County of Residence: Allegheny County. I grew up in WV.
Preferred Pronouns: She/her
How do you describe your identity? Lesbian and West Virginia expatriate.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out to my mom when I was 16. She is a compassionate and reasonably progressive person but I come from a fundamentalist Christian family. I really didn’t know how it would go.
I wrote out what I planned to say and rehearsed my rebuttals. When I finally got up the nerve all of those words drained from my mind and I simply said, “I’m gay. ” My mom responded just as simply with, “I know.”
I won’t say I didn’t run into any challenges as an openly gay high school student or since (coming out is constant) but I have the benefit of an extremely supportive family, church community, and group of friends. That gives me a lot of strength when folks aren’t so kind.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m out to everyone in my life.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My aunt is a lesbian. She was the trailblazer in the family. It made it much easier for me.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Jess Goldberg from Leslie Feinberg’s book Stone Butch Blues because I’ve never felt so at home in a character’s mind. That novel helped me find comfort in my ambiguity.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Social media.
Describe your geographical community. I grew up in a small town (not exactly rural) in WV and moved to the South Hills two years ago. While my experiences in WV were not completely negative, I have been much more comfortable with myself since the move. Folks are largely very friendly.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I find community almost everywhere. I am a member of an LGBTQA business resource group at work and my church’s LGBTQ social justice group.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I am incredibly fortunate that my employer has a non-discrimination policy that exceeds federal/state law and protects me.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I haven’t had any problems.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? As a white, middle-class suburbanite, I am shielded from a lot in Pittsburgh. I know that my friends and neighbors who are transgender, gender non-conforming, people of color, and folks who have not had the same economic opportunities that I have are not necessarily encountering the same friendly faces I see everyday. It is vital that efforts of community building and political action in the Pittsburgh LGBTQ community begin to undertake an intersectional approach, amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable among us.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Passing legislation to prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations would be a solid start.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Sometimes it surprises me how unremarkable it has become to be a lesbian. I know I am benefiting for decades of hard work and we still have a long way to go, especially to ensure the safety and inclusion of the trans community and bisexuals, but my identity as a lesbian won’t save me from being a square.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? A lack of support and understanding of intersectional needs within and outside of the community.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad, the GLCC, the UU Church of the South Hills
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I worry about discriminatory legislation at the state level.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Inclusive non-discrimination legislation will be passe.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen and ask questions respectfully.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? We can stop getting defensive when we are corrected or asked to change our behavior in order to be more welcoming.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I have absolutely loved reading these surveys and thought it was only fair to share a little bit of myself.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I think you have it covered!
Thank you, Regina.
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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. These are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices.
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