Caitlyn Jenner Is A Toxic Influence

If I have ever suggested that Caitlyn Jenner be considered a role model, I sincerely apologize. I defended her coming out, I stood against the mocking halloween costume, and I still hold to those positions … but I was flat-out wrong if I ever said that people should look up to her. In fact, I was wrong in my first piece about her when I suggested that, given her fame, her coming out would be perhaps the most positive thing that has happened to bring Trans issues into the public dialog. That would have been the case had Caitlyn decided to exercise a little bit of humility and act like a decent human being. But, unfortunately, she did what she always does – acted like the narcissistic and shallow person she is, and served as a device to de-legitimize the Trans community with her unique brand of privileged ignorance. Yes, I was wrong about Caitlyn if I suggested she be seen as a role model, and I’m sorry.

For those not aware of what has me so angry, here’s what Caitlyn said in a recent interview with TIME. “I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role. So what I call my presentation. I try to take that seriously. I think it puts people at ease. If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable. So the first thing I can do is try to present myself well. I want to dress well. I want to look good.”

Others are outraged about this and unpacking it, and I’m going to do the same. There are so many problems with this statement that it’s difficult to decide where to start. First of all, and perhaps the most obvious point, is that the initial sentence delegitimizes Trans people who identify as non-binary. It’s clear that Caitlyn’s perspective does not include ALL Trans people, and that is problematic. Second, the entire comment oozes of privilege. The vast majority of Trans people are not able to afford the massive amount of money she spent on facial feminization surgery, etc; and to suggest that they aren’t taking their presentation “seriously” is a slap in the face. Caitlyn Jenner is so unaware of the world around her, that I shudder to think some people actually take her words to heart. Some further thoughts:

: Let’s not ignore the implication that Trans people are “playing a role.” This is perhaps the most serious problem with what Caitlyn said. I don’t know if that’s really how she feels, but if it is, that she is playing the role of a woman, what are the implications? I hate to be guilty of the de-legitimizing tactics I’m accusing her of, but given what she said I think it’s fair to wonder about her authenticity. How damaging would it be in the arena of public perception if it turned out that she really believes her own words? The most famous Trans woman in the world not a woman at all, but just playing a role? Looking the “part,” instead of looking like a “man in a dress?” I don’t want to think this. I hope it was just a poor choice of words.

: The “man in a dress” narrative is not new for the Jenner/Kardashian crew. Khloe Kardashian used it in an interview a few months ago, and Caitlyn is more than happy to just throw it around as if nobody gets hurt by what she says. “Man in a dress” is extremely harmful and transphobic, as it delegitimizes Trans women entirely. Instead of being called what she is – a woman – a Trans woman is called a “man in a dress.” This terminology is unacceptable.

: I would like to say that I hope Ms. Jenner feels ashamed of herself for doing more harm than good, but I really don’t think she cares. She’s made it clear on multiple occasions that she doesn’t care. As for making people feel uncomfortable … so what? That’s really their problem. If I choose to put on a dress and go to the mall, and someone has a problem with that, too bad. You’re uncomfortable? Try pretending to be someone you’re not for most of your life, and then tell me about being uncomfortable.

Caitlyn Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for her courage in famously coming out on the cover of Vanity Fair. She was short listed for TIME magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year (placing 7th). The reality show documenting her transition and life as Cait, is putting her thoughts and ideas on display, a dangerous thing when you think about how many struggling teens in search of information might stumble across her completely disconnected and misinformed ideas. While Hollywood and many of my fellow leftists praise and celebrate her, I simply cannot partake. Caitlyn Jenner is a self-absorbed, unaware product of privilege. She is continuously asked to speak on issues she knows nothing about, being given unearned credit as an authority on LGBTQ+ issues. She is against marriage equality, she doesn’t understand the struggle faced by LGBTQ+ people who don’t have millions of dollars to buy friends, and I don’t think she cares about them anyway. I don’t think Caitlyn Jenner cares one iota about anyone but herself, and from where I’m sitting that seems obvious.

If we are looking for Trans role models, how about Laverne Cox? How about Tiq Milan? How about the countless others who are down-to-earth people doing something positive for the Trans community? How about the Trans people living authentically and helping in real ways, instead of taking to reality TV for their own grandstanding? We have a lot of Trans role models. Caitlyn Jenner is NOT one of them.

One more thing: there is a new book out called “Outlasting the Gay Revolution: 8 Principles For Long Term Cultural Change.” Don’t waste your money on it, it was written by Dr. Michael Brown and isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I bring it up because his primary argument is that our movement is self-defeating. When these things happen – the ‘Drop the T’ petition, Caitlyn Jenner causing outrage among the community she is supposed to be a supportive member of – people see what Dr. Brown has to say coming to fruition. I disagree of course, it seems to me that mass opposition to those ‘bad apples’ is a sign of solidarity, but the religious right sees it differently. We can’t stop Caitlyn Jenner from saying stupid things – she is a Republican after all – but we can be aware of what our opponents are saying so that we can argue against it. And one of the things we can start with is rejecting toxic influences like Caitlyn Jenner as role models.

 

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My Testimony

It recently dawned on me that although I’ve been very open about my life, I’ve never written an actual “testimony,” so to speak. I gave a fair amount of background when I came out on August 2nd, and little bits and pieces here and there, but I feel that with so much bad news on the daily, a good news story can brighten our spirits. A story about coming out of homophobia, into advocacy, and eventually into the realization and full acceptance of self, deserves to be told. So here it is, my “testimony.”

My story is an increasingly familiar one. I’m a former Christian, the evangelical Anglican kind, who also grew up in the charismatic movement. In my younger years, I was one of the worst behaved homophobes I’ve ever met. Hateful and proud of it. The word “Gay” was an insult, and as far as I was concerned homosexuality was a sinful and deplorable choice. I am profoundly ashamed to say that I viewed gay men in particular as almost sub-human. As for Trans people, I thought that was a myth. Every chance I got, I used my words to humiliate and degrade LGBTQ+ people, and if the chance didn’t present itself, I would bring it up anyway. I was everything I now fight against.

After graduating from High School, it was eight years before I decided to attend University. Five of those years were spent at sea. As a crew member on oil tankers sailing the Atlantic, I learned about loyalty, inner strength, hard work, emotional fortitude, and courage. I joined in 2001, a cocky immature child of 20, and after five years of a 73-days-on-73-days-off rotation (that never quite worked out that way), I had grown into an adult. At the age of 26, I was accepted into university. While there, I became more moderate, less hateful, more … tolerant. I played music to earn part of my income, and one night I landed a gig at the local ‘gay bar.’ The moment I walked into that nightclub, I felt at home. I’ll never forget that feeling. It’s not that I assumed LGBTQ+ people were less judgmental, but for some reason I felt like I was surrounded by people who weren’t concerned with who or what I was. The bartender greeted me as you would a friend. Nobody knew if I was LGBTQ+ or not, and it really didn’t matter. If there was negative judgment from anybody, I wasn’t aware of it. In contrast to other bars, I didn’t feel like I had to watch my back. That experience helped me on the path to becoming an ally.

A year after my university graduation, my wife and I were driving down the highway on a sunny afternoon. My wife, a brilliant educator, had already become an ally and active advocate for LGBTQ+ equality. During the course of our conversation that day, I used the word “fruit” as a slur. I didn’t realize what I had done until she called me on it. The loud and spirited argument that followed ended when I finally admitted fault, and I realized then that change was in order. A short time later, following a homophobic incident perpetrated by some Christian fanatics in a nearby town, I became an outspoken ally.

I now specialize in the relationships between traditional Christian doctrine, the LGBTQ+ community, and pop culture. In university, I earned a degree in cultural anthropology, with minors in religious studies, history, and Spanish. I understand the religious foundations of hatred on a personal level, and thanks to my education, I understand it on an academic level as well. After a couple of years writing as Outspoken Ally, I went through a period of internal turmoil and struggle as I came to realize and embrace my own gender identity. I came out as Queer in August 2015; and living in an extremely phobic area of Canada’s east coast, I’m beginning to understand things on a whole different level still.

I am not simply an advocate for equality. I am personally affected by the ignorance I fight against. Until I can walk into a business in the next town over without being met with rolling eyes, or shop in “women’s” clothing sections without getting angry looks from male patrons, my work isn’t done. My testimony, to ironically use some Christian lingo, is that I once was lost but now I’m found. I struggled through life pretending to be something I wasn’t, because I was taught that who I was was wrong. Having broken the shackles of that God-based fear, having embraced humanity for what we are, having found myself … my testimony is a happy one. It’s not that it got better, it’s that I gained knowledge, and with that came self-realization and acceptance. I have found the experience very freeing, very uplifting. I feel fully human for the first time.

Embracing my true self in public is the hardest part now, but it gives me confidence to know that if I can do it, LGBTQ+ youth might learn from that example. Then again, it might not help anybody at all; but it’s worth talking about, and knowing we aren’t alone is a powerful thing.

 

Encouraging Proper Language

Today I want to offer encouragement. The lovely people who have been posting videos and memes lately in support of their children who are LGBTQ+, makes me smile often. The video with a Dad talking about loving his children regardless of their identity. The Facebook post by a Mom who wants her children to know just how unconditional her love for them is. The meme talking about acceptance and coming together. These are all uplifting, and although I would love to leave it at that, I wish to encourage a re-phrasing of a common language thread throughout.

“I will love my kids regardless of who they choose to be.” “I want my children to know that no matter who you choose to be, I’ve got you.” “Everyone is unique. You can be whoever you want.” These are great messages, and if they were talking about career choices or educational paths, there would be nothing wrong with them. Unfortunately, these statements are in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, and therein lies the issue. What all of these messages have in common is that they view sexual orientation and gender identity as matters of choice. The people expressing the message have only the best of intentions, and it’s not their fault that this language is so deeply woven into our cultural dialog. They probably don’t even see the error, and most of us don’t either. A positive reception amongst so much negativity is refreshing, so much so that any errors in language are generally overlooked. In any event it’s there, and we must encourage those wonderful and accepting people to say it in a more understanding way.

“I will love my kids regardless of who they are.” “I want my children to know that no matter who you are, I’ve got you.” “Everyone is unique. Express yourself.” These simple changes in language make all the difference. They take your message, which is already positive, and give it a level of understanding. In addition to being supportive and loving, you also get it. The idea is to take away the implication that these things are choices. I was in the closet for 34 years, and I didn’t finally come out because I ‘chose’ to be Queer. I chose what terminology to refer to myself with, and I chose to come out, but I’ve always been Queer. This is important, because we often don’t think about it. We make many decisions around our personal identities … but what we are is not one of them.

I want to applaud those expressing the support I’m talking about. Your love and acceptance toward your children makes me happy. You’re doing it right. Coming out is really tough, and when those closest make their support known so publicly, it really shows everyone that your children live in a safe environment – free from judgment, where they can be honest with and about themselves. That’s what everybody deserves. I hope you accept this message of encouragement to now use language that expresses your understanding as well as your support. Make it known that without prejudice, without assumption, you love your kids for who they are.

Oh, and keep up the great work. 🙂

 

Getting Hurt For The First Time

When you write about it having never lived it, you have to imagine it to some extent. You can read documented experiences, and you can talk to people who have lived, and are living, it; but at the end of the day you have to rely on empathy and compassion in order to imagine what it’s like to have to think about what you say, and to whom, for fear of the wrong people finding out about who you are. For 34 years, I’ve lived a life of privilege – caucasian, male (seemingly cisgender), middle class – I could walk into virtually any room and ‘fit.’ I’m still privileged by my genitalia and the colour of my skin, but after coming out as Queer on August 2nd, the privilege afforded to me by my status as cisgender and heterosexual disappeared overnight.

My writing, speaking, and working for change doesn’t pay my bills, at least not yet, so I make my living in a blue collar industry. The industrial site I work at brings with it a lot of challenges for any LGBTQ+ people who find themselves employed there. First, it’s located in what I can confidently say is the most homophobic/transphobic community I have ever personally encountered, and second the nature of blue collar culture doesn’t always blend well with the world outside of it. While there is an increasing number of blue collar workers becoming aware of and engaged in social issues, the traditional way of doing things has been to focus on making a living and not to bother with what the rest of the world has going on. The lack of interest in learning about issues keeps people in a state of perpetual ignorance, and the biases that are fostered by that ignorance only grow stronger. There is an inability, in much of the blue collar world, to see what harm is being done and so homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc are rampant. More than just outright hatred, it’s ingrained with words like “cocksucker” that just roll of the tongue as if there’s nothing wrong with it at all … and to them, there isn’t. I have always been uncomfortable in that place. I’ve never really belonged there. As soon as I came out, that place became dangerous.

I haven’t come out at work, at least not in any substantial way. I want to live authentically, and my confrontational nature often tells me to just go for it, but I will have to be willing to accept a fair amount of physical risk first. There are just three people at that place who I have trusted enough to tell, but on August 4th, just two days after coming out here on outspokenally.com, I wound up in an argument and told the wrong person. What happened did not turn physical, but made me feel attacked all the same. For the very first time in my life, I was made to feel deformed in some way – as if who I am is unacceptable. I objected to a homophobic statement and received the ignorant response “straight guys don’t defend gays.” I answered with “well, you’re wrong. And what makes you think I’m a straight guy?” From there the conversation took a proverbial nose dive and I was left feeling dehumanized. No matter how insignificant or stupid this man’s “opinion” was, it still hurt.

Do I now know what it feels like to be physically beaten and to live in fear as I turn every corner? No. But I have been hurt for the first time. I used to think it must be like getting bullied. I was bullied as a kid, hurt by the words and jeers of others, but bullies never zeroed in on my personal identity. Bullies made stuff up, they never took who I am and tried to crush it. For the first time in my life, I have been told that who I am is wrong, that I am not this way, that my identity is fake. He told me that I am responsible for turning kids gay, making little boys think they’re girls, and vice versa (it’s all the same to him). He called me a monster. I answered him with the truth. I told him he needed to learn a few things or he would continue to make himself look like a jackass. I told him his comments hurt. He looked me in the eye, with an arrogant grin, and said “I don’t care” … and the depth of what he meant was clear.

“I don’t care.” It’s obvious that he doesn’t care that I was hurt by what he said, but there was a lot more to what he meant. You see, I had brought up heterosexism (not the actual word, but I spelled it out for him). I had told him how misinformation and hatred cause homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide. I had brought up the violence committed against LGBTQ+ people daily. When he said “don’t care,” he said a lot. He said he didn’t care that I was hurt, didn’t care that his majority is oppressive and thinks it should continue to be, didn’t care that hatred is ruining lives, didn’t care that hatred is ending lives. “I don’t care” meant that I could be attacked and killed just for who I am, and he would think it was my fault.

I chose to write this today because I firmly believe in the power of unity. I believe in the power of standing together. Outspoken Ally was started with an understanding of the harm being done and a desire to end it. I chose to write this to bare my own experience, my own vulnerability, because I need people to stand with me as well. I still have it good, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be hurt, and the relative security in which I live is jeopardized by this hatred; not to mention my own mental health. I also wrote it for those who still feel alone. There are always allies, always people like you, always people who can help.

Getting hurt for the first time sucked, but it taught me a valuable lesson. The progress being made for equality (ie: marriage) is all centralized within a pop culture framework. People outside of that are seeing what’s going on, making up their own theories about it, and then when they come across people like me, they unload those theories as accusations toward a person they have invented and put my face on. It’s so important that we confront this. Change has happened because enough people decided that although they would be attacked, they would not be victimized. We have to decide the same!

 

It’s Time For Me To Come Out

A few months ago, a colleague showed me the then new and improved Genderbread Person v2.0 (See it here!). As I looked at it, I saw a visual aid for a word I thought I understood. The word “Genderqueer” jumped off the page, and took on a personal meaning for the first time in my life. Almost immediately, I saw the source of the insecurities and bitterness I’ve carried with me since a very young age. The following few months of soul-searching, self-exploration and questioning proved difficult to say the least. On July 10, a discussion with two friends and colleagues who are on similar paths of discovery, helped me come to fully accept that I am not the man I convinced myself I was.

I grew up in an evangelical home, where traditional gender roles were expected of everybody. There was nothing malicious about it, that’s just the way it was. In our world, sex and gender were synonymous, and the social roles and expectations that came with that defined a lot about you. We didn’t talk about Trans or gender variant people, and to be honest I’m pretty sure that’s because we didn’t really know they existed. I remember being drawn to a friend’s Barbie dolls when I was very young, and my parents teasing me about that. I remember breaking into tears when I was 11, over a conversation with my Mother about my favourite colour being pink. She was worried that this would bring ridicule and bullying from my peers, and convinced me to adopt a more masculine colour, like blue or green. The teasing over Barbie dolls was lighthearted, and my Mom was genuinely worried, but these things stuck with me. Everything about what a “man” was supposed to be, what a “woman” was supposed to be, and what my ‘male’ attributes said about me, had a huge impact on the person I would become. I put on a man-mask, and have spent the better part of 34 years desperately trying to be something I’m not.

My name is Josh Osborne, and I am Genderqueer … actually just Queer. I’m comfortable in the gender binary, but I’m right in the middle. I identify as both male AND female (and sometimes neither). My understanding of my own sexual orientation is obviously affected by this. I’ve always called myself a heterosexual male, but that no longer works. Who I’m attracted to hasn’t changed of course, orientation is a constant, but my understanding of it has changed a great deal. I’m most happy with the word ‘Queer’ in regard to both my gender identity and sexual orientation.

Unlike many Trans and gender variant people, I do not experience dysphoria – at least not with my physical sex. I’m comfortable in my body, comfortable being biologically male. The anxieties I have are related to gender expression, and are relieved by feminizing or neutralizing my appearance with things like hair removal, gender neutral clothing, and expressions of femininity that I’ve never been able to show. Who I have always been in my head and who I have always been to the world are two different people. The man-mask has never fit. It’s uncomfortable, full of anger, insecurity, and it’s too heavy. It’s taken me a long time to realize this, and it’s time for me to live free.

When I write and when I speak, I have always referred to myself as a “heterosexual cisgender male.” I’ve done this because I believe that in discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation, disclosure of my own is important. I am not a heterosexual cisgender male, but I must make certain that people know that I haven’t been lying about it. Forcing yourself into the gender norm is powerful, and when done over a long enough period of time it becomes normal. I’ve always known on some level, but I chalked those feelings up to all sorts of things. Being Queer wasn’t on my radar. How could it be when I had spent my entire life trying to prove otherwise? I’m from a ‘traditional’ family, and I spent five years at sea. By the time I went to university (at age 26) I had been trying to portray a hyper-masculine image for a long time. I toned that down a bit during university, and had indeed become less aggressive by the time Outspoken Ally was born, but I was nowhere near the self-realization that’s brought me to this point. Social pressure leading to self denial is a powerful thing.
I’m Queer, I’ve always been Queer, and it feels so good to finally say it! It feels good to write it! It feels good to start living it!

P.S. For anybody wondering, I still use “he” pronouns. I am also still a son, husband, and father. There aren’t any gender neutral terms that I connect with yet, so I’ll keep the male-centric ones for now.

 

Terrorism

The subject of terrorism has a stranglehold on western society. Every day we watch and read about groups like ISIS wreaking havoc with horrifying acts of torture, degradation, and murder; while using religion as their justifying crutch. We see it with governmental powers as well; states that occupy and attack what doesn’t belong to them, citing their “God-given right.” What we fail to recognize in the midst of all this is the terrorism happening right here at home. Evangelical churches and organizations that campaign against the rights of others seek the same ends through different means. While innocent villagers, farmers, and captives are the victims of terrorism abroad, innocent LGBTQ+ people are the victims of terrorism right here within our own borders. What’s more, those same organizations send money and support to victimize the sexual and gender minorities in other countries as well. Hiding behind religious freedom, we see through ISIS … but hiding behind that same freedom, terrorism moves along unfettered in the west.

Terrorism – The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

Violence – Behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.   1.1 Strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force: ‘the violence of her own feelings.’

Intimidation – The act of frightening or threatening somebody so that they will do what you want.  (oxforddictionaries.com)

Groups like the American Family Association, Focus On The Family, and the thousands of anti-equality churches are, by definition, terrorist organizations; yet nobody is talking about it. We talk about bigotry and ignorance, about close-mindedness, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has labelled many of those organizations as “Hate Groups,” but we tiptoe around calling them what they really are. They use strength of emotion to drive their hate, and hide behind political protection of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” They hold morality hostage and drive their followers to do heinous things against LGBTQ+ people. They give money to anti-gay bills in other countries. They sign petitions to stop positive educational initiatives. They protest in front of court houses to deny equal rights. They are bent on committing cultural genocide against those whose views and values differ from their own. They are so much worse than mere hate groups. Churches and organizations that actively campaign against social equality epitomize the very definition of terrorism.

Why aren’t we talking about this? Because we are afraid to. We have bought into two mantras: “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” and “we have to respect the beliefs of others.” The problem is that an opinion that’s inherently harmful to both those it’s directed at and those who hold it, must not go unaddressed – and beliefs are only worthy of respect if they stand for the good of humanity. Respecting beliefs because they are beliefs puts us in serious moral trouble, when it comes to the belief that a gay man deserves eternity in a lake of fire just for living honestly. We face an even greater moral dilemma when it comes to the terrorism we are all too familiar with. I know many people who say “we have to respect the beliefs of others,” but not one of them respects Sharia Law. What about the ISIS militants who believe it’s morally correct to throw gay men from rooftops? What about the Ugandan lawmakers who believe God wants them to throw a man in jail for 10 years just for being gay … and what about your neighbour who feels that God has called him/her to donate money to an organization that supports the Ugandan government in that decision? My guess is that you don’t respect the beliefs of the Ugandan lawmakers, but you will make excuses for your friend. The trouble is that while one seeks to commit the atrocity, the other seeks to fund it. They seek the same ends through different means. Their beliefs are exactly identical, and you face a moral conundrum when you show respect for an immoral belief; regardless of who holds it.

If you disagree or are uncomfortable with equating home-grown anti-equality groups with ISIS, I understand. We have been conditioned to see terrorists as an evil ‘other.’ We kill for freedom, they kill to oppress. What we need to do is ask ourselves ‘what’s the difference?’ What’s the difference between ISIS throwing gay men from rooftops and a church petitioning to stop equality education in our schools? Sure, one is extremely physically violent, but they are both acts of terrorism. They both breed fear and a reluctance to speak out. They both keep LGBTQ+ youth in the closet, and in doing so, cause suicide. They both encourage oppression. They both foster a culture in which difference is met with animosity. They both aim to impose their own social and legal standard based on religious belief and misinformation. Look back up to the definitions of terrorism, violence, and intimidation. Everything fits.

We have to stop handling hate with kid gloves. I know the word “terrorist” conjures a very specific image for us, but we have to realize that terrorism takes many forms. Terrorism uses violence and intimidation to achieve political and ideological aims. This applies as much to those who wish to impose the Islamic state as it does to those who want to use fear tactics and fund violence in the name of Jesus. What’s the difference between taking an innocent life and creating a culture in which that life is defined as an abomination worthy of God’s wrath?

No more excuses. No-one is entitled to act on the disastrous ‘opinion’ that others deserve to die, and beliefs allowing for that outcome are NOT deserving of respect. The active anti-equality campaigning of evangelical groups and churches IS terrorism. If you were forced to look at the brutalized bodies, the carnage of mass beatings and shootings, the horror in the faces of the victims before they die, the pain in the lives of those who can’t come out, the struggle of those who go well into adulthood before accepting who they are … you would see that clearly. We all would. If you had to live it … alone and afraid of what would happen if your secret was found out … you would see it clearly. We all would. Terrorism keeps its victims in line out of fear. We easily identify it elsewhere, so again ask yourself “what’s the difference?”

We owe it to those we’ve lost to call this what it is. It’s terrorism. To call it by any other name is not good enough.

 

A Note Of Encouragement

I want to offer a short note of encouragement today. As a heterosexual man, I have never had to come out as LGBTQ to my family or friends. As an ally, I continue to do as much as I can to learn and understand how difficult the process is; and although I can never understand it entirely, I know it’s one of the hardest things a person must do. National Coming Out Day just passed, and as I read through the posts and articles, I was moved to write an encouraging word to those dealing with alienation, guilt, and fear over revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity to those closest to them.

There is a large community of LGBTQ people and Allies to surround you with positivity and affirmation should you need it. The feelings of isolation associated with revealing such a deeply personal aspect of your identity need not overtake you. We are here. We love you. We accept you. We celebrate the freedom that comes with telling the world “this is who I am.” With each new person who digs deep and finds the courage to come out, the world changes for the better. You are important. You matter. Many in the LGBTQ community have been where you are, they understand what you are experiencing. The Allied community stands firm with them, and we offer support in every way that we can. For my part, I fight the religious foundations of anti-LGBTQ bigotry because you shouldn’t have to. You deserve the opportunity to own your identity, free of ridicule or condemnation. Nobody has the right to deny you that.

To those struggling with the isolation, ridicule, contempt, and scorn of others either before or during the coming out process, I wish with every fibre of my being that I could take your pain away. Unfortunately, all I can do is offer my undying support and encouragement. The alienation, guilt, and fear will eventually pale in comparison to the confidence and gifts that you will be able to share with the world. Owning one’s identity is a powerful thing. Take it, it belongs to you. If you fall, we are here to help you up. If you cry, we will lend a shoulder. If you celebrate, we will celebrate with you. If you fight, we are by your side. This is your journey … but you don’t have to take it alone.