Be Yourself and the Rest Will Follow
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
- Dr. Seuss
People worry all the time what others will think of them. The drive to get along and fit in is very strong. I was one of those people until I decided that I couldn’t live that way and be true to myself.
When I was in college I tried to fit in. I knew that I didn’t have the same feelings toward men as the other young women I knew, but I wasn’t ready to make the decision to live my life outside the mainstream. It was 1980. One night I realized that as hard as it was going to be to tell the truth about who I was, it was the only way to live an authentic life.
I came out to my small group of friends first. They were surprised, but they treated me the same. I went on to have my first love and move away with her to a big city when we graduated. I waited another year to tell my parents. They were not as happy, but I felt good that I didn’t have to lie anymore.
When I meet a new person, they did not know this one thing about me and it is a process each time for me to go through how I will reveal it. At one point in my life I decided that the best way was for me not to censor myself. I would simply talk as if I didn’t have to be careful about choosing my words and worrying about how people would react.
I remember once riding home in a taxi and the driver asked if I had a boyfriend. He was from Uganda and I was not sure how progressive he would be. I told him no, I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I had a girlfriend. He tried to clarify and asked again if I had a boyfriend. I said, no, I have a girlfriend instead. A look of understanding crossed his face and he smiled and said, “o.k.”
Sure, it wasn’t always that easy, but the more I just was myself the less I worried about what people thought of me. There have been so many changes in society’s views towards gays and lesbians that it is hard to remember how being out like that was so risky. I never imagined in a million years that I would live in a world where major celebrities would be vocal about being queer, and that states would pass laws saying you couldn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. And I certainly didn’t think that gay marriage would be legalized.
This past year Maryland passed a law legalizing same sex marriage. My partner and I got married this March on our 10th anniversary. Today, the Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law banning gay marriage (the Defense of Marriage Act); ruling that it was unconstitutional. So now, if I am married in a state where it is legal, the federal government has to recognize that marriage.
Be yourself and the rest will follow.