Same Love Today

21148461_1454394604645138_1330418680_n.jpg

When this song was released, I was going through a really weird time in my life. I was around the age of 14 or 15, at the time, and was a freshman in high school. I didn’t have many friends, but I did hang out with one girl who was my closest friend at the time. We hung out in a small group every day during lunchtime and one of her friends would always make fun of me.

I once wore a pair of white knee high socks that had a rainbow around the top of them. I thought they were really cool because where the rainbow was, there was a little zipper.I could put money in the little pocket. Because there was a rainbow, this guy just assumed I was gay and every single day he called me “the goth lesbian chick." That was actually a nicer version of what he actually called me. Point is that because I wore a pair of rainbow socks one day to school, I was instantly labeled a “Lesbian” and I didn’t get it. I had a boyfriend and never really liked girls.

After a while I realized that I did have a crush on one girl, but I shrugged it off. I mean it was only one girl. Then I started liking a girl in my science class. Well, not to long after "Same Love" played on the radio.

I remember the first time I ever heard the song. I was in the car with my grandma and my brother. I was sitting in the passenger seat enjoying the radio while I stared out the window as I always did. Then the first verse played and I remember being intrigued immediately by the way it sounded. Then I really listened to the lyrics. 

A bunch of stereotypes all in my head / I remember doing the math like Yeah, I'm good a little league / A preconceived idea of what it all meant  

After this line I felt someone understood. I’ve learned that people will judge you within seconds of meeting you. Society labels you as whatever they want to.

I started doing my research and tried to understand a little bit more about what it even means to be part of the LGBT+ community. I wasn’t raised in a home where being LGBT+ was normal. I just kept thinking, “I’ve liked two girls before. Does that mean I’m gay? Does that mean no one will accept me?" I’ve come to find out that none of that matters.

I learned at that moment I like both guys and girls. If society wants to label me as a Lesbian when I’m with a girl, and straight when I’m with a guy, or confused when I’m single, then that is fine. What anyone else labels you as doesn’t matter. Sure, most people think I'm just confused because I've never been with a girl, but what really matters is what you label yourself as. What matters is you accept yourself.

I listened to "Same Love" so many times when all of this was happening and even more when I accepted that I am bisexual.

A few days ago I listened to the song again. Every word means so much to me.

When I came out I got a lot of support. I also got equal amounts of hate with a lot of people telling me I didn’t know what I wanted. It tore me down for so long. I never understood how someone could be so offended by something that doesn’t even concern them. There is so much hate in this world not just against the LGBT+ community, but against anything that is ever slightly different.

The line, “I might not be the same, but that's not important” tells it all. No matter what your race is, what gender you are, what religion you chose or even what your sexuality is, it doesn’t define us as a whole. Why people judge you over who you want to love will never make sense to me.

What about if you share your love or your hate? What about how nice you were to others? Or how hard you worked for your dreams? Does any of that ever happen to cross the minds of our society? This is not just a song. It is an eye opener. 

While I do wish labels weren’t a thing, they are and I don’t know if they will ever go away. Which is why I might as well be proud of my label and you should too. Lesbian, gay, straight, asexual, bisexual, etc. You are human. We are all human. In the end we’re the same.

We all have a brain and a heart. We all have eyes and ears. We all have a heartbeat and we all have things that we are passionate about, as well as things that make us sad. So to anyone who thinks it matters who someone else loves, start thinking about something more important like what you want to do with your life. Remember that what you think of someone else isn’t a reflection on them. It is a reflection of who you are.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is I hope one day this will be a world full of love instead of hate. Maybe not, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Every person in this world has the ability to make a difference. You have the power to push towards a good change. I hope when I have kids one day that they’ll grow up in a safer, more accepting world than the one I was raised in. And yeah maybe that is a little far fetched, but I will never stop fighting for that. Not in this lifetime. And I hope those of you reading this will do the same.

Being “Brown” in America

Written by Parmita Choudhury

I wrote this because I've been feeling so many emotions with the current events going on in our country. And writing is my outlet. And I am scared to share these thoughts. But I hope it sheds some light to someone else on being a person of color in America and how small interactions can be hurtful. 

Being “Brown” in America

Being an excited eight year old starting at a new elementary school
To only be greeted by a new classmate
Saying that her parents said not to speak to you
Because you are dark
And not telling anyone
Because you don’t understand what you did wrong
But later not feeling surprised when a brown kid was murdered in this same town
The day after Trump was elected

Being a human having a stressful day
And then getting into an Uber
To have the driver exclaim, 
“Oh, you’re Indian. We are listening to Indian music then.”
To which I respond,
“I don’t enjoy this music.”
To which he says,
“Well you’re Indian and you should so we are listening to it.”

Being an adult and having the color of your skin fetishized
So that boys are asking if they can “ride your magic carpet”
Or calling you Jasmine
Or saying they have always wanted to date an “exotic chick”
And feeling anger that you are not even sure how to process

Meeting a friend’s parent for the first time
And being greeted in an Indian accent
And feeling so taken aback that you laugh
Even though every bit of you
Feels at odds

Meeting a friend’s parents who are Indian immigrants
And they keep asking why I cannot speak any Indian languages
And bluntly then saying my parents failed
And having most other Indian Americans I meet
Repeat the same harsh declaration
Until I feel neither dutiful enough to be considered Indian
Nor white enough to blend into America

Being asked constantly “where are you from?”
And having them not be satisfied with you stating your hometown
Or your current city of residence
Being pressed
Being grilled
By complete strangers
Until you comply with sharing your ethnic origins
And feeling like your white friend standing next to you
Never gets asked these same questions

Being at a music festival
To be stopped by a stranger
Who begins to make kind small talk
To then just loudly declare
“The people from your country are just so beautiful.”
And to abruptly walk away laughing.

But my country is America, isn’t it?
I was born here.

Writing these words
And feeling like I shouldn’t
Because so many people before
Have told me to just get over it
And that my dissent
Is negative

A Night of Modern Ecstasy

image1.PNG

I have had the chance to catch Lady Gaga’s tours 3 times. My boyfriend Matthew, has seen her a total of 4 times. Needless to say, we were not about to miss her during her latest ‘Joanne World Tour’. We attended the Sacramento show this past past Tuesday. If you have never been to a Lady Gaga show, you’re surely missing out on an amazing experience. Not only is she an advocate for the LGBT+ community, but she believes in equality for everyone, and she bases all of her concerts around that. Inclusiveness, acceptance, compassion, and kindness is what she believes in. She always says that for one night, she locks the doors, and the outsiders are locked out, so everyone in attendance is free to be whomever they choose to be.

Matthew and I arrived around 7:30PM, and waited with great anticipation for Gaga to hit the stage. We people watched mostly until then, (people make really creative and re-create very intricate costumes Gaga has worn throughout the years) one of our favorite things to do. After what seemed like forever, the lights finally dimmed at 9 PM, the timer counted down, the curtain raised, and the smoked cleared on the stage. The audience was catapulted into another world for the next 2 and a half hours.

She kicked off the show with Diamond Heart, a pop song with rock influences. She performed most songs from her newest album, Joanne, but she did not leave out her biggest hits. Such as fan favorites, Just Dance, Poker Face, & Bad Romance to name a few. The stage itself was amazing, she had one main stage, two smaller ones on the floor, and another stage at the end of the arena where she played a few songs on the piano. Bridges, which doubled as projectors, would come down to get her and her dancer to different stages. It was truly mesmerizing.

image2.PNG

We sat near the piano stage, which is our favorite kind of Gaga. When it’s just her and her piano, she’s so powerful. She told the audience if they did not believe in equality for everyone, then they were at the wrong show. She also shared a moment she had earlier that night with a fan she met backstage. The fan thanked her for being there for her as a teen growing up, as a gay girl, and gifted her a pearl necklace which she wore during the show. Many, including myself, share the same sentiment, we thank her for being a great role model and encouraging everyone to love and embrace themselves, because they were born that way. Gaga further acknowledge the LGBT+ community and encouraged the audience to give them all a round of applause which caused a huge amount of cheers and applause. She even waved a small pride flag for a second while on the piano.

Gaga closed the sold out show with her recent ballad Million Reasons.  Which everyone got on their feet for, and swayed their arms in the air. She truly never disappoints on tour, through her several elaborate costume changes, to the messages she projects, and of course the incredible music backed by a powerhouse of a voice. Truly encourage everyone to catch her on tour later this year in December. She’s returning for a second round of shows in Los Angeles.

A Poem for Fresno

Written by Jordan Fitzpatrick

Last week, I went to a queer poetry slam and read this poem that I wrote:

Fresno
I came to Fresno As a lost boy.
I came to Fresno And hit rock bottom.
I tried to kill the pain and memories inside.
As thirsty as a drought, I only caught on fire.
I tried to kill the pain -
Almost became another queer statistic.
My trans family and I
We are hungry.
In the bread basket of the world
Those crops are not for us
My trans family and I
We are hungry.
Kicked out of homeless shelters,
Turned away by therapists, doctors, surgeons
And our resumes go into trash bins.
My trans family and I
We are hungry
And so we live off a diet of revolution.
Sometimes the battle is just going outside and being yourself.
My trans sister, Casey Haggard
Was stabbed
And left for dead.
Cars drove by,
People walked by,
Just walked on by,
One person even kicked her
As they walked on by.
My gay brother, Imir Alvorado
Was shot
And left for dead.
People just walked on by.
A bicyclist even circled around his body.
And people wonder why
Why we are dying.
My community is hungry
So we live off a diet of revolution.
I came to Fresno As a lost boy.
I came to Fresno
And I hit rock bottom.
But my queer family helped me find myself.
I used to hate fresno.
I used to plan my escape.
Then I realized
The doctors,
Therapists,
Surgeons
Move away
Because they can.
They drink expensive coffee
In expensive condos
In expensive cities.
They just walk on by.
My community is hungry.
My community is dying.
And people wonder why.
This is why.
I used to want to leave Fresno
But now, I love this place!
One day, I will be a therapist here.
My trans family and I are hungry.
But we live off a diet of revolution.
Like a tree sprouting through sun bitten, cracked sidewalks,
We will RISE!

Interview the Artist: Francisco

About the artist: Ever since he was a child, Francisco was fond of creative activities: finger painting, doodling on note books during class hours, and drawing in his room all through the night.  He always knew he wanted to become an artist at a young age, but reality was lurking nearer. Teachers reported him bad news and considered that he starts thinking of a realistic plan B. After high school, Francisco enrolled into an art school in San Francisco to study fashion design. There he learned new skills and techniques to advance his self-taught artistic abilities. Graduating with a degree in fashion design, Francisco uses his skills and years of experience which includes internships, mentors, and work experience in the fashion industry. He believes he has a bright future ahead of him.

How long have you been an artist? When did you first start drawing, painting, creating art?
Professionally since July 19th, 2015. I started drawing around pre-school. (Finger painting) it was my favorite part about school.

Did you have any formal art education?
I learned from "how to draw" books and cartoon books. In the summer of 2010, I enrolled at an art school in San Francisco for my BA in Fashion Design. From there, I learned figure drawing, fine art, color theory how to construct a gown, and even fashion illustration.

Are you self-taught?
I was self taught up till my senior year of high school. I learned more creative skills in college and from books. LOTS of books.

What inspires your artistic style? Who inspires your artistic style?
History books, music videos, anime, comic books, my imagination. A lot of my friends would tell me I have a very interesting imagination. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad complement....never the less, I create a story that will turn heads.

I admire many designers from the fashion industry. I personally love haute couture fashion week. I took a class for fashion history part 1&2. During the class hours, I learned many styles and techniques from the old times. 18th century, late 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s punk. But there is no limit. I love all fashion.

For some, creating art and being an artist is a job, for others it could be an emotional outlet. What purpose does art serve for you?
My art has to make me feel happy. If I don't like something I drew or created, I doodle over it until I'm satisfied. When I take a break from drawing and come back, I quickly change my perspective of my own work and decide that this art piece is, "cool."


What are some of your dreams or aspirations that you’d like to accomplish with your art?
Quit my part- time job and make my art and fashion a successful, stable, life time career.

Where can others get in contact with you?
Right now, I'm working on my shop and website, but I do have an Instagram: (@francisco_illustrations) there you can see all my artwork and doodles I post daily. Or by email: (francisco.illustrations@gmail.com). I’ve had my art displayed at the (Fresno Art Hub) 2024 N. Van Ness Blvd, Fresno, CA. I’ve been hustling all month long...a lot is happening this year.

20170202_180226.jpg

If your art could talk, what would it say? If your art were a person, what would they be like?What would their personality consist of?
I'm not sure what it would exactly say, but I know it'll probably be something inappropriate.....in my experience with making new friends and professional services, if you don't have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut...

If my made up fashion characters were real life Barbie dolls, their resting face would be sassy, always dressed fashionable, and abnormal to society. To be honest, they probably wouldn't be accepted in society or the fashion industry because they're different....sad face.

Last question, your art style is very unique and a common theme appears to be feminine figures with large eyes. How do you personally describe your artistic style?
Good eye there, mate! I'm not sure how the big eyes and big lips came from? I do know that they will not be going anywhere anytime soon...i guess you could say, it's one of my signature looks. My style is always changing. It can be feminine, punk, glamorous, animated, and even retro, but overall, it's still mine. I control the pen, and the paper is my world to create.

Meet Marcus Navarro

On Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network will be hosting its annual central valley conference for LGBTQ+ youth, Expression Not Suppression (ENS). This is an event that I look forward to every year. People from all across the central valley come to Fresno on this day to participate and connect. Youth and supporting adults can attend a full range of workshops containing a variety of things like the gender spectrum, different identities in the community, comprehensive sex ed, grassroots organizing, and the legal rights LGBTQ+ youth have in schools. Participants have the opportunity to interact with local organizations that support them and with other LGBTQ+ folks looking for community and solidarity. There is no event that has impacted my life as much as Expression Not Suppression.

My first time attending ENS was in 2012. I was a sophomore at the time and I had been involved with the Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) club at my high school for a little over a year. Eventually I was connected with the then current GSA Network Program coordinator, a fierce Chicana woman that laid the foundation for my activism. At the age of 14, this event allowed me to put a name to my identity, instilled me with a sense of power, and connected me to a supportive community in ways I never imagined. Out of all the events GSA Network put together, the most life changing for me has always been ENS.

ENS 2012! It felt so big and important to me that I had to wear a tie and my best button up shirt (pictured bottom row, third from the right)

ENS 2012! It felt so big and important to me that I had to wear a tie and my best button up shirt (pictured bottom row, third from the right)

For me, ENS has always been a place of inspiration. Every year I meet people with unique experiences and I am constantly moved by the resilience and power of central valley youth. Whether it’s the life saving information gained from the workshops, the plethora of connections folks make, or the creative expressions found during the end day drag and talent show, there’s something here for everyone.

Expression Not Suppression 2017 will be held on Saturday, April 22nd, from 9 am to 8 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church (1343 E Barstow Ave, Fresno, CA 93710). This is a free event open to all LGBTQ+ and ally youth. Advisors, parents, and educators are also encouraged to attend or volunteer for the event.

To register, volunteer, or participate in the resource fair, please go to http://gsanetwork.org/ens


Get In Touch with GSA:
Marcus Navarro, Fresno GSA Organizer
Email: Mnavarro@gsanetwork.org or Centralvalley@gsanetwork.org
Phone: 559.268.2780
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CentralValleyGSA/

 

Meet Sophie Brodish

On March 23rd, 2000, I came out kicking and screaming, and you know what? Nothing’s changed! Except now, I scream, shout, and advocate for LGBT+ awareness and women’s rights. My journey continues today, as I have only officially came out to a few family members and friends. Through the years of high school, I have learned from my experiences and I hope to spread my knowledge. My story of officially accepting and being myself began here.

Ever since I was young, I had no idea the way I thought and the way I loved was considered different in other people's perspective. I remember being the girl who always held her girl friends’ hands, the girl who hugged everyone and anyone, the girl who thought other girls were pretty cool, the girl who wasn’t anyone but herself. When I was in elementary school, I was playing Cowgirls and Bandits, and I kissed one of the bandits to make one of the cowgirls jealous. It didn’t really work, because the cowgirl went and told the teacher and then I had to apologize to the bandit and his parents. (Good ol’ Sophie!) However, I gave up on that cowgirl and ended up liking another.

When I entered 7th grade, a cowgirl and friend very dear to me moved away. Little did I know the emotions that I felt for her were so strong that I became very sad when she left. Since a young age I was very “sheltered” and I honestly did not know “gay” was a thing until the end of junior high. When this friend left my life, I felt very emotional, because I did not know of people who felt the way I did. I was very alone. So instead of focusing on emotions, I focused on school, science fair, science olympiad, sports, and clubs. My days were consumed with work and more work. I denied every emotion my mind thought and this continued until the summer before freshman year.

The journey that I walk became more rocky as I neared high school. Up until this point, my road had been pretty well paved with the occasional bump or crack, but now it was nothing like before. The emotions that I denied for years spiraled out of control and soon I had breakdowns everyday. My mom knew I was upset, but she didn’t know why. Later on, I joined the robotics team. Ironically, now, when I ask people of their first impression of me, they say, “I knew she was gay the moment she walked through the door.” My now closest friends knew before I did! However, I’m jumping ahead; let me continue. After a few months on the team, I went to a competition, where I ended up feeling very emotional toward one of my friends who is of the female gender. After this experience, I first went home and cried a little, but then decided it was time to figure out these emotions and what they meant. For about three days I stayed home and took all the online quizzes on the internet that were about being gay. After every quiz, I became more and more terrified of what came next.

About two weeks later, I came out to my best friend Kaelyn Dauer, who has loved me for me since day one. I don’t know where I’d be without her. The journey still continues and I am a junior now. Sometimes the unspoken is much more pleasant than the spoken. By not telling everyone in my life, I am protecting myself and my self love. And that’s okay! I am happy where I am and who I surround myself with. I am an avid leader in my school GSA and in the GSA Network of Fresno. I am the historian for my Women’s Empowerment club and the treasurer of the Women in STEM club at my school. I know everyone in my life knows who I am, what I believe in, and what I’m not afraid to talk about. Everyone’s journey is different, but overall, we can help each other and give each other support to be our best selves.

With love,

Sophie Brodish   P.S. Live Long and Prosper!

Meet Cecilia Ruesta

My name is Cecilia Ruesta originally from Lima, Peru, whom recently became a proud U.S. citizen last year. I consider myself a queer female with a fluid sexual orientation, and a welcoming heart. I have been in a relationship with my partner Danielle for almost four years, and she has been co-parenting my biological child since she was two years old. Our relationship is based on respect, love, and constant communication. My six-year-old daughter Gabriela is the reason why I thrive every day to be a better human being and successful professional. Last year I could accomplish one of my biggest goals and I earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a B.S. in Criminology. Currently I am a graduate student in the Marriage, Family, & Children counseling program, where my goal is to become a professional therapist to help my community here in the Central Valley. My involvement as a student organizer and providing leadership in different clubs and organizations, has led me to understand the importance of using my voice to create change.

At Fresno State, I have been involved in POWER, Women’s alliance, Mecha, CLASSA, MOLE, and the most recent organization Students for Quality Education (SQE). What we do with SQE, is we advocate for student’s rights, lobby to pressure the governor and legislators to fund higher education as they used to, and overall maintain the CSU affordable, accessible and quality for all. We stopped the tuition increase back in 2013, and we were able to put a freeze on it for four years, we also defeated the proposed “Student success fees” back in 2014. Currently we are fighting against the proposed tuition increase since the freeze is up, support the bill AB 21 that protects DACA students, and work towards making an active inclusive campus. ASI has major resources and complete access to every student in campus, for that reason we are sure we can make a major impact by getting into ASI. As a student, I’m concerned about the lack of funding the CSU is experiencing, the unease students are feeling due to the current political climate, and the need to bring inclusiveness and diversity into “action” on our campus. For these reasons and more, I want to become the president of ASI, to work together. Students at Fresno State, elections are on March 28-30.

My goals as a future therapist is to stay in the Central Valley and give back to my community into helping them strive for a better-quality life. Since I belong to different minority groups, and I’m bilingual, my hopes are to serve the most vulnerable population. I hope to positively impact my community starting with the youth.

Get in touch with Cecilia:
Email: cecilia_ruesta@mail.fresnostate.edu
Facebook: Cecilia Ruesta for ASI President
Instagram: @people_of_action_

World AIDS Day in Fresno and all year round

Dozens gather with candles in front of Tower theater on December 1, 2016 to read the names of those in the Fresno community who have been lost to AIDS. Megan Bronson / MY LGBT PLUS

Dozens gather with candles in front of Tower theater on December 1, 2016 to read the names of those in the Fresno community who have been lost to AIDS. Megan Bronson / MY LGBT PLUS

This December Fresno celebrated World AIDS Day with a march and a vigil for those that the Fresno community has lost. Names were read at Tower theater while The Painted table opened their doors to showcase patches of the world AIDS quilt.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered for the vigil and then headed to The Painted Table to view selected panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt is a visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic that is still going on today. There are more than 94,000 names stitched into the quilt, with having over 18,000,000 visitors world wide.

Every year on December 1st people around the globe come together to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This day is also set aside to commemorate those who have died and to support those that are living with HIV and AIDS.

Support can be as easy as wearing a red ribbon and explaining to those around what that ribbon represents. It represents the 35 million people who have died since 1984 in the worldwide AIDS epidemic. It represents the continued support of 34 million people living with the virus today.

While people publicly gather to show solidarity, there is more that the Fresno community can do to stand in solidarity and show support.

Maria Baldovinos, a communicable disease specialist with Fresno County Department of Public Health, said one of the most important ways for anyone to show support is to be open.

“A lot of times individuals that are HIV positive are so scared to let others know their status just because of the stigma behind it -- especially in the Latino community as well as the African American community,” Baldovinos said.

She advocated for removing the stigma against those with HIV and AIDS.

“It’s not a disease you can get by hugging, or showing compassion," Baldovinos said, "we need to show that we are all humans and that we care for each other."

Some of the ways that individuals can work together to erase that stigma is by getting involved. Here in Fresno there are multiple local organizations that support the HIV positive and AIDS community.

Fresno has a World Aids Day Committee that is open to anyone who wants to join. This committee helps plan awareness events like the one this month, but also events like Women’s HIV Awareness day and National HIV Awareness day.

Positive Life is another organization that you can donate time or money to. It is a nonprofit organization that helps those infected and affected by HIV or AIDS with education, healthcare, support groups, and finding community. To find out more about Positive Life, visit their website at www.poslife.org.

The Living Room is a nonprofit organization through WestCare California that provides care for those infected or at risk of HIV or AIDS. It does this through case management, hot meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a drop-in center, transitional housing, referrals for rapid HIV testing, and support groups. For those that qualify, The Living Room offers assisted living through Housing Opportunities for Persons With Aids (HOPWA). To find out more or to donate your time or money, visit The Living Room’s Facebook page or call (559) 486-1469.

There are also programs available through the county that are available resources that all individuals should know about.

Fresno County offers AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) to help those who qualify with paying for their medication. ADAP covers over 190 different Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs.

Fresno County also offers Linkage To Care, a program for HIV positive individuals to help individuals link to physicians and health services.

The Department of Public Health also offers HIV Rapid Testing. This service is for same-day results, in fact, results will be given in 20-30 minutes through a mouth swab. A schedule of times and locations for December can be found here: http://bit.ly/2heGBwr  

One of the most important things for you to know when discussing AIDS or HIV, it your own status, Baldovinos said.

“A lot of times you may not have any symptoms -- it takes about 7-10 years to get really sick,” Baldovinos said, “get tested at least once a year.”

As of December 31, 2013 there were 701 cases of HIV and 2081 cases of AIDS in Fresno County. That number has been steadily increasing over the last decade  as those who did not live in the 80s and 90s are not as aware of this pandemic. World AIDS Day began in 1988, but is still needed to raise awareness and education to this day. Do your research and know your status.

Convoluted Queer Valley Native

My name is Megan Bronson and I am a convoluted queer valley native. I grew up in the farm towns of the San Joaquin Valley, having lived, worked, or gone to school in Los Banos, Dos Palos, Santa Nella, Oro Loma, Merced, and Fresno. If there is any one thing I am connected to, it is this place and these people.

I received my AA in English from Merced College and transferred to Fresno State, majoring in the same. People often think that having a degree in English is about learning how to use a comma, or being constantly consumed by books, the truth is that getting an English degree is exposure to stories. I have traipsed the Caucuses with Tolstoy and lived in a Borges puzzle. But mostly, I have fallen in love with people.

Falling in love with people and stories has pushed me into some odd jobs. I was a writing tutor at Fresno State for two years because I wanted other people to enjoy reading and writing as much as I did. I was a wine specialist for a wine shop for three years because I enjoyed the culture of happy people. I was an editor at The Collegian for one year because I figured out that not only do I love other people’s voices, I love my own as well. Currently I work in disability law, helping people to get their voices heard in court. I also work at an adult school, helping students earn their diploma. I volunteer as an ambassador for My LBGT Plus, have a seat on Fresno State’s LBGTQ+ Advisory Board, serve as a trustee for UAW 4123 and have a seat on its executive board. I have a lot of interests, but the predominant interest is in helping other valley people through any means necessary.

I want to help people because at one point I needed help and when I reached out, there were hands to catch me. When I came out of the closet, I was not well received. My mother is devoutly Baptist and my family is predominantly conservative. For a long time my sexuality lived in shadows until I was forced to come out, or face being outed. Had I not been forced, I do not know if I would have ever come out. I might have just stayed an “ally” of the movement and watched love from afar. I know that I am not the only one. Here in 2016, in California, people are afraid to come out. They are afraid of the upheaval. They are afraid of distance that grows between those that do not understand that love transcends a political movement and that if I could be straight, I would be. I would love to imagine that my family would attend my future wedding. I would love to imagine that any child I might produce wouldn’t be politicized. I would love to imagine that I don’t have to worry about dying in a club. But I do not want to be straight if it means I do not get to love the woman that I do. I’d risk it all to hold her hand.

When people ask me if coming out was hard, I do not really know what to say. Yes, coming out was hard. But it is never over. Every day we come out. It is deciding whether we tell our co workers about our partners. It is smiling through unsolicited inquiry from the opposite sex. It is knowing that the moment you tag your partner in something, a new Facebook friend is going to find out. Every day of being out presents new challenges and new surprises; every day presents new opportunity. My niece will grow up with two aunts instead of just one. Her eyes will be opened to the world much sooner than mine had ever been. I am envious of her and proud of her at the same time. Our next generation of queer kids will have more allies than they know what to do with, and maybe then we can stop calling them allies and just start calling them people.