County of Residence: I live in California now, but was born in Allegheny Co and raised in Clearfield County and went to college in Butler County
How do you describe your identity? Queer, lesbian
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was home on spring break from College and someone called my mother and told her I was gay. I never found out who it was. My mom would not speak to me for weeks and my parents threatened to stop paying for my college if I did not go straight. It was a horrible rejection when I had been so close to them. I found support with my friends and girlfriend at college
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? very OUT
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? Several of my counselors at girl scout camp were gay. I was in awe of them. They helped me think that it was ok to be gay
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Jenni Olsen – she has made many great films focussing on vintage representation of gays in film as well as current films
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I am very involved in the queer art community in Los Angeles
Describe your geographical community. Mostly friendly compared to other parts of the country, but there is still discrimination to be found
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. There are a lot of groups in the LA area. I participate in a monthly lesbian dining club and have many friends in the queer community
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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 experienced a lot of discrimination at work given my sexuality and being butch.
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 had to work in a hostile work environment for about a decade because of my identity
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) My healthcare there was in my youth and in college where it was ok.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Most of my friends in PA are still afraid to come out directly and are afraid to get married
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Pass more laws to protect LGBTQ Pennsylvanians from bullying and discrimination
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I find that as time passes, more people are becoming comfortable with queer people. Although there is still risk in coming out, the advances of doing so usually outweigh the downsides.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? threats of bullying and/or violence
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? none in my hometown except for PFLAG
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What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? violence
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That they can be free to live freely like folks in urban parts of the country
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? Pittsburgh gay bars in the 70s
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? spread the word in the straight community that we are just like everyone else and should be welcomed as part of the community. lead by example
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? be inclusive of those communities in organizations and social gatherings
What motivated you to take part in this project? wanting to preserve W PA gay history, especially in Pgh
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. ask for our stories about club life in the 70s
Thank you, Deb!
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.