County of Residence: Allegheny
Preferred Pronouns: He, him
How do you describe your identity? I am a gay black male
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? I was forced to come out after my mother allegedly accidentally was going through my voicemails on my old cricket phone back in 2006. She heard a less than heterosexual conversation with a guy that was interested in me, and it went down from there. I was told I needed god, forced to defend my masculinity, asked if I was raped, or if the lack of having a father figure present in my life was the reason I had turned to men, and over all just looked and treated differently. Everything I did I was judged upon, from the way I walked, or dressed, and especially the company I kept, and insinuations that I was having anal sex.
Eventually this forced me to distance myself from my family and former heterosexual male friends, to find my own path because I felt like a major let down to them although my mother and grandmother were the only ones that knew my sexual preference. I was embarrassed to be around my younger brothers, and constantly felt judged.
Eventually I stumbled across some folks in the ballroom scene, they invited me to participate, I refused for a few months, but eventually gave it a try, and from there I met so many amazing people whom are still in my life.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am the ish! I feel so confident in myself, in my work, in my looks, and in my goals for my future.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first LGBTQ person I met was actually a stranger from the internet. I was unsure of my sexuality and afraid to admit the possibilities of being homosexual, so I met with this random guy from Columbus, Ohio who drove to Pittsburgh, picked me up, and took me back to Ohio. It was possibly one of the dumbest decisions I’ve made in my younger years, however I returned safely and haven’t had much communications with him since then.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Right now I’d say Jussie Smollett from the new hit TV show Empire. I love that he showcases black gay males in a more respectable light. We’re not all loud and feminine, or sex driven, and shallow.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I work in the community through True T Entertainment, and Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Roots Pride, as well as various volunteer opportunities I’ve come across related to LGBTQ issues.
Describe your geographical community. I would say Greenfield is a tad homophobic which is where I live right now, however East Liberty (where I work) seems to be becoming a little more accepting.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. No response.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Not personally, and I think that’s due in part that a lot of people often mistake me for an artsy heterosexual male, but I have seen others go through discrimination at work.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? No response.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Hmm…. that’s a good question
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. It’s not easy, even if you are comfortable 100% with yourself, you’re bound to come across someone else who isn’t.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Lack of employment and educational opportunities, housing and homelessness, gay bashing, and folks in our community having the internal mindset that this is ok.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? True T Entertainment
Garden of Peace project
Kelly Strayhorn Theater
Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
Color Me Urban
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we will continue to have these underlying race wars, PRIDE will never be inclusive or feel welcoming to POC, and we will continue to all hold each other back from successfully completing the bigger picture 🙁
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? More Inclusiveness and Diversity. I wish folks could see past color one day and we fight this battle together instead of having so many battles within our own community.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Support us because you care, not because it’s hip or trendy, or you can get HIV test results, or make money from throwing events for us.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? No response.
What motivated you to take part in this project? It’s nice to reflect on your life and the challenges facing to reach your goals. I also am obviously a huge supporter of LGBTQ issues.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. I’m not sure, you asked quite a bit 😛
Thank you, Naheen.
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a series of blog posts designed to give a “signal boost” to the voices of our LGBTQ neighbors throughout Western Pennsylvania. We are using a Q&A format and will minimize editing their responses.
Our intent is to highlight the voices of marginalized members of our community who are not always invited to the table or whose voices are not heard. These are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices. If you would like to participate, please email me pghlesbian at gmail or visit the online Q&A.