Shawn, 41, identifies as a gay/queer/bear/cub/ethical slut #AMPLIFY

Allegheny County LGBTQ

Name: Shawn

Age: 41

County of Residence: Allegheny, originally from Burlington, CT a sleepy bedroom/hill town community in Hartford County, CT. I’ve also lived in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, MA. MA IS MY TRUE HOME.

Pronouns: I’m a cis gay man and don’t care what you call me.

How do you describe your identity? Gay/queer/bear/cub/ethical slut

Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I came out during my first semester at Dean College in Franklin, MA. Dean was a Jr. College back then and the main majors were all in the arts. (Music, Theater and Dance). The student leader that was in charge of showing us around identified as SPIKE THE DIKE. At first it was so scary to me, to see her being out and proud. I was 18 and had grown up in a conservative household that never talked about things directly. I lived in a rural and ignorant and lonely place. College and being at DEAN helped save me. One night in the way to the Square Mall in Rhode Island, as a passenger in the back seat . My friend “Spike The Dike” and her friend Ashley and I were all heading to the mall and I came out to them as Bi( for me this wasn’t really true, I found I’m just gay-and fabulous). From there on about 18 of us all came out together. We formed our first chosen family and these friends are still very dear to me even though we all live far apart.

How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m out( with friends and at work). I’ve found coming out is something you may have to do several times, in different settings and places.

Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The very first LGBTQIA person I met was my mom’s hairdresser when I was 8. It freaked me out( my family tried to raise me Roman Catholic) and it made me worry that I’d have to look, cat and speak a certain way.( His comfort and assuredness of who he was scared me at that age, today we’d get coffee and chat).

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I really hate the tokenism of minorites in entertainment (specifically tv).

How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? SISTERS PGH, advocate, Facebook groups.

Describe your geographical community. As I had shared before, I grew up in an ignorant, rural area. Moving away to college was positively life changing/life affirming. I moved away after college to Boston and came into my own. I’ve never felt as safe as I have there, sadly it’s a very expensive place to live. I have come to find community easier in cities, I’ve come to find a better and more diverse group of wonderful humans in cities.

Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I am not from PA. I’ve lived in one of the most progressive states I. The country for over a decade and moving to Pittsburgh was more of a need( story for another time). I know that for those from here Pittsburgh is very advanced. However, for me, I’m not as comfortable everywhere like I was in Boston and even Northampton. Overall I don’t see a gayborhood or a community here. I do feel safe in my neighborhood ( Wilkinsburg/Regent Square). I teach at an amazing school where I can be myself and am loved and accepted. Some new families are clearly new to the out gay beary/bearded guy teaching kids, but I feel at home at my school.

My husband has a large group of accepting friends, very sweet and kind folks.

I’ve been growing a small tight nit group and love them to pieces. I’ve always kept my circles small.


Help us continue to tell these stories. Donate to #AMPLIFY today!


Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public.  Back in Connecticut I had ignorant people yell defamatory and threatening things at me cause I had rainbow pride and bear pride stickers on my car.

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. During my internship with a woman who clearly had some issues( lived 2 hours away from school, closeted husband, always out too much on her plate), she passively accused me of some heinous shit. Luckily I had the support of the families of my students and also other teachers.

Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) My husband and I have been very fortunate to have connected with Dr Stacey Lane and her clinic Central Wellness Outreach Center. It is doing what FENWAY COMMUNITY HEALTH in Boston has been doing for a long time, providing excellent care for the LGBTQIA+community and for everyone as well. Caring, compassionate and amazing care.

Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I define my neighbors as those that all live in the city. We need to keep supporting our fellow family of color, and those that are Trans and on binary. We all have to face our internalized homophobia so that we can be examples of happy, capable adults.

What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians?  I want to see more protections of Trans and non binary folks. I’d like to see elected officials STAND UP TO THISE THAT CLAIM RELIGIOUS REASONS TO OPPOSE LGBTQIA EQUALITY. I WANT THE ELECTED OFFICIALS TO CALL THEM OUT AND SHAME THEM FOR BIGOTRY. Religion is not an excuse to hate and those people that use religion to harm bees to be treated as criminals.


Share your story with AMPLIFY now by clicking our Q&A link.


Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Back when I was living in Jamaica Plain Boston, people would stop and applaud my husband and I. They would say things like yaaas love, yaas be proud of who you are, that’s what I love to see. Looking back it was cute and affirming but today ai would have been like”damn I’m just getting coffee.”

Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Other people’s ignorance, so called religious beliefs, hate. Other people’s fear to step up and speak out. We need advocates and we need to advocate.

What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Central Wellness Outreach Center( medical and mental Health services) SISTERSPGH- trans support.

What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania?  Trumpers getting violent towards us.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That the people will organize and continue to fight for equality and justice.

What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? Not being from here, all of it.

What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? BOYCOTT DELTA AND EQT! Speak up against bigotry and ignorance, march with us, if you can afford it donate to local organizations such as SISTERS PGH)

How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? We need to be open, we have work to do in ourselves to accept and embrace those different from us. It starts with listening.

What motivated you to take part in this project? I thought it could be helpful a

Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. How safe do you feel being out here in Western, PA?

 

Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.

Submit your own Q&A using our online form.

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.