I'm Coming Out: What Pride Means to Me

I'm Coming Out: What Pride Means to Me

Happy Pride Month! Everyone has their own journey of self-acceptance and support from family and friends. We asked Partners who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share what this month means to them and were blown away by the responses. Their bravery and strength inspired us, so we’re sharing their stories to inspire you too.

Victoria Keck-Delapez

June recognizes all the brave people that came before me, the people that stood in the face of fear and said no more. I’m a lesbian. I’ve come out of the closet every day, basically, since 2004 and not every response has been kind. In 2008, I met the love of my life working at a pet store. We started out as friends, going to our local gay bar until we became more than friends. We both had our own experiences when it came to hateful comments or actions. Some we brushed off our shoulders, while others we hold with us to this day.

In 2013, it wasn’t legal to marry my partner of five years in Pennsylvania, but we wanted to start a family. So, we started the adoption process. Our class had a single gay man come in and speak about his journey to adopt his son. He talked about how the courthouse kept intentionally pushing his son’s adoption back further and further until he threatened that PFLAG would show up on the courthouse steps with news stations. We struggled in many ways to get approval, ultimately failing due to bias in the agency.

A year later it became legal to marry in Pennsylvania. We started planning our wedding that night. I cried tears of joy when purchasing my first wedding planning book. We planned to marry a year later, on our seven-year anniversary. As time went on, we realized we would never be able to move back to my soon to be wife’s home state of Texas, because they would not accept our marriage license. Our pastor and her wife married us privately on June 10, 2015, five days shy of the Supreme Court ruling that would change our lives. I cried that day. We talked about our future and how we would now be protected everywhere in the United States. We still held our formal wedding on our seven-year anniversary and our pastor loudly said during the service, “by the state of Pennsylvania and the entire United States of America, I pronounce you wife and wife!”

Clara Dianne Hagen

I am thirty-four years old. I have been married twice and have two children. To be honest in those two marriages, I never felt like I was being true to myself. There was a time that I did love my ex-husbands. However, being both physically and emotionally abused in the past, I knew it was not right. I deserved so much more.

After my last divorce, I was a single mother raising two children alone for nine years before I met my girlfriend. I worked in a daycare that is run by my sister. It allowed me to be with my children and still take care of them at the same time. Working with my sister was very demanding and tiring. I was literally killing myself to live paycheck to paycheck.

When we were hiring, my now girlfriend stopped in for an interview, which I ended up doing. I knew I wanted and needed her in my life, so I told my sister to hire her. She did end up hiring her, and my girlfriend moved to Utah from California. She is everything I have ever wanted in a person.

Before my child came out, he was known as McKayla. He now goes by Michael.

We were at parent teacher conferences in October of 2018 when a teacher called him Michael. Once we got into the car I had asked, “Why did your teacher call you Michael?”

He explained that since the beginning of the school year, he had been going by Michael and has felt very strongly about this for quite some time. After asking him if he wanted to get new clothes to feel more like himself, we went right to the store.

I never questioned if my child was born in the wrong body or questioned my child’s feelings as a human, however many people did. We reached out to a therapist to make things go a little smoother.

My child eventually told me he was being sexually abused* by his uncle; the man married to the sister I worked with. I was floored. Not only had my child just come out to me as transgender, but now he had to deal with sexual abuse? This was a lot for anyone to deal with, let alone a twelve-year-old.

My child had an appointment with his therapist that same day, so everything was reported, and an interview was set up with the children’s justice center. I then stopped working for my sister.

Due to everything that had happened in such a short amount of time, we have become so much stronger as humans and individuals. We have been shown the amazing support of the LGBTQ communities and been able to make so many more connections with others. My love for my children will never change. No matter who they are or what they believe. We all deserve to be heard and accepted for the amazing people we are. We ALL deserve to be happy, healthy, and loved!

*If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual or physical abuse, there are many resources where you can find the help you need. Click here for a list.

Tiffany Mattox

Having been teen parents, and me later becoming a Partner, my husband and I have always had pretty open conversations with our children concerning sex and sexuality. We suspected from an early age that our son might be gay. He experienced periods where he was mentally and emotionally withdrawn and ran into issues in school with bullying and acting out. My husband asked questions and helped him navigate his journey of self-discovery.

When my son finally came out to him, my husband told me. We assured our son that we loved him and would support him and that it changed nothing with us, regardless of what anyone else had to say about it. That was that. Our family and church officially found out two years ago when he went to prom with a young man he was dating. We made it clear that if they had an issue with it, then keep it to themselves because we supported him. We’ve heard of so many horror stories of things like suicide** and violence that our main concern has always been his well-being.

Being a gay, black, Christian man is tough in our society and isn’t often welcomed. As founding pastors, we are fortunate to be able to set the tone in our ministry, which is to be a place where all are, and actually feel, welcome. My husband also currently sits on the board of our local LGBT Center. I believe that regardless of where you stand from a personal or religious viewpoint, everyone should be treated with equality, respect, and love.

**If you know someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support.

Ashley Gaskill

I identify as bi. My oldest is still exploring who they are. They were born female. They have gone from being bisexual, to lesbian, to wanting to be a boy. They are still trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. Throughout the process I have always said that I will always stand in their corner and have their back. They have always felt more comfortable with telling me what is going on, rather than telling their father. To support them, I ask regular questions on how they are feeling, how I can help, etc. I also do my own research into different areas of support as well. I have joined two parent support groups on Facebook to better equip myself with resources and knowledge.

It was not until I became an adult that I was able to have a regular relationship with my uncle, who is gay. Now, I see him several times a month and help support him with his everyday living needs. Two years ago, I learned my older brother is gay and my sister is bi. They are both a light in my life. I get along great with them. We enjoy getting together and spending time together. When our father died (neither of them had a relationship with him), it wrecked me. Both were there for me and helped me get through one of the toughest weeks in my life.

Through and through, I would say that just because someone is a part of the LGBTQ+ community does not make them any different from any other person in the world! They can still be just as empathetic, caring, and loving as the next person!

Aubrey Shaughnessy

Pride Month and being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community is very important to me. My full-time job is a seventh grade science teacher. I work with a lot of young teens who are feeling a lot of emotions for the first time and a lot of them are figuring out who they are. Some of them are identifying as LGBTQIA+ and are navigating how to tell friends and family. Having an adult who cares about them, affirms them, and supports them can make a HUGE difference in their self-esteem, self-worth, and overall success in school and in their future.

I assist two other teachers with our campus GSA club. Students often talk about their experiences with their peers on campus as well as with their families. Unfortunately, many of their experiences are not positive. We have had seventh grade students isolated from their own parents. They felt the only adult they could talk to are the few adults on campus that are open about being an ally. LGBTQIA+ students are at a higher risk of being bullied and, ultimately, at a higher risk of suicide.

I make it a priority to be vocal to the students about my openness. There are LGBTQIA+ positive posters posted in my room. I wear a lanyard with my keys on it that is the ally symbol. My email address signature has my pronouns. On the first day of school, when getting to know students, I don’t only ask for their name, but I also ask what they would like to be called as well as their preferred pronouns. These seem like small things to do, but so many students have thanked me for these small gestures and have said if meant a lot to them. At the end of the day, it’s my goal that all students feel accepted, affirmed, and supported, regardless of their LGBTQIA+ status. Sometimes, all they need is to feel cared for by one person and I’m happy to be that one.

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