By Sarah Miller
It’s Pride month. I have all sorts of feelings about it; and yet, I don’t know how to feel.
I was straight, to my knowledge, for 34 years. I have been gay for one year. Part of me feels so proud. I feel proud that I found myself enough to go for what I wanted. I want to wear rainbows everyday and tell everyone I see that I’m gay and I’m with an incredible woman. I want to wear my rainbow vans and I want people to see the shoes and think, “Oh, she’s gay.” I want to casually drop the fact that I’m gay into conversations. I want to tell everyone how great it is to be with a woman. I feel so much PRIDE already.
Even so, I also feel this weird shame. I’m gay NOW, but what about the first 34 years of my life?
I was living the straight, heteronormative life within the Christian church. I didn’t experience any type of discrimination or hardship related to my sexual orientation when I was growing up. I sat comfortably in my straight little life.
I never had to worry about my family disowning me (unless, of course, I got pregnant or something scandalous like that).
I never had to worry about being assaulted in a public restroom or bullied at school for being who I was.
I never had to worry about strangers staring me down in public for holding my partner’s hand. Everything about me was “the norm.”
I feel like I played a game and drew the card that let me skip all the way to the finish line. I bypassed all the others on the board that had to go through every painstaking turn.
Losing a turn. Going back 4 spaces. Drawing 3 extra cards.
I just drew a card that allowed me to jump to the end. I skipped the struggle and started at the amazing part. I skipped the bullying in high school or the unsupportive parents whose home I lived in. I got to come out as an adult. I live in my own place, and I don’t have to live in a home with non-affirming parents. It feels like I cheated by skipping the hard part.
I know it sounds crazy to feel this way. Everyone has a story and they shouldn’t be compared. Everyone has struggles and pain. Just because I didn’t have to grow up wrestling with my sexuality or concerned about my safety doesn’t mean I didn’t have struggles or that my story is “less than.”
I’m a grown woman, and the fact that my mom doesn’t accept my partner or my new life is still soul crushing. I’m 35 years old. I don’t live with her. And sometimes I still sob at the stress and sadness I feel as a result of her denial of this part of me.
I stop and think about the teenagers living in homes with parents that tell them they are going to hell or that they are choosing to live in sin. Parents that tell them they are an abomination. Parents that deny their child’s request to use different pronouns or names because they are transgender.
My heart hurts so deeply for all of the queer young people that are going through the struggles and pain of not feeling accepted or valued. According to the Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health for 2021, 42% of queer youth seriously considered suicide in the last year. The number is over half for nonbinary and transgender youth. There is a major crisis for the mental health and safety of queer youth.
Pride month is exciting. Rainbows are fun to flaunt around all month. But Pride month is so much more.
We need to advocate for the entire queer community, but especially LGBTQ+ youth. They need our voices and our votes to ensure that their rights and lives are going to be taken care of through gender and sexuality-affirming policies. We need to speak out and speak up against intolerance.
We need to make sure we affirm, defend, and support the queer young people in our lives. They need to know they are loved and accepted exactly how they are.
Pride is more than rainbows. It’s a time to spread love and acceptance. It’s a time to celebrate how far equality has come and recognize how far we still have to go.
Sarah Miller is an overly optimistic, conflict-avoidant, newly queer educator and mom of two. She finds joy in writing, sunshine, good salsa, and coffee with too much creamer. She believes everyone has a story that’s worthy of being told.
“This life is mine alone. So I’ve stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.” -Glennon Doyle