More

How one woman and 'Supergirl' helped a teen feel comfortable in her own skin.

'I was her at that age. Scared of who I was, and thought I was alone.'

How one woman and 'Supergirl' helped a teen feel comfortable in her own skin.

​Mary Swangin was working an otherwise ordinary Saturday at a Fort Wayne, Indiana, comic book store when a teenage girl came in looking "absolutely terrified."

Swangin tweeted the encounter later that day, explaining that when she went to help the girl, it quickly became clear that the girl needed more than just a good comic recommendation β€” she needed someone to listen and understand her. As luck would have it, Swangin happened to be the perfect person for the job.

Once Swangin started talking to her, she realized the girl must have recently come out of the closet, and Swangin, having also come out around that age, immediately empathized with her.


The girl explained that she's a huge fan of Supergirl's sister Alex Danvers, who recently came out in an episode of The CW show.

In season 2 of "Supergirl," Danvers (played by Chyler Leigh) realizes that she's a lesbian and becomes romantically involved with Maggie Sawyer (played by Floriana Lima), an openly gay cop on the show β€” a pairing affectionally known as "Sanvers" by fans.

GIF from "Supergirl."

"We're walking to the Super area when I ask if she watches the show. She smiles a bit and nods. Says Alex is her favorite. I mention that I'm a huge shipper and the poor thing just breaks down in tears. I'm trying to figure out what the hell I did to upset her. She's crying and I'm freaking out. After a minute or so, everything clicks. I'm staring down a crying baby gay. One who was having some big issues. I tell her that it was hard for me when I wanted to come out too. She finally stops crying and asks me if it gets easier," Swangin tweeted.

In the course of their conversation, the girl confessed to Swangin that she had been suicidal and that Danvers' coming out story arc was one of the only things keeping her hope alive in a difficult time.

"I was her at that age. Scared of who I was, and thought I was alone," explains Swangin over a direct message on Twitter. For Swangin, the character she was drawn to was Kate Kane as Batwoman. "She was a military cadet who was expelled under DADT [Don't Ask Don't Tell] and hit rock bottom," writes Swangin. "She had to claw her way up, and if she could do it, so could I."

Which is why she decided to share the whole story on Twitter:

Sometimes superheroes don't wear capes. Sometimes they wear regular clothes and work in comic book stores.

$60 comics aside, this girl will know forever that she's far from alone in her coming out story.

Even Chyler Leigh, the actress who plays Danvers, responded to the tweet thread to let the girl β€” and anyone else feeling alone β€”Β know that she, and Supergirl, have her back.

The more that marginalized groups are represented in the media, the more people will feel accepted and connected to a larger community. Like it or not, pop culture has that power, and with that power comes the obligation to be as inclusive as possible.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad β€” her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany β€” but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway β€” not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts β€” and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for themβ€”and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergencyβ€”all in a remarkably calm exchangeβ€”the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

Keep Reading Show less