At the request of our contributors, we are creating space for people to submit updates. We know that for some folks, life has changed so we are offering an opportunity to post an update to earlier responses. We will NOT be modifying that content, but we will create a link to this new post. This will be open through December 2017 and again at least one more time before the end of the project.
If you would like to update your #AMPLIFY contribution, click here.
First to submit is Meg. You can read Meg’s original post: Meg is a Country Queer published on July 1, 2015.
County of Residence: Washington County, Allegheny County; Albion, NE; Johnson City, TN
How do you describe your identity? I am a country queer, a Fabulachian. I grew up in rural generational poverty and now identify as working class. I consider myself to be a genderqueer femme, a sort of mélange of genders. I also identify as disabled, as I am living with chronic illness.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I’m still in the process of coming out. As a person who identifies as queer and genderqueer, coming out is a continuous journey. Other people often try to fit my identity into boxes where I don’t belong based on their perception of my relationships and/or my gender presentation. I also feel like there is a queerer-than-thou attitude that is very pervasive within the LGBTQ community and leaves no room for people who exist outside of gender and sexuality dichotomies. I have found a lot of support and community, though, through the Washington County Gay-Straight Alliance, PERSAD, Central Outreach, and the Center for Coalfield Justice.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? It’s complicated. I first came out as bisexual to a friend at age 16 and didn’t really come out as queer to the rest of my friends and family until I was 19 or 20. I am not out at work; I provide community-based behavioral health services in the same community where I reside, and I have mixed feelings about being out on the job. I have recently started coming out as genderqueer, as well. I guess I would say that I am out for the most part. I don’t try to keep my identity a secret, but I am by nature a relatively private person.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? See original response.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. See original response.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I mainly use social media, blogs, and magazines for staying informed about LGBTQ issues. I am also a board member for the Washington County Gay-Straight Alliance.
Describe your geographical community. See original response.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. See original response.
Help us continue to tell these stories. Donate to #AMPLIFY today!
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. See original response.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Historically, I have not had access to LGBTQ competent health care, but yes, I do expect it to be! Central Outreach and PERSAD both recently opened satellite locations in Washington, and I feel like they have done a lot of great work to make LGBTQ competent health care more accessible in our area.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Many of my LGBTQ neighbors are facing destruction of their land and property due to natural resource extraction, namely hydraulic fracturing and longwall mining. I don’t think that the connection is often made between the wellness and safety of LGBTQ folks and the environmental impact of these processes, but as a queer person who has been forced out of their home community because of this phenomenon, the connection is clear to me. The rich cultural heritage of rural LGBTQ communities is rapidly being depleted, and I think that this is often not part of the local dialogue when talking about LGBTQ issues.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I’d like to see elected officials actively push for legislation that prohibits discrimination in employment, education, housing, and access to culturally competent health care for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. I’d like to see elected officials advocate for families and community members who have been negatively impacted by natural resource extraction. I’d also like to see more support for consumer-directed and peer-led social services, especially in the mental health realm.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. As a teen and as a young adult in my community, I have been told countless times that I should “move to the city” (Pittsburgh) if I want to have queer community. If someone tells you that you should or need to leave your community (especially if it’s a rural area or a small town) in order to feel safe and worthy as an LGBTQ person, they are NOT an ally.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Poverty and homelessness are huge barriers for LGBTQ folks in Washington County and neighboring Greene and Fayette Counties. I think that lack of access to higher education, sustainable employment, and knowledgeable health care providers are barriers, as well. Substance abuse and lack of access to quality mental health services also pose significant threats to our community.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Washington County Gay-Straight Alliance; PERSAD; Central Outreach; Common Ground Teen Center; Center for Coalfield Justice
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My greatest fear is that we will remain divisive along lines of race, class, (dis)ability, and geographic location. I am most concerned about LGBTQ youth in rural areas of Western PA, as there is not as strong a system of support and access to formal resources like there is in more urban areas.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? My hope is that we can learn to celebrate and respect our differences and focus on our strengths and assets as LGBTQ community members. I hope that we can continue to learn from one another’s experiences and use what we learn from each other to create healthier, happier, safer communities for ourselves, our families, and our friends.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Above all else, listen and affirm.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community?
What motivated you to take part in this project? I believe that storytelling is an effective conduit for connecting marginalized people, building relationships, promoting authenticity, and encouraging collaboration. Also, I am personally trying to engage in efforts of radical vulnerability in order to make myself more transparent to my community.
What question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. See original response.
Why are you updating your #AMPLIFY contribution? A lot changes in 3 years! I think that this project has been an important piece of my coming out process.
Thank you, Meg.
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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