I am not an oversharer. I’m guarded, and uncomfortable conversations make me want to crawl out of my skin. BUT, this month is so important to me as it represents the courage it takes to be who you are no matter how you might be received by anyone else. I recently came out publicly after having been closeted my entire life. I'm 31. My sexuality is something I have been conscious of on some level for as long as I can remember. It is also something I have consciously avoided for as long as I can remember. I spent all of my 20s seeking out chaos to match (escape? avoid?) what I felt inside, from the weight of carrying something that was once so heavy for so long. I was afraid the people in my life wouldn’t love me if they knew me, not realizing I was projecting onto everyone else all the ways I didn’t love myself. A few years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would do anything necessary to heal and stop attracting the situations and relationships I kept finding myself in. After all of the therapy, crystals, chakra balancing, yoga, meditation, tarot readings, soul searching, and everything else under the self help sun - it all boiled down to being true to and accepting of - surprise - myself. I was convinced I didn’t feel the need to “come out” as anything, other than to those I’m closest to; I would just live my life, and let people figure it out for themselves. Because at the end of the day your journey is no one’s business. But I realized after a certain point, that’s still a way of censoring and living on the periphery of truth. Unless I can be as transparent as possible, it will always be the elephant in the room for me. Coming out was my informal apology to those that have had to deal with the messes I’ve left in the wake of my struggle, to those I’ve shut out for seemingly no apparent reason, because of self preservation, and most importantly to my younger self for denying her the joy that comes from the liberation of authenticity. I have endless gratitude for everyone who gave me permission over the years to fall apart and let me be me, back when I didn’t know permission was NOT required. Also, I wouldn’t be a proper role model for my soon-to-be niece if I wasn’t totally proud of who I am, rainbows and all. Pride to me means being unabashedly yourself to the fullest of your expression, in a world that constantly wants to water you down, so as not to cause anyone else discomfort. Joy is infectious - it’s difficult to stay down in the dumps around someone who radiates light. The members of this community are so incredibly unique and beautiful, and I am so humbled every time I meet someone new; it's as if I discover a part of myself I didn't even know existed. I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.

I celebrate: the healing power of authenticity.

Dana strives everyday to challenge the barriers that keep her from being her most connected and truest self.

Resources that can educate on being an ally to the queer community: PFLAG, your local LGBTQ+ Center, The Trevor Project,