Name: Hansen Bursic
County of Residence: Allegheny County, Living part-time in Philadelphia to attend Temple University
How do you describe your identity? Unapologetic Queer Filmmaker
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? My mother discovered my sexuality after I unsuccessfully lied about an event I was going to downtown. After she found out, she expressed her support and told me I had to come out to the rest of my family. The real difficulties came not to me directly but to my younger brother, who was the subject to cruel jokes and homophobic insults as they compared him to me.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Strong, unapologetic, and proud
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first LGBTQ person I met and knew about was my friend Caitlyn. She came from a family with two mothers which was a whole other world to me at the time. It gave me a framework for acceptance I had never seen, that a family could exist like this and that this is what accepting ones sexuality looked like.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I have so many but currently I am obsessing over Yance Ford, who was the first trans director to receive an Oscar nomination for their documentary film Strong Island which is about police brutality and trauma.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I work for an LGBTQ non-profit called the Pennsylvania Youth Congress as the Lead Media Coordinator. For the job I have to do social media strategy which means I have to follow so many different news sources, queer blogs, LGBTQ and political publications and activism/non-profit listservs.
Describe your geographical community. Suburban, swinging more rural in my area. I wouldn’t say my direct district is unfriendly to LGBTQ people but it is next to Deer Lakes, a much more rural district.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. In suburban Fox Chapel, it’s hard to find an LGBTQ community beyond dating apps with closeted older men with families. I usually travel to the city to engage with my community, either at political events, queer celebrations or 18+ nights at gay bars.
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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. I have not.
Have you experienced microagressions based on your identity? Think everyday indignities & slights that you experience, but would not characterize as discrimination. Please describe in your own words. I would say I have. Being more femme, I am constantly stereotyped and judged by others, disappointedly enough more in my own community. It has become so common that I have a fake, more masculine demeanor I can turn on in certain situations where I don’t want the people around me to assume I am gay cause of my voice or clothing.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have been lucky enough to have a openly gay primary care doctor throughout most of my life, inadvertently. I know that is not the norm for everyone but having a doctor who understands my sexuality has been super helpful, especially during a time where I was struggling with STIs and stigma.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I am an outlier in my community. That is to say, most folks my age leave the suburbs and don’t come back. I like to be home as much as possible in order to spend as much time with my family as I can before I inevitably end up in either New York or LA to pursue film work. That being said, the ages skew older and because of that I think my older neighbors are mostly closeted. I don’t engage too much in dialog with these folks, they aren’t exactly my type, but I do recognize that these older men are struggling with their identity.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Non-discrimination on a statewide level would be absolutely amazing. Prison reform in general but specifically making sure trans folks are housed and protected. Protections for trans students to use the bathroom or locker room that they feel most comfortable in. Comprehensive anti-bullying legislation for schools. Comprehensive state-mandated sexual education for k-12 students. Decriminalization of sex workers.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. For my activist friends, take breaks. Breath. Treat your self well. I only recently started to realize I was overworking myself. Your body and your being is directly linked to activism and if you don’t take care of it you cannot do the good work.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? The lack of queer space in my community creates problems. The entire area around Pittsburgh is underdeveloped when it comes to LGBTQ space and visibility in a way that’s not the same for the areas around Philly, for instance. The community is there, we are just not gathering in spaces other than Pittsburgh proper.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I don’t know of any in my direct area, besides the high school programs I participated in when I was a high school student. You have to travel to Pittsburgh to get resources.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will continue to feed into Pittsburgh and not create community in our community. Without community and visibility, we cannot mobilize to get non-discrimination laws past or voice our concerns.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I hope we can grow and become stronger together.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Listen and assist us only when we need assisting.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Listen and assist them only when they need assistance. Respect trans folks, don’t misgender them, deadname them or call them transgend.ered Educate yourself, don’t be constantly hounding BTQ folks with questions that can be answered with a simple google search.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I’m proud of my Western PA roots and want to be visible in the hopes that others like me know that a community exists out there.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I am unsure
Thank you, Hansen.
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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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