The right to live honestly

Like many before her and many still to come, Mara Boyd - profiled this week in Between The Lines - faced a difficult choice.

She loved the army and looked forward to her chosen career path as an Air Force captain. The values, the family, the lifestyle - she lived and breathed the military. But when she reached into the inner depths of herself and discovered that she was a lesbian, her world came crashing down. Serving under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Boyd chose not to live a lie and came out to her commanding officer, knowing full well what it would mean for her career plans.

What may help, however, is to know she's not alone. Every day, men and women are coming out as gay or transgender in their workplaces. And every day in a country with no Employment Non-Discrimination Act in place, they can and are fired, simply for being who they are.

Is it better to live honestly and risk losing it all, or to keep one's stable existence in tact, hiding a vital part of one's self?

Despite knowing that she would lose her college scholarship, her career and her military family, Boyd says of her decision to come out, "It wasn't so much a choice as deciding whether to breathe or not."

Boyd is a hero for choosing to live openly, and life has rewarded her with many other opportunities as a result - ones she never would have experienced had she stayed closeted in the Air Force.

But things don't always work out that well. Many of our own Michigan LGBT community members have fought legal battles, gotten divorced, lost their jobs, lost contact with their families or been kicked out of their homes.

It's not a decision everyone is able to make, and many of us still remain closeted in our jobs, to our families - even in our marriages to opposite-sex partners. To those who bravely came out, we applaud you. To those who still can't, though we may not know you, we are with you.

But the most important thing to remember is that in the LGBT community, family is an instant guarantee and support is ubiquitous. There will always be homes that will take you in, arms that will welcome you with a hug and a listening ear ready when you need to talk.

It's a beautiful thing.

We know that some day soon, with ENDA in place and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repealed, we will be able to at least live openly without fear of losing our jobs, and we urge every LGBT and allied person to fight for those rights so that people like Mara Boyd can live with integrity and do what they love.

But for everything else, your LGBT family is always there. To urge you to do more. To support your effort to be yourself. And to accept you when the world will not.

We may not have all the rights we deserve, but when we're ready to come out, we will always have the right to live honestly.

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