How my rights in this country will change by the end of this article

Written with immense help and words from my lovely cousin, Jase Tilley.

In my parent’s home, above my red, wooden mirror in my small, teal-tiled bathroom adorns a sticker. It reads, “in a world where you can be anything…be yourself.” A gift from my mother most likely purchased on a whim at the Dollar Tree. It is large and ugly, but its meaning has always lingered dear to my heart.

It is a beautiful sentiment for those who have the means and opportunities to choose their own path in life. When I was younger, I imagined that meant becoming the superhero I always thought I was. As time progressed, the paradox of this sticker left me disheartened.

In 1993, I was born an American citizen in the state of Oklahoma. I wouldn’t know this until the hormones kicked in, but I was also born a lesbian—a part of me that I have not shared with many people. Yes, I did struggle accepting myself for a short period in my adolescence, but a larger part of the reason I have waited until now to come out is because I thought the second I was true to myself would also be the second I would be open to discrimination.

This thought blinded me from the perpetual truth. I damaged not only myself, but possibly other members of the LGBT community by selfishly protecting my personal fear. Morgana Bailey, a human resources activist, gave a TED talk that crippled me. It was poignant, raw, and possibly hit me in the most revolutionary, tear-filled moment I have experienced. In it she says:

I’d always told myself there’s no reason to share that I was gay, but the idea that my silence has social consequences was really driven home this year when I missed an opportunity to change the atmosphere of discrimination in my own home state of Kansas.

In February, the Kansas House of Representatives brought up a bill for vote that would have essentially allowed businesses to use religious freedom as a reason to deny gays services. A former coworker and friend of mine has a father who serves in the Kansas House of Representatives. He voted in favor of the bill, in favor of a law that would allow businesses to not serve me.

How does my friend feel about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people? How does her father feel? I don’t know, because I was never honest with them about who I am. And that shakes me to the core. What if I had told her my story years ago? Could she have told her father my experience? Could I have ultimately helped change his vote? I will never know, and that made me realize I had done nothing to try to make a difference.

For those of you who have known me for a month, a year or a lifetime this may come as a surprise to you. The truth is that nothing changes for you. You may temporarily be titillated by the fact that I shared a secret, or confused as to why I am making such a big deal out of something so a couple months ago. Despite the liberal steps forward our country has seen over the last year, discrimination persists. As a result, something so personal, so consequential to ones happiness, becomes a defining characteristic through which our society views you. Instead of being a personal decision, matters of the heart are subject to public scrutiny, with devastating effects on the LGBT community, and the heart of our nation.

In some states there are laws in place justifying discrimination against people like me by hiding behind the guise of “religious freedom.” In states like Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Kansas and my home state of Oklahoma, it is legal for someone to fire me, prevent me from adopting children, not approve a home and refuse service because of my sexual orientation.

Plain and simple, there is a chance that I could be legally discriminated against in certain states. There will be no physical or tangible difference post-coming out, yet by admitting a singular part of myself, that lingering risk still remains. I am still the same human being I was before you read this article–except I may be sporting a little more rainbow. So does it really make sense that there are laws protecting people who think there is something wrong with the way I was born and no anti-discrimination laws protecting people like me just because I happen to be attracted to Beyoncé instead of Jay-Z?

I was raised in a Catholic home, attending Catholic schools through high school. I was required to take courses that aligned with the Catholic faith. What I learned in my years as a student from the teachings of Jesus Christ was the opposite of what I see conservative politics claiming they are trying to uphold.

I’m no expert, but it seems like Jesus was a cool dude. He taught about acceptance, love, sacrifice, and service. The bible has a couple verses about homosexuality and hundreds about acceptance. That’s like standing in a field of beautiful sunflowers and deciding to pick the only one that is dead and forcing people to smell it.

Although it may be time to get rid of the ugly sticker, the message will finally take shape for me. Today, I finally decide to be me in this world where we can truly be ourselves.

15 thoughts on “How my rights in this country will change by the end of this article

  1. My dear Sarah,
    I am humbled and awed by the authenticity and truth of your message. You speak of freedom and love and caring and just loving and accepting yourself…the YOU I’ve loved and cared about since I first met you freshman year. How blessed I have been since. The pupil learned Jesus’ message well and by your life you are contining to preach it. You are my teacher!! I don’t ever want to smell dead sunflowers.
    Sending love

  2. Sarah,

    Your life and your article have been masterfully written. In the short time I’ve known you, I can imagine that you are as good at anyone at being you. So good, in fact, that your sexual orientation will never make a difference in the world to the multitudes of people who think you are THE BEST. The example you gave of the politition was such a poignant example of how and why we should all share our stories to invite more love and acceptance in our crazy crazy world. Keep making more and more friends and continue making this world a much better place

  3. YOU GO GIRL! This is such a big deal and I am so proud of you! You have always been such an inspiration to me in so many ways! Thank you so much for being you, because YOU are awesome!

  4. “The torment of human frustration, whatever its immediate cause, is the knowledge that the self is in prison, its vital life force leaking away in wasteful self-conflict.” —Elizabeth Drew

    Hi Sarah- My lovely neice Peyton P. in Tulsa forwarded your inspiring post. It is beautiful, insightful, and right on. Harvey Milk’s speach in the 70’s was correct – the simple act of Coming Out did change the World and gave LGBT kids HOPE.

    Have no regrets for your timing. An amazing future is ahead thanks in part to millenials who are off the chart gay friendly. Fools like Sally Kern, Ted Cruz, your friend’s dad in Kansas make it more difficult and are the reason 40 % of homeless kids in America identify as LGBT. Their dreams to bully, convert, and deny service to (only) LGBT people is UnAmerican.

    Your coming Out is an act of Love to be celebrated! Wishing you many of the same blissful “thank you god for making me gay” moments I’ve had during my 45 years being out.

    Kindest Regards, Brian in Houston

  5. Sarah! I’m so incredibly proud of you. I am amazed by your bravery and bold insistence on being yourself- it’s a lesson I will definitely take to heart in my own life! I am honored to have gotten to grow up with such a hilarious, kind, creative, and

  6. Sarah! I am so incredibly proud of you. Your bravery and bold insistence on being and embracing yourself are truly inspiring. I am honored to have gotten to grow up with such a hilarious, kind, spirited, creative, and audacious person as yourself. You are obviously so talented, and I love that you are using your writing for such a worthy purpose (that sunflower analogy though)! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life, and for sharing your awesomeness with the world. Your passion will take you far- I know it. Much love!

  7. I absolutely love this. Sarah, you’re honestly as real and as cool as a person can be… If anyone can impact people, it’s you. Congratulations!!

  8. Sarah, my goodness! I was killing time this afternoon and wondered if that darling, funny Sarah was still blogging. I couldn’t remember the name of your blog (or — I’m so sorry — exactly how to spell your last name) so it took me a few minutes to find it, but then I found this beautiful, inspiring post.
    I admire your courage and authenticity. I realize that ignorance and discrimination still exist, but the world IS changing! I’m so grateful that we live in a time when beautiful, talented, awesome people like you can “be anything (and mostly) BE YOURSELF.” You’re amazing, and I know you’re going to make an impact on the world. I’ll be cheering you on!! xxoo

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