Name: Madi Scull
County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? Nonbinary asexual lesbian
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out experiences are hard to describe because it is never just one experience. It’s a series of interactions that you have to have with each new person you come into contact with, I think.
I always knew that there was something a little bit different about me, but I didn’t realize that I was LGBTQ until ~8th grade. Honestly, I think I had an inkling that it was possible I was gay, but probably just did my best to repress it in an effort to find some normalcy within middle and high school. Those times in life are hard to deal with anyway, and being LGBTQ can complicate that infinitely.
The one that sticks out to me though is this. I was in my freshman year of college and there was a running joke about how all my friends were gay. One of my family members even jokingly suggested that I was “collecting gay friends.” For a while I just kind of laughed it off and was like “haha sure is weird isn’t it….” The end of spring semester was coming up and I realized that I had to go back home for the summer. I didn’t expect it, but I ended up being really emotional about having to leave Pittsburgh and go back home. Additionally, Donald Trump came to Pitt’s Campus one day to speak at Soldiers and Sailors. There were protesters protesting the event itself (mostly college students), protesters protesting the counter-protesters (Pro-Trump people) who were carrying around large guns openly slung over their shoulders. There were also 2 suitcase bombs imploded on that day, one of which shook the walls of my room. I had a night class but was genuinely not sure if it was safe for me to go. I went to class, only to hear a large number of protesters screaming outside on the street. As an LGBTQ person, having this many homophobic people on my campus terrified me. I knew that they would not hesitate to hurt me or those I love just because they hated us for our gender/sexuality.
The stress of all of that on top of trying to get through an upcoming finals week and impending move-out etc etc lead me to a breaking point. I had what I now know was the worst anxiety attack of my life. The next day I went to see a doctor because I was feeling awful and didn’t know what that was. They diagnosed me with anxiety and basically asked point blank what has made you get to this point and ‘what are you hiding?’ They more or less said that I needed to work on getting the anxiety under control immediately because my anxiety manifested very physically with heart palpitations, sweats, and a spike in blood pressure. My doctor was accepting of me outing myself to them but did imply that I should out myself to friends and family as soon as possible. It wasn’t exactly as I would have liked to have it happen, but I’m glad it’s over with. I decided to take their advice and do so to lessen my stress.
I found support in my friend group from lots of other LGBT individuals as well as a few straight friends. I wish we didn’t have to come out at all, but since we do, I’m grateful for my friends who have given me support through the process.
I originally came out as bisexual. Since then, I have completed extensive coursework in gender and sexuality studies. I’ve come to realize that I am non binary and lesbian, and that my attraction toward the masculine only ever applies for me in non binary individuals. I have also realized that I am on the asexual spectrum. The best story I have to describe this was how, when I was growing up, I thought the physical need for sex was an actual joke. I thought that everyone knew it was a joke and kept playing along. I see that my normal is on the asexual spectrum, where I personally don’t feel a sexual attraction to people. It has been a learning journey for me but I am so glad that I’ve been able to explore the various aspects of my identity while still in college.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Well, I shaved off most of my hair since then. I know you can’t see it, but it’s buzzed entirely except for the top which I have a medium length and push to one side. I put fun colors in it sometimes. It was just purple. I also started a drag career. I am AFAB and a drag queen. It can be tough because people don’t understand how those two things go together (they think only cis gay men can be drag queens sometimes) but I have found the experience enriching for the most part. I have created a drag persona who I am now working on making more androgynous. Drag has allowed me to explore gender and helped me understand that you can be genderfluid/nonbinary/etc and still like feminine things if you were AFAB. I try to be very open about being queer. I did not gain anything when I was dishonest about these things and I honestly do not have any desire to go back to a time when I acted like I was straight. I am just not interested. That isn’t who I am.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My math teacher in 6th grade was the first person I ever knew who was LGBTQ. I remember not really understanding what the big deal was that my peers made about her. She brought her partner to a middle-school function and I remember trying to reconcile feeling positively toward her being able to live her truth and have her partner present at the event with students whispering and laughing about it. Parents of my friends, too, would make negative comments toward her. Honestly, I am so glad that I saw someone living their truth. It makes me realize now that being visible is so important for young LGBTQ people.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Honestly, I’m really not sure. I’ll just go with any character that owns their actions and does not fall victim to the ‘kill your gays’ media trope.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? From professors and as a future educator. My goal is to become a gender/sexuality theorist and be a professor at a university. I also follow LGBTQ news sites on social media.
Describe your geographical community. I think this really depends on where you are. Pittsburgh is somewhat-accepting in some places and very unaccepting/openly hostile in others. The more conservative spaces in Pittsburgh tend to be further from the city, I think.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Pittsburgh has a pretty awesome drag scene. I wish it were more inclusive but I am working towards that.
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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 still living in Pitt’s dorms, I had a girl leave a death threat on the whiteboard on my door with some anti-LGBT slurs written underneath. It was tough to deal with but my RA at the time and the RD supported me. They took it to the police and filed a hate crime report.
Additionally, I am in a service sorority on campus. I ran for my sorority’s executive board elections after holding a large chair position the year prior. I was slated, which basically means that the outgoing board backed me for a position I ran for. The slate tends to win the elections. The night of the election, I lost the position by a narrow margin. Walking out, I heard one of my “sisters” make the comment that “she couldn’t win, she’s too gay to represent us.” I knew immediately that was about me. There truly is no other person it could have been about within the context of our sorority as a whole and the candidates for the positions. The girl making the comments clearly did not know I was behind her. It was incredibly disappointing. Before long, word spread and people from all over campus were talking to me about it. I was shocked by how many people unaffiliated with the sorority had found out about it, but was also surprised by outpouring of support I received. It was a devastating moment because I wanted the position so badly and was qualified for it, but ultimately it worked out. I was glad the situation brought attention to the discrimination that can happen on campus. Additionally, I ended up filling the time with an internship that helped me develop professionally with an organization I care greatly about. The people in the office I intern with do great work and are so accepting of who I am.
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. For sure. When I identified as bisexual, microaggressions were a major part of conversations. I think that bisexuality is misunderstood by gay people and straight people, and so draws ire from both groups. Bisexuals are not 50/50 gay/straight. They are bisexual. End of story.
There are also significant micro aggressions against asexual and non binary people. Others tend to invalidate these identities either explicitly or implicitly.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I do expect healthcare to be competent toward LGBTQ identities. At this point in history, being incompetent is honestly unacceptable. I have had some hit or miss experiences with doctors but I have found a PCP who I adore and who is incredibly accepting. I did have one mental health clinician who was not and implied that bisexuality (how I then identified) was a phase, but she was from Lancaster, PA (where I was raised).
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think we need to do a better job of providing healthcare and mental healthcare to LGBTQ people in the area. Additionally, we need to work on inclusivity as a community. There are already too many people out fighting against our equality in society. We need to stick together and love one another.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Policy changes. I want to see a national ban on conversion torture. Make religious excuses for not serving customers illegal. Make it illegal to push someone out of their housing or job for being LGBTQ+. We need concrete changes, not just a simple rainbow filter on an official’s profile picture during pride month.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. It’s hard to be a visible LGBTQ person because it can make you a target of violence. Every time we meet a new person, we have to wonder if they’ll be accepting of us and what the repercussions of them not being accepting could be. LGBTQ people are attacked and murdered at astounding numbers for merely existing. It can be terrifying.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Economic ability and accessing housing, physical healthcare, mental healthcare, domestic violence services in addition to violence, threats of violence, and self-inflicted violence.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad Center, SisTers Pittsburgh.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will divide the community so much that we will be unable to be a true community that loves and supports one another.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we can overcome our differences to eradicate racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, weight bias, etc in the community.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Speak out against injustice in any way possible. If someone is being discriminated against or harassed, it is your job to say something if you are not complicit in the action. We also need allies to help us push for human rights reform through legislation.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Educating themselves on the various identities of the LGBTQ community is a major factor in unlearning the cultural stereotypes we have been taught about people of these identities.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I think that personal stories are so important because young members of the community can find them and see themselves in them. It is important for young LGBTQ people to know that things are difficult but they will find their people and it will be okay.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. N/A
Thank you, Madi.
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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.