Although I finished watching the TV series, Schitt’s Creek, months ago, I’m still obsessed with it. The writing is so clever, the actors are comedic geniuses who can also tug at your heart strings, and the chemistry among the cast is palpable.

I also love that the relationship between David and Patrick is woven into the story as naturally as any other. There is no big “coming out” episode or a need to explain or justify their love. Instead, it’s just who they are. While their beautiful relationship is a central theme in the series, their sexuality isn’t.

The first person I came out to was my sister, Cheryl. She and I were away at a weekend retreat, and knowing it was going to be just the two of us, I promised myself I would share this part of my life with her. I also knew she was a safe person to start with as she never spoke insultingly about any minority group and she had friends who were part of the LGBTQ community.

When taking a courageous step, it’s always good to have a team of support lined up. Although some of my friends knew I was in a relationship with Melissa, Cheryl was the first support team member from my family.

I can picture the moment. We were in our room sitting on our respective beds just before going to sleep. We were chatting about nothing significant. Or maybe we were. To be honest, I was half-listening knowing what I was about to do.

“So I want to share something with you,” I said.

She locked eyes and leaned in, giving me the go ahead.

“Melissa is not just a friend of mine. We’re, um, together.”

Cheryl immediately hugged me.

“OK, our family is already pretty cool,” she said. “Now it just got a whole lot cooler!”

Her comment totally lightened the energy and we both started laughing.

“When did you know you were gay? How did you know?” she asked.

Her question kind of stopped me in my tracks because I hadn’t ever used the word “gay” to describe myself. Except when Melissa kissed me in college and I thought to myself, “What is she doing? I’m not gay.”

“Well, I fell in love with someone and she happens to be a woman,” I replied. “That’s probably the best way I can answer your question.”

Cheryl nodded her head in understanding. “I get it,” she said.

I share this story for a few important reasons:

  1. I’m not a fan of being put into a labelled box. Ask me which letter in the LGBTQ alphabet fits me best and I’ll answer “yes.” I mean, does anyone like to be defined by a label, box, or, heaven-forbid, stereotype?If you have someone in your life who is figuring out who they are, keep the doors wide open for them. Offer more than just small compartments that they must choose from to feel worthy of your love and acceptance.Neither Melissa nor I had dated women before we got together, so our families were a bit surprised by the news, but I think the surprise was more about us not fitting into a preconceived notion of what that means and less about our being a couple.
  2. When sharing something scary or vulnerable, choose your audience wisely. Start with those you can count on to support you and let them hold you up as you tell others.
  3. If you or someone you love is struggling to feel supported, I am here. Reply in the comments and know it’s being received by a safe person who holds no judgment. Only love. Also, check out The Trevor Project for lots of great resources.

In a recent survey, it was found that “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth,” and “LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide.”

In a time when hate seems much louder than love, let’s do our part to reverse that.

Love people for who they are. If you struggle to do that, the work that’s needed is yours, not theirs.

If you feel threatened by someone different than you, take the time to get to know them. As Brené Brown said, “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”

We can use all the allies we can get.

To my LGBTQ family, Happy PRIDE Month! 🌈

Oh, and in case you didn’t know PRIDE is an acronym that stands for Promote Respect, Inclusion, and Dignity for Everyone.