day of the year. And then we’re told to ask for our rights, politely.
But only if we mimic the heterosexism. Get married, join the military, go to church, and they will probably be okay.
My identity is by it’s very nature eco friendly. I have no desire to have children, thus I am not adding to the current mass insanity of overpopulation and resource depletion. The cult of having children discriminates against my desire to live on a planet that isn’t about to burn into a cinder.
But okay, to be exact – Jobs, yes, housing, yes, in public, I have been gay bashed three times. Called names more times than I can count.
It’s still not my fault. I did nothing to deserve it besides exist. Now let’s get back to the planet being destroyed. I think it’s time to turn this table around, don’t you?
Let’s start asking heterosexuals some difficult questions. I’m tired of being asked about my victimhood. Having kids is a chosen lifestyle. It’s time we ask some questions that they so dearly loved asking us.
Tell Us About Your Access to Health Care in Western PA. Has It Been LGBTQ Competent (or Not?) I have not yet tried to have sex with my doctor, but I’ll let you know.
other than that, I’m not sure what you’re asking. It’s certainly better than in the old days when if they found out you were gay they tossed you out of the office.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue?
The population of the planet increases at THREE ADDITIONAL people PER SECOND!
Now okay some of us gays and lesbians add to that. Why I have no idea. You could be creating art, or discovering a new science experiment. Instead you have kids. Go figure.
Out for Sustainability, Eco Queers, these are the people who have begun to ask questions about our role as homosexuals in the ecology of the planet.
This topic has been invisible.
We have been asked to stay within our ghetto of disco music and gay marriage and be satisfied. We are told to not pay too close attention to the news and instead accept the standard Human Rights Campaign propaganda about how wonderful Democrats are.
But in fact, we are humans on a planet in an eco system. Discussions about civil rights as they pertain to the environment and resources do pertain to us.
What is Hillary’s position on fossil fuels and overpopulation? Well, go find out. Because it’s not so good. Look beyond the rainbow machine that feeds us a framed picture of our lives.
I think ecology and overpopulation as it pertains to our gay, lesbian and trans lives will soon overtake all other issues for us. And it’s about time. Funny thing is, back at the very first rallies I attended in the 70s, this issue was front and center. Then it was suppressed by marriage, church and military, and the HRC crowd. Just keep watching Will and Grace and be grateful. If all else fails, watch Ellen.
Meanwhile the real world was chugging along with some serious issues that affect our lives. And the issues pertain to us in a particular way that could be different from, say, a heterosexual couple that wants to raise a family.
But now we get to ask, why are we here? What role do we play in our species on this planet. This is the issue of the current generation as they face massive upheaval in the environment.
And as in the distant past, in tribal culture, we homosexuals and gender variant people are finding our voice as leaders to offer a different perspective on the choices we make as a human family. We may in fact hold the key to solving the science, civics and culture needed to forge a new path for this planet.
I very much look forward to hearing that conversation.
Oh and if any of my gay neighbors, around my age, are feeling invisible and would like to go on a date, feel free to feel free.
Now it’s back. And not a moment too soon.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? As long as they are aware of our current ecological crisis, and aren’t trying to sell me the usual “our children are the future” nonsense, I’m willing to listen.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I was stuck in a rural town for seven years, afraid.
I came to Pittsburgh, went to Pride, and started crying…. several times.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? We do not control the world, yet.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Me.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Death by ecological disaster. Did you know our dams are eighty years old and must sustain the increase in moisture arriving due to climate change?
Did you know that people are starving in Pittsburgh because of lack of resources, yet the churches continue to disrupt information about Planned Parenthood and sex education?
Did you know that gays, lesbians and trans people eat food and drink water, which is severely threatened if the current heating and drought continues?
Did you know that you can live a happy life without having children?
I fear that we are distracted at a time when the world needs us the most.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? total world domination
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Let us drive
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? I think gay men and lesbians often have totally different issues from trans and bisexuals. So let’s try not to fight. I think that’s a good start.
What motivated you to take part in this project? My ego. And the potential for finding a date.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How many young Italian men would you like us to deliver to your door this evening?
Thank you, Jim.
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.
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