My exposure to the gay community happened long before I knew that I was a lesbian. I had very close family members who were gay. As a young child I saw men dressed as women, women dressed in men suits, women slow dancing with other women, and men kissing other men. Due to my daily exposure I was completely unaware that being gay was something that I was supposed to hide and something that wasn’t accepted or respected by most. It was very normal for me and as a child I had no idea that everyone didn’t have the same exposure. After all, some of the most amazing people I knew were gay. Their friends were gay. They embraced me, a loud-mouthed little girl with lots of questions, and I loved and admired them for being who they were. It would be a couple of decades before I would begin to identify myself as a lesbian and another decade before I would begin to work for and with the LGBT community. All the while I never was in the closet about my sexuality. I never knew I was supposed to be. Thus, my “coming out” was more of a “coming to”…never feeling the need to explain “why” but just having conversations about what was.
Once the word got out among my family I received many warnings, most telling me that I should not share my “private life” with others. I never had an understanding of those warnings, as I wasn’t anything less than proud about who I was and I actually felt honored that I could embrace that part of me. Needless to say, I didn’t follow anyone’s instructions about how to be “in the closet,” and instead began to pave the way for folks to come out and be proud. Today I still encounter many people who are ashamed, unsure, and secretive about their sexuality and I still take it upon myself to shed some light into the darkness of their closet.
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