Name: Brandon Tallon Collins
County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? I would describe myself as a pansexual genderqueer male. I present as male and go by male pronouns.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? My best friend actually pulled me out of the closet and it’s probably the best thing she’s ever done for me. She kept it to herself until I was ready to come out to friends and family. My mother on the other hand asked me about the blue moon on my debit card statements. She asked if I had been there and when I said yes she responded with one word, “rainbows!” we had talked after that and she was okay with it and told me she loved me no matter what.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am completely out. I have no need for staying closeted to anybody. I work at a coffee shop and people regularly ask me about wedding planning and how my fiance is. If someone assumes I am engaged to a woman I simply correct them without making a scene. Most people don’t react any differently.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I’ve known lgbt people probably my whole life but never really any body close to me. I was always a little awkward about it because I felt wrong in what I was feeling. It wasn’t until my best friend (soon to be my Maid of Honor) came out to me as bisexual. I then started to realise that it was okay to not be straight.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. My favorite lgbtq character would have to be Blaine and Kurt from glee. I know it sounds cheesy but I have a special place in my heart for music and watching the show while still closeted gave me a lot of hope.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I am in the community pretty deep. I hear stories from people at the bar. I also use buzzfeed to keep updates on issues. And of course facebook, a good number of my friends are leaders in the community and post articles and statuses of events and issues.
Describe your geographical community. I grew up in Robinson twp PA. Its basically middle class suburbia. I feel like in that area it’s not frowned upon to be gay, but it’s not celebrated. It gets passed over in conversation and can be ignored.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. While we don’t live in a largely lgbtq neighborhood, there is a huge community within minutes. There are so many resources in pittsburgh, I can’t even begin to list them all.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. I have definitely had stares or dirty looks in public. I however have not been discriminated against in a job setting or while applying for housing.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have health care through work. It covers pretty much everything and is very light inclusive. I go to the central outreach wellness center. They are very lgbtq friendly and have been nothing but great to me.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Not that I know of.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? STOP THE DISCRIMINATION! Not speaking just of the lgbtq community but for any minority. We are all human. I want somebody who is going to stand up for everybody’s rights.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. One of my customers at work had recently come out as trans. She hasn’t said anything to me but I saw her dressed in female clothes and was carrying herself different. The second time I saw her I asked what prownouns she preferred and if she had a different preferred name. And she just seemed to be so happy that I had taken the time to ask and respect her as a female.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I think people need to stop sticking to a clique. We so desperately want to live label free, yet we have so many in the gay community. And there’s nothing wrong with having labels or a type, but don’t let those labels define you as a person or dictate who can talk to you.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad. Gladd. Dreams of hope. Pflag.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That the area will try to push us out or kill us off.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we can create a level of acceptance where anybody can walk down the street and not fear for their safety. A time when we won’t have to pretend we don’t see the looks and can be ourselves wherever and whenever without repercussions.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Be vocal about their support. Dont sit back while somebody is shamed about being who they are. Say something! share lgbtq issues on social media. share the good and the bad.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? We are not unicorns! We exist. Don’t think that we have to choose between genders. And accept our queerness even if were in a hetero relationship.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I’ve read a few articles and think it’s a good way to share my story. If my part only helps one person, it’s worth it. If someone can relate or learn to accept themselves from reading this, then I am happy.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I think you pretty much covered everything!
Thank you, Brandon
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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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