County of Residence: Fayette County
How do you describe your identity? Lesbian, Chinese-American
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out was an extremely difficult thing for me to do. I was one of only a few minorities in school growing up, so I was bullied quite a lot for being different. I didn’t want to add being gay to the mix as well. All throughout middle school and most of high school I struggled coming to terms with my sexuality. I would always deny it when confronted, even to just myself. Finally during my senior year I accepted the fact that I was a lesbian with support of my friends, certain teachers, and mother. My biggest challenge honestly was being the only Chinese lesbian in my class and trying to accept myself when no one else would.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I fully accept who I am today and am happily out of the closet. I no longer hide who I am but I also don’t go around flaunting it.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first LGBTQ person I met (that wasn’t a girlfriend) was a co worker of mine. At that point in my life I wasn’t fully out yet, but she showed me that there were more people like me close by! I never thought I’d meet another lesbian until I met her. She definitely had a positive impact on my life. She showed me that it was ok to be fully out of the closet and that I could be comfortable talking about my sexuality.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I honestly don’t have a favorite. There are way too many good LGBTQ manga/Webtoons that I like to read.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook, Tumblr, etc. Basically any social media available to me.
Describe your geographical community. My area is pretty rural. I’ve lived here all my life and basically everyone knows each other. It’s a small town unfortunately. The area is not the most LGBTQ friendly. I’ve gotten a lot of discrimination my entire life from folks. Dirty looks and nasty comments are no stranger to me. Luckily nothing physical. Being the minority for both race and sexuality can be a nightmare here.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. There isn’t really a “community” for LGBTQ people locally. Well at least not any that I’ve heard of. For me my group just consists of people I’ve met through work. A lot of my friends/co workers are a part of the LGBTQ spectrum in some way. It’s brought us together as a nice little group I think. We often hangout after work for game nights and such.
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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 experienced any discrimination from employers or other public services luckily.
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 not experienced any for my sexuality, but it’s a constant battle because of my race. Strangers will constantly make rude comments to me about being Chinese. I’ve had customers at work make rude and or ignorant comments about it. The worst part is when people try to ask me where I’m from. Honestly I don’t know because I was adopted as a baby. It hits a certain nerve when people bring up anything to do with my ethnicity.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I haven’t had any issues so far. I don’t expect it to be either.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? No, not that I can think of.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Nothing. Just treat us like normal every day people. I feel like we shouldn’t get any special treatment.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. When I was still trying to come to terms with my sexuality I remember my best friend at the time telling me, “as long as you love and accept yourself that’s all that matters”. To this day I believe those words are what gave me the courage to believe in myself. It taught me it’s ok to be myself and that the only person who needs to love/accept me is me.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Coming to terms with your own sexuality. Because being “straight” is almost hammered into you as normal since birth so anything different can be hard to accept.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Mostly just all online resources. There’s nothing in person here that I know of for the LGBTQ community.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? It will never grow. People will just continue to hide who they are just so others will accept them.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? I hope that it will continue to grow. I hope that the community becomes more popular and accepted.
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? I don’t think we have an local LGBTQ history.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Just be there to help and support those who are struggling.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Basically just be there for one another. Stand up and support everyone in the community instead of trying to tear them down. We all just want to be accepted!
What motivated you to take part in this project? I hope that my story helps someone else who might need that push to come to terms with everything. I want to inspire people to learn to love themselves no matter what anyone else says or does.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer.
When did you realize you were part of the LGBTQ spectrum? I realized it when my feelings towards my best friend were not platonic. It was stronger than what a normal friendship should be. I always fantasized about being with them romantically.
Thank you, Emilee.
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.