This man used to be homophobic. Here’s why he’s now a huge supporter of LGBTQ rights.

Matt Hershberger grew up in conservative, suburban Cincinnati, but since he never knew anything else, the effects of that more conventional mindset didn't phase him, at least not at first.

For example, the community's approach to educating kids about sex came down to abstinence only. "It was just 'exercise self control' preached to masses of horny kids," Matt writes in an email.

So unsurprisingly, he and his friends went to less reliable, oftentimes super misogynistic outlets — like the internet — to learn about sex. As a result, a strong undercurrent of toxic masculinity began to build up in them.


Photo by papaioannou kostas/Unsplash.

And homophobia wasn't far behind.

Some of the boys that Matt hung out with had homophobic parents and coaches, or they heard anti-gay sermons in church. So unsurprisingly, bigoted slurs became a part of everyday conversation, But swearing like that wasn't just for fun, it was about asserting dominance.

"We all bought into the alpha male crap because no one else was telling us otherwise," explains Matt, "and so we were all a bunch of little misogynists and homophobes by default."

Since this was before LGBTQ people had become a staple of mainstream culture, it was easy for ignorance-bred behavior like this to take over in towns like Matt's.  

But soon, Matt got a wake up call. Actually he got two, and both came from places of love.

One was that his mother befriended a woman who is a lesbian and Matt realized that he genuinely liked her.

She was someone his mom had met in grad school, and she’d occasionally invite Matt over to hang out on her property where she had a little pond and lots of animals to play with. She also happened to be the first openly gay person he’d met in his life. It was one of the first things he knew about her. But after they spent time together, he learned there was so much more to who she is than that, and he stopped seeing her as "different."

At the same time, he also started hanging out with new friends who would call him out whenever he made hurtful comments instead of enabling him to do so. Slowly but surely, this made him more aware of his actions. Constant reminders from friends and loved ones that what you’re saying may be hurtful to others is perhaps one of the best ways to curb the behavior, because they’re like living alarm bells.

So by the time he graduated high school, he knew what a homophobe was and that he didn't want to be one.

Photo by Luke Porter/Unsplash.

But, while the decision to leave homophobia in the dust came quickly, the ideological changes Matt wanted to make were more gradual. It was during school debates that he realized he didn't actually have the same political views as the rest of his family, which in turn made him want to reexamine all of his beliefs.

"That and starting to actually meet LGBTQ people and listen to their stories was what started changing me," notes Matt.

This change has been an ongoing process for Matt, which makes sense because it can be hard to unlearn behaviors that had been ingrained in you from an early age.

But Matt's always trying to evolve, which is why he started going to LGBTQ events when he came across them.

Back in 2016, he had recently moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey — a town with an active LGBTQ community — so he decided to check out their Pride parade.

It was the first Pride parade there since Obergefell v. Hodges made it illegal for states to discriminate against same-sex marriage, so needless to say the celebration was epic.

Photo by Michele de Paola/Unsplash.

While Matt's decision to attend didn't feel monumental at the time — it just seemed like a fun thing to do — he ended up being really moved by it.

"As a cis straight male, pride isn't really for me, but I still thought it was just a really cool experience to watch a group of people, that for so long had to live in the shadows, be out and proud in the open," he writes.

He was also elated to see how many businesses and faith groups came out to show their genuine support.

The whole experience inspired him to be more of an active advocate for LGBTQ people, and marginalized communities in general.

Today, Matt is a writer who often writes about the importance of being an LGBTQ ally and creating an accepting environment for the community.  

Matt giving a speech at his wedding. Photo via Matt Hershberger.

In one of his articles, he explains that we should make an effort to talk to and learn about people who are different from us so that we can understand that being different is not a bad thing. What’s more, being compassionate and accepting those differences makes the world a much better place to live.

Of course, he knows how challenging that can be.

“Acceptance can be hard, because it often means rejecting old things you used to think were true. It's no small thing to lose a religion or a worldview, which is why the sea of change on this issue over the past few decades has been so tremendous."

Now that he's a father, Matt's also hyper aware of making sure that his daughter feels accepted, no matter what her gender or sexual proclivity ends up being. It's not the easiest line to walk because many outdated gender stereotypes are still alive and well in our culture, but he's doing the best he can to shield her from them.

There's still lots of work to be done, but people like Matt are proof that changing your views is possible. All you have to do is open your eyes.

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

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Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...in the most delightful way.

There are certain songs from kids' movies that most of us can sing along to, but we often don't know how they originated. Now we have a timely insight into one such song—"A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins."

It's common for parents to try all kinds of tricks to get kids to take medications they don't want to take, but the inspiration for "A Spoonful of Sugar" was much more specific. Jeffrey Sherman, the son and nephew of the Sherman Brothers—the musical duo responsible not just for "Mary Poppins," but a host of Disney films including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," as well as the song "It's a Small World After All"—told the story of how "A Spoonful of Sugar" came about on Facebook.

He wrote:

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