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 Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."