Name: Laura Gail
County of Residence: Allegheny. I was born in Blair County (Altoona, PA) and then moved to Dauphin County PA in the 8th grade, Pittsburgh since college
How do you describe your identity? cis female, bisexual, white (I only list white because it is very obvious, I stay out of the sun and have zero color)
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? My coming out process was slow, and later in life. I was raised Catholic, and married a man at 24. We had a child at 29. I didn’t begin admitting to anyone (really even myself) that I liked women until my divorce at the age of 31. I didn’t want to make life harder than a ‘broken family’ for my daughter, so I kept my sexual orientation hidden from my daughter for a long while, and only told her about 2 years ago. She took it pretty well.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I don’t hide my orientation purposefully from anyone (well, there are a couple exceptions-keep reading….)
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I remember there being a lesbian on my dorm floor in college, and everyone else joking behind her back. I feel bad I didn’t stand up for her and make people stop being rude/crude. I remember thinking how happy she seemed.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Gosh, lately all I can think of is Rachel Maddow. Her presence and personality are so inviting. She could be reading the dictionary and I would tune in. Her confidence is irresistible.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? social media
Describe your geographical community. I live 8 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh now, and have access to as many LGBTQ-friendly resources as I can handle.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. My personal LGBTQ community began from a core group of women I used to date. From there, I was able to branch out into different online LGBTQ groups, and meet lots of different folks, and have really been so fortunate to make a lot of great connections and friends that way over the years. My main source of community is Facebook. I’m a divorced mom, I don’t get out as much as I’d like. So I stay up-to-date online, and am so thankful for all the other folks that do it that way as well.
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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. Luckily, no. I’ve not dated many women and those I have, I can’t recall any issues.
However, I fear it may come to that shortly. I was thrilled to finally be part of this Amplify project, to be part of the voice of the LGBTQ community. When I decided to do it, I thought ‘if I’m going to do this, of course I’m going to put my name with it’. I mean, why would I bother sharing my story, and then not being brave enough to put myself out there? But it is about more than me. I have a daughter to support.
I spoke with my daughter about this project, and she was fine with me putting my truth out there. I’m nervous my job could see this, and there could be repercussions. For now, my job is protected for sexual orientation. And the current president said he wasn’t going to change that. But…
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) This is a very hard question for me, that makes me take a hard look at my ‘privilege’ (being a single bisexual woman, I can come across as straight mostly, and don’t require specific health care services otherwise). There are times I’ve had providers assume I am straight and I don’t correct them because I sometimes worry they may treat me differently.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? n/a
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I just hope they never stop fighting for our rights. This is a scary time we’re in right now.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I’m not out to all my daughter’s friends. It just hasn’t been necessary since I haven’t dated any women for any length of time for years. There are some friends of hers (and their parents) that may take real issue with it, if I were to date a woman, and I do fear for that for my daughter. I don’t want her to lose any friends just because I’m trying to find my happiness. As others have said, some think it is just as easy as ‘If you can choose, why don’t you just choose a man, that would make life easier’. (for whom?)
I think the reason it has taken me this long to agree to submitting an Amplify Q&A, the reason I wasn’t certain about putting my ‘truth’ out there, is because I didn’t feel confident about my ‘label’. I always wished there was some blood test that would just tell me if I were gay or bi. I knew I was somewhere on the Kinsey Scale between liking men and women, and liking just women. The biggest teachable moment I ever got was YEARS ago at a Lez Liquor Hour event. I met this cute girl there, much younger than me. And I told her how I was still struggling to figure out what my ‘identity’ was. Because I liked guys, but I REALLY liked girls, so I thought I was a lesbian. (for those of you in the LGBTQ community, you know, being bi is like the kiss of death, a lot of lesbians don’t want to come near you, so I wasn’t really being honest back then…)
This girl told me that for her, she felt that anyone could do the physical stuff to ‘make the magic happen’ (trying to make this PG so it is printable) but she could only relate to girls, and that’s how she knew she was really gay. And…the glimmer in her eyes as she was telling me? Wowza. I got it. Right then. Except…then, a week or two later a guy would tell me some amazing story, and glimmer at me, and I’d be right back at square one!!! So, for me, it really is just about who the person is on the inside. I’m equally attracted to men and women.
I think long term, I would click more with a woman emotionally, but who knows?
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? n/a
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? n/a
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? TRUMP
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we become equal to the rest of the community. That we are accepted, and welcomed, and understood.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Stand up for us in our absence.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Through information and education! It hurts my heart how terribly the transgender folks are treated. I do my very best to speak up every chance I get to correct people when they have wrong information, etc.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I didn’t want to give into the fear. Now more than ever, we need to be seen and heard. I remembered the movie ‘Milk’ (loved that movie!) and Sean Penn (as Harvey Milk) saying ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’ but now I can’t seem to verify that anywhere. But, the quote I can verify as Harvey Milk’s, that is just as relevant is..’Hope will never be silent’. Here’s to never losing hope.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Q: Favorite tidbit about me? A: I used to be very allergic to cats, but now have two that I absolutely adore 🙂 I’m a complete cat mommy now!
Thank you, Laura.
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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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