County of Residence: Allegheny, formerly Nashville, Tennessee
Preferred Pronouns: Female- she/her
How do you describe your identity? I’m a bi trans woman. Married to a woman. I’m white.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I’m bi, and no one will ever believe that you are bi, no matter what. If you present male, you’re gay; if you present female, you’re a lesbian. I think another reason I took so long to come out was because of this. “Gay” was a bad word to me for whatever reason and I was set on repressing the “gay” part of my sexuality because at the time it just wasn’t a big enough deal to me to deal with any type of backlash over it. I came out to my then fiancé right before getting married. I was planning on telling my best friend, who has identified as bisexual since early high school, I asked her while I was at work very seriously, and very unlike myself if we could “take a walk and talk” when I was home. Well, before my shift was up, I ended up just blurting it out via text to both my fiancé and bff- stomach cramping, head spinning and eyes watering- both of which replied enthusiastically, to my relief. When I came out as trans it was more of a slow learning process over web md and Wikipedia mostly with my wife. I’ve gotten outrageous support from pretty much everyone in my life. I am very fortunate.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m personally very open about my sexuality and my gender identity. I will say that being trans is so much harder than being bi. I never want to look masculine in public or private in any way, and would probably live in stealth if I was visually able. I have struggled more after coming out as trans and living my life than I have ever before. It’s extremely disheartening to get turned down from every job since, and be stared at every day.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I had a friendship in middle school with a gay kid, we were friends for quite a while until he got a bit grabby. I was sure I was a little straight boy with no idea of ever being myself. I denied being lgbt until well after high school, I think because my middle school friend had denied it for so long as well, I thought I could utilize the same technique of disillusion with my life, and it worked for way too long.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I’m really enjoying Trace Lysette’s character on Transparent. I think just because she’s laid back and she’s stunning, which, sadly trans women are rarely cast as. Granted trans women are hardly anywhere visible to begin with, so I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I only follow a Facebook page, but I want more!
Describe your geographical community. I‘ve always lived within the city technically, but never deep downtown or anything. I lived in Nashville for a long time and they are not receptive to trans people even a little. Hopefully it was only that local area but even in the lgbt community their they don’t respect trans women much. The scene there is mostly dominated by gay men who are fairly vicious to all people but especially other lgbt people who aren’t just gay men. Sadly we can’t all be friends I guess!
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I have no idea what my local lgbt community is like, as I’ve only just moved here! I asked on a local transgender page if they had any recommendations for doctors and found and amazing clinic.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes, a lot. The job I had when I transitioned fired me after I started dressing everyday in a feminine style. In public I’ve never gotten like verbal abuse but I get stares about 40% of the time. It usually depends on my hair and makeup and if I have a bra on and stuff like that.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) It was extremely hard for me to pick a health plan but my doctors office basically told me to just pick UPMC as everything is supposed to be covered come 2017. Fingers crossed on that one. I had to deal with people over the phone with health related questions and have recently had to deal with being homeless, and had to deal with MANY different social workers and everyone has specifically gone out of their way to ask what pronouns and name I prefer. It’s been a very heartwarming experience.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I have no clue.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Make sure that we get the healthcare we need. For me that is by far the most important aspect of my quality of life. I’ve been waiting for a very long time to talk with my doctor about surgery, and that’s something I get to talk in depth about next week, I’m so excited.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Just ask. Please. I LOVE when a person I perceive as “normal” (what even is that?) asks me about my pronouns and preferred name and doesn’t assume I’m this or I’m that. I get that I don’t always look like a binary, and you don’t have to pretend that I do, as long as you’re friendly and respectful.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Low visibility in my opinion. I think if more people saw and interacted with LGBTQ people, we would all be less of a topic of discussion, and seen for what we are- people.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? There is an organization that helps with legal name changes here, which I hope I can be in contact with soon.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Trump Pence 2016
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I hope that the healthcare change comes as I’ve heard it, it will help so many of us including myself.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen. Speak against wrongdoing.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Accept us as we are and don’t tell us we’re not real. We are.
What motivated you to take part in this project? It seemed interesting. I like hearing about the local people and hopefully I’ll open my own mind from hearing the answers of others.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Are you now or have you ever been depressed or suicidal? Yes lately it’s been bad but I’m dealing with it. I think it would be an easy way of telling someone how you’re feeling without overtly asking for help.
Thank you, Vi.
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, please know that there are people ready to listen and offer help
Persad Center (in Western Pennsylvania) 1-888-873-7723
LGBT Helpline 1-888-843-4564
The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386
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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