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3 min Read
Published May 19, 2014

This Is Why Equality Matters, Right Here In This Childhood Story

As a child in small-town North Carolina, society taught me that LGBT people are unnatural, that we need appropriate treatment to overcome our abnormality and become heterosexual. By age five, I knew I was attracted sexually to other boys, and the thought horrified me. As I went through grade school and high school, local culture taught me to hate LGBT people. Since I knew I was gay, my community taught me to hate and fear myself.

As if things weren’t already bad enough, one of my peers discovered that I was gay. Students at lunch even told me “no queers are allowed at this table.” This further fueled a fear and hatred of myself that I carried with me through college and much of my young adult life.

When I was about to turn 30, I figured it was time to address the issue of my homosexuality and very nervously went to my first PFLAG meeting for support. This was the first of many steps I took to transform my thinking from homophobia to tolerance, to acceptance, and ultimately to embracing my homosexuality. I now realize that being gay has made me a stronger person and I wouldn’t ever want to change this aspect of myself. This was a 180 degree change from how I felt just ten years ago.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I want to start giving back to the community that has given me so much support as I went through the process of coming out.

I did not want anybody to go through the same struggles I experienced growing up. Since there are more volunteer opportunities than there is time, I decided to only pick volunteer activities that I am passionate about. One of the first events I participated in was the Human Rights Campaign’s phone banking efforts against Amendment One.

RELATED: Voices For Marriage Equality In North Carolina: Combating Injustice With Art.

A few months later, I began regularly volunteering at the front desk of the LGBT Center of Raleigh. Then I became a board member of PFLAG Triangle and a board member of Rainbow Community Cares. I have also phone banked for marriage equality through Marriage Equality USA.

This Is Why Equality Matters, Right Here In This Childhood Story - 2

A few months ago, I talked to a friend and found out that the Rock N’ Roll Marathon was coming to Raleigh. It sounded fun, and I started training so I could complete the marathon. I did not anticipate completing another one for a long time. However, a few weeks ago, I received an email from HRC and noticed that they are recruiting people to run in the Marine Corps Marathon.

RELATED: My Selfish Wedding: Using My Marriage Rights To Benefit Equality.

After much thought, I realized that I felt strongly about representing human rights in this upcoming marathon, as I still had the endurance training from the previous one and I would be raising money for a great cause.

I think it is a great idea to have a group of LGBT people (and their allies) participate, symbolically showing how far we have come since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell got repealed. It is nice knowing the LGBT community can be more open about their lives in the Armed Forces, and HRC undoubtedly played a major role in allowing this to happen.

HRC’s presence is particularly important here in North Carolina after the battle against Amendment One.

While the Amendment ultimately passed, it did cause the issue of LGBT rights to garner national attention and increase momentum for our rights. Although momentum is going towards marriage equality, HRC still needs our financial support to be able to continue its mission of achieving full marriage equality throughout the US. I can’t think of a better place for HRC to be known than at our own nation’s capital during this Marine Corps Marathon.

The Marine Corps Marathon will be taking place on October 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Don hopes to raise at least $1,500. You can support Don by visiting his donation page and making a gift to HRC.

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  • Don Laonipon


  • Don is a tireless equal rights champion and board member of both PFLAG Triangle and Rainbow Community Cares. He regularly volunteers at the front desk of the LGBT Center of Raleigh and has also phone banked for marriage equality through Marriage Equality USA. All my articles.

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