In honor of Pride Month, two members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee came together to discuss how coming out and being gay have changed since they came out. Linda came out in the 1970’s, while Shehan came out in the early 2010’s. They discussed what these changes have meant for them.
The first change they noted is the representation of queer people in media. Linda remembered when the only piece of media she could access with a gay woman in it was a dramatization of that woman’s difficult life and death. It was a drama called ‘The Killing of Sister George’ and was first screened in 1968.
Shehan also was reminded of how when she was young, most media portraying queer people was oriented towards members of the community who survived the AIDS epidemic, and was therefore focused on the desperation, anger, resentment, sadness, and healing of that experience. Portrayals of queer life and queer happiness were few and far between. Now though, queer life, queer families, and queer happiness grace television and movies and books and music and even sports. This is not just important for young people as they discover themselves and their sexuality, but also for their families, who now see their family members represented and maybe, therefore, as normal.
Linda spoke on the importance of political acceptance of queer people and how that has impacted access to media and advent of nondiscrimination policies. Linda recounted her experience in the military and how being gay and not accepted was the reason she decided to leave it. She expressed her happiness that the position of the military on queer people serving has changed.
Shehan asked what it is like to experience all the changes in queer experience and the way acceptance has grown. Linda said that she is happiest to see how much easier it is for young people to come out and live their truth. Shehan agreed, and noted that even in her time, her younger family did not have to struggle the same way she had. They finished their conversation by appreciating all the people who fought for LGBTQ+ rights before them and how the perception of those gone has changed to appreciate their contributions to society instead of just recognizing their sexualities.