I still don’t know how to tell them I legally changed my name. Maybe they’ll see this and find out. Hi mom, hi dad. I love you. I wish I could tell you how incandescently happy changing my name made me. A weight has been lifted. I hope you can respect that.
Name: Bob Rudenborg
County of Residence: Allegheny County, formerly Wisconsin
How do you describe your identity? I’m an autistic butch lesbian, and am also non binary. People who don’t understand the history and complexity of the lesbian identity often ask how I can be both non binary and a lesbian, but like a lot of my friends, my connection to womanhood is very much defined by my love of women. I identify with women, if not as one.
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out generally on Facebook, a very millennial experience. I didn’t tell my parents directly, as they don’t really tell me things directly either. There’s been a lot of difficulty in expressing much of anything, in our family. Midwestern passive aggression extending to just general passivity. They don’t use my chosen name or pronouns. My siblings are all great, and supportive, but my parents are dragging their feet. I still don’t know how to tell them I legally changed my name. Maybe they’ll see this and find out. Hi mom, hi dad. I love you. I wish I could tell you how incandescently happy changing my name made me. A weight has been lifted. I hope you can respect that.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I like to thing I look very much a lesbian, and I only ever introduce myself as Bob or Abelard, and in spaces I know I’ll be for a while I tell people my pronouns. It’s just breathing, at this point, and I feel extremely fortunate to live in this bubble. I have friends all over, many in much less safe places, and I wish I could expand this bubble to protect them all.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? Unconsciously? My cousin David, and little to no impact. Family just too small, spread-out, and no one told me until much much later. Consciously? My friend N—, and that had all the impact in the world. The first person to come out to me, and to shatter any thoughts I had of being homophobic for religious reasons. Love him so much.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. For real person/creator, I love Eddie Izzard, genderfluid lesbian comedy icon. For characters, big fan of David and Patrick on Schitt’s Creek. If there’s a lesbian Patrick out there, come sweep me off my feet I’m a Nightmare but I’m full of love.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I have a lot of friends who are very active and share things. I don’t go seeking much out, I’m easily exhausted, which is probably not a very good excuse. But when I see things I don’t ignore them. That must count for something.
Describe your geographical community. I spend most of my time downtown Pittsburgh or in Squirrel Hill, so a mixed bag. Mostly just wish men wouldn’t proposition me. Some take “I’m a lesbian” to heart, one man said “maybe another time” as if my sexuality would change. Regardless of if it might, that’s some rude shit. Don’t enjoy that.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I’m mostly involved in the improv community, in Pittsburgh, and it’s been so welcoming and lovely, and I’ve made so many more LGBTQ friends than I previously knew was possible outside of the internet. Especially my core group of bi buddies, whom I love so much. I also love just meeting people at work, and Seeing others out and about, and them seeing me too. We recognize each other, and it’s the family reunion I never got as a kid in my blood family.
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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 specifically discrimination. I also haven’t pushed the boundaries too far in applying for jobs that might possibly fuck me over.
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’ve had people laugh at my pronouns. I heard some muttering once when I was moving things, wearing very masculine things, heard “him/her” in a way that felt accusatory.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I haven’t had much experience, but I don’t have much hope either. Better to be pleasantly surprised.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? There’s so much to talk about. I think I’ve seen a good variety of discussion. I’m always big on more talking about ableism, and ways to make things accessible, and centering LGBTQ people with a variety of disabilities, and listening to them really sincerely and affecting change by what they say. Fatphobia, another thing, and the way the world rejects fat people in general, and we should not be replicating that further. Unlearn your shit, it’s not inherent to your sexuality, you’re just ignorant and sheltered from seeing and appreciating fat bodies. Fat bodies are good, full stop.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Decriminalize sex work. Generally strengthen safety nets and social programs for everybody, we all do better when we all do better.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I just generally love going into a space that had a dearth of trans people and being a Loud Trans. I’ve been the First NB for a lot of people who know me, and because of my whiteness and other assorted factors I am safe enough I can be Loud, and pave the way for others to have an easier time with the people I get to know.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Shit’s expensive. Capitalism as a system means so many of us have to basically sell our selves, our stories, Brand Our Queerness, to survive. Not everyone wants that, but if people only ever see you as The Gay One or The Trans One, even if they don’t attach negatives to that, you can’t instead be The Trapeze One or The SciFi Novelist One, the things you REALLY want to be known for.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? I don’t know much about this, unfortunately.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? To be divided, to devolve into endless infighting, that we cannot focus on greater goals.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? To band together with others, all the disenfranchised and cast aside, and remind those so few with all the “power”, that together we have more than enough, and don’t need their silly ideas of control.
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? I’ve only been here five years, I wish I knew more of anything at all.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? When you mess up pronouns, just correct yourself and move on. You don’t have to apologize profusely, we get it, it takes time for you to adjust.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Question that little voice. When you think Ew Dicks or I Could Never Date Someone Who Slept With [insert sex you’re not attracted to here], like just pause and think Why. Take time to address your own issues before you go projecting that onto everyone else. That’s you, sweetpea, not them.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Idk, I was asked, and I like
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Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. Hmm… Things about being LGBTQ that improve your life? Idk how to phrase that… but basically, besides just being neutral, being gay and trans is just so Good. It has helped me accept so much else about me, and I’ve gotten to be so much more Myself than I could have been at 24 if it were not for who I am in this way. I questioned this one expectation, so it’s easier to question each one that comes after. And it gave me an instant family, that I have across the globe, of people who Get me and my life, within moments of knowing each other. That’s powerful.
Thank you, Bob.
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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.