Facing change, taking pride
by Ingrid Gronstal on Monday, June 21, 2021
This June is a special Pride month for me. It is the first time I have been fully out during Pride, and I am reveling in no longer feeling shame about the fact that I am queer. Fear of the unknown is the biggest obstacle to coming out: not knowing how people will react, not knowing how the truth will affect relationships, and uncertainty about what will be lost in the process. Living authentically doesn’t come without sacrifice, and for me, that was letting go of a 13 year marriage and a wonderful man who was my best friend. Change can be brutal.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Pride in general – what it means to live courageously and authentically and speak the truth about things that matter. What it means to actually embrace change, even after years of relative stability, predictability, and comfort. The Covid-19 pandemic proved that the status quo can fall out from under us at any time. So, what does this all mean in the context of pushing daily for radical change for the environment?
The coming out process is usually framed as a story of pain and sorrow. While that is certainly part of the experience, there is also so much joy and possibility. To me, queerness means letting go of entrenched expectations and paradigms.
“Functioning as a thing and an action, rather than just a descriptor, [queer] becomes an invitation to a dynamic realm of possibility, beyond the various binaries that imprison our minds, beyond that which is knowable.” - Lauren Duca
Being queer is simultaneously breaking down arbitrary and capricious systems, creating a new understanding of what is possible, and then having the courage to step into a new world.
As I reflect on my work as Water Program Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, these same themes apply to the changes we advocate for around land use, agricultural practices, and our perception of the value of our natural resources. We are often told that change is too difficult, attitudes are too static, that this is just how things are. But is anyone actually happy with the way things are? Is anyone satisfied? Or, can we imagine a cleaner, healthier, more diverse, more equitable reality that creates abundance for us now and preserves opportunities for the generations that follow?
I sacrificed a lot to come out, but the cost was worth it. Where I was afraid I would find anger and rejection, I instead found understanding and support. When I didn’t know what my life would look like without my familiar structure and identity, I eventually found my way forward into a new life that was previously unknowable. There are a lot of uncertainties that prevent folks from making change, but I challenge you to view these unknowns from a place of opportunity and abundance rather than giving in to the paralysis of fear.
Change is difficult, but not impossible. We can do hard things. I am proud of who I have become and proud of the work I did to get here. I am proud to work with partners like Iowa IPL as we move toward a vision of Iowa that may be currently unknowable, but altogether possible. I am proud to stand in solidarity with marginalized communities fighting for change, because the structures and interests that harm people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, and the environment are by and large the same.
We must have the courage to live and speak our truths, however unpopular or outside the norm they may be. Transformation is excruciating, but it is also liberating, and the outcome may be better than you ever could have imagined. Creating a life and a future that honors our core values and beliefs is the only path to Pride.
This post originally appeared on the Iowa Interfaith Power & Light blog.