Name: Castiel Hess
County of Residence: Westmoreland
Pronouns: He, him, his
How do you describe your identity? Bi-sexual, gender fluid
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I let a few close people know slowly out of fear of judgment. It actually took me a really long time to figure myself out, my family didn’t discuss things like gender identity. It was just assumed from birth. It wasn’t malicious or judgmental, it was just not discussed. My family is like that, important things aren’t discussed, we actually don’t know a lot about each other and eventually became a conglomerate of strangers that lived together. We just kept up happy and superficial relationships. We still do.
When I hit my mid thirties I just stopped caring to keep up that lifestyle, and by this point generally figured myself out. I just decided to be myself no matter what that was, if anyone looked down on me for it I didn’t need that negativity and didn’t need to associate with them. I am who I am people can either accept it or not, that’s their choice I’m just not going to let other people’s choices affect me. I don’t really have support, I just live as myself, I don’t need support to be who I have always been.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? More relaxed, more human. I stopped trying to be the perfect picture that other people wanted and that freed me. I’m not a “Stepford” person any more, trying to project and illusion to cover my real self. It actually helped me over come anorexia and start to over come bulimia.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I’ve met a number over the years but no one particularly close until meeting a coworker, Mike. Mike is himself and is very open about who he is and his lifestyle. He is fun, caring, and a fantastic soul all around. I’ve never spent prolonged time around other LGBTQ people but him. I feel more normal and accepted around him. I am grateful for him and the time I get to spend around him.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. I don’t really watch a lot of TV and I generally read non fiction books mostly in the paranormal. Unfortunately I don’t really have a character to speak of.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Facebook and news broadcasts or just looking up things for myself.
Describe your geographical community. I would guess my area is sort of defunct urban area. I honestly don’t think anyone in my current area is around long enough to notice that I’m a homeowner in the area. Most properties are rentals and people come and go all the time. People most ignore each other. I grew up in Greensburg it was more suburban style, everyone knew each other but much like my family everyone kept up superficial “perfect ” life appearances, so no one was close. It was a little neighborhood party at Christmas with some with wine and small talk. Everyone was pretty friendly but didn’t really care about each other. I did live in Baltimore for a time, the experience was awful except for Mt. Vernon. It was know as the “gay district”, it was a beautiful wealthy area, with a lot of kind people, beautiful stores, great food and a relaxed atmosphere. It was almost like not being in Baltimore. The rest of the city was hostile.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. The Pittsburgh area is what I know for the LGBTQ community and it seems to grow every year. It seems to grow in number as well as support resources. I live in Arnold PA in Westmoreland County, it has a very low and transient population so I never really meet anyone local.
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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. At my old jobs I had a persona I played wore skirts and make up, so I appeared “as I should ” to most. I now work for a very LGBTQ friendly company. I get a lot of odd looks or people who can’t figure out which gender I am. I wear business type wear with a tie and dress pants, I cut my hair short. Customers don’t know if they should call me Sir or Ma’am. I just let the call me either so we can get on with solving their problem. It doesn’t help me to correct or argue with people about something when I will only interact with them for a very brief time. Some call me “he or him” some say “she or her” I just ignore it and get my job done.
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 honestly don’t spend time thinking about it. I’ve had a snide comment made here or there. I’m sure there are people who talk about me behind my back, but I don’t have time for that crap. I have more important things to do than dwelling on someone not liking me for who I am. So all those people can have their petty closed minded lives.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I try to avoid doctors, I generally only go to med express or the E.R. if it’s an emergency. If I do I don’t talk about anything LGBTQ related. I just try to get things taken care of quickly and get out. I have insurance through my job as a single person it was cheaper than being on my husband’s insurance.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I don’t really have an LGBTQ neighbor, but I do have a transgender friend who has had trouble with healthcare. He lives in a pretty secluded and judgmental area.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Invest in healthcare, both physical and mental, for everyone. I would like to see them invest in LGBTQ youth with LGBTQ school programs and health education. A transgender person’s healthcare is very different than most. It’s important for transgender kids to understand what they need to do to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy. AIDS and HIV are still an major concern in the community, sex education that includes LGBTQ information could save lives and prevent the spread of disease. A bi-sexual girl I knew didn’t think she could catch a disease because she was dating a lesbian. She was 21, I had to explain to her she could, and that she needed to get tested for STD and HIV, so did her girlfriend. If there was LGBTQ issues included in sex education this wouldn’t have been a problem.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. As I mentioned before at my job I can be called Sir or Ma’am dependent on how people see me. Next to our store is a Chick Fil-A. Chris, a gay man that used to work at my store used to in because he felt like it was a “stick it to the man” kind of thing. So I went with him once when I was pretty new to the store. An older lady probably in her 50’s took my order the experience was fine so I kept getting drinks there with Chris. Eventually she saw me a lot, and tried to tell me that she thought I was a nice person. She stuttered when she was trying to address me. She leaned over the counter and whispered “would you like me to call you sir?” . I said “that would be fine thank you.” It was at this point I went in to kind of watch what the rest of the staff did when she talked to me. I actually noticed that on of the teenage boys that worked their had a rainbow ribbon support pin. That a number of their staff at this particular location support LGBTQ people and have LGBTQ teenagers employed there. It was nice to see an entire store defy what their company tries to discriminate against. Quiet defiance. Dignified. I will frequent this location despite the corporate stance, because I will support this quiet fight.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Discrimination is the heart of every issue LGBTQ people face. The LGBTQ community wouldn’t have trouble finding healthcare, housing, adoption, education, jobs and general equal treatment. If people didn’t discriminate against the LGBTQ community the other challenges wouldn’t exist.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? The Persad center, PFLAG and the Delta Foundation.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? Physical violence. I think this is a general fear, but has escalated with Trump in office. No matter how liberal Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania is still a red state. Trump’s election to office almost seems to have given his supporters the belief that they can physically harm a member of the LGBTQ community and it doesn’t matter. That it’s ok to treat us like non humans, it physically dangerous to be a member of the LGBTQ in certain areas.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? To feel safe and just normal. To just be able to integrate and have the rest of society judgment us on who we are as people not based on an LGBTQ status. Just let people be people.
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? 2016 transgender people being able to change the gender on their licenses. I think is should be remembered because it is something that truly gave some freedom to transgender people. They didn’t have to try to explain why their licenses were different than the way they look. They could be their whole selves on a legal document. No more trying to seperate their old life from who they are now.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Stand up for someone being harassed. Just help out if you see someone in trouble, just preten you know them and start talking. Safely get them out of a bad situation.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Help work against bi-erasure. Bi-sexual people are not confused please support the truth of being bi-sexual.
What motivated you to take part in this project? I have been a quiet member of the LGBTQ community too long. I have realized that being more involved makes me feel good about myself. It will help me get involved with supporting and fighting for the community.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. A question on religious beliefs. It would be nice to see what we all believe and how our beliefs have changed us.
Thank you, Castiel
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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.
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