June is Pride Month

The Journey to finding Pride is not Always Glitter and Rainbows

By Gavin O’Marehen
In June each year, millions of Queer folks and their allies embrace and celebrate Pride and what that means to them in their own authentic ways. Pride month became an official month-long celebration by President Bill Clinton in June 1999, the 30th anniversary of the infamous police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Lower Manhattan. You may often hear the moniker “The First Pride was a Riot,” and that it was. Raids were not unheard of at gay bars in NYC in the late 70s. This one, however, changed the course of history because of brave patrons, led by black transwomen, drag queens, and other Queer people of color, like Marsha P. Johnson, who is credited for throwing the first brick. I can go on and on here, but I need to maintain a word count, so I ask each of you who read this to learn more about the Stonewall Inn raid and the many days thereafter that led to a Queer revolution.
I had the opportunity to sit down with two of Mainstay’s own that are members of the Queer community to talk about Pride, their coming out stories, and obstacles they faced and still face. **I want to state currently, that the “glitter and rainbows” of this article are about to go out the window.

Picture it: Pittsburgh 2024, sitting in a lovely loft apartment where the temperature was sensible 74 with a slight breeze travelling through the air.

(Two iconic Queer references are being made here: the loveliest Golden Girl, Sophia Petrillo, and the perfectly timed comedy of drag queen JuJu Bee). I sat with Meg Sova (she/her) and DSP “Z” to talk about our collective experiences.

Gavin: I was hoping to have this be a natural conversation to learn more about each other and our experiences. I think most people hear Pride and think mostly positive thoughts, but we know that is not always the case. I know for myself it was not that way and sometimes still isn’t. From family disownment to educating doctors on how to provide medical care to me, there has always been a barrier of sorts that needs to be overcome. What have been some of the toughest barriers that you’ve had to face or are still facing?

Z: Going to doctor appointments and having to check into the appointment using my deadname1 has been a challenge. There are some providers that I go to where I can check in using my chosen name and others where I need to check in using my deadname. When I say something to the staff at the front desk about using my chosen name over deadname, there has been pushback. Signing in and having to talk with new doctors as a trans person has not been great.

Meg: I feel like there needs to be a general knowledge of the demographic of people we provide service for, and provide staff with adequate education and training so they can be compassionate and sensitive to those they treat. Going to a doctor is already anxiety-inducing, and adding the extra layer of feeling as though you are not being taken seriously, or valid in how you show up to literally sign in somewhere, or have a group of people who do not know you at all question the validity of you being the person you want to be or need to be.

Z: And they definitely still diagnose people with stuff that they don’t tell you what they are diagnosing you for. For me to get hormones, I have to be diagnosed with transvestitism2.

Meg and Gavin: WHAT?! (utter shock appears on our faces)
Z: Yes, I have both gender dysphoria and transvestitism as diagnoses. It doesn’t bother me, but it would have been nice to know that they were using it. I only found out about it because I looked at my online chart and it was listed there.

Gavin: That is insane to me. Trans healthcare is so important and typically brings trans people so much anxiety because we never know how the experience will go.

Z: It is unfortunate how common and not unique these experiences are for us. I don’t go to doctors unless it is absolutely necessary now, so I don’t face being misgendered or deadnamed.

Gavin: A large part of our lives as Queer people is coming out to friends, family, and people we meet along the way. Coming out is never a single experience and can often be triggering for some that have not experienced coming out safely previously. It happens over and over throughout our lives, so there are many opportunities for it to cause harm. If you’re comfortable with sharing, how was that for you?

Meg: Funny enough, ever since I was a young kid I was always fascinated by women. I had not figured out if it was because I really like them or wanted to be with them. I was always super into sports and my room reflected that with posters of athletes. Then Lady Gaga came around and my room aesthetic slowly started to change from sports and athletes to posters of Lady Gaga. I recall thinking that I was really into her and her message. I remember going to Cedar Point and people harassed me and called me terrible names because I was wearing a Lady Gaga t-shirt. I was a young teen receiving death threats. It was because of this and the state of our country at the time that I could not conceptualize the thought of being with a woman and having a happy, successful life. It just didn’t seem achievable to me. When I did come out, I came out first to my older brother. He was already out as gay, so I thought this would be my safest place to share how I felt. I said “hey I don’t know what I am, but I think I like men and women. I think I’m bisexual.” I think that was the worst mistake I’ve ever made. At the time he was very biphobic, and went off on a tangent stating that I shouldn’t say that because I don’t know what I want and bisexual people don’t know what they want. I felt so much shame and guilt in that moment that I didn’t talk to anyone about it for years and it made me question my identity for a long time. I didn’t have the courage to really talk about it again. I went through the motions and dated men and never felt any emotional connection with any of them. In fact, I could not wait to find a way to get away from them and it felt like a chore to me. Slowly, I started getting the courage to switching my social media profiles to liking men and women. There was still doubt that I was not brave enough to do this. Then about three weeks before I met my now wife, I went to dinner with my mom. I made the choice to talk to my mom about how I felt at the dinner since it was noticeable that I was dating more, and it would have come out eventually. What I thought was going to be a “I’ve always known” moment went great. She genuinely had no clue but was very great about it.

Z: I had to leave my parents’ house because of the casual but intense abuse, “we love you but also…” I am still in contact with them now. I recently hung out with my family and my 19-year-old cousin kept hovering around me while I was hanging out with the kids and joked about “don’t indoctrinate them.” I thought, “whoa, I changed your diapers. I babysat you. These are my cousins that I grew up with, please don’t make this weird.” It’s just so sad. I think I am one of the first cousins that they asked, “are you a boy or a girl?” My other cousin who is also genderqueer3 helped to explain to them by saying “Z is not a boy or a girl.” As the younger cousins have grown up, they’ve begun to take it more seriously, but that doesn’t stop the 19-year-old cousin from hovering when I am around. I avoid saying “you should love yourself,” or “it’s okay to be gay,” or “it’s okay to question things,” or anything casual like that. I don’t say any of that stuff because I am afraid of being known as, I don’t know, a creep or inappropriate. Which is upsetting for someone who experienced childhood abuse. For someone to think that I would do something like that would make me want to run away and cry. I feel even more nervous to exist even when I’m not talking about queerness. I feel like I cannot be myself at all, even on the most basic level of existence.

Gavin: Wow. Everyone’s stories are so different. With my family, I had zero support. The only person I had was my older sister and then she left for Germany and Afghanistan because she was in the Army, so the one person I had to support me (who is also a lesbian) was gone. Even in the hard times of queerness, there is life. What is your favorite thing that you’ve experienced as a queer person?

Z: Being able to figure out the rest of my life without the strict societal systems in play. Before I realized that I was gay, my life was mapped out for me. I would marry someone, ideally a doctor, and have at least two kids. That is what my parents expected of me, but when they found out I was gay the pressure came off, like they cared less about what I did with my life. It felt very nice to feel like I had a clean slate to really think about what I want to do with my life. It’s been a lot easier to explore other things without those societal pressures.

Meg: For me, it was realizing that I could actually be with a person that I felt connected to and in love with. I never experienced being in love with someone until I met Nat. I was very sappy at the time, because everything I ever read, heard, or, or watched about love made so much more sense. For the longest time, I didn’t get the appeal of being with somebody or in love with someone in a romantic way because I never had that. When I met Nat, I was still nannying, and I had brought over a guy I was dating once to meet them. They did not care for him at all. It was then that I realized that this guy needed to go. The little girl I nannied was very artistic and so is Nat. One day, Nat came with me, and the little girl challenged her to an art competition where she critiqued Nat’s art. Throughout this day, the kids played and talked with Nat a lot. A few days after, I was driving around with the kids, and the girl asked me if Nat and I were going to get married. I asked her if she wanted us to get married and she said yes. The fact that I was in a relationship with someone and these little kids who I had a deep connection with were able to see and accept the relationship and see it as healthy and happy was extremely validating.

Z: I agree. Accepting my queerness has allowed me to be able to truly understand what intimacy is for me. For the first time in my life, I’m happy and have been in love for over 5 years. Definitely a positive and wholesome experience.

Meg: It feels like everything makes sense. I think that is the most positive for me. Life started making more sense and I could see more options that were available to me that I didn’t see or connect with before.

Gavin: Becoming myself and finding a relationship where the person I was seeing at the time fully accepted me was everything I did not know that I needed. I feel that those who get to experience Queer love and relationships experience a different love than the everyday stereotypical love we see in non-queer love.

I hope that this very small snippet of a much longer conversation helps you see something that you might not necessarily see unless you have someone near and dear to you that is Queer. Writing this blog was important for me to do because being queer is not all glitter and rainbows. It is hard and exhausting. There are many of us that will share our stories and there are many of us that will never have that chance to share their stories or even live it. I ask if you do anything this month, please be kind to those in the Queer community. We are experiencing an exorbitant amount of loss of community members to murder, suicide, and hate crimes. Stand up for those that need it. It truly does only take one person to change another one’s life. If you want to help those in the queer community, please consider donating to a local queer organization. There are many here in Pittsburgh doing fantastic work. Do a quick little google search and you will see there are many to pick from.


  1. Deadnames are the given name of someone who has decided to use a name more fitting to how they feel or present. Deadnames, if known, are never to be used in lieu of a chosen name.
  2. Transvestitism is an antiquated term used to describe transgender people. The Queer community, at large, does not use this term and neither should you. 😊
  3. Genderqueer is when a person’s gender identity cannot be described as solely male or female.