Name: Maria Vincenzia La Monica
County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? Female, Lesbian, writer, cancer survivor, advocate, enthusiast.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was deeply closeted until I was 29, I walked out of the closet and into the arms of an abusive partner. I got cancer. I got rid of both the toxic relationship and the cancer. Now I’m free and alive.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? Out, loud, and proud. Trying to make connections in the community to strengthen our bonds and give us a voice.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? My aunts best friend, Jamie. I was only two. He was 16. He was so kind to me and to my aunt who died of a heart condition at 16. I just loved him and carried him with me forever. I wish I could have been as brave as him.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Ricky from My So Called Life has my heart forever. He was all heart. Also, Carmen from the L Word is total Mommi inspo.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I’m on all the Facebook pages/groups. I read Out, autostraddle, and After Ellen. Im always looking to devour information about our community and looking for local events to attend.
Describe your geographical community. I’m in the North Hills. It’s painfully suburban, but it’s homo friendly. I’m also young, pretty, and passable as straight so my experience comes with a shitload of privilege that I must acknowledge. I spend a lot of time in Bloomfield/Garfield and that feels very safe!
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. It’s small! We have about 60 lesbians that come to all the ICandy events that are all 30+ and we have a hard time getting everyone else to show up. I wish we had a bar/club/safe space. But the over all LGBTQ+ scene is pretty large! Stonewall and Steel City sports is pretty big!
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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. Not yet. Like I said, I have privilege, but I’m always waiting for a that shoe to drop.
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 objectified a lot. I get asked a lot of questions that are mostly just curious, but often stray into the obscene about how lesbians have sex and shit like that. But for the most part, I’ve been very lucky. Especially since I hid in the closet for so long out of that exact fear.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Mine had been great because I have excellent insurance through my job and I have a gay therapist. So I feel very fortunate. Could it be better as a whole? Absolutely. But my experience has been phenomenal.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I see a lot of trans exclusion and hate speech in passing. The heteros seem to be fine with the “gays” now but have a hard time with trans women. It’s disheartening. And a friend of mine that works in the library sees a lot of injustices and disenfranchisement of the trans community.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I would actually love to hear what other people have to say about this as I’m so new and still learning. And I’d like to start letter writing parties nearing the elections to make our presence and concerns known.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. When I went to my first Pride this year, I saw all of us out and engaging with one another. It was incredible. I could walk into a bar and strike up a conversation with another woman and know I was on the same page with her. It was freeing. I didn’t realize how much tension I was holding in my body in straight spaces. And I just wish it could be like that all the time. Now that I’ve had a taste of that, I long for it.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I wish we had a district. Like I get that we kind of have shadyside, but that’s kind of a rich kid area. It’s not accessible to everyone. And it’s only one bar. Two if you count Element. It’s abysmal. And there isn’t enough community based events or projects to bring us together or if there is, we aren’t getting the word out enough. Essentially, I want to turn this place into a Gay Mecca.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? We have Persad’s and I think they’re wonderful. But I wish we had more. There’s ICandy, GaysforGood, Stonewall.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Trump supporters, white nationalists/nazis. That we aren’t going out and promoting LGBTQ owned businesses enough and they’re closing down like Cruze.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we become the next San Fran, that we become a stronger, tighter community, so we can be more open and proud and have more clout politically.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Hold space for us, vote in our best interest, and consider us when they make choices.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? That’s a great question that I’d like them to answer and I’ll help in anyway I can!
What motivated you to take part in this project? My friend Eileen tagged me in it and I think it’s an amazing idea and I want to help in any way that I can!
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. What is something you think people get wrong about the community? For the question below: you can use whatever picture of me on Facebook that you like!
Thank you, Maria.
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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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