I am a convoluted, queer Valley native. I grew up in the farm towns of the San Joaquin Valley, having lived, worked, or gone to school in Los Banos, Dos Palos, Santa Nella, Oro Loma, Merced, and Fresno. If there is any one thing I am connected to, it is this place and these people.
I received my associate of arts degree in English from Merced College and transferred to Fresno State, majoring in the same. People often think that having a degree in English is about learning how to use a comma or being constantly consumed by books.
The truth is that getting an English degree is exposure to stories. I have traipsed the Caucasus with Leo Tolstoy and lived in a Jorge Luis Borges puzzle. But mostly, I have fallen in love with people.
Falling in love with people and stories has pushed me into some odd jobs. I was a writing tutor at Fresno State for two years because I wanted other people to enjoy reading and writing as much as I did. I was a wine specialist for a wine shop for three years because I enjoyed the culture of happy people.
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I was an editor at The Collegian for one year because I figured out that not only do I love other people’s voices, I love my own as well. Currently I work in disability law, helping people to get their voices heard in court. I also work at an adult school, helping students earn their diplomas.
I volunteer as an ambassador for My LBGT Plus, have a seat on Fresno State’s LBGTQ+ Advisory Board, serve as a trustee for United Auto Workers 4123 and have a seat on its executive board. I have a lot of interests, but the predominant interest is in helping other Valley people through any means necessary.
I want to help people because at one point I needed help and when I reached out, there were hands to catch me. When I came out of the closet, I was not well received. My mother is devoutly Baptist, and my family is predominantly conservative.
For a long time, my sexuality lived in shadows until I was forced to come out or face being outed. Had I not been forced, I do not know if I would ever have come out. I might have just stayed an “ally” of the movement and watched love from afar.
I know that I am not the only one. Here in 2016, in California, people are afraid to come out. They are afraid of the upheaval. They are afraid of distance that grows between those who do not understand that love transcends a political movement and that if I could be straight, I would be.
I would love to imagine that my family would attend my future wedding. I would love to imagine that any child I might produce wouldn’t be politicized. I would love to imagine that I don’t have to worry about dying in a club. But I do not want to be straight if it means I do not get to love the woman that I do. I’d risk it all to hold her hand.
When people ask me if coming out was hard, I do not really know what to say. Yes, coming out was hard. But it is never over. Every day we come out. It is deciding whether we tell our co-workers about our partners. It is smiling through an unsolicited inquiry from the opposite sex. It is knowing that the moment you tag your partner in something, a new Facebook friend is going to find out.
Every day of being out presents new challenges and new surprises; every day presents new opportunity. My niece will grow up with two aunts instead of just one. Her eyes will be opened to the world much sooner than mine had ever been.
I am envious of her and proud of her at the same time. Our next generation of queer kids will have more allies than they know what to do with. Maybe then we can stop calling them allies and just start calling them people.
Megan Bronson is a freelance writer. This essay first appeared on My LGBT Plus website. Connect with her at Megan@mylgbtplus.org.