Name: Bebe Beretta
Age: 27 (28 in November!)
County of Residence: Allegheny County, formerly Butler and Mercer counties
Pronouns: She/He/They (anything will do, I’m a pronoun hog!)
How do you describe your identity? Non-binary, gender-fluid.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I never really came out. The universe just kind of shaped around my identity through me doing what I wanted. I went to Butler High School and was one of hundreds of students, so it was easy for me to be unnoticed by peers – I can’t say i experienced much bullying. I had a small friend group and found support through them, but my sexuality wasn’t much of an issue. So it was business as usual, as far as we were concerned. When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Leukemia, so for the next 4 years my focus was on surviving and treatment – my personal development took a back seat.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I don’t typically outright disclose my identity, I just choose to live through my identity. As a drag queen, there can be a bit of a delicate balance in disclosure versus capitalization. I’d rather not have my identity capitalized upon by others, or for people to see me as trying to profit or gain attention through my identification. I’m quite honest that if anyone asked, I’d give an answer, and I will not deny who I am in any situation, including the workplace.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first LGBTQ person I met was a fellow high school classmate/friend who also became my first boyfriend. He helped me find confidence in who I am (we also went to our first gay club, Pegasus [the Downtown one] together). I’d like to think the effect was reciprocal with him.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I can’t say I actively seek LGBTQ contributors to TV, film, etc, so I’m not entirely sure of a personal favorite. What I can recommend, or who I have gathered much emotional sustenance from is the late David Rakoff. I have listened to his stories on This American Life and will be looking into his book, Fraud. I also enjoy Andrea Gibson’s poetry, as well as music by Chris Pureka.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Being that I’m active in the drag community, I’m exposed to many sources of information from peers. I also received information via social media (can’t trust the news to break information in LGBTQ best interests!).
Describe your geographical community. Butler, where I grew up, is not the most LGBTQ friendly, as a rural town about an hour from Pittsburgh. It’s still quite backwards but not loudly so, in my experience. Pittsburgh is much more LGBTQ-friendly, but it does have work to do.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I can only tell you what I see. Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community is diverse, spread out, and both visible and underground/non-visible. I cannot say much about community resources as I have not found myself using them – I do know there are various resources available that are helpful and necessary, such as PERSAD and Proud Haven, but my personal experience has not led me to utilizing the resources available for LGBTQ people.
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Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. As far as institutional discrimination, I have been lucky enough to have not experienced any, or not to a degree that it was noticeable. Of course in my day-to-day life there is always someone making comments. Those comments do more to reveal something about the commenter than it affects me in any way. A drive-by “FAGGOT!” is a regular staple for many of us.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have insurance through my employer, so I have the privilege of access to more affordable healthcare than many LGBTQ people. As for my experience with providers, they are a bit hesitant and cautious, but moderately knowledgeable on LGBTQ healthcare – in my own experience. However, if I were to discuss different avenues of healthcare (PReP, etc) I am of the mind that I would be doing more educating than being advised by the doctor.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I am certain there are invisible issues, but I cannot say for myself that I know of any that haven’t been addressed or part of some dialogue that I have seen.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? No answer.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. There are many day-to-day situations that can prove to be a challenge for LGBTQ people. Specific tips are helpful, but I want to offer one thing that I think many LGBTQ people neglect to think about or do for themselves in their own personal relationships:
“I love you. Things may be tough, work can be difficult, life can be unfair, people are heartless. We’ve been through quite a bit in our years together and we’ve seen some amazing things, walked many miles, made many mistakes. We’ve separated from each other for a bit, but I don’t want to be alone and I don’t want you to feel abandoned. I’m here for you, I will protect you, I will keep you safe. I love you.”
Look in the mirror and look at yourself, really look at yourself. See how you’ve grown from a child and address these previous phrases to yourself, to the 8 year old or the 10 year old – the child within yourself, knowing you have come a long way in this body and in this person. It doesn’t have to be out loud, it could be in your head, and it can vary from what I’ve said. But it is important to come back to yourself and take inventory and self-address after spending so much time fighting and struggling outwardly. Love yourself, respect yourself, stand up for the vulnerable child within.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Beyond discrimination, I see a lack of warmth within the community, between members. This creates a barrier to communication and connection. A sense of connection is a driving force behind change in a community.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I don’t believe there are any resources that I personally can add that hasn’t been stated by previous contributors of AMPLIFY.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My greatest fear is the loss of heart, strength of soul, and volume of spirit. I fear for the community getting lost in the minutiae of noise, not finding their own voice, feeling their own passions. In my experience and my neck of the community, there exists a large echo chamber of recycled thought and self-marketing that is masked as individual ideas and movement towards change.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My greatest hope would be… basically, the inverse of my greatest fear.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Make space. Listen. Stop making a commodity / petting zoo / feel-good project of the LGBTQ community. Stop the claims of a shared experience, which minimizes and erases the LGBTQ experience.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? I personally feel like we are still at square one on this issue. I hate always going back to my being a drag queen, but that position offers a different perspective on the workings of different queer public environments than one who just attends these environments. I say square one because I feel that before anything can be expressed regarding issues, there must be a space made for it (physical, emotional, etc.). I feel that the gay community alone is still not fully behind the effort to make space for their other queer/ trans peers – there seems to be a public tendency towards seeking heteronormativity or inclusion/approval/acceptance of the straight community/culture. Only when space is made can I see what else can be done to further the improvement of the BTQ community. Bisexual, trans and queer members need to be validated and acknowledged.
What motivated you to take part in this project? It isn’t very often that I speak so comprehensively on the subject of LGBTQ experiences. I wanted to really this time to articulate my current place with my own experience as well as my perspective of LGBTQ life as I see it.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Actually, I’m just glad to not get questions about drag culture – it’s so tired already.
Thank you, Bebe.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct two answers. The original responses belonged to another responsent. We regret the mistake and take full responsibility ~ Sue
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.
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