John M. Becker

How Are You #MakingYourMark on LGBT History? [Sponsored]

Filed By John M. Becker | October 11, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Contests
Tags: #MakingYourMark, AT&T, giveaway, iPad, iPad Mini, LGBT History Month, promoted, sponsored

lgbt-history-books.jpgOctober is LGBT History Month -- 31 days dedicated to celebrating, learning, and recognizing the all-too-often overlooked history and culture of our diverse and resilient community. This particular LGBT History Month is shaping up to be especially historic, with the freedom to marry surging forward across the country in places from Utah to West Virginia to Wisconsin, bringing thousands of people and families one step closer to equal treatment under the law.

But LGBT History Month isn't just about major milestones like the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Laverne Cox's TIME magazine cover or inspirational historical figures like Bella Abzug and Harvey Milk. Each and every one of us, when we choose to embrace our truth and decide to live and love openly as our authentic selves, makes our own mark on LGBT history. LGBT history isn't just written in places like the Stonewall Inn in New York City or the Castro in San Francisco, it's written in our own lives, families, and communities -- and we're the ones writing it.

To honor our personal stories and the way they elevate and advance our greater LGBT community, AT&T has launched the Making Your Mark Campaign, inviting social media users to virtually "check in" to our unique LGBT milestone locations under the hashtag #MakingYourMark. Locations can include where we first held a partner's hand, first encountered the LGBT community, or first met the person we love.

east-high-school.JPGMost of us have many #MakeYourMark locations, but I'll share just one of mine: the auditorium at Green Bay East High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It's where I first said the words out loud: "I'm gay."

My hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin is a typical medium-sized middle-class city -- one that the average American wouldn't know about at all were it not for the presence of a certain football team -- and the people by and large are good, hardworking folks, well-meaning if a little insular. Overall, Green Bay was a good place to grow up, but the area's relative political, cultural, and religious conservatism made it a difficult place to be LGBT.

So when I started to awaken to the fact that I was gay, I was terrified and I kept it inside, too ashamed to tell anyone. But after struggling with that shame, anxiety, and depression for a long time, I started to realize that if I didn't reach out -- to someone -- I probably wouldn't make it. So I worked up the courage and finally, one day freshman year during a rehearsal for the school play, I took the plunge and came out to Robert, a senior who was the only openly gay person I knew at my school. He listened to me, he affirmed me, he told me I could talk with him anytime I needed, and he promised to keep my secret so that I could tell others in my own time.

I'll never forget Robert's kindness to me, or the relief I felt when I spoke my truth out loud for the first time. The journey that's followed -- from small-town closeted gay Midwestern kid to happily married, out-and-proud LGBT civil rights advocate -- has had its ups and downs, but I wouldn't change it for the world. And it all started with that first step.

So that's my #MakingYourMark story and location. What's yours? Check in with your #MakingYourMark location on Twitter between now and Friday, October 31 and you'll be entered into a random drawing for an AT&T gift basket with an iPad Mini!

Just reply to this tweet with your #MakingYourMark location, use the hashtags #MakingYourMark and #SweepsEntry, and tag @att. Limit one entry per person; click here for details and full contest rules.

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