Pride to me means being able to be comfortable in your own skin. Having that validation for your self-worth. I think that’s the most exciting thing about what you see going on globally in regards to pride, that you’re finding validation for all of the things that you feel, all of the people you love and the person that you are. So, pride for me is really just about being comfortable and feeling accepted for who you are as a person.
Pride is also about the community that we are apart of. One of my favorite things about the LGBTQ community is that feeling of acceptance. Just being able to watch people be their true selves. I think that is problem in society in general, that people always feel like they have to wear a mask or they have to fit in, or they have to be a specific way in certain spaces. There are a lot of queer or gay spaces that you go into where it’s all accepting, where you can be yourself and you can be comfortable being your whole self. I think that’s still a radical idea that you can go somewhere and truly be who you are. I don’t think that only pertains to the gay community, I think that pertains to human beings. But being in certain spaces in the community, I just feel so overwhelmed and excited to see people freely being who they are.
Coming up as a female athlete in an urban environment, I felt like I was always around people who were part of the LGBTQ community. In junior high and high school, my experience was normal; being gay was okay, it was accepted. I remember when I first told my mom that I was in a lesbian relationship. I was nervous to talk to her about it. I had went to Six Flags with my girlfriend at the time, and we got matching rainbow key chains made. When I got back home, I thought the keychain was a perfect way for me to be able to express myself without actually having to verbalize what I was feeling. So, I called my mom into my room, she came in and I presented her with this key chain and waited for her response. She said “you think, I didn’t know?” And 13 year-old me thought “Oh, okay that’s it. That’s the extent of it and nothing else.” I never had to have any conversations explaining myself, especially not to my mom. So that was kind of the, “Oh, here I am” and it’s okay for me to be this way experience.
I have always felt comfortable within the basketball community. It was not always an inviting space but has grown to be one. We are now at a place where as a female athlete people unfortunately assume that you are gay or queer even though being an athlete isn’t synonymous with being gay. I had to step outside of my bubble and realize that not all communities are as accepting and there is still scrutiny and judgement that comes with being gay. This is a stark reminder that there is still work to be done.
While I think we’ve made a lot of strides as a community, we still have ways to go. Like when we talk about the Black Lives Matter movement or about social justice, we start to separate those issues of race and sexuality. If we’re going to fight for equality, it has to be for everybody. There is still this polarization between the two. I don’t feel like there has ever been an instance where those things were separate for me. I am who I am. I am a black woman; I am a lesbian woman. So, I’ve always felt bound to fight for those things equally.
Each of our experiences and stories are so different and unique. I think that it’s important to share LGTBQ stories because you want to continue to uplift and you want to continue to give younger generations something to strive for. You want to be visible in a space where people can feel like they’re connected to you and they can figure out how they’re going to find comfort within themselves so that they understand that they’re not this anomaly. They’re not different. So, to be able to continue to tell these stories, I think that’s a way for us to continue to guide our youth into a place where they can be out and they can be free and they can be their true selves.
My advice to young people, and anyone on this journey, is be who you are, you embrace the person that you are, and you continue to mold that person into the image that you see fit. Not what anybody else tells you to be, no matter what. This life is yours and yours alone. Most importantly, you have to make sure that you’re doing things to express yourself. You have to do things that are going to allow you to grow and to reach your full potential and to live your authentic life.
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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