After coming out as gay, a woman from the conservative Deep South finds her happy ending
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When Stephanie Williams was growing up in rural Alabama, her world was orderly and precise. She lived in the same house in Autauga County until she left for college; her parents were very conservative Christians, and she worked hard to make them proud. She got good grades, played in the marching band, and, of course, preserved her virginity for marriage.

Stephanie did not grow up in a world where she felt free to ask questions, even of herself. She simply took the next indicated and agreed-upon steps, which eventually led to marrying a worship leader and having four children.


"Looking back, there were some really obvious signs in my life [that I was gay]. I should have been asking more questions … but honestly, I did not live in a world where you could do that," she said, noting that her involvement with the church and deeply held religious beliefs meant, for her and other women in the congregation, quiet obedience. Women submit to their husbands—that's the unspoken rule where she comes from.

In 2016, for reasons unrelated to her sexuality, her marriage fell apart—and then her mother died. It was at that point that Stephanie began thinking critically about her life, her children's lives, and the life she wanted to live.

"I had a reckoning," she said. "It was really sort of this hard inventory of myself, my parenting, my life … everything was in upheaval." During that time, she reconnected with Laurie, an old friend from college, and the relationship grew from there.

"This is what I knew: I knew that whatever you call it to be in love with Laurie, that is what I am," said Stephanie. "Given the chance to grow into your identity outside of a very small world, you discover a lot."

At age 37, Stephanie discovered she was gay.

The couple dated in secret for a year, slowly coming out to friends and family. Their friends were very supportive and genuinely happy for them, but telling family members proved to be trickier, and the couple received a mixed bag of reactions.

Stephanie Williams

This experience is typical, especially for members of the LGBTQ+ community who live in, or are from, the South. According to GLAAD, "Southerners feel significantly more discomfort about their LGBTQ family, friends, and neighbors than is found in other regions of the country." Additionally, Alabama hate crime law does not protect LGBTQ+ citizens, leaving members of marginalized communities exposed and fearful of being open with the people they interact with on a daily basis.

For a group who suffered for so long in silence, the concept of gay pride is a beautiful thing. Support is vital, which is why the yearly pride events are so important—especially for the LGBTQ+ youth, who don't always live in the friendliest home environments.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the inaugural gay pride parade and large scale events were planned; now that we are also facing a pandemic, instead of standing in solidarity with allies ( or getting hugs from moms and dads who want to support kids who might be struggling), the celebrations have moved online.

Stephanie says that for their family, which includes four children and almost as many dogs, the online option is much better than facing crowds. One of her children is on the Autism Spectrum, and the neurodiversity in their household often prevents them from attending large-scale public events; it's simply too stressful. They prefer to go to smaller, family-friendly Pride events, where there are lots of other children and less stimuli, but this year, because of the risk of Covid-19, they'll stay home and participate in a virtual parade.

Stephanie Williams

In 2018, Stephanie and Laurie got married. "There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life," Stephanie said, with a smile lighting up her whole face. "Right now, I'm the happiest that I've ever been," she added, proving once again that pride is more than a single event or a movement. Pride comes from within.

Turn your everyday actions into acts of good every day at P&G Good Everyday.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less