Actor Natalie Morales has written a moving personal essay for Amy Poehler's Smart Girls website—detailing how she struggled with her sexuality as an adolescent but has now come to celebrate her queer identity.
The Parks and Recreation actor writes about her introduction to the LGBT+ community, when her mother’s gay colleague gave her a backpack filled with school supplies.
“I was over the moon. I will never, ever forget that. I had never even met this man. I asked my mom about him and who he was and if he had kids, and she explained to me that he didn’t because he was gay and what that meant.
“I don’t remember my reaction to that, but I think the reason I don’t remember is because it wasn’t a big deal to me at the time. It was explained that he liked other men, I understood it, plus COOL LISA FRANK STUFF AND MARKERS!”
Morales goes on to explain her high school romance with a girl—a relationship she kept a secret because of the shame she felt about her sexuality.
After they broke up, Morales was devastated but also continued to feel guilt for being attracted to girls, having been brought up as a Catholic.
“I know I thought something was really wrong with me. I was ashamed and I thought I was dirty. I knew that the church said it was wrong and that God said it was wrong (even though I couldn’t exactly figure out why, if it wasn’t hurting anyone).
“I was told bisexuals were degenerates who are selfish and just want the best of both worlds. I was told gay men are fine because they’re funny and have good taste, but lesbian women are wastes of space. I was told the idea of two women kissing was disgusting.”
Morales notes that she’s an intensely private person and tries to shun any kind of celebrity attention but felt that she wanted to come out publicly because of the state of LGBT+ rights in the world.
“I don’t like labelling myself, or anyone else, but if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer. What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight. That’s all. It’s not scary, even though that word used to be really, really scary to me.
“I know this isn’t some big, life-shattering revelation that everyone will be shocked by. The reason I decided to share this with you and with the world is because even though me telling you I’m queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me.
“There are gay concentration camps in Chechnya where people are being tortured right this second. In our very country, 49 people were killed and 58 people were wounded just last year because they were dancing in a gay club.
“Our safe spaces are not safe. I think it’s important that I tell you that this familiar face you see on your TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, so that if you didn’t know someone who was queer before, you do now."
You can read the full essay here.