National Coming Out Day: Katie Smith

Pride for me is being able to live as your authentic self. To be proud of what you do, who you love, all of it. To be proud of being unique and bringing that to every situation, every person you meet and into your whole life. It allows you to be confident and to live your life fully without having to hide anything about who you are. When I was growing up, being gay wasn’t something you talked about. You might hear whispers about someone, but you never really discussed out in the open. When I was younger, like in high school or college, you just didn’t talk about it. Your personal life was your personal life; you didn’t share about that. It was kind of a private thing.

Because of that, for me coming out wasn’t a one-time thing. It was more of a process. Over the years I had a curiosity but also a hesitation. I went to college and still dated guys but always had this curiosity. When I finally had an experience, it was a little bit of a “ding, ding, ding,” but I was still a bit guarded. When I was growing up being gay wasn’t understood or as accepted and I had a lot of inner struggles. So, coming out for me was a process of becoming comfortable and confident to be able to say the words and be honest about how I felt. I finally realized: this is my life. I want to be with a woman. When I embraced that, it gave me a confidence to open up my world and allow people to be a part of all of me, not just the professional side. It took years to get to the place where I was just like, “This is who I am, and I’m happy, I’m excited and if you want be a part of it all.” Not everybody’s going to like you, not everybody’s going to accept you. Some people are going to be friendly to your face and talk about you behind your back. But, ultimately, really just embracing the fact that it’s your life to live: good, bad, indifferent. Once you can embrace it, man, it makes everything else richer in your life.

Being in women’s basketball allowed me to be around so many different people. There was always a diversity of race and sexuality. It taught me that you get to be who you want to be and it was ok to love who you want to love. There was always a sense of acceptance.

You learn that we all have things happening in our lives, and that we are more than just basketball players. We’re unique individuals coming from all parts of the world with different stories. As a coach, I’ve learned from my own experience to not assume things about others. Things are not always what they seem. I try to always remember that there is a lot more to our players then what they do on the court, to be sensitive to that and to try to learn more about them. It’s about having dialogue and sharing with them.  It can be sharing about your partner or your relationships, and allowing them to share about the things that matter to them and the people that matter to them, and acknowledging it. I think building strong, authentic relationships with your players and the people you work with is so important. To let them know there’s no judgment–it’s whatever makes you happy, whatever gives you passion and lights that fire.

When we talk about coming out stories, every single one of us has a different experience. With our parents, our families, our friends, the world; it could be good or bad. I’ve heard stories about people who have been disowned. I think it’s important to share our stories because there are young adults and kids out there who are going through the exact same thing. Telling our stories lets us put a voice to it and allows them to know they are not alone. It can build the confidence to stand up for yourself and to own what you know is your truth. Sometimes it is hard to have conversations because people are not always understanding, but you’ve got to have confidence to know who you are and what you want out of life. Just be honest about that. I would have saved myself a lot of heartache, pain and tears if I would have been honest with myself when I was young. I have learned you have to be vulnerable to build meaningful relationships.  Allowing people to come into your life and really get to know who you are, so that then they can support or help you navigate things in your life. This is your life and make sure you find what makes you happy.

Presented by
Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy values the diverse perspectives that drive innovation and discovery. Named a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality in 2020, they have been on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for seventeen years. Xcel Energy has also joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, and believes that LGBTQ people should be provided the same basic protections that are provided to other protected groups under federal law.

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