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  • When I tell people that being a lesbian

  • is the best thing that ever happened to me,

  • I'm never really that sure how that's going to go.

  • Sometimes, not a big deal.

  • Others times, it feels like a revolutionary gesture.

  • I have a friend whose name is Tina,

  • and we've known each other since we were little girls.

  • And she is this big mouth,

  • big hair, big hearted,

  • big make-up Texas woman.

  • I absolutely adore her.

  • She's been married to her husband

  • for, probably, over twenty years, I guess.

  • And they have great kids,

  • and they've got a great life.

  • And it's a very different life than mine.

  • But the thing, and the best thing,

  • that we have in common

  • is that we're both really happy.

  • Now, I'm pretty sure she's still holding a grudge

  • over the time in fifth grade,

  • when I cut her Barbie's hair

  • and dressed it in G.I. Joe clothes... (Laughter)

  • And we're kind of unlikely friends,

  • but I adore her.

  • So, last summer, she invited me

  • to go to this seminar.

  • It was one of those Ninja Internet Marketing

  • for World Domination kind of things.

  • And everybody there was going to be

  • like a super high achiever,

  • like the people that just sold their start-up to Google

  • and now they're training for the Olympics.

  • So... (Laughter). Right, that's right.

  • So, we're all in the car, on the way there, and she said,

  • "What are you going to tell people you do, if they ask you?"

  • And I said, "Well, I guess I'm going to tell them the truth,

  • which is that I write and talk to people

  • about how being a lesbian is the best thing that ever happened to me."

  • And she said, "You are not!"

  • And I said, "What?"

  • And she said, "I don't understand

  • why it is that you think

  • you have to keep telling people that.

  • Things are getting so much better for you all.

  • In fact, I'm not even really that sure

  • why you think that you need to tell people

  • you are a lesbian in the first place."

  • I said, "What do you mean?" And she said, "Well, for starters,

  • your hair". (Laughter)

  • "And sweater vest and jeans, and sneakers.

  • And blazers, a lot of blazers."

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, I like to think...

  • (Laughter)

  • ...that I am part of a grand tradition,

  • and that is my tribal guard.

  • (Laughter)

  • But if somebody decides to assume

  • that I'm a lesbian, from a mile away,

  • before they've ever even met me,

  • I am totally great with that,

  • because, for me, being lesbian, gay, bisexual,

  • transgender, LGBT is a gift.

  • And I think that's an idea worth spreading.

  • So, that's what I want to talk about today.

  • First, why would anybody think

  • that something that is so widely regarded

  • as a challenge to overcome,

  • or as a reason to feel disenfranchised

  • and angry is a gift?

  • And, second, why do we have to keep talking about it?

  • So, if you were to look back

  • across the continuum of time,

  • through time immemorial,

  • and pick any point on that timeline,

  • you'll find a group, you'll find a race,

  • you'll find an ethnicity, you'll find a religion,

  • you'll find some group

  • that has come to the forefront

  • as the catalyst for change.

  • In my life time,

  • it's been us.

  • Now, of course you can't compare the journeys

  • of all these different groups.

  • Everyone has its own challenge,

  • which's got its own cultural repertoire,

  • very complex stuff.

  • But the thing that is true of all of them

  • is that every time we've had

  • a dialog as a society about these groups

  • and gone through this process,

  • it's elevated the collective consciousness.

  • We learn about tolerance,

  • we learn about acceptance,

  • we learn about interconnectedness

  • and we learn about the ways

  • in which we are more alike than we are different.

  • I am incredibly proud and grateful

  • to have been alive at a time

  • when my people were the chosen.

  • Incredibly proud, incredibly grateful,

  • because we are the current event

  • on what Dr. King called the arc of the moral universe,

  • that bends towards justice.

  • So, not only do I think that it's a gift,

  • I think it's a purpose,

  • it's a part of something much bigger.

  • And the other thing we've learned from history

  • is that, once our society's changed its level of acceptance,

  • it doesn't go backwards.

  • Nobody says, "We should have never given women the vote."

  • Well, maybe. (Laughter)

  • Nobody says, "Bring back separate drinking fountains."

  • Or even, "Hey! Whatever happened

  • to that throwing Christians to the lions thing?"

  • It doesn't happen.

  • Now, if you are an inveterate TED talk watcher, like I am,

  • you've probably seen a few about compassion,

  • or authenticity, or vulnerability.

  • In fact, we've heard about some of those things today.

  • It's part of our contemporary dialog,

  • we are living in this upward-driven search

  • for the "aha" moment.

  • It's everywhere.

  • We trade wise and insightful quotes on social media

  • like baseball cards.

  • I went to the Big Box hardware store

  • to buy a lawn mower,

  • and there were curtains of inspirational sayings,

  • next to the laundry detergent.

  • (Laughter)

  • It's everywhere.

  • And the important thing for me,

  • and the thing that I've begun to know,

  • is that, as lesbian, gay, bisexual,

  • transgender, LGBT people,

  • we deal with these themes early and often.

  • You remember sitting in a Literature class,

  • learning about man's inhumanity to man,

  • or the individual versus society?

  • We deal with this stuff every single day.

  • And so, in a way, it propels us towards a higher consciousness,

  • towards a different way of looking at the world.

  • There's woman sitting here in the audience today,

  • and some of you met her upstairs.

  • Her name is Shery.

  • Shery's parents have not spoken to her

  • in thirty two years,

  • since, as a seventeen-year-old,

  • she came and told them she was a lesbian,

  • and they kicked her out of the house.

  • Imagine that!

  • Here's the striking thing, though.

  • Here's what Shery says.

  • Shery says, "Yeah, it's an incredibly painful experience."

  • But she wouldn't have any other way,

  • because what it's taught her

  • is that she didn't have to modify who she is.

  • She doesn't have to make compromises

  • to make other people happy.

  • The only person whose happiness

  • she's responsible for is her own.

  • She's a walking example of how to take adversity

  • and turn it into a better, higher version of yourself.

  • Now, we are all familiar

  • with the fear of rejection. Everybody knows it.

  • Tina's fourteen-year-old

  • locked herself in her room,

  • sobbing for a couple of days,

  • because some people were mean to her on Facebook,

  • and they unfriended her.

  • We've all felt what that feels like, when somebody says,

  • "Er! There's something about you that is not OK."

  • We know what that's like,

  • But those are the times

  • when we get to decide what is OK, in here.

  • Now, when I first came out,

  • there were plenty of times I would have told you

  • being a lesbian was the worst thing

  • that ever happened to me.

  • Higher consciousness was not really on my radar.

  • I was mostly interested in, "Where I'm going to find

  • some other gay people and girls that will date me?"

  • (Laughter)

  • But, as I began to meet people,

  • as I began to get out into this world,

  • I saw people who made the decision and the choice

  • to lie, to edit and to hide

  • behind this wall of shame that they've created,

  • because that was going to keep them safe,

  • because it's scary.

  • And I was scared too, but I did

  • what a lot of people do when they're scared:

  • I got angry,

  • because that brings you a little jolt of power!

  • I marched, I protested...

  • It never stopped for me.

  • I was incredibly, incredibly angry,

  • because all of those things were true,

  • and some of them still are.

  • But I remember a day when there was a man,

  • and I screamed at him,

  • until it felt like my lungs were bleeding,

  • because he was holding a sign that said,

  • "God hates fags."

  • And then, I went home

  • and I realized that I probably hadn't done

  • a lot to change that man's opinion that day.

  • (Laughter)

  • And that really, what being angry was doing

  • was keeping me from showing up as who I am,

  • which is a person who believes that love should win.

  • Now, all of those thIngs that I was angry about are true

  • and, certainly, protest, dissent are critical

  • in the face of injustice.

  • But so is love. So, the trick is to find the balance.

  • One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Wayne Dyre.

  • He says, "When you change the way you look at things,

  • the things you look at change."

  • And it's true.

  • Whatever it is that I'm out there

  • looking for it in the world

  • it's the first thing that I am going to see.

  • Except my car keys.

  • (Laughter)

  • But what I choose, the person I want to be,

  • what I choose today is to see

  • that my experiences as a lesbian

  • have taught me to go deeper and bigger

  • than I ever would have, otherwise.

  • Being a part of a marginalized group

  • has given me a sensitivity

  • towards oppression

  • and just towards people in general.

  • It's changed the way I look at all of those things.

  • And what it's taught me is to look for the similarities,

  • before I look for the differences.

  • It's an amazing thing to understand.

  • And the other thing that I've learned from my community

  • is that we're already equal.

  • We are working to change the laws to reflect that.

  • And the other thing

  • is that the only thing I really have to loose is myself.

  • So, that brings us to the second question,

  • which is: why do we have to keep talking about this?

  • Well, all those groups that I was talking about before,

  • the difference between us and them,

  • from LGBT people and them,

  • is that, for the most part,

  • they all have had the support

  • or, at least, a shared common experience

  • with their families.

  • I heard the comedian Wanda Sykes in the perfect statement.

  • She said that, for her,

  • the difference between being black and gay

  • was that she didn't have to tell her parents

  • that she was black.

  • (Laughter)

  • And it's true.