As cities celebrate pride month across the country, the City of Palm Springs continues to be an LGBTQ friendly community year round, but a new resident of the desert said the acceptance he has experienced in the desert is not the case in other places.
Michael Hill was a teacher who loved his community in Kansas, but he was forced out of his hometown simply for coming out as gay.
Hill said, “On national coming out day, I knew that I had students that were struggling, I grew up in that community and if I just had one person, one adult say, hey I get you.”
He came out to the world on National Coming-out Day through a Facebook post, but he had previously come out to his two kids and wife a few months before posting on social media.
Hill said, “I felt I was expected by society to get married to have kids but that was never who I was so I made a public statement about being gay.”
His sons accepted him immediately; he said the rest of the family is still a work in progress. But the worse respond came from his community in Kansas; he became the target of hate.
“Disturbed, upset about the first letter,” Hill said. “The second letter that came was more threatening, I started to get scared because it seemed like this person or persons had intent to cause harm.”
One letter read, “Homosexuals should not be teaching our kids,” but that was not all he said one of his tires got slashed, and students began circulating photos of him having dinner with a friend.
He said the threats and lack of action from authorities led him to seek a new and open life in Palm Springs where he experienced his first pride.
“It was very liberating the idea of coming out to Palm Springs having just come out,” Hill said. “I was very proud of who I am and who I was becoming and being able to accept myself for me.”
His journey from Kansas to Palm Springs got local and national attention, but as he reflects on his experience, he cannot help to think about the students in towns across America who identify as LGBTQ.
Hill, “I think people need to be aware that it still happens that we have long ways to go still to make sure everybody is treated fairly and treated equally.”
He said he looks forward to teaching art to student in Palm Springs, but most of all he is excited to finally be himself without having to think twice.