HRC Blog

#RealPride is Real Family

This post comes from HRC Media Production Manager Ben Shallenberger:

I was 19 years old when I came out of the closet. Growing up in Texas with a conservative Christian family, I was scared of the backlash I thought I would receive for being openly gay. My coming out process wasn't pain-free, I definitely lost some friends and was judged along the way, but no one has been a bigger supporter and more encouraging than my mom, Leba.

When I first came out, obviously there was a bit of heartache. My mom said that she was sad for me because of the troubles I would face from close-minded people in my life. She assured me that she loved me and would always have my best interests at heart.

In 2008, I thought she had shown me the biggest sign of support when she donated to the "No on Prop 8" campaign. That simple $50 donation sent me a message. She was saying: "I love you, I support you, I want every happiness you deserve to come to you, and I will do what it takes to make that happen".

Last year, when I was battling cancer, she traveled to D.C. for weeks at a time to take care of me. She got to know my gay roommates and my LGBT friends. She became close to many of them. She saw that our lives are no different than our heterosexual counterparts. She saw that we are just as deserving of full equality.

Three weeks ago my brother got married to his wife. Throughout the weekend I was home for the wedding, my mom said over and over again: "I can't wait to do this for you some day. I long for the day we can celebrate your love in the state of Texas, or wherever you choose to get married. Your wedding would be so much fun."

But there was no greater showing of love and support from my mom than what she showed me this weekend. As I was working the HRC booth at Houston Pride, I heard my name being called from a few feet away. I recognized the voice instantly - it was my mom. She came to Houston Pride to renew her membership to HRC, and more importantly to show me that she is in this fight for equality until it is achieved. She posed for a "Real Pride Is..." picture with me. I now have a physical manifestation to prove just how much she loves and cares for me. She took a step in that moment. She made a public declaration that pride isn't just for the LGBT community. It's for all of us. It's for those of us who are LGBT, who have to come out time and time again. For the allies who believe inequality is wrong. For all who believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And Pride is for the Leba Shallenbergers in the world. The parents who love their children unconditionally and will do whatever it takes to make sure that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.

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