Nonbinary people are starting to have a voice here but the amount of times I’ve had the pronouns are important conversation with a cis gay man who tells me “well that just wasn’t in my time, you were either gay or you weren’t and there wasn’t in between” is too many times.
County of Residence: Allegheny County. Previously, Cumberland County and Franklin County
How do you describe your identity? Nonbinary, transmasculine, queer, polyamorous
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out as gay was really easy and essentially no one thought anything of it. Coming out as nonbinary, and telling people I was on hrt, was a lot harder and my mom stopped talking to me for a while. But my chosen family here in Pittsburgh has stood strong beside me every single step of the way.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Out and really freaking proud. I’m one of those people who talk pretty consistently and openly about my sexuality/gender identity. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in this skin and even now I have days where I don’t like my reflection because of gender dysphoria. But if I’m confident and proud of who I am, I hope I can inspire other people to feel the same.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? Ha. Funnily enough it was my mom. I asked her if she was gay when I was 14 and she decided to tell me. My mom is from a conservative, Southern baptist, Texas family and being gay was super not okay. So she hid it for a long time and made me swear not to tell anyone else. She didn’t officially come out until I was 20 or 21. Watching her suffer through that, and that being my greatest role model in terms of lgbtq, kind of stunted my own wanting to come out. I knew I was a part of the community since I was 11, I didn’t come out until I was 21.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Well currently I’m really loving the whole “Deadpool is pansexual” theory in the marvel universe. I adore Frida Kahlo, who definitely fell somewhere on the queer spectrum, because of how freaking strong she was and what she was able to overcome. Inara from Firefly is pretty cool. Kevin from Riverdale.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Lots of conversations! And reading the news when it’s relevant. My friend is the founder of Queer Pgh, so I read that too.
Describe your geographical community. Generally speaking it is. Pittsburgh tends to be pretty inclusive. There are certainly some problematic spaces, don’t get me wrong. And I won’t go to “straight” bars anymore but, yeah, it’s not too bad.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Oh gosh. Well, unfortunately the first word that comes to mind is disjointed. I feel strongly that my local lgbtq community is constantly at war with itself about something or another. We have a lot of problems, and I’m sure this is true of other communities, with privilege and the exclusion of folx who aren’t cis gay or white. Nonbinary people are starting to have a voice here but the amount of times I’ve had the pronouns are important conversation with a cis gay man who tells me “well that just wasn’t in my time, you were either gay or you weren’t and there wasn’t in between” is too many times. Bisexual/pansexual/asexual/demi etc narratives get almost completely erased. It feels very much like our community is divided between people who think that queerness is black and white, and those who exist in a much more gray area. It’s frustrating.
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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. Yep. Got fired from a bartending job once because I’m not super femme and the owners of said downtown bar didn’t believe I would “work out” for their clinetele.
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. Absolutely. I get shit about my name constantly. “Isn’t that a boys name?” “Oh I guess your dad really wasted a boy huh?” “Isn’t that even your real name?”. It’s exhausting. And there are always the folks who purposefully misgender me even when they know my pronouns or I’m wearing a pin or something.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I go to Central Wellness Outreach which is an lgbtq specific clinic so my experience with Healthcare here has been excellent.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? YEP. I’m working on advocacy for one right now. But domestic violence and intimate partner violence is a big one. Having safe spaces and lots of resources for survivors. Holding toxic people accountable within our community. Victim blaming. We don’t talk about it, or we don’t want to.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Maybe have employees take training on how to talk to people? Like how pronouns are importsnt, different identities matter, make an effort, that kind of thing. BATHROOMS. please for the love of Neptune can we have gender neutral bathrooms or AT LEAST make it clear that it’s cool to use whatever bathroom.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. English is not my boss’s first language and she doesn’t understand how to pronoun and I have way since gotten past that because what she does understand is that I am a human being. When she hired me, I asked her if it was okay that I dress more masculine and she said “you dress very professionally, if you’re comfortable I don’t care if you dress feminine/masculine/anything in between”, and since then she has only stood up for me when people give me crap about my name. She asks me questions about the community here in pittsburgh. She wants to be as informed as she can and I have never felt so safe or secure in a job.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Fighting with each other. Not talking about trauma. Feeling unsafe AMONGST each other.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? PERSAD, proud haven, PFLAG, PAAR, nonbinary/femme skateboard nights at the park near my house, nonbinary/queer biking nights
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Division. I would hate to see this community become so disjointed that it feels divided. It breaks my heart.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we start holding each other up. That we promote the idea of love is love, truly. That we pave the way for the next generation of the community.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? ASK QUESTIONS. LEARN. Dont get offended when we want safe spaces, help us create them. Dont say “what about me” because this isn’t about you.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Thank you for this question. Honestly? They have privelege that we don’t. Freaking use it. Stand up for us. Come to events, if you dont understand LEARN. we are just as much a part of this as they are.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Just a lot of anger surrounding the community right now.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. You asked so many great questions..
Thank you, Leo.
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.