Name: Helen Wildy
County of Residence: Allegheny. I lived in Indiana, PA when I went to IUP!
How do you describe your identity? I am a lesbian, immigrant, Irish comedian.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out in 2008 and found great support in dad, my 3 older brothers and their wives, and my friends. My mum was surprised and we had some struggles at the time but she quickly came around and became one of my biggest allies.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am super out! I talk about being a lesbian openly in my comedy often. I hope by being super open about my sexuality, I can bring some visibility to the community and hopefully win some hearts for the LGBTQ community from folks who haven’t perhaps had personal experiences with queer people in the past.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I worked with an openly gay male in the deli for my high school job. I hadn’t met an openly LGBTQ person before and it was so inspirational to see someone so proudly being who they were.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy was the first bisexual character I saw on TV. I was instantly enamored with her and the way she carried herself. She was an incredible surgeon who stood up for what she believed in who happened to be bi. I loved her character and her relationship with Arizona when she showed up a few seasons later. It was wonderful to see a lesbian relationship on network television.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? All of the LGBTQ groups I follow on Facebook keep me up-to-date with stories in my feed!
Describe your geographical community. I live in the city and it seems to be LGBTQ friendly. There are tons of rainbow flags in establishments where I live including on the lawns of churches. It feels like a super welcoming and friendly environment.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ community in Pittsburgh is growing! It’s so inspiring to see. Particularly for lesbians, there are always new events popping up. It used to be Lez Liquor Hour and then Impulse and now there are iCandy events that are a great way to meet women in the scene.
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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. I have not!
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 have experienced some harassment from strangers while walking hand in hand with a girlfriend in the past. In a job setting, I’ve had people make jokes about LGBTQ people and say derogatory terms.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have been lucky enough to have health care through my job and an employer who does not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Health care and benefits extend to LGBTQ partners. I expect health care to be competent for all people.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? No response.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? I’d like to see them pass laws to protect LGBTQ people from eviction and other discrimination based on sexual identity.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I once did stand up in a room full of people who were not very LGBTQ friendly. I came out half-way through the 20 minute set and by the end, people were telling me they felt like they could really relate to the material.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? I think a lack of health insurance, especially health insurance that covers mental health, is a specific challenge for LGBTQ people.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad and Allies for Health are two organizations that do great work for the LGBTQ community.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Trump is the president.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I see a lot of unity and increased visibility in our community.
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? No response
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Speak up when you see injustice or discrimination against the LGBTQ community and support businesses who are LGBTQ friendly. I think we vote with our dollars.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? I think by asking more questions and listening to the answers.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I believe in the cause!
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. No, you nailed it!
Thank you, Helen.
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.