The Biden Foundation’s As You Are awareness campaign released its first set of collected personal stories Tuesday morning
—in map format.
With more than 500 stories spread across the northern continent (with a few in Mexico), it’s clear most stories came from the coastal U.S. Small pink dots notate the location of a story’s author (optionally anonymous), likely determined by the zip code entrants are forced to submit.
The Midwest show some stories, mostly bunched together around cities like Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Notably, while the map lists names of cities after several zooms into it, it doesn’t show state names. It does, however, show the names of Native American reservations.
Along with the map comes a video interviewwith the parents of Rio, whose last name and age aren’t provided and who transitioned while her dad Steve Bennet was away on a rugby trip.
When she was exhibiting what he considered female-like behaviors, Bennet tells us he “tried to persuade her to dress like a boy, behave like a boy.” A former rugby player, he wanted to have a “rugby playing son." Rio’s mother Robin Bacsfalvi says that despite telling her the two supported her, “I think she didn’t necessarily trust that in her dad, and she waited until he was away to actually transition.”“It was time to change my attitude,” Bennet concludes. “We’re all just learning as we go."
Watch the full video below:
Despite excluding names, state borders are clear. We compiled all 11 Florida As You Are stories below, listed by the nearest municipality to the story’s geotag (the only exception is two entries we left undefined—considering privacy concerns for their underage-identifying authors). The entries themselves have not been edited at all.
Randall, 60, He/his
I came out to my family at the age of 32. I was living overseas and had my first same-sex lover who I wanted to share my life with. I could not see doing that without my family being part of it. There was no internet or email back then so I wrote them a letter explaining to them who I am and how happy I was. When I got home for my next visit all of my family expressed strong support for me and understanding. They welcomed my partner as a member of the family. My family is very religious and spiritual and each proved to me that their beliefs were as God meant "all inclusive."
Justin, 28, He, him, his
In 2015, at the age of 25, I decided to make the decision to come out to my mom. For years, I knew that I was different and that my difference was dangerous to those who did not understand it. My decision to come out was and still is met with a harsh reality that being who you are and living your authentic self is not always supported, understood, and loved. As a black gay man, I have to not only combat the homophobia within the black community, but the racism that exists amongst the gay community. All while trying to exist in a world dominated by what it means to be a man based on societal expectations. However, the rejection I have experienced from my family has strengthened me to continue to support and help others become the best versions of themselves. It’s the light that shines within me that has enabled others to find their own light and ignite the fire of their being.
Jennifer, 46, she/her
I am a parent to four amazing children ranging from 24 years old to 7 years old. My oldest daughter came out as gay in her Senior year of high school and we just celebrated her marriage to her wife this past January. My youngest child is a fabulous gender non-conforming boy who loves ballet and the RuPaul Drag Race show… At age 7 he is a powerful advocate for himself and other children just like him. We’ve traveled to Washington to march in protest along with various Pride parades to celebrate love.
The Hammocks (Miami-Dade)
My youngest child is six and has been gender nonconforming since being able to articulate at 18 months old. [My child] was born biologically male and initially indicated that he was "a boy who liked all girl things." This past year, [she] has socially transitioned and now prefers the pronouns she/her and will be starting first grade soon as her authentic self. As Miami is deeply religious and conservative, my husband and I have been loud and proud advocates in our community and our school district. We are active members of PFLAG and offer our support and resources to other LGBTQ parents in their journey. We believe that visibility is key to show others that there is absolutely nothing wrong with LGBTQ youth and that the elementary school system needs to be not only inclusive, they must be affirming as well.
Hours before the foundation released the map and video, former Vice President Joe Biden told a Montana crowd he’s the "most qualified person" to be president. As CNN reported: “‘I'll be as straight with you as I can. I think I'm the most qualified person in the country to be president,’ Biden said to applause at the University of Montana. ‘The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I've worked on my whole life.’” The As You Are map shows two entries. While sparse compared to nearby California and Washington, those two are more than Montana’s blank states show on the map.
Launched in August, the goal of the As You Are campaign is to showcase what a family’s acceptance means to LGBT youth directly through first-hand accounts. The foundation encouraged people to submit stories online. After asking about preferred pronouns and five words you feel describe you, the campaign has two main questions:
- Tell us about an experience you’ve had with family and community acceptance and/or rejection. How has this experience impacted your life?
- Why is family and community acceptance important to you?
Below are the rest of the Florida based stories.
Anonymous, 14, they/them
I haven’t officially come out to my parents as non-binary, but their opinions have told me enough to know that they would not accept me. The subject of non-binary genders came on a political talk show, and my dad expressed a "disliking" to them, for lack of a better word. He didn’t think that non-binary genders were real, following the "only two genders" belief, with my mom agreeing. This single interaction has led me to a constant need for independence, along with a damaged relationship with my parents. I have already mentally prepared myself for the comments like "that’s not a real thing" or "it’s not a phase," and even making plans of what I would do if I ever got kicked out for my identity (or worse: conversion therapy, which is legal in my state.)
Vanessa, 41, she/her
I’m a parent of a 9-year-old transgender son. I always considered myself an accepting, liberal person, even an ally to the LGBTQ community. But when my son was age 4 and began expressing that he felt like a boy, I did struggle. … I allowed him to express himself with his preferred clothing choices, and even a haircut, but I misstepped on allowing him to socially transition at a young age. Because I wanted an easy path for him. So, I mistakenly stifled him, dismissed him. And by 8 age, he was self-harming… A few months into therapy with a wonderful woman who specializes in gender identity, my son socially transitioned. And has never been more confident, healthy, and happy. Had I not have listened, had I continued to stifle him, not embraced his authentic identity, I am certain he would be a greater statistic, possibly even suicide. I cannot fathom.
TJ, 43, he/his
I will try to keep this short. I still carry the pain and trauma of coming out to my parents. I was 18 and was openly gay to all of my friends. I came out to my father during an argument … When I finally got around to saying "I’m gay" he gave me the most hateful look I can ever remember getting from him and said "do you think I don’t know that? Do you think I ever had any hope of seeing a grandchild with my name?" Then he gave me a choice: I could either "live the right way" or get out of his house. The way I saw it, there was no choice. I packed everything I could carry on me. When I told him I was leaving he made sure that I left my house key … I stayed at my best friend’s house (who was gay and whose parents were accepting when he came out to them) for two days before my mother convinced me to come back home. Needless to say things with my parents were consistently uncomfortable. I moved away to Florida two years later.
Immediately after moving I met the man who has now been my partner for 22 years. My parents came to visit me for the first time a little more than a year after I moved and met my partner. To say it was difficult and awkward would be an understatement. They saw our apartment and got a glimpse of our lifestyle. They both came to realize that what they envisioned as the "gay lifestyle" wasn’t true at all. They realized that we (gay people) could be people of ethics and integrity who worked hard and lived a healthy lifestyle just as much as any heterosexual people. My partner became as much a part of the family as any of my sisters’ husbands.
Denise, 59, She/Her
I’m a retired LEO and 18-year military veteran. I discovered who I really was after the Internet was launched and I learned the word transgender, in my late 30s. After what I call my "Decade of Denial" I realized I only had two options: Eat a bullet and end my misery or finally accept who and what I am. I transitioned and embraced the new and improved me, Denise, a WOMAN, at the age of 49/50. I have lost many friends, some family (my dad has pretty much disinherited me and refuses to acknowledge my existence). My two kids and now my grandkids have stood by me the entire time. It was hard for all involved, but we made it. Since I came out, in 2010, I have been to culinary school, radiology school and still cannot get a job that doesn’t involve asking if you want your order supersized. I’m currently "this close" to being one of the homeless statistics lovely. Another homeless vet. Today, I’ve created my own J.O.B. becoming an activist fighting for acceptance of all, embracing the diversity of our country, educating, advocating in my local community.
Anonymous, 15, he/him/they/them
My first taste of acceptance was from my friend group. I had only had my eyes opened to the LGBTQIA+ community when I had moved, and along the road I had met many different members of the community. When I realized I was non-binary, my friends and my boyfriend accepted me with open arms. To this day there are people who I know still see me as the gender I was assigned at birth, but I’ve never faced rejection in the face from those I care about. Family acceptance is so vital to people like me. To know that you can be yourself and be seen as what you really are with your family must be so incredible and freeing. Being closeted is disheartening to many people (including myself). And, since this community is about acceptance, exclusive speech can be damaging and hurtful. It’s the least we can all do, to make people feel welcome and accepted in this community.
Antonio, 21, He/his
I am extremely grateful to have been accepted by my family. Growing up, I did not have a father figure in my life. It was my mother doing it all alone and I can say she did a fantastic job. Coming out is not easy. Telling my friends was easy but the family part was a task that I was hesitant on doing. I had a strong feeling my mom would be accepting and happy with it but there was still that part of me that was unsure of how to do it, when to do it. She was the one who actually asked me if I was gay as we were shopping for an outfit for me to attend New York City Pride. I told her, "Yes. I wanted to tell you after the parade with all of my new rainbow gear." She started to laugh and assured me that this changed nothing whatsoever. … She will attend marches or events in my honor and support me to no end. Knowing that my one and only parental support system is that wonderful makes me so unbelievably happy. Between her confronting opposers or happily discussing my life with others, this display of acceptance is one that has made my life happy and less worrisome. The conversation of my coming out will be something I will never forget and her actions and love following it have positively impacted me.
Anonymous, 17, he/his
I came out as transgender at the end of my 8th grade year. When I started high school, I had socially transitioned… For six weeks, I used the men’s room at school without a problem, but then someone anonymously complained about it, and I was called out of class and into the Guidance Office and told that I had to use one of the few gender-neutral restrooms on campus. That was confusing and humiliating for me. … [My mom and I] filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, and they conducted an investigation over months, but just as that was wrapping up, the current administration was elected and we couldn’t reach our OCR investigator anymore. We still don’t know the status of that complaint.
Finally, losing hope, we contacted Lambda Legal, which helped us file a federal lawsuit against the school district. We filed in June 2017 and went to trial December 2017. It was the first transgender student bathroom case to go to trial, and it was exhausting. I was a junior in high school at that time, and on top of homework, clubs, volunteering and sports, I had to also make time for meetings and calls with lawyers, deposition and trial prep, and the trial itself, during which I took the stand to speak in defense of trans-inclusive bathroom policies.
The judge ruled on July 26, 2018, that the district policy was unconstitutional under both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause, which was wonderful. I felt so validated and so valued at last, and as a senior, I now have the right to use the men’s room at school. But the process of having to sue the district definitely changed me. … I’m a leader of my school’s GSA and have been working to build the club into the strongest it can be. I don’t back down from a challenge as easily as I used to, and I am a lot more confident in standing up for what’s right.