PRIDE STORIES | A PROMISE MADE AND KEPT
The following post was written by Melissa Brown, Zeta Alpha—Eastern Michigan University, and is part of a month-long series of Pride-focused member stories.
My 2003 “coming-out chapter meeting” is all a blur for me. I don’t have much recollection of what I said or what was said to me. I didn’t even remember I had come out to both of my roommates, Holly and Kim, before the meeting.
All I truly remember is the relief I felt.
I was relieved my sisters supported me. I was relieved my sisters accepted me for who I am. I was relieved they didn’t make it a big deal.
Years before I would realize I am gay, Eastern Michigan University set the tone for said coming-out chapter meeting. Eastern Michigan takes pride in the diversity of its student body. Its LGBT Resource Center was founded on campus in the late 1990s and is dedicated to supporting the community. Although I rarely tapped into it, its presence set an expectation of respect and dignity toward LGBTQ+ people. I’m so fortunate to have attended Eastern Michigan.
What I’ve now realized more than 15 years later is how important that coming-out meeting was for me. It was my jumping-off point. It set the stage for me having the courage to come out to my parents, siblings, family, friends, colleagues and students over the next three years.
Coming out is a funny thing. No one would have to come out if there wasn’t an assumption of straightness, an expectation of gender or a presumption of who someone is.
Yet, regardless of how many times I’ve done it, there is always a faint flutter in my stomach anticipating the moment my words will land. At 39-years-old, I’ve learned to hide my apprehension, but it’s still there every time I come out.
Once I would become a mom, I promised myself I would always be out. I would be out to set an example for being proud of who I am and who we are as a family. I would be out to show my kids they never should be ashamed of or embarrassed by our family. I would be out so our two boys could learn self-respect and positive self-image.
I have lived up to that promise. While my wife and I engage with the LGBTQ+ community differently than we used to, it’s still part of our story. Today, month-long Pride celebrations have mostly been replaced with small weekend gatherings with other 2-mom families in the neighborhood and activities with my LGBTQ+ educators’ group.
The gratitude I feel for my chapter sisters and that faithful coming-out chapter meeting will never fade. The acceptance, love and warmth my sorority sisters showed me probably seemed small to them, but it sparked courage in me to live a life of being proud of who I am.