We are very pleased to have the contribution of Reverend Leonard as AMPLIFY post number 200.
Name: Rev Leonard
County of Residence: Allegheny County, formerly Philadelphia County
Pronouns: she, her, hers
How do you describe your identity? I am a Black same-gender loving freedom fighter, I am a person of faith. I am a lover. I am a visionary. I am a friend. I am a reflection of the Divine.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I think we always come out. Every day I come out to someone in some way. In the grocery store; at the mall; at the post office. I will forever be coming out. However, after the first time I came out, I found support in my close friends who love me for me. I found support in extended family, who love me regardless of whom I love. And I found support in chosen community which included activists, revolutionaries, and others who understood what it took to come out and be strong enough to live my truth.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am completely out and proud. It has been a journey and a process. I have come a long way in my own faith, self-awareness, and confidence in who God has created me to be.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first LGBTQ person whom I met that was out was my mother’s friend Alvin. I thought he was interesting and fun. I wanted him to come around more so I could learn more about him. I knew that there was a forbidden connection between us even though I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was a pre-teen at the time and had no language for what drew me to Alvin.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I don’t have just one person but I do have the same reason for all. They all exhibit strength and courage despite the obstacles faced for being free in thier truth. They were/are all freedom fighters in their own ways through their own mediums of interpretation. They all have done something that has made my existence possible. They are:
Yvette Flunder, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Wanda Sykes, Bayard Rustin, Ma Rainey, and Langston Hughes
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I am on the PA board of the ACLU. I am connected to the community locally thru organizations and media. I read the Huffington Post and the LGBTQ Task Force information. I talk to people around the world engaged in he work, preservation, and uplifting of the Queer community globally.
Describe your geographical community. I have always lived in urban areas. I grew up in Philadelphia but have lived in Pittsburgh for 20 years. Philadelphia has become very welcoming and inclusive while Pittsburgh is still struggling desperately to be the most livable city for all its citizens. Pittsburgh has a long way to go to promote more tolerance and inclusvivity however, there are efforts being made in many areas of the city.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Fragmented. There are pockets of varying degrees of the community both locally and regionally. However, the other side of that means that there is a plethora of diversity within the community. Our communtiy includes out politicians who champion our issues on a local government level. There are activist and leaders who posses the charisma to unify our community and promote change and wholeness. There are artists, and singers, and musicians, and performers. There are faith communities, like JUDAH Fellowship, that seek to provide a faith voice that is rooted in integrity, love, and truth. There are party goers, private citizens, and those who live quietly in the background. There are also those who are racists, and misogynists, and bigoted even within our community.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes. The faith community can often be very unwelcoming to LGBTQ folks. However I have found allies who have joined me in the fiight for truth along the way.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Thankfully I have health coverage and have never experienced a problem with my doctors or hospital visits.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? no
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Address housing homelessness, and safety.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I do not wish to share one at this time
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Fair and affordable housing
Job security especially for trans folks
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? JUDAH Fellowship
The Persad Center
Pittsburgh Clergy Consortium
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Silence and disunity. That those who are activist and truth tellers will get weary and stop fighting for justice thus leaving a great void.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? To not hide but thrive
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Step up to call out discrimination where you see it, either in the public square or in private encounters. And step back to center black queer voices in places where there are often overlooked
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Appreciate our differences and understand we all have to work together in order for any of us to succeed.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I am encouraged by this work and want to help amplify our voices.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. About the racism and disunity we experience
Thank you, Rev Leonard.
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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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