County of Residence: Washington. Westmoreland, and also Tampa, Florida, Wheeling, WV, and Columbus, OH
How do you describe your identity? My gender identity is female. I am pansexual. I am white.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I first found support online through various LGBTQ groups and websites. I eventually came out, subtly to close friends and eventually to family. My family was furious, as they are conservative and religious. They went through a period of denial in ways. We unfortunately don’t really talk about my personal life, let alone who I am as a person. Although in many ways, I lost my blood relatives – I gained an entirely new set of family who loved me for who I was. Sometimes, blood relatives aren’t the best family environment to come out to, and sometimes friendships can become your true family.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am OUT. I am proud. I am unapologetic. I love myself for who I am in every facet. I realize now, with the thanks to so many wonderful LGBT groups and friends – that I am perfect just how I am! The people in my small town were so far behind, and that isn’t my problem!
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My first LGBTQ connection felt like a light bulb going off in a sense, like a bright light shining in a once dark room. I wasn’t alone. Meeting someone else like myself, was refreshing and simultaneously made me realize that I wasn’t the outcast the small town I had grown up in had made me feel like. Meeting my first LGBTQ friend was life changing for me. From being bullied, and told I was some sort of freak of nature – to meeting someone else who understood my life experiences, who had gone through them, was amazing.
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Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I adore Orange is the New Black, and really have enjoyed Poussey Washington’s character. I identify completely with many aspects of her story, and being misunderstood by her family. Yet, she’s so strong and yet very in touch with her emotions.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook, friends
Describe your geographical community. Geographically I would say the community here is getting better however there is still so much work left to do. I live in a Rural area, surrounded by spots of Urban small towns. It seems to be improving, although slowly. In my hometown of Wheeling, WV however, when I was growing up, conditions were atrocious. I vividly remember being bullied in school. Living in Western, PA I’ve seen an improvement in attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals. However, occasionally, I’ll still hear slurs or derogatory remarks.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. My local LGBTQ community is warm, fun and full of life. Friends in the community are very supportive, though politically our elected officials could do more to protect LGBTQ children and adults in school and in public.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes. In a job setting, I was told to keep my personal life to myself even though others in straight relationships were allowed to openly discuss their relationships. It was as if my life was taboo. I eventually left this job. As a child, in West Virginia, I experienced discrimination in high school severely for being openly pansexual. Teachers and faculty would make remarks, and it was acceptable for them to do so.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) My access to Health care has been alright. I’ve had major issue accessing the form of birth control that works best for my body. It seems as though this is a women’s issues as well as an access to certain hormones issue. Regular everyday care for illnesses and surgeries has been fine, but the birth control situation has been absolutely awful.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I would say that the political issues in this country creep into every LGBTQ person’s life. The debate on bathrooms, and LGBTQ protections may not seem serious to some, but when these basic rights are threatened it makes me feel like I am not welcome in my own birth place. As if I am somehow subhuman. It may not be visible from the outside, however, I know its on my mind and the minds of my LGBTQ neighbors.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Elected officials in PA could approve legislation that protects LGBTQ individuals at work, in schools, in public and in the healthcare system.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I am a hair stylist. I had a client, who “hated lesbians.” She had been my client for five years, but one day decided to go off about it. I laughed, and after hearing her speak about her disdain for lesbians for what seemed like forever I said, “Hunny, you’re basically speaking to one. A lesbian does your hair.” She was shocked. I don’t think she had ever actually met an LGBTQ person, at least not knowingly so. She said, “WHAT?” I explained myself briefly, explaining that I had always been the way I am. She continued to make appointments with me, and has since, seemed to have ditched the concept that LGBTQ are somehow subhuman. Ridiculous, I know.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Access to hormones, access to mental health professionals that do not judge LGBTQ individuals, access to healthcare professionals that understand LGBTQ health concerns
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Pittsburgh LGBT Pride on Facebook
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That basic human rights will be depleted for LGBTQ people. That discrimination in the workplace and in schools will be ignored.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That the entire community bands together and lifts the concerns of LGBTQ people up, and works together to fix them.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen. Listen to LGBTQ struggles, and try to be a positive force in their lives. If someone says they’re experiencing consistent harassment or unable to access care – listen, and fight alongside them for their basic rights.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Lift them up! Support them! Be positive allies, and when they discuss a concern listen hard, care, and work together to make their lives better as well as the community’s as a whole
What motivated you to take part in this project? To share my experience and help others in the community
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. you were very thorough!
Thank you, Krista.
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
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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.