I grew up an only child in small-town Ohio. One Saturday when I was 8 or 9, my family went on a shopping trip to Dayton. When we pulled into a strip mall parking lot, I saw a huge Crayola semi-truck with a sign out front inviting children in. We went to investigate. It was a museum-on-wheels, a coloring/activity/learning experience, and I was ALL IN. My parents left me to explore the crayon trailer and went about their shopping. They came back to get me in what felt like 10 minutes – I was not ready to leave. I cannot remember (30+ years later) what activity I was doing that was so fascinating, but I do remember the impact it had on my life. It gave me access to materials and knowledge I did not have at home, as well as the FREEDOM to be a quirky art kid who would rather color for an hour than shop for clothes.

This June 11th, Longue Vue hosts its Eighth Annual Family Equality Day. As this year’s chair, I am excited to offer kids a place to be free and accepted in a world that is increasingly trying to put them in boxes they might not fit into. Family Equality Day is open to everyone, for free, and we want to provide a three-hour bundle of love for queer kids, trans kids, and kids in families that may look a little different from others.

I CAN NOT imagine the impact this kind of event might have had on me as a youth. I spent a confusing time growing up thinking that I would never have my own family. Being gay never even seemed to be an option. I didn’t know of any LGBTQ people until at least high school, when there were a very small number of gay characters on TV. I eventually found my own path to realizing I was a lesbian, moving to New Orleans, and finding my way to work in a museum with the same values and ethics that I have.

Now at 44, I find myself happily married to a woman, and while things are easier in a lot of ways than they were 30 years ago, in some ways they are more difficult. I just learned that a local Pastor intends to show up to Family Equality Day to protest. I can assure them that I am more comfortable in my own skin now than I ever have been, so I do not need to be shown how to be.

I hope that you are on the right side of history and will join me in celebrating Family Equality Day. Together we can prove to any bigots that we are greater in number and we will not go back in the closets we worked so hard to get out of. While Edith and Edgar Stern were a straight couple, we do know that their tolerance for people different from themselves was high, celebrated, and to be applauded.

Love > Hate. Love > Fear.

Jen Sharp

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