Melissa Carter: We are the facts that will inspire the next generation

During a vacation to Florida, Katie and I came across a tabletop sailboat that had a quote on one of the sails:

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” — Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.”

Having never heard of that woman or the inspiring quote, we bought the item and researched the Navy officer. Turns out that Rear Admiral Hopper was a computer scientist, a field normally associated with men, and she is credited for conceptualizing the very first programming language.

A supercomputer and a Navy Destroyer were both named after her, and that tiny boat we bought is now on display in Katie’s office so others can learn who Hopper was.

I recently came across an article from OMG Facts regarding the spiritual aspect of homosexuality. It focused on the Native American community and their gay Shaman.

According to OMG Fact’s website, to be gay for them meant to be “from the outside world,” to be “spiritually gifted,” and gay men were highly respected within the community.

Apparently it was considered a huge honor to have a gay lover, which raised one’s honor in the tribe.

Neither of these stories was ever taught in my schools. If it had been, how many girls would have gone into computer science or the military? How many young boys would have felt special for being gay?

The worst feeling in the world is being alone. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. When I was 14 and began realizing I was not like the other girls, the isolation was worse than the discovery I was gay.

It’s as if your legitimacy is determined by the size of the group you are joining. Since I thought I was the only gay person in Columbia, Tenn., and quite possibly the world, the loneliness choked me.

As a woman, I have spent my entire life pushing through a gauntlet of frustrating messages supported by both men and women. Always be pretty. You’re only pretty if you are skinny. Don’t be too pushy.

Understand you should make less money than a man at work, and if you are ambitious you will be forced to sacrifice your femininity.  Have children and learn to lose your identity. If you join the military you can’t be a good mother. Stroke a man’s ego and he will take care of you.

I have had to learn to simply be happy with the gay woman standing in front of me right now in the mirror, despite the lack of reference materials that would have made that journey a lot easier.

Now you and I have the responsibility to offer support to others, and it should come in the form of how we live our lives. If Grace Hopper had been too afraid to work on computers or join the military, or the story of the Native American gay Shaman was instead a story of the gay slave, our opinion of ourselves would be altered.

Never forget that others who are discovering their sexual identities or independence are looking to us now, and we have the power to influence how they see themselves. We are the reference materials they need.

Next time you wrestle with coming out, or are nervous about taking a chance on that non-traditional career you daydream about, picture young kids standing in the corner watching you.

Whatever decision you make will change the course of their lives.


Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huffington Post. She broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in Atlanta and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter