Author: Heather Lowey
ALL I AM
Daughter ~ Friend ~ Enthusiast of Most Things ~ Fierce Competitor ~ Hard-Worker ~ Washed Up Athlete ~ Dog Mom of 2 ~ Loving Partner ~ Aunt ~ Sports Fan ~ Adventurer ~ Giant Idiot ~ Homeowner ~ Taxpayer ~ Voter ~ Sister ~ Family Person ~ Emotional ~ World Traveler ~ Loyal ~ Volunteer
AND ~ Gay
It was a powerful way to kick off the discussion and hear all of the descriptors Kelly uses to help someone understand who she is. Conversely, it highlighted the sad reality of how leading with the descriptor of gay diminishes the rest.
The ask, the need, the desire of what is happening in the world for both the LGBTQ+ demographic as well as people of color boils down to essentially the same word. Equality.
It’s hard for a lot of us to imagine being anything but ourselves. However, for many a masked approach to life is the sad reality.
Linguistics and sociolinguistics refer to the social and cultural identities within a language of a society. Code switching is the adaptation an individual makes in order to make another feel comfortable. Those outside the norm of a society utilize code switching as both a coping mechanism to fit in with the social norms, but also to ensure those around them feel at ease in their presence.
“I had acrylic nails for God’s sakes!”
Although kidding about one of her ways of trying to fit in to the social norm of a heterosexual woman, Kelly’s reality of this code switching highlighted the damage this coping causes to one’s ability to be their true self. Always living with a mask. Never having the ability to share at a deep level with those around her for fear of disrupting this identity took its toll on her emotionally as well as physically.
Despite this, Kelly lived in this manner for well over a decade.
HISTORY OF PRIDE
The 1969 Stonewall Riot marks the beginning of what is now known as Pride. This year is the 50th Anniversary of Pride and although many of the larger celebrations have been cancelled due to COVID-19, celebrations of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies continue to take place. Including Kelly’s surprise engagement to her fiancé Shannon at what she thought was a Pride party last week!
What started as a raid back in 1969 of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City, has led to years of work for equality for an entire segment of people. And while things like the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 upholding members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot be discriminated against, there is still a long way to go.
As Kelly explained, the Supreme Court supports non-discrimination, but this doesn’t mean everyone, or every organization supports this decision. Something as exciting as looking for a wedding venue for Kelly and Shannon can quickly turn into a stressful situation predicated on discrimination. Not only do they have to look for venues which support the LGBTQ+ community, it also requires coming out again and again and again.
THE BLACK SCREEN
Kelly took us through her journey as a person first, homosexual woman second. Her college experience filled with friends but also secrets. A college athlete also in a sorority enjoying the social aspect of her life. While at the same time, secretly in a two-and-a-half-year relationship with her best friend. The heartbreak of their break-up with her girlfriend’s father threatening to out Kelly to her own parents.
She tried dating boys. A move to Chicago, then a stint as a contractor in Afghanistan, then back to Chicago. A move to Detroit to be with another woman and subsequently out of Detroit for the same woman.
“Catch flights, not feelings.”
This became her mantra. Not addressing the feelings and living her 20s in a place of hiding from her identity until one day, this black screen, this tiredness, this lack of identity caught up to her.
“It’s important to stay true to self…. But first, who am I?”
Kelly moved back to Indianapolis determined to stop chasing a high, but rather live. She found her people. Her family was incredibly supportive. Her personal crisis of coming out and choosing to review her core values moved her to make changes. She evaluated her own values and had the tough conversations.
No more running. No more hiding. No more code switching.
Enter in Salesforce. She now found her place professionally as well. A company aligned with her values. A place she could remain true to herself. Additionally, she found great mentorship through her boss Meggie.
Meggie not only provided support and relationship advice for Kelly’s then long-distance relationship with her now fiancé Shannon, but also how to be a woman in the workplace. Advice on not letting emotions drive decisions, but looking first at data, details, and facts.
“I don’t think of myself as gay. I’m just me and I just happen to be gay.”
So many amazing nuggets of information for not only those who may be struggling with their own identity, but also for those looking to be allies to the LGBTQ+ community.
Her coming out advice: Remember, while you’ve thought about this discussion for days, weeks, months on end, the person you are talking to is hearing it for the first time. Their reaction may not be exactly what you want. They are likely happier for you than they appear, but their reaction could be more about shock. Allow them the space and time to figure out how they want to react and don’t be too hard on them for their initial reaction.
Her ally advice: Give a hug. If you don’t know how to react, a hug and letting someone know you are digesting information but are excited to talk to them more about it later is a great start. When you find yourself unsure of whether to reach out or not, always reach out. And finally, you can always donate to a cause and/or speak up on their behalf.
Kelly has been able to create a great community she is proud of and humbled by. But this started because of her own vulnerability. She had to open the door and share to then allow others in.
Want to connect with Kelly? Find her on Instagram at @kapowski19.