Jenna,19, is Proud of Her Lesbian Identity #AMPLIFY

lesbian Allegheny County

 

Name: Jenna

Age:  19

County of Residence: Allegheny County

Pronouns: she/her

How do you describe your identity? lesbian

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? i have to moms who are both gay women who have strongly supported me and helped me delve into my own identity at a young age. our family was mostly friends with other young gay couples and we went to pride and had our own traditions when it came to celebrating who we are and what we stood for as a family. In school that’s another story, coming from a more conservative township most people in my high school were very homophobic. they would call my family sinners and tell me i’m going to hell for being gay almost everyday after it was known that i was gay. i didn’t officially come out in high school but people knew and they made sure I knew that they knew and it was very hard to find people who were accepting, some days people would call me fag or homo or other slurs in the hallways and it was a really tough time. but having a strong family support and a few close friends really helped in my own personal healing. of course it doesn’t fix it and i still have those scars from the bullying i received.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? after high school i left the US completey and lived in Norway for a year. going to a place that literally doesn’t need give a shit if you are LGBTQ+ was an eye opening experience. i was terrified to tell my roommates that i was gay. living with 3 other girls i figured they would hate me and ask to be moved away from me. but alas, when i did tell them one of the first days we all had been living together their response was verbatim “okay, cool. should we have pizza.” and that was that. no one cared! everyone supported me and made me feel loved and included in a way i had never felt before by people my own age. now since being back in the states for a few months. again, back in western PA, i still see those families or people in the grocery store or other community gatherings that tormented me and my family in high school and i just think what it’s like to be them. i forgive them and i feel sorry for them to have so much hate in their hearts. i know that my love is not wrong, i know it’s not offensive, and i know that i am loved by those i love equally the same. and i am PROUD to be who i am no matter what happens.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? my moms, they had a huge impact on me as a child and through life, of course. we had family friends who were also lesbians or people of the LGBTQ+ community so i was always very comfortable with that. but i still had my own personal turmoil. i knew i was gay from the time i was in 5th grade so having my parents show me what’s it’s like to be a proud queer woman was very helpful in my own process of coming out. but having them as my role models in the queer world was something better than i could ask for. i know, i am one of the lucky few.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. honestly it’s so hard to just name one, but my favorite at the moment would be Nicole Haught from Wynonna Earp the TV show. she is a fearless and unkillable queer woman. it’s always a trope on television to see queer people die a tragic death or be the punchline or have their characters not be full well written characters. so i must give props to the people that run the show (Emily Andras) because she has written the best queer woman role model i could ask for. she has be kidnapped and shot at and all kinds of crazy shit on that show and hasn’t died! and has a lovely girlfriend who is bisexual and fully loves and commits to who she is. Nicole is fearless when it came to showing and telling her likeness for her now girlfriend who, when they first met on the show, was presumably straight. but after their brief encounter waverly, her wonderfully written bisexual girlfriend, now was faced with the majestic and beautiful being that is nicole haught. watching her every week for years on television, continuing to live her life the way she wants too and not dying like so many queer character is just an absolute blessing to see and really gives me hope as a young queer woman today. (i fuckin love that show so much so whoever is reading this i strooooooongly suggest it <3)

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? i try to stay very involved in politics and other local LGBTQ+ events and overall things in the city of pittsburgh. also the internet is dope for that too.

Describe your geographical community. Very rural, maybe an hour outside of where i live in all farms and long fields of corn. typical pennsylvania living. but in the city of pittsburgh like i said before is very good and overall pretty inclusive.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. there isn’t much of any at all in my town that i live in so i focus more on the city of pittsburgh when i want to be active in LGBTQ+ things. there is pride every year and many organizations for LGBTQ+ people in the city. it had a booming culture that is very open to the idea of queer people, which is more likely to be true in a city as opposed to where i live in the suburbs.


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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.  in my limited personal experience in a job setting, no i have not, but that’s not to say when i get a more professional and long-term job that won’t change.

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. yes, i’m acholn it was a nightmare. it was almost impossible for me to talk to anyone about my family or myself without them being disapproving or rude. i got lots of inappropriate questions that you would NEVER hear a straight person ask another straight person when it came to literally the same thing. also i had teachers ask me inappropriate questions in front of the whole class which happened on many occasions that led to people in my own classes not wanting to work with me and the like. it was hard to find friends that loved me and accepted me but eventually i found the good few who were. lots of just random slurs spit at me like i was some monster. and lost of verbal bullying in high school more than anything.

Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) i don’t think i have healthcare to be honest. i’m still pretty young so i go to where my mom takes me lol

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? i define neighbors as other people in the LGBTQ+ community and i know lots of people in my highs school and just knowledge of people in my community through social media that i know are LGBTQ+ and i know it’s hard for a lot of them to feel welcomed, accepted and loved in our community. and they hide and cover up that part of themselves so people will like them or accept them more than if they were truthful about their feelings and who they are. but yes, lots of my younger queer friends are silenced by the environment they live in that’s nonaccepting towards them.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? i would most like to see an LGBTQ+ elected official for starters. i think to really cause a change in our community we have to emerge into it. we have to have people of ALL facets of queerness to be in those descion making positions. and i feel that they should listen and really understand the LGBTQ+ community here in pennsylvania and understand that it’s definitely not one of the most accepting states and needs to make active change in schools and in communities to encourage love, tolerance, and acceptance. and that just because our current elected officials say they are LGBTQ+ friendly don’t do shit for our community they just have that stamp on their “report card” of things they support but don’t have any active LGBTQ+ practices in place. as a whole pennsylvania is very noninclusive therefor pennsylvania’s elected officials need to hear from our community and actually fucking listen to what we say.

Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. play with gender, EXPERIMENT. i am not someone who follows traditional gender roles but i do identify as a female i like to be more tomboy some days and more femme in others. i have lots of trans friends whom i adore that have taught me so much. that growing breasts doesn’t mean you have to dress as a woman and that most menswear osbcures MtF growing breasts pretty well because the clothes are designed that way. and that if you have unaccepting parents what won’t buy you a binder or other things to make you feel like you are yourself, find others online or friends that can buy them for you. also if you feel unsafe in situations you only have to tell people want you want them to know.

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? lots have to do with our own self-loathing and accepting that who we are LOTS of people are going to hate us for that. and i think that is something everyone in the LGBTQ+ community struggles with all the time. it’s the fact that people think that our love is wrong and disgusting and with having people tell you that to your face all the time, it’s hard not to take it to heart. so overcoming personal challenges is a tough one.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? LOOK ONLINE! there are thousands of you just google it. i know some but not the names 😬😬😬

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania?  that my younger LGBTQ+ neighbors will only face worse challenges than i have. and that they won’t rise above and that we will lose some of them.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? that people will come together and embrace and LOVE the LGBTQ+ community and give us the support and access to the things we need.

What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? to join with us in our constant fight for acceptance and show that we are no different. be there to talk to your LGBTQ friends, defend them and the community when they aren’t there. stand up for what you believe in and make the homophobes sit the fuck down.

How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? we can tell them that we love and accept them and not make it seem like we are all fighting our our fights when it truly is all of us fighting to be who we are. and that they are not alone. NEVER alone.

What motivated you to take part in this project? i LOVE talking about who i am and what i stand for. and this seemed like an awesome place to do it.

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. how is your experience in the LGBTQ+ unique? would you change anything about your “coming out” experience? how/where do you find safe spaces?

 

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.