Monday, June 2, 2014

Causes: Pride Month.

I met Taryn early in college.  Our paths crossed in a couple different ways and we've grown much closer in recent years.  As soon as I decided to implement this series on Causes, I thought of her hoping she would write for me.  As luck would have it, she contacted me about it as soon as she read the Causes intro post.  I'm so glad Taryn approached me about doing this post because I have always thought of her as 100% her own person.  She has always been so genuine and kind, and I believe those are two of the most important traits one can have.  I love her advice, "Open your heart and mind and you might meet some truly amazing people."  (Side note: this is an especially personal topic, so I have been hesitant to approach people about writing on it.  If you have a perspective to share here and are interested in doing so, please contact me as I would love to clutter June with Pride posts.  Or, if you have anything to say about any Cause, I would love to hear more.)

What does June mean to me?  There are so many things that June brings to mind, summer time, beers at The Terrace (Go Badgers!!!), spending time outside new beginnings and sad good byes (graduations). It is also a month that brings PRIDE to life.  Pride in so many things but mostly pride for me!  Who is “me”, I am a daughter, a loving partner, a military girlfriend, and I am gay.  June is National Gay Pride Month.  There are so many terms that go into homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and the list goes on and on.  For this blog post I am going to use the word gay to encompass them all, this is a word that I am comfortable using but not all people are.  These are my own beliefs and feelings and I don’t write for all people.

As I have been thinking about what to write these past few days, I’ve been thrown back to the fact that I have had it pretty darn easy.  As I was scrolling through Facebook I was drawn to the fact that Storme DeLaverie died (May 30, 2014) at the age of 93.  She fought for so much change, she sat for the Stonewall riots and was considered by some to be the Rosa Parks of LGBT rights.  To think of what she had seen in her 93 years of life, not only for LGBT rights but for mankind as a whole.  I feel so very blessed to benefit from her fight and struggles, I don’t have to fight as hard as she did for me to be the person that I am today. 

                I don’t have to hide behind a front with the person I love because we are gay.  My partner doesn’t have to worry about her career because of who she loves any longer.  Not too long ago we wouldn’t have been able to be together at Military functions because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).  I no longer have to worry what will happen to her Military Career because of who she loves.  I still worry about it, I had many friends that we had to be very careful when we were out and about in college because of DADT, and we had to pretend to be straight because it was guilt by association at times also. This wasn’t something that only they had to worry about we all worried about it together.  There were more than a few tears of joy shed that day as we learned it was repealed.  My friends could be themselves and not have to worry about being discharged for it.  While it didn’t happen overnight I am still amazed at how quickly the military has moved with implementation of the changes.

                I live in a state where marriage equality isn’t a reality.  While there is a lawsuit to change that we also live in a state where if we went to a state that allowed gay marriage to get married that we could be thrown in jail and receive a fine for being married.  While this hasn’t been put on the books for us it is also not off the books either.  What would having the right to marry mean to me? It would be security, acceptance and openness.  I would most likely not have to list my partner on health insurance as my domestic partner and have to pay her whole premium for health insurance while those in an opposite sex marriage can just pay the family rate (yes higher than a single rate but not the whole premium).  Acceptance that we are equal in the eyes of the government, our taxes come out the same way and we spend money the same way, yet in many ways this puts us as a second class citizen.  This would also give me the openness and protection for being me and loving who I love.

                I was one of the very lucky ones, I went to a high school that accepted me when I came out.  I moved onto a college that had an amazing LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Center where I fit in.  It was by no means perfect, we still had our cases of discrimination and gay bashing but we were lucky in many ways.  We had each other and it was a group that worked together to make it inclusive, accepting and in a lot of ways pretty darn fun.  The University of Minnesota Mankato has come a long way, from the LGBT Center being in a closet in the counseling center (yes you can laugh we all did), to having a wonderful full time staff member who fights for us every day.  I watched and listened to so many stories of people who didn’t have it as easy as me.  Many people who were kicked out of their homes or told to not come back after they did come out.  I watched a lot of people come into themselves in that LGBT Center, I came into myself there also.  We worked as a pretty good team and tried our best to watch out for each other as much as possible.

                I look back and think how lucky I have been, I have friends that accept me and I have a family that accepts me and my partner as one of their own.  Not only does my family accept her but her family accepts me also.  While it wasn’t easy for either of our families to come to terms with it, they did and they love and support us.  I have an amazing extended family but my extended family isn’t just blood, I have an amazing support network of friends who are there for us no matter what.  Family isn’t just blood, it is whomever you pick to be your family. 

                Looking back on things that have happened in the past few years makes me realize how far we have come.  I remember saying to Ali when the Supreme Court of the United States overturned DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), “Save papers and other items to show Myra, she will never believe the fight we have had!” We have come so far, yet we have so far to go. 
                You may be wondering "how does gay marriage affect me, I’m not gay!"  This affects everyone by being a right of equality to no longer have second class citizens.  To show that we are loving and accepting nation.  You also never know who around you is gay, the stereotypes come from somewhere but we don’t all fit them to a T.  Open your heart and mind and you might meet some truly amazing people! 

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