“The fight for dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is reflected in the tireless dedication of advocates and allies who strive to forge a more inclusive society. They have spurred sweeping progress by changing hearts and minds and by demanding equal treatment — under our laws, from our courts, and in our politics. This month, we recognize all they have done to bring us to this point, and we recommit to bending the arc of our Nation toward justice.”
–Presidential Proclamation — LGBT Pride Month, 2016
The White House
I came out after college.
…and then kept coming out, year after year and to friend after friend.
My first memories of feeling and being, “out,” surfaced when I moved to Los Angeles at 22 years of age, shortly after I graduated from college. I was picked up at the airport by two of my new roommates and coworkers, and halfway through our ride home, one of them noted, “Oh, and you’re going to love West Hollywood and all the gay bars and night life,” assuming I was gay.
My new roommate had assumed correctly, and I let the moment pass. I still consider this my first experience as, “out,” and it was a critical part of my process – it was the beginning. I enjoyed West Hollywood, and all Los Angeles had to offer me as a young, gay Oklahoman, still desperate not to come out to my friends and family back “home.”
I soon moved away from California, and so began the process of coming out to my friends and family. I lost some really close relationships during that time, some that are still broken and bruised today. And as a result of that pain, for many years, I delayed going to any summer LGBT(Q+) Pride events. At that time, I felt the opposite of what the celebration stood for – I was anything but proud.
I was embarrassed, grappling with years of discomfort and shame. It was something I didn’t talk about, and something I didn’t know how to talk about. I had a friend in graduate school once tell me she thought (assumed) I had been out and proud since high school.
My response: “I wasn’t brave enough.”
I wasn’t brave enough.
I finally felt brave enough in 2012, when I decided to fly to Atlanta and celebrate Pride with one of my best friends who grew up with me on my Air Force Base.
I was nervous about the trip, and kept it quite coy on my social media platforms. That is, until my friend posted on my Facebook that she was excited to see me in Atlanta, and for Pride. It left me quite anxious, and within minutes, I received a message from someone very close to me at the time.
“Why are you going to Atlanta, and what is Pride?”
I sat with this message for about an hour, and finally, I responded the only way I knew how: honest and up-front.
“It’s an LGBT festival for queer people, celebrating who we are.”
“Please tell me you aren’t going,” they quickly responded.
That was the end of our conversation. And I sat at my desk and erupted in tears. I didn’t know what to do from there. I felt trapped, and I felt helpless.
But I went to Pride.
And I forced myself to be proud.
And within hours, I felt liberated – within hours, I felt free.
I was raised in a space that taught me to be shameful of anything related to being gay or queer culture. I was taught rigidity. I was taught the black and white version of social justice – minus love, minus understanding and acceptance, minus peace and dignity for all. And as summer appears each year, I am quickly reminded that progress truly does keep marching on, and we have to march along with it.
Let the Proclamation I cited at the beginning of this piece resound:
“There remains much work to do to extend the promise of our country to every American, but because of the acts of courage of the millions who came out and spoke out to demand justice and of those who quietly toiled and pushed for progress, our Nation has made great strides in recognizing what these brave individuals long knew to be true in their hearts — that love is love and that no person should be judged by anything but the content of their character.”
I believe in this. I connect to this.
We need this.
Come out, this season, any season. If not for yourself, come out as an ally so others in your life can see and believe they are loved and supported. If able and safe, come out so you can pave a new path for others to feel that their most authentic self is just as valued and valuable as any other.
As a 30 year old, I’m hearing some family and friends be vocal for the first time in my life. And while I love and value this personal progress, I am also conscious of the others who face a similar absence as I did for so many years growing up.
Do this for them.
Healing is ongoing. For me, and for you.
Be present. Show up. Be bold and proud. And most of all, spread love.
Make amends with family. Make amends with religious dissonance. Find peace in your heart, be settled and be free from shame and guilt and self-destruction. It gets better, and it can continue to evolve (whatever, “it,” might represent) – you (we) continue to evolve.
Please, beautifully, evolve. I recommit to justice every single day. And today, I’m asking you to do the same.
Love, love is all you need,
“During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, let us celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans.”