It has become so easy to tell people to stand up for themselves and to take the criticism surrounding their circumstances, but when it comes to your livelihood as a teenager, “coming out” may not be possible. If you live in a heavily religious home, or just a morally “traditional” homestead, then you have limited options to what sexual opportunities there are. I remember a friend of mine telling me that he was so scared to be homosexual that he quit school to be homeschooled to be away from other boys. A girl I knew in high school started hurting herself because she felt unable to love who she wanted to love, due to the fear of being kicked out of her home.
In situations like these, we come back to the realization that sexual preference is not something everyone has access to. If you are stressed because of your home life, then reach out for help. Please do not consider harming yourself or others, when professionals are willing to spend time talking with you and helping you figure out a better way to express yourself.
Here are some tips from me on what to do when you are feeling like a part of you is missing:
Keep a journal. I know it sounds silly and may be difficult for some, but write down everything. If you find someone, you like, but do not have the courage or ability to reach out to them, write about it. Write a heavily detailed letter to your guardians about how what they’re doing is hurting you (you do not have to give this to them). This works just as well with art, or wood carving, or any other form of creativeness. Take your stress out on something that makes you happy.
Keep close friends that understand who you truly are. This way you feel less like your hiding it from the world but are still able to keep it from your parents or guardians.
Read books. There are a lot of authors who have probably experienced similar situations to yours. All you have to do is find them. (This works for television as well).
Get an animal or thing that you can use as something to talk to. Animals relieve stress and are always there to listen. If owning a pet is something you don’t have access to, then have a stuffed animal or important relic to talk to.
Before hiding who you are, always be sure to have conversations with your parents or guardians if you do not already know where they stand on the subject. Sometimes people can surprise you.
If you ever feel alone in your struggle or would just like some company, you can check out the Magic City Acceptance Center at the following link:
Jeannette Rankin began breaking ground in 1917 as the first woman in history in the House of Representatives. She was also one of the key people in pushing the 19th Congressional Amendment, which allowed women to have equal voting rights. Now, thanks to her bravery and devotion to women’s rights, we have a record-breaking number of women recently elected to Congress.
On November 6th, 2018, a remarkable number of women were elected to Congress, making the overall number of women representing the House more than 100. It doesn’t stop there, either. The 2018 midterm elections were followed by several firsts.
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Tlaib will be America’s first Palestinian-American congresswoman, and Omar will be the first Somali-American congresswoman. Rashida Tlaib is a lawyer and a politician. She previously served a full term as a Democratic member of Michigan’s House of Representatives. She won the recent election with over 136,000 votes uncontested. She is a single mother of two sons. She once was removed from a venue where President Trump was being honored with an official Purple Heart. She claimed that he had not earned it. She stood her ground and was escorted respectfully.
Ilhan Omar was the first non-white woman elected to Minnesota’s House of Representatives and is the first Muslin refugee to be elected. Omar won the election with more than 267,000 votes. Omar was once a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota and was nominated as a rising star in the Party’s Women’s Hall of Fame. She also lives happily with her husband and three children. She spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya in the early ‘90’s after the start of the war. After immigrating to the states in 1995, Omar was able to learn the English language in less than three months. She graduated with a degree in political science and international studies from the University of North Dakota in 2011.
Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American congresswomen. Davids is not only a member of the Native American Ho-Chunk nation, making congressional history, but she is also the first publicly declared lesbian in Congress and a former professional MMA fighter. Davids is a strong young woman who chose to leave MMA fighting in 2013 to follow her democratic political dreams in representing Kansas in Congress. She received her Juris Doctor—degree in Indian law—from Cornell Law School in 2009. She won over 164,000 votes in the midterm election.
Deb Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo people from New Mexico. She received a bachelors in English and continued onto graduate school to claim her Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico Law School. Haaland is a single mother who enjoys running marathons and gourmet cooking.
Marsha Blackburn is Tennessee’s first woman elected to Senate. Blackburn brandishes herself as a conservative Republican. She has been a member of Tennessee’s Senate, and a U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s 7th congressional district. She is a strong supporter of “traditional marriage,” pro-life, and non-government-controlled healthcare. She is a former member of the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board and is married with two children.
Janet Mills is elected Maine’s first female governor. She ran as part of the democratic party and earned 318,000 votes in the election, winning by nearly 7%. She was an assistant attorney general and then the district attorney for three counties in Maine. She was the first woman elected to be Maine’s district attorney. She is the widowed mother of five stepdaughters and has three grandsons.
Ayanna Pressley is the first black person elected into Massachusetts’s House of Representatives. She is the first female black women elected to Congress. Pressley was raised by her mother who worked incredibly hard to give her a better life. Pressley was a cheerleader in high school and did some voice-over work for Planned Parenthood advertisements. She supports the “take a knee” movement that gives recognition of the U.S.’s need for equality. Pressley is also a survivor of sexual crimes in which she fights against for herself and other young women. She believes that the states should defund the Immigration and Customs Enforcement laws as they endanger immigrant communities.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman elected into Congress at age 29. She will be representing New York’s 14th Congressional district beginning January 2019. She ran as part of the democratic party. In high school, Ocasio-Cortez had a small asteroid named after her when she won second place for a research project on microbiology during the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. After facing financial struggles shortly after high school, she was awarded funds from Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, which allowed her to start a small publishing firm. She went on to be an educator for the National Hispanic Institute, which is a non-profit organization. Ocasio-cortex supports free education for universities and colleges. She supports 100% renewable energy sources. She is for the impeachment of Trump and would like to the U.S. Customs and Enforcement agency to be abolished.
Abbey Finkenauer is the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress. She is a member of the democratic party. She received her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Drake University in Iowa. She was endorsed by Barack Obama in her candidacy for this year’s midterms. She is the second youngest woman to be elected into Congress at age 30, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, age 29.
Let these women represent everything that you can achieve in life. If someone says you can’t, or if the world feels like it’s against you, do not back down. Women in history have worked hard to get us to where we are today, and these newly elected women will help lead that venture. We are strong. We are smart. We are women.
Pride” to me is an open declaration that I refuse to be shamed or to feel ashamed about whom and how I love. Unfortunately, the dominant culture and social structures of America (and largely, elsewhere also) is a heterosexual and cisgendered one. This disallows people whose sexuality and gender do not fit along these presets to live their lives comfortably and fully. “Pride” is a personal statement (I am unashamed) and an encouragement and act of solidarity (You should not feel ashamed either – we support you).
Pride month and Pride parades in the us come from a history of protest and physical action against police and our government. The Pride movement (as with many other movements seeking civil equality and equity) was started by queer women of color, and these women inspire me today.
What was your reaction to the legalization of gay marriage two years ago?
I felt relieved and frustrated after the legalization of gay marriage in the US in 2015. This issue shouldn’t have taken us so long, and Ireland did it before us!! (Taiwan has since followed!) Also, as the LGBTQ+ community is wide and varied, and we all have individual experiences, identities, and goals. Gay Marriage is one of the many goals that the community is seeking, but arguably not the most pressing or dire. Marriage equality was a highly politicized topic that got a lot of traction and discussion in the US. Lots of people not in the LGBTQ+ community were eager to argue against it or could pretty easily see how it was a good idea. The issue got a lot of political traction and the fear was that people would see its passing as the resolution of every civil injustice against the community. Now that marriage equality is a reality, us gays could be free and happy and shouldn’t complain anymore.
This is worrisome because there are other issues that need addressing also. We need to figure out how to resolve issues with civil treatment of transgender people (in general but also) specifically in incarceration facilities. Medical accessibility and affordability is an issue for all working class Americans, but especially LGBTQ+ ones, whose needs might not be met because of social prejudice and a lack of educated professionals. Violence against LGBTQ+ people is still prevalent and largely ignored. 30 trans people were killed in the US in 2016 and so far in 2017. Employers still discriminate, poverty still particularly affects LGBTQ+ people…we have a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights, and we don’t want momentum to stop even though these issues are less interesting and more complicated than marriage equality.
How would you define a “good ally”?
A good ally is someone who takes the space they are already in and makes it feminist or queer or not monoethnic. If people want to be feminist or queer allies they should listen to others and use their platforms to draw attention to queer issues! These are true allies. Allies don’t need to belong in queer spaces!
Have you had the chance to go to a pride parade? If so, which one(s) and what was it like?
I have participated in three or so pride parades. I marched with the Glide Foundation in the 2014 San Francisco Pride Parade, and in fall of 2012 and 2013 marched with my university in the Atlanta pride parades. My first parade was the most extraordinary. Marching with friends and experiencing such a wild performance of love and celebration was so uplifting. I would joke that I went to pride to soak up energy and recharge so I could make it through the rest of the year. My favorite parts are seeing other queer youth (and older queer people!) marching happily together, and always the counter protest supporters like the Atlanta Angels and the Pansy Patrol. These groups stand between any protesters and the pride participants and block their signs with angel wings or large flower cut-out to help the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and supported during the festivities. These groups always make me emotional, and I love seeing them. I tell them thank you whenever I can.
I was pleased to see that many parades so far this month have called out the corporate over-involvement in pride events. Businesses will march in parades to show their support–which is awesome!–but when you’re watching a parade and you’ve seen a number of corporations in a row wearing rainbows and throwing advertisements to the crowds, you can’t avoid the fact that these companies are benefiting off of their good press as lgbtq+ supportive organizations. Most of these companies prove that they don’t really care about LGBTQ+ people in their policies and workplace practices, but wear rainbows during pride month to get our business. I’d rather see the local boy scouts chapter or the local churches marching in support in a parade, and positions in the parade get sold to companies and businesses instead. Last year’s Atlanta parade was no fun because of this reason. Let us march in our own parades!
Do you have any advice to give young girls who are either questioning or afraid to come out to their loved ones?
My advice to young people questioning is to not let anyone dissuade you from your own questioning. Don’t let others tell you how to identify or how you feel–spend time with yourself and with good people you trust figuring out how you experience (or don’t experience ) love and attraction and your gender. Be kind to yourself on your journey–you have time to grow and change and explore. There’s no rush to figure everything out perfectly or even completely.
My advice to people worried about coming out to your loved ones: it doesn’t get any less scary, I’m afraid. (If you aren’t scared: I’m so so so glad. That makes me hopeful for the future! Be unafraid!!) Every moment is an act of coming out. You have the right to control your own story and your coming out–whether it happens or not. I hope that we eventually get to a place where the “coming out” experience doesn’t happen anymore–where we can all stop making assumptions about each other and feel comfortable being ourselves without justification or reservation. But until then, always be safe. You are lovingly and wonderfully formed and be unashamed of that. Don’t let others dismiss you, but try and be patient with those who might have trouble. You’ve had time to think about your own identities, give them time too. Talk with them and invite them to ask questions. I’m so inspired by young queer people. You are all so brave and so beautiful and I’m so happy to watch you all share your brightness and queerness with the world.
Interview with Amanda Keller, Executive Director of The Magic City Acceptance Center, right here in Birmingham!
Q. What is Magic City Acceptance Center (MCAC)?
The Magic City Acceptance Center is a safe, supportive, and affirming space for LGBTQ youth (ages 13-24), adults, and children in Birmingham and surrounding areas. MCAC initiatives include, but are not limited to: Drop-In Hours, Movie Nights, Access to Community and National Resources, Free HIV/STI Testing and Education, Free Counseling with Licensed Professional Counselors, Self-Care Workshops, Tutoring, LGBTQ Children and Adult Programs.
Q. If someone is questioning their gender or sexual orientation, what should they do?
We tell parents to try to be as calm as possible during this time because your child is just as confused as you. Parents are typically the last to know, which is OK. Stay patient and supportive. We advise questioning youths to know that whatever you are going through – it is OK, and you are not alone. Find resources and talk with people you trust. The Trevor Project is a 24/7 hotline if you are in need of support. Other resources like The Trevor Project can be found on MCAC’s website and Facebook page.
Q. If someone is questioning their gender or sexual orientation, what can MCAC provide for them?
MCAC acknowledges that no two cases are the same. Therefore, no blanket statements are offered for any circumstance. If it is within MCAC’s power and resources, we will find a way to help in any way we can.
Q. Why are places like MCAC necessary?
Every day is proof of why safe spaces like MCAC are needed. Youths have expressed that without us, they may not have had the courage to continue life and that MCAC provided them with hope and a reason to exist. Experiencing the strides and successes people have made because of the center is extremely rewarding. Members know that MCAC will affirm them and use the pronouns they wish. (65% of our members identify as transgender or non-binary.) MCAC provides a safe space for people to escape the lack of knowledge that surrounds them. The public desperately needs to be better informed, and the amount of information needed is endless. We see the bigotry and it is clear that change is crucial.
To learn more about the Magic City Acceptance Center, click here.