By the time this gets published, LGBT Pride month will be coming to a close or have already ended, but I thought I would share a few thoughts about it anyway. Prior to my job here at WSBA, I worked on several college campuses, leading LGBT centers. Often I was asked why it was necessary for me and the students I worked with to be “so out” and “so loud” about our identities. “Shouldn’t your sexual orientation not matter?” they would say. I’d answer “correct” — sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t matter, but in our society they did. And they still do matter.
Prior to legalization of same-sex unions, my students and I were denied a whole slew of rights afforded to everyone in heterosexual relationships. Even now, with marriage equality the national norm, I still experience regular discrimination, exclusion, and heterosexism. So I agree; in an ideal world my sexual orientation or gender identity wouldn’t matter, but they do.
So why do we need to be out, loud, and proud? At a time when LGBT kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide and 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, I feel a need to be a role model, to let the world know that I and many others are LGBT-identified and we can be successful. We can experience love, and we can survive the homophobia and heterosexism we face every day. (We shouldn’t have to face it, but we do.) I need for those kids who face bullying and harassment, parental rejection, or conversion therapy to understand there are others out there like them, that they are good and valued, and they deserve a life rich with acceptance and love.
I need those who aren’t a part of the LGBT community to see that LGBT people are all around them, scanning their groceries, fixing their cars, providing medical care, governing their cities, and raising their children. I need them to know that we’re not only fellow community members with whom they interact with every day; we’re part of their families too.
With visibility comes recognition. With recognition come rights. With rights come justice and healing. When we get to that ideal world, the one where my sexual orientation and gender identity don’t matter, I will stop screaming it from the rooftops, but for now, I will continue to be out, loud, and proud.