County of Residence: Cambria, formerly Indiana County
Preferred Pronouns: I’m a she, her, girl
How do you describe your identity? I’m a white femme lesbian.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was 20 years old and living with my first girlfriend, and I told my aunt we were more than just friends. We worked together, and my aunt was worried because coworkers were gossiping. My aunt was afraid I was forced into the relationship. The challenges I faced were minor; most people were shocked because I don’t “look lesbian”
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I just am what I am. I work in a drug rehab as a nurse, so I’m not out to everyone, but if they find out or ask, I’m honest. Actually you really can’t have too many secrets in that environment, so I’m sure more patients know than I realize.
Storytelling is solidarity. Join us and share your story in our archive http://bit.ly/AmplifyLGBTQ
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My high school gym teacher. She was just a normal woman. Cared about her students. I was fascinated that she was just like everyone else. Not a “weirdo”
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Xena…she’s perfect. Tough with a soft side ❤️
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook, NPR, online news
Describe your geographical community. Bit of a mix. Grew up in rural PA, now in a depressed area with a lot of lower income and unemployment. Overall LGBT “tolerant”.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I used to belong to “Indiana county cares campaign to end homophobia”…ICC for short. It was early 2000’s. I was much more involved when I was younger. Not much of a community in Johnstown, PA
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I was fired because me and my partner at the time we’re trying to have a baby by IVF.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I don’t have a problem, I believe because I’m comfortable with myself. If the healthcare professionals are homophobic, I call them out on it and move on. I know it’s easier for me because I’m femme and can “pass” as straight.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? There is more homophobia towards gay men in my area. I’ve heard they have difficulty finding doctors and hospitals that treat them appropriately. Most people seem to keep to themselves. Indiana has IUP, college towns are much more inclusive.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Just equality.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Just because I’m femme doesn’t mean I can be “converted”. I love masculine women, and I feel women need to embrace their masculinity and not hide it. “Butch” should not be a negative word.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Healthcare.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? None close by.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Our marriage equality will be taken away
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? We join together and become family, even in economically depressed areas like Johnstown.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Just be there.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Be visible.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Saw it on Facebook. I miss being part of a community
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. It was all good.
Thank you, Heather.
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. These are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices.
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. If you would like to participate, visit the online Q&A which takes about 30 minutes.
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