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Congressman and Mrs. Gephardt & their daughter Chrissy

Congressman Richard Gephardt has been a cherished national leader for years. Serving in Congress as Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and Majority Leader of the House, he championed human rights and economic opportunity for all Americans. He was also the first leader to quickly call for a Department of Homeland Defense to protect America from terrorist attacks.

I came out to my family in April 0f 2001 after struggling with my feelings for over a year. I finally got up the courage after months of agonizing over whether my family would disown me. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. After all, I was married and to a man that my parents loved and admired. Not only that, but my dad was a prominent political figure as Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. He had served in Congress for almost 28 years. We were always the “perfect” family and I always had to live up to a certain image. Constituents look at the candidates’ family as a role model family—after all, isn’t that what we expect of our public servants? A gay daughter certainly didn’t fit into that rosy picture of the perfect family.

I thought I would ruin my dad’s career if people found out that he has a gay daughter. I thought my parents would tell people that one of their children had moved to a far-away island or that I had died. I knew I couldn’t come out. The risks were too great. Being married to my husband, I had everything in the world going for me, except my personal happiness. I thought for a long time that it might be easier to live the life that others wanted for me, and not the one I wanted for myself.

My parents accepted me and assured me that they would love me no matter what. They were by my side then, and they have been there ever since. They have accepted my partner too, and now she is a part of our family. I have never felt more liberated in my life since coming out to my family and friends. My journey has been one of hope and promise. People tell me all the time that I am like a different person since I have come out. I am more confident, more sure of myself, and more optimistic about the future. People tell me that I have given them the courage to come out to their parents and friends. I feel that I have been an inspiration to others who are struggling with the same issues.

In June of 2003, I became an activist when I joined my dad’s campaign for President. This has provided me with the opportunity to spread the message of equality and fairness for all Americans. I want to help others who are struggling too. I want them to know that your coming out can have a positive impact on those around you. And I want people to see that we are Americans too, with regular lives—people who work with you, the folks who live next door to you or who ride the bus with you. We have children, we go on vacations, we shop in the same grocery stores, we go to the same doctor, and that we too have a voice and stake in this country!

- Chrissy Gephardt

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