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My 3-year-old asked me why some people are gay. This was my response.

When my daughter asked why our friends are gay, it reminded me how far we've come.

My 3-year-old asked me why some people are gay. This was my response.

My wife and I count two different gay couples — one female, one male — among our closest friends.

We see these friends often, and they are important people to our two young daughters.

A few weeks ago, we saw both couples in one day. In the morning, one couple came over to celebrate our daughter’s second birthday. We ate cake and drank coffee on the roof deck while the children played. Later that day, we went to the other couple’s house for dinner. There we ate more cake and drank beer while the children ran around the backyard with the two dogs.


On the drive home, our 3-year-old must have suddenly noticed the difference between gay and straight.

From the backseat, she asked me and my wife: "Why are some sweetie-pies men and men? Why are some men and women? And why are some sweetie-pies women and women?”

My wife and I smiled at each other. “It just depends on who you love,” I said.

Our daughter said OK and asked no more questions. Simple as that.

Gay rights have come a long way in the United States. Photo from iStock.

The ease of that brief conversation left me with a rare kind of satisfaction. My kids inhabit an America that is, by one measure, far more humane and decent than the one where I grew up.

I must have been about 12 when I learned that my mother knew a lesbian.

She refused to name this person when I asked who she was. Did I know her? Had I met her?

“You don’t know her well,” my mother said. “But you’ve met her a few times.”

I begged my mom to tell me who this person was. Instead, she made a pledge: When the lesbian died, my mom promised to say who she was. From then on, every so often I’d ask, “Is the lesbian dead yet?”

A few years later, Anne, mom’s elderly church friend, passed away.

It turns out that the mysterious lesbian was Anne’s daughter. Anne shared her secret with my mom, who promised to tell no one. And when Anne died, my mom decided to share the secret with me.

Then, it was like being gay was a stain so deep that only death could wipe away its shame. That was the lesson. I wondered and worried if this thing could happen to me, too.

Being gay seemed like an infection that could quietly enter the body and corrupt the soul. My dad said not to worry, then. I sure hoped that he was right.

It was around this time that I watched Pat Buchanan’s 1992 opening speech at the Republican National Convention with my family.

Buchanan railed against gay people, and I recall being a bit stunned by his anger, but not by the essential message of homosexual deviancy. Back then, that notion could just float weightlessly in the air.

Someday, I hope to talk with my daughters about all of this.

About how things used to be. About a world where a common cruelty simply existed among people who were otherwise quite decent.

That many parents now speak to their kids about sexual orientation without a veil of shame is a welcome reminder that some good changes are underway, however incomplete.

Yes, look at what is happening in North Carolina. Progress is rarely linear.

But I am quite certain that my daughters, like so many children of their generation, will never need to ask such a regrettable question: “Is the lesbian dead yet?”

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.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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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."