Over the weekend, The Anniston Star, a local newspaper in Alabama, highlighted the experiences of growing up LGBT in the Yellowhammer state.
In the article, three young openly gay and lesbian individuals shared their coming out stories and what it is like to be your true, authentic self in religious and conservative communities.
Alexis Baker, 18, is openly lesbian and just graduated from high school. Sterling Fiering, 27, has been with his partner for nine years and goes to church regularly. Russell Henson, 21, is openly gay, lives with his parents and wants to be a math teacher.
“Telling your story is the best way to move people,” HRC Alabama State Director and Alabama State Rep. Patricia Todd told the paper. “Once they hear what your life has been like and the rejection you've experienced, people can begin to understand why we fight so hard.”
In HRC’s groundbreaking report, Growing UP LGBT in America, 25 percent of the youth surveyed lived in the Deep South. The report found that two–thirds of LGBTQ youth (64 percent) are out to their classmates and 61 percent are out at school. Only fifty-six percent are out to their family.
While coming out is one obstacle, there is an additional burden for LGBT Alabamans: Alabama is one of 31 states that lack clear, fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. While LGBT Alabamans can get married, they can still be denied services for who they are or risk being fired simply for getting married and wearing their wedding ring to the office the next day.
HRC and supporters in Congress are working to win passage of the Equality Act, which would -- at long last -- extend full federal equality to all LGBT Americans in every state. On the day the Equality Act was introduced, HRC President Chad Griffin said, "The time has come for full federal equality -- nothing more, nothing less... Congress must pass the Equality Act to ensure that LGBT people and their families are just as safe at work or at school as they are in their marriages. This bill will guarantee all LGBT Americans have the clear, permanent, and explicit protections from discrimination that they deserve.”
Meanwhile, more and more LGBT people -- like Alexis, Sterling and Russell -- are coming out and helping their families, friends, coworkers and peers support LGBT equality. Asked about the influence they are having in Alabama, Todd called it “History in the making."