This Disney actress once tried conversion therapy. Now, she's out and proud.

"Do it. Just say something. No, don’t. Don’t stare," actress Alyson Stoner wrote of her fumbling, adorable first thoughts while falling for someone new. "Side-hug and leave."

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

The now-24-year-old was crushing (and crushing hard) on a dance instructor she'd met at a new workshop. There was just one small — well, overwhelming and disorienting — issue: The instructor was a woman. And these new, uncomfortable feelings were puzzling for Stoner, to say the least.


In a powerful new essay in Teen Vogue, the actress and dancer — known for her roles in Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," and films like "Cheaper By the Dozen" and the "Step Up" series — reflected on the first time she fell in love with another woman. It's a story that's equal parts heart-wrenching and delightful.

First came all the relatable feelings of irresistible puppy love.

"My heart raced wildly and my body grew hot," the actress wrote, describing a moment when the instructor corrected her form in class. "Was I nervous to fail in front of an expert? Was I breathing heavily from being out of shape?"

But these butterflies, Stoner soon discovered, went far beyond sisterly or platonic love. The train had already left girl crush station.

Stoner has some fun on a red carpet in 2017. Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Awesomeness.

The two women started to hang out outside of class. They began opening up to one another. They Netflixed (and chilled). Pretty soon, it became abundantly clear: "OK, we were in a relationship," Stoner wrote. "I fell in love with a woman."

But, unfortunately, it just wasn't that simple.

Stoner, a person of religious faith, had to unpack many confusing thoughts. She even attempted conversion therapy to avoid embracing these new feelings.

"Like many, I had internalized some of the harmful beliefs and misconceptions about LGBTQ people and identities," Stoner wrote.

She dissected all the factors that could have led her down this road. Was it because she'd experienced abuse from men before? Was it because she was surrounded by open-minded artists and she — even on a subconscious level — wanted a queer identity to help fit in? "Maybe I actually want to be her, and I'm mistaking idolization for romance," she wrote.

Stoner prayed. She turned to reading — both "contemporary and ancient" texts — hoping the words would leap off the page and make it all make sense. She didn't have many queer-affirming voices telling her these feelings were totally normal and perfectly OK.

"Certain pastors and community members tried to reverse and eliminate my attraction to her," she wrote in Teen Vogue.

Conversion therapy — a harmful practice that aims at altering a person's sexual orientation — has been discredited by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign. Not only does it not work, but it can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide for young people at risk.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

"Some people in the industry warned me that I’d ruin my career, miss out on possible jobs, and potentially put my life in danger if I ever came out," Stoner wrote. "My dream and all I’d worked tirelessly for since the age of 6 was suddenly at risk by my being ... true to myself."

Finally, after hitting what felt like rock bottom, things began falling into place for Stoner.

"I’ll never forget the night I finally collapsed on my bed with tear-stained cheeks, saying, 'God, if I’m evil, then I accept this and give up,'" Stoner wrote. "I’ve believed you are loving, but I don’t want to live a lie."

Instead of devastation, however, the breakdown filled her with a sense of hope. She began seeing the world around her — "life, God, love, humanity, and (literally) everything" — in a new light.

"I, Alyson, am attracted to men, women, and people who identify in other ways," she finally felt comfortable proclaiming. "It is the soul that captivates me."

Stoner is one of a growing number of young Americans who feel comfortable coming out as LGBTQ.

According to Gallup analysis published last year, 10 million Americans — or 4.1% of U.S. adults — identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. That's up from 3.5% in 2012. Millennials, the analysis found, were the most likely age group to identify as LGBTQ, reflecting the growing acceptance of queer Americans — particularly among young people.

Things really are changing for the better, Stoner believes. And if you're wrestling with your sexuality or identity, she's got your back.

"If you’re questioning or struggling with your sexuality, gender identity, or anything else, know that I and so many who’ve gone before us are with you," Stoner wrote. "Whatever your identity, you are lovable and wonderful and enough. I’m on the other side of some of these battles internally, but it’s still a challenge in the outside world. It’s OK. Dare to be yourself anyway." ❤️

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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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.