I am an educator.

I remember my mom sitting next to me at the kitchen island in tears. We finally talked out me being gay, choosing to be me instead of hiding among the other faces in the crowds, giving myself the best chance at finding love. She knew I wouldn’t be a silent gay, she knew I wouldn’t be shaken by ignorance, and she knew I would be a voice for the queer community. She never said those things, but she knows what kind of person I am. I have always been unable to be silenced, I have always been passionate. I stand up for what’s right. Being gay is an extra step in everything I do – from holding my girlfriend’s hand at Target to renting a townhouse in a conservative community or trusting new friends, colleagues, students with my true identity.

It’s an extra thought behind almost everything… like today, I am meeting a landlord to look at a townhouse and it’s a townhouse for my girlfriend Jessy and me. I called her a roommate over the phone. Not because I am an inch ashamed of her and our love, it’s for safety, it’s for a nonjudgmental chance at this property, and frankly, it’s none of his business.

It’s an extra step in life and it will be. It’ll get better, I hope, depending on which community, city, state, neighborhood we choose long term. All of these decisions will be made intentionally. It was advised to me by other gay couples who have bought houses, moved to several states, and have lived through different legislation on their lives. It’s a part of my reality.

So when my mom cried, she was not upset about me being gay. She is proud of me for being me and wants happiness for me. She cried because it adds a layer to the bullshit society layers on people who buck the norm. The white, straight, Christian male norm. If you aren’t all of those things, you’re marginalized. You, in some cases, are a “pre-existing condition” under the new healthcare plan set by our presidential administration. #womenunite

I looked at my mom and told her that I will never be silenced, I will never not be myself, I will never ever not love who I want to love or get where I want to be in life. Being gay isn’t a symptom of a harder life. Being gay is a part of making me happy. The LGBTQ community needs my voice, it needs my passion.

I am an educator in Des Moines; in one of the most diverse districts in Iowa. I am also an educator in my friend group; a very straight friend group. I am an educator to my acquaintances; a both close- and open-minded group. Every single person is an educator. It is my job to educate my students on English and journalism. It is also my responsibility to make them see their peers as their brothers and sisters, teammates, and supporters. Although I teach many of my family and friends about proper grammar in a fun sense, when they want to learn more about LGBTQ topics (not ‘issues’ because I am not an ‘issue’), I am their educator, pointing them to what I know and then referencing articles, laws, and resources to help them understand further.

I will be educating the people around me until the day I die, hopefully not so intensely in a few years when the younger generation takes over in the government. But I knew damn well once I came out as gay, I would be accepting that role. I knew damn well I would be challenged with hard and honest questions. I knew I would be discriminated against, bullied, misunderstood. It’s hard for anyone not to be anymore. But I knew this going in, so when my mom in tears voiced her concern, I hugged her and told her it will all be okay and I will rise above.

I will always rise above.

So even though many people don’t understand how this year has been brutal to my identity and have been too busy with their own lives to clue into the reality of our nation, I will always be here to educate them on what actually is happening with the queer community. I will take it with as much grace and patience as I can. I will walk away and come back refreshed when needed. I will research more to help them understand. I will sleep on it and then come back with answers. I will create visuals, words, essays, to help them see what’s fact… and what is, well, alternate facts.

Why don’t I just ignore it all? Why don’t I “let it go?” Why don’t I “just live and stop pushing my beliefs on everyone else?” Why don’t I just support our nation’s leaders? Why don’t I just show more grace?

Because the moment I do, I might as well stop living all together. I am a person. I am a woman. I am a gay woman. And until people don’t feel shook to say the word “gay” out loud in any venue; until “gay” isn’t an insult; and until I can have the rights that straight couples have, I will not be silenced. I will fight harder, louder, and with more passion than I’ve expressed yet. I am unshakable. I am loud.

I am an educator.

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