Building Courage

I came out approximately 5 years ago.

English: Rainbow flag flapping in the wind wit...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time, I was terrified. I assumed that I would never speak to my family again, lose my friends, move far away and start a new life.

Now, that just seems silly. I told one of my sisters first, and word got around either by me or through the grapevine. The majority of my friends stayed true to me. Those that did not,  quietly removed themselves from my life. Although, to be fair, I didn’t exactly give some people the chance to tell me what they really felt, and for that I feel regret. I should have given them the chance to give me a chance. 

I was selfish, scared, immature and irresponsible to a degree. I didn’t know what to do with myself once I had finally conquered my biggest fear. Life became beautiful, wonderful and… chaotic at best. Eventually, I straightened it out, grew up and moved on. I have amazing family, awesome friends, and great jobs. Something struck me today at a new job I recently took.

I was talking to a coworker I hardly know. I just met her, we are both new, and I have no idea what her beliefs or political standings are. I related my relationship to hers, talked with other LGBT employees about the drag shows, etc. I openly mentioned my partner in my interview, and as the last few weeks of training have progressed there has been no hesitation in relating my life and experiences to others. And I wasn’t even thinking twice about it. Even when I taked to a sweet little lady about the election of a new Pope, I never assumed she was anti-LGBT inclusion. I just saw that she was sweet, polite and happy about the selection that had been made. It made me smile.

There used to be such fear and discomfort. Always worried about how someone might react to my orientation, my life, my partner… But now, I just don’t even think about it.

And no one reacts innapropriately. THAT, my friends, is so beautiful. And I owe it to all of you that have supported me, given me opportunities and chances, friendship and love. I hope and pray that every young person, regardless of what struggle they have, will find those people in life so that they may reach full potential.

I smile so much these days. I laugh, dance, sing, and love. Not like before, when it was gaurded, insecure and sometimes forced. Now it is genuine, bright and glowing like a Montana summer day.

We all make a difference in the lives around us. Let’s make sure it’s a positive difference.

Do Tell

It’s the first anniversary of official integration of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the military. I can think of no better way to observe it than by the words of Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen as he testified before Congress last year:

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

What many don’t understand is that lies create shame- and shame creates pain. For many LGBT people, lying on a daily basis is dehumanizing and debilitating over the long term, destroying integrity, creating depression, increasing anxiety and lowering significantly a person’s quality of life.

On the other hand, telling the truth and being accepted can greatly minimize depression, anxiety and shame, increasing quality of life significantly.

I think the military’s embracing of honesty sends an important message to Americans- one that should have been sent from the beginning:  lying is bad. In fact, it’s bad policy.

Obvious, isn’t it?

And here’s to the many members of the military who survived- who “served in silence” before truth was finally policy (including my husband). Thank you for your service.

In fact, maybe today should be Gay Veteran’s Day….

 

No Talking Points: Gay Skeletons In The Conservative Closet

Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, a rising Republican star, publicly admitted he was gay on Saturday, in order to combat accusations from a former boyfriend. He joins a long line of conservatives who came out of the closet only after scandal forced them to do so.

An Inspirational Man…

Howard Solomon, the uncle of a dear friend, has been profiled in the Portland Press Herald:

Howard Solomon was in his late 20s when he saw police cruisers screaming through Lower Manhattan and later read newspaper accounts of the groundbreaking riots that had erupted outside the Stonewall Inn in June 1969.

Solomon wasn’t at the now-famous nightclub that catered to New York City’s gay community.

“I was on a date with a female colleague,” said Solomon, now 69. “I was terribly closeted back then.”

A little more than a decade later, Solomon came out to his colleagues at Tufts University near Boston and began teaching some of the nation’s first college-level history courses that dealt openly with all aspects of sexuality.

Solomon, now retired and living in Bowdoinham, distinguished himself as a history professor at Tufts from 1971 through 2004 and as a vocal advocate for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A gentle reminder that we stand on the shoulders of giants…

Give your Monday an inspirational start: Read the full story here.

Majority of Montana Voters Support Same-Sex Domestic Partnerships

 

No, seriously- Welcome!

I mentioned this in passing yesterday, but a newly released poll shows that a majority of voters in Montana support domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. That poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Civil Liberties Union, found that 53 percent of Montana voters favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships.

“Support of same-sex domestic partnerships is growing, and now we can quantify what our day-to-day interactions with people are telling us,” said ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr. “It’s heartening to know that people understand that every loving and committed couple who pays taxes in our state deserves fairness.”

The change in attitude mirrors an increase in the number of same-sex couples in Montana reporting their households to the U.S. Census Bureau. Recently released numbers show 2,295 same-sex households in the 2010 Census – a 54 percent jump since 2000.

Key Highlights of 2011 Polling

  • Most Montanans favor domestic partnership. By a 13 point margin, voters in Montana favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships – 53 percent favor, 40 percent oppose. There is more intensity among those who favor; 35 percent strongly favor, while 29 percent strongly oppose.
  • More than half of Catholics (55 percent) favor domestic partnerships, including 36 percent who strongly favor allowing domestic partnerships. This measure also wins the support of nearly half (47 percent) of seniors, a majority of older women (54 percent), and blue collar women (52 percent).
  • Support for domestic partnerships seems to be increasing. A 2008 survey conducted by Lake Research Partners asked voters a four-part question asking them to choose between traditional marriage, marriage with another name, civil unions, and no legal recognition. The survey found that 33 percent of Montanans thought that gay and lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as straight couples, or should have the same right to marry but it should not be called marriage.2
  • Voters recognize discrimination against gays and lesbians. A 47 percent plurality believe gay people in Montana face a lot of discrimination; only 38 percent think that gays and lesbians in the state do not face much discrimination.

People understand that the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships leaves couples extremely vulnerable. In Montana examples of unfairness toward same-sex couples include a woman who was denied bereavement leave when her partner’s father died, and another woman who lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.

“Same-sex couples have told us time and again that they are meeting more and more people who sympathize with their plight,” said Baehr. “This polling reinforces the growing support those couples have been experiencing.”

While it’s not exactly marriage, I’ll take it. For now.

This shows the evolution of the Montana voter’s attitude is in favor of eventual, full equality-and this change in attitude has a cause. This is happening because more of us are simply visible as co-workers, neighbors, children, siblings and friends. We are not a threat, we’re just people.

I’m particularly impressed with the Catholics- and not surprised, really. This is about social justice for us- not particularly about morality. Even though the hierarchy is deeply out of touch on this issue, this is a reminder that the sense of the people in the pews is leading the church here. My mother would have agreed- I know the rest of my Catholic family does.

In the eyes of Montanans, “The Gays” are slowly changing from scary bogeymen into recognizable human beings. Never underestimate the power unleashed by broken closet doors….

More info here.

Speaking of Coming Out…

Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts does just that. After 40 years of “suffering in silence”.

Why now?

Mostly, Welts said, he was inspired by young athletes who might be suffering in silence.

“I thought, there might be some young people out there who was in the same position I was, who love team sports …  but are afraid,” Welts said.

“If by telling my story, if even just a few young people are encouraged to follow their passion and have a successful career, then it will have been worth it.”

Are we seeing a groundswell? Time will tell, but we all know that being gay has nothing to do with ability or aptitude in any profession- including sports. By coming out, all we do is strengthen the diverse human factor of sexuality.

And that’s always good.

NYT story here. NY Daily News take here.

What’s Gay About The News

A couple of things.

On the one hand, Don Lemon, CNN weekend anchor and brave human being, has come out as a gay man.
Entertainment Weekly:

CNN’s weekend anchor Don Lemon reveals that he is gay in his new memoir, Transparent. “I abhor hypocrisy,” Lemon told theNew York Times. “I think if you’re going to be in the business of news, and telling people the truth, of trying to shed light in dark places, then you’ve got to be honest. You’ve got to have the same rules for yourself as you do for everyone else.”

Lemon admitted he is scared by peoples’ reaction, but that CNN has assured him of their support. “I think it would be great if everybody could be out,” he said to the paper. “But it’s such a personal choice. People have to do it at their own speed. I respect that. I do have to say that the more people who come out, the better it is for everyone, certainly for the Tyler Clementis of the world.”

Like I said, brave. Lemon, also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, will no doubt become a more active voice in the LGBT community- as well as a sign to other human beings that being gay is not an obstacle- and that we have nothing to fear from the truth of who we are.

Next comes a poll from Fox News affiliate WACH in South Carolina. The poll, which attempts to gauge the pulse of its readers on the topic of the Presbyterian Church’s inclusion of openly gay clergy is clearly Fair and Balanced:

Oh, Lord.

“Sins, sinners, sinfulness- love the sinner, hate the sin”- the patronizing terms many evangelical/fundamentalist christians use to describe people they hate, is just one of the ignorant ways that keep them from facing the reality of human sexuality.

And Fox News seems to be contributing to that ignorance.

Again.

But the commenters are taking them to task. Which I love. Go ahead and read the story and comment. It’s getting interesting.