Pride 2023 Stories: Part 3 - Charli, Elaine & Nicki

All month long, I'm highlighting the stories of queer writers I've worked with 1:1 or inside my Write Yourself Out community, as well as the stories of other awesome queer humans.

Read Part 1 of the series here.

Read Part 2 here.

Here are 3 more brave and beautiful stories:

Charli's Story: They Knew They Were Queer Since Childhood

Charli (they/them) knew they were queer since childhood and never officially came out to their family. As is true for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, their safety outweighed the risk of coming out to their family of origin. As they’ve gotten older they’ve come out and created a family of choice: a blend of queers & allies who also value authenticity and living LIFE out loud. They are a Clarity Coach who helps other humans to design their dream lives and a Meditation Teacher who teaches humans how to live in the present and regulate through stress & after trauma. 

Charli is also a writer inside WRITE YOURSELF OUT and is my right-hand person for all things related to my book coaching business!!

We've Made Progress Since My First Pride March But Will the Hatred Ever End?

A story from Elaine Bennett (she/they), speechwriter, writing coach, and memoirist:

My first Pride March was NYC in 1981, when we walked north from the Village to Central Park. A very powerful experience for me because it seemed the perfect metaphor for what we wanted: to emerge from "our" space, the mostly queer, mostly safe West Village, into the wider world—to make the cishet majority understand that (to paraphrase the chant) we're here, we're queer, and it was time for them to get used to it. We've made progress since then, but we now face even stronger forces attacking us, and other marginalized groups. Will the hatred ever end?

Their Coming-Out Story Began with Her Mom Coming Out to Her

A story from Nicki Hangsleben (she/they), Executive Director and Founder of QUEERSPACE collective, an organization creating space for LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe and empowered to be their true selves.

I grew up in the '90s, and I'll never forget the day my mom came out to in our kitchen when I was in 7th grade. "Can we talk for a bit?" she asked, and then proceeded to say, “Have you ever noticed how my friends tend to come in pairs? You know like Barb and Ann and Joy and Marlene …" She told me her roommate was really her partner, her girlfriend.

I remember feeling overwhelmed. Confused. Surprised. I didn’t know any gay people. None of my friends had gay parents. I had lived most of my life in North Dakota where we didn’t talk about such things … This was before Will and Grace, before The L Word, before the internet!  Once I wrapped my head and heart around the fact that my mom was gay, I loved it. I loved the queer community that soon formed our chosen family.

Most of my mom’s friends were lesbians in their 20s and 30s and so there were endless house parties. I attended these regularly, especially in high school, and would bring my friends. Sometimes my boyfriend might come as well. One day at school, my boyfriend said, “Nicki, you know you are such a lesbian,” and I retorted with “I’m sure I’ll date women someday … “ I understand now saying this was my way of “coming out,” but in my mind you had to have an actual experience to be gay so while I was “out,” I wasn’t really “out,” if that makes any sense.

When I graduated from high school, I spent a few months backpacking around Europe with my sister. Halfway through our trip we met my mom and her partner in Greece—on an island called “Lesbos.” Scala Eressos was a tiny beach town at the base of the ruins of Sappho’s school, where lesbian women from around the world gathered every summer. I figured if I was going to finally have an experience with a girl, this is where it would happen! I ended up staying for a few months, getting a job, and dating a cute … Boy! I went home convinced I must not be gay!

I eventually came out myself in college and it was kind of a big deal, but then not really … I had been surrounded by queer community for over a decade at this point so it was a bit anti-climatic. Some of the lesbians I grew up with were surprised and some had already known. I came out to friends and family and received a mixed reaction. Some were supportive, some not so much. I worked to be as open and authentic as possible at work, at school, when traveling, in our community. It wasn’t always easy but I understood early on that this is the only way to effect change. To help people understand we are humans who deserve the same basic human rights, just like them.

In 2001, I was 22 years old and I started dating Maria, who I had known  since I was 14. I always thought she was the sh*t—beautiful, hot, smart and funny … And she had some pretty cool tattoos.

But I never really had a crush on her. I was still dating boys then.

Until one night when we randomly met up and went home together. I was sure this was going to be a one-night stand, maybe a summer fling …

That was 22 years ago … We’re still together. Married with 2 amazing kids who are now surrounded by our queer chosen family.

I hope you've enjoyed these coming-out stories, in all their variety!

I'd love to hear yours.


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