County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? Queer
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I first came out to my friends and family as bisexual between the ages of 13 and 15. I can’t say there was a whole lot of support, but I didn’t get a negative reaction either. As a person who is oriented towards more than one gender, I feel like I’ve basically had to come out every time my relationship status changed. This can get stressful!
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I tell people when it’s relevant, and it’s often relevant. I lived in the Middle East for about a decade, and stayed closeted on social media and professionally, although I was out to my friends. This took some effort. Now, I’m very out of the closet on social media and at work. It’s funny–even the more conservatively Muslim connections I had in the Middle East have stayed in touch on social media, even as I’ve ramped up the queerness on my feed.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? One of my father’s oldest and closest friends is a gay man who I have known since I was born. I was always very excited to see him when we visited on vacations or at big life events. When I was about 8, I was watching some kind of conservative news station and I told my mother that I didn’t like gay people. She asked me if I knew any, and I named a (very straight) couple that we knew. When she corrected me and told me that M. and his partner were gay, I had a pretty formative moment. I love how she handled this–I immediately became the 8-year-old version of a media skeptic AND LGBTQIA+ rights advocate in one move!
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. There are too many to choose from! Currently, I’ve been enjoying the comics of Sophie Labelle, who writes Assigned Male. They are funny, sweet stories of middle school kids and there’s always some kind of witty social commentary.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I obviously love Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents! I work with QueerPGH, and I feel like it is also emerging as an inclusive source for and by community members. For national news, I like Autostraddle, and a few news aggregators. And I gotta say social media.
Describe your geographical community. I currently live in Mt Lebanon, which is a place that has evolved significantly over the years. I was there for part of high school and got a fair bit of harassment for my (then) sort of nonbinary presentation. Now, however, I know other queer people in the neighborhood, and it’s one of the few areas that actually has ordinances on the books that are supportive of LGBTQIA+ people.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I have felt very welcomed by some of the parenting/family groups on Facebook. One of our local groups has events like bowling and camping trips. The people there are very friendly and it’s been great having some kind of continuity, seeing the same people again and again.
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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. When I was younger and looked more nonbinary, I was asked to leave public bathrooms. In job settings, I’ve either worked in inclusive places or kept my queerness to myself.
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 get misgendered occasionally, even though I currently look very femme. I reckon if I’m wearing dresses and makeup and carrying a purse, people who call me ‘sir’ are trying to make some kind of point. Fun fact: I’m a cis female. Otherwise, I’d categorize this as straight-up discrimination.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have not run into any issues.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Queer people are constantly undervaluing themselves. I see a lot of queer people doing a whole lot of unpaid or underpaid labor. They work so hard and still face a massive financial struggle. This is especially acute for people of color in our area.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? We need equality legislation on the books, especially on the state level.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I love to ‘gossip’ at the hair salon, but I always get a little anxious when somebody new cuts my hair. Should I avoid pronouns? Should I avoid talking about my life altogether? The last time I went, I just talked like a human being, and corrected the hairstylist when she assumed I was dating a man, and it turned out she was queer, too!
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Our community is tiny and we face so much crap from the outside world, but we still fail to support each other enough. Relationships end and everyone takes sides and there’s so much drama and backbiting. It takes a lot of extra effort to build community when everyone in that community has faced so much of their own trauma.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? There are so many! Pittsburgh has a rich, diverse array of resources. There are LGBTQIA+ groups for just about anything, from sports to dive bars to lesbian book clubs.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That anxieties from financial struggle and a fractured community will prevent us from surviving and thriving in the Trump-era.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? We will find a way to work together.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Center marginalized voices!
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Listen and don’t dismiss us as having legitimate experiences and concerns…just like you would do for any humans.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I’ve been meaning to for a while, but I wasn’t sure what to say. Sue posted today that she needed someone to post one, and I figured it was time!
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How do your identities intersect? Maybe you shouldn’t have asked it–I think the answers to this might get very long! I do feel like my adoption of the identity term ‘queer’ involved more than my sexual orientation, including factors like disability, single motherhood, an evolving gender presentation, race, economic status, relationship styles, and political beliefs.
Thank you, Lange.
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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