Thank You, President Obama

1/20/2017

I was 15 years-old when I started giving a damn about politics.

After years of living under the less-than-favorable Bush Administration, my mother and I were ready for a change. We were anxious. We payed attention. We chose our candidate.

I remember the first time my mom told me about then-Senator Obama. “I like this guy,” she said. “No, I love this guy.” He was educated and kind and he had the perfect family. He had a good sense of humor and – let’s face it – he wasn’t terrible to look at. While his intellect, experience, and humor were all well and good and very much mattered to me as a young citizen, there was one thing about the young Senator that seemed to matter to me the most; LGBT rights.

At 15 I remained unaware of my bisexuality. I knew that I felt attraction to those of a different gender than myself, but any attractions I felt to those of my own gender were labeled as “girl crushes.” You know, that thing you feel when you see a woman who has qualities you admire and wish to emulate yourself. Though I remained unaware of my queerness, LGBT rights were the political topic for which I most advocated. It was a human rights issue, and therefore one that deeply moved me.

Yes, Obama advocating for same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws was a big deal. We needed to have a powerful ally. We needed to have the leader of the country fighting for what was unequivocally right. Needless to say, on Election Night in 2008, I was thrilled. I remember my mother and I screaming and shouting, just completely ecstatic. I remember how the squeals turned into happy tears once the president-elect took the stage to deliver his acceptance speech. Obama became the first president to acknowledge the LGBT community in his inaugural address. It was the start of a new era.

Over the next few years, I came to recognize and understand my bisexuality. I realized that the community for which I had always fought so hard, the community with whom I’d always felt a kinship was, in fact, my home. Because I grew up in a very accepting and open household with parents who believe equality is common sense, I was not afraid to come out to them, or even to my friends. What I was afraid of was everyone else. New people. Strangers.

Then I remembered something very important: the President himself was on my side. If anyone I met wanted to be unaccepting about my sexual orientation, I had the most powerful person in the country on my side.

The President sets the tone for the nation. Of course he cannot create or absolve laws on his own – checks and balances and all that – but his opinions help to form, change, or reinforce others’. As a young woman, having a President that I knew would accept me regardless of my sexuality was like having the best kind of back-up behind me. I knew that Obama himself wouldn’t judge or condemn me, but I also knew that those who had voted for him, knowing how he felt about LGBT rights, likely wouldn’t as well. The world felt just a bit safer during a time when I needed it to feel that way.

I officially came out as bisexual in 2011 at the age of 18. At 19, another election year came around and I had the opportunity to vote to reelect President Obama, the man who’d made me feel supported and reassured for several years. The vote was a no-brainer.

I’d never really taken the time to consider how much living under an Obama Administration during those important years impacted me, my identity, and my attitudes. Now, eight years after that night my mother and I spent jumping up and down and crying happy tears, I’m able to see it.

Having President Obama in office, someone who vehemently and passionately believes in equality and fairness, told me that we were moving forward. It confirmed what I’d always believed – that the side of equal rights is the right side. It told me that anyone who treated me poorly in any way because of my queerness was, simply put, wrong. Just, wrong. And that was invaluable.

I will be forever grateful to have lived these formative years, these years in which I learned who I was, in the time of President Obama. I was so fortunate to be able to come out during a time in which the leader of my government was fighting for my rights because he didn’t understand why I didn’t already have those rights in the first place.

So now, at 23, I want to take this final moment to thank President Obama. Thanks for having my back. Thank you for advocating for me. Thank you for acknowledging the existence and validity of bisexuality by being the first President to use the word “bisexual” in a State of the Union address. Thank you for appointing two Supreme Court justices who helped to pass marriage equality. Thank you for making me feel safe.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Mckenna Ferguson

McKenna Ferguson is a bi activist, writer, and Corgi enthusiast living in Los Angeles. Originally hailing from suburban Colorado, McKenna graduated from Colorado State University with a major in English and a minor in Media Studies. Her work focuses on such things as LGBT life, entertainment and pop culture, and intersectional feminism. You can follow her on Twitter @McKennaMagazine for ramblings on her daily life and whatever show she’s currently bingeing on Netflix.