If the 16-year-old Sam Darling could look at her life now — as a 30-year-old wife, married to her best friend Alyssa, and a proud mother with one daughter and a son on the way — never in a million years would she have believed it was possible.
Though her loving mother and father celebrated people of all kinds, Darling was a closeted teen. After years of struggling with fears and doubts about living as her true self, she finally told her parents.
“When I came out, I had a hard time fully accepting myself,” Darling wrote. “But through their unwavering support and love, I was able to truly see that I’m perfect the way I am and for who I am. I owe a lot of what I’ve done and accomplished to them, and for that I’m so very grateful.”
Now, as an out and proud adult, Darling shares views into her small family’s life with her social media followers. A quick glance at her Instagram reveals the cute sort of family photos that one might expect: her and Alyssa spending time in the park with their young daughter Avery, and Alyssa gently kissing Sam while touching her pregnant belly.
But a closer look reveals authentic and intimate insight into parts of Sam’s life that others often try to hide: the burnout she sometimes feels parenting a young child during the unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic; her decision to get on medication to treat her depression and anxiety; the body positivity she has tried to embrace as pregnancy transformed her figure.
“Pride to me isn’t about all the festivities and celebrations (even though those are great!),” Darling says. “It’s about loving myself and who I am on the inside. I’ve learned that in order to celebrate that special part of yourself, you must love and accept that part of who you are first.”
Part of that self-love also means embracing the community challenges closest to one’s heart. For Darling that includes speaking out for the Black lives lost to racial injustice, celebrating the trailblazing women who have given her strength on International Women’s Day, and honoring the LGBTQ people who have overcome personal and societal hurdles on National Coming Out Day.
Darling knows that people usually only put “the good stuff” on social media. But by challenging herself to show the vulnerable parts of her life in an authentic way, she hopes to provide a three-dimensional look into her life as a lesbian woman, and to encourage others to live courageous, open-hearted, and honest lives as well.
“It’s so important for those who are younger to be able to see great representation from the LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “Now more than ever… it seems there are new bills and laws that are trying to be passed that would harm and negatively impact the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also so important to continue to stand up to the hate and negativity by continuing to show how strong and supportive and great this community really is.”
“Pride means something different to everyone. And for me, it means being comfortable and in love with who you are as you are. I’m proud of who I am and how I live in this family we’ve made together,” she adds. “As we celebrate Pride Month, let’s remember that we each have our own stories to share and our own reasons for being proud.”
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