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.

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Wikiimages by Pixabay, Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich/Twitter

The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.