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Simi Singh Juneja

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Proud About Pride at the White House

Posted: 06/19/2012 10:31 am

My sister emailed me her invitation to the White House to celebrate LGBT Pride. I had to take a pause. Never in my or my children's lifetime would I ever have imagined that a sitting president would stand up and welcome her -- that he would see her.

I have issues with being seen...

As the third daughter of Punjabi Indian immigrants who landed in Statesboro, Georgia -- a one-year-old with wavy green lines across my baby-faced, curly-haired green card photo -- I figured as I grew, the best had already happened because we reached the land of opportunity. In a family of five daughters, it was easy to get lost in the sheer volume of siblings, and the intensity of my parents establishing a new life.

When I learned that my younger sister was gay, I was terrified, confused, angry and worried. As the years progressed and I realized that this was not a passing phase, and more of a growing into who she was meant to be, part of her identity, I felt protective. As her big sister, I worried for her future and feared for her career. I know her heart and her strength. Living in the closet was never an option for her. It felt to me like a death sentence for her dreams. How was such a brilliant and talented woman going to navigate a country and a world that might not give her the dignity, respect and inclusion she deserved? She has never let anything stop her from living her life with integrity.

When she and her Southern Belle sweetheart decided to commit the rest of their lives to each other with a three-day traditional Indian wedding, my parents, sisters and I decided to "come out" to our communities and the extended family in India. My mom called her 60-something younger sister in Gurdaspur and wrote a letter to her 80-plus older brother in New Delhi explaining that love was love and that her daughter was marrying a girl. We held our breath and waited for the worst. Instead, my mom's sister showed up bearing gifts welcoming the newest Arkansan members of our family. My aunt danced the night away and joyously took first prize at a very competitive game of musical chairs after the rehearsal dinner.

In my lifetime, my sister has been recognized. She is seen. President Obama celebrated Pride at the White House and she was there. Words can't express my pride in our president and our country's courage. Nobody should be invisible to their own government.

And I can't stop the tears...

A long time ago, on a sweltering southern evening, we sisters played on our smooth concrete driveway. We weren't busy judging whom we would marry; we were laughing and counting nickels for the ice cream man. The world was spinning and we were home. As my sister and her spouse -- and many other LGBT couples were welcomed to the White House, the world was still spinning and they finally got to go home.


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