I heard an inspiring talk today by Brett Jones author of Pride: The Story of the First Openly Gay Navy SEAL. Brett instructed as all to take the high road in moving equality issues forward. He was open, authentic and giving in his sharing of his story. When his eyes filled with tears as he recounted his parents kicking him out of the house as a teen for being gay, we felt his pain. And it would have hardly been surprising to hear an angry, bitter response to that and to his outing while in the Navy. But that was not his tone. Instead, he modeled compassion and integrity. He called for all of us to be our best selves in response to injustice. He reminded us progress is made by good people making tough decisions and taking difficult action.
I didn't actually just hear the talk; I helped to organize it. Because I am proud to say that I am an ally working toward equality in my sweet home Alabama. Because the LGBTQ cause is my cause. It is my cause not because I share a sexual orientation, but because I share a human orientation. Their story is my story. It is one of vulnerability and longing for acceptance. It is one of trying to find yourself and learning to be comfortable with who you are. It is often a story about friendship and acceptance. It is also sometimes a story about loneliness and isolation. And it is all too often a painful story to tell.
And so I write this to thank Brett for his willingness to so publicly share his story. And to say to anyone who might not yet feel comfortable telling theirs, we are here to listen if you ever need to tell it. And to anyone who might think this is not their story, not their cause, I encourage you to listen again. To hear the truths and vulnerabilities common to us all. To our human orientation.
Last year I wrote a post about a secret I had hid most of my life. A secret that really no one but me probably even thought needed to be hid. In the last year since writing that post and sharing it publicly, I have changed. I feel more authentic and comfortable in my own skin. I worry less what people think. I feel more whole. And again, my secret in no way rose to the level of feeling the need to hide a core aspect of my being for fear of being hurt or discriminated against. But whenever I hear a coming out story, or a story of someone who felt forced to hide part of themselves, I understand. I empathize. I feel connected. And so I choose to be their ally. And I believe when we are being our best selves, we can listen to others' stories with an open heart to hear the ways our stories our the same. To see that we are not so different after all.
True confession, I am not just an ally because I empathize with LGBTQ stories. I am also an ally for more selfish reasons. I have been blessed by intelligent, funny, caring, giving people in my life who happen to also be gay. My life, and the lives of my children, would be greatly diminished if I limited my friendships and interactions to people with whom I share a sexual orientation. Not because these friends have exposed me to what it's like to be LGBTQ- but because these friends have taught me so much about so many things. My goal is to be a well-rounded human being, so I try to keep my circles wide. And each person who crosses in brings something new. And I am the richer for it. And today I was richer for hearing a former Navy SEAL tell his story of love. Thank you Brett.
(Written April 12, 2015)