Parks and Recreation star Natalie Morales may never be able to shake the fact that she played Tom Haverford's girlfriend on a cult-favorite TV show, but she's 100% okay with that. She said as much in a powerful essay written for Amy Poehler's website, AmysSmartGirls. Yet, that's not why she decided to publish the lengthy exploration into her own personal history. Notoriously private, Morales used the opportunity to come out, explaining she's not attracted to any specific gender and hopes her story helps others who feel they don't belong.
"We are all living on this earth during a remarkable period in history. I mean, if we thought the Industrial Revolution changed things in a big way, look at what having widespread use of the Internet for roughly two decades has done," she said. "So much has changed in such a short time. The world, for better or for worse (I think it’s for better), has become so much more connected."
Then Morales rewound through her own past, sharing the story of the very first time she had feelings for another woman, whom she calls Katy. She noted that the feeling was so new she didn't even consider the fact she could have feelings for a woman, instead, she just focused on how happy she was when the two were together.
"I told her I liked her. And she said, 'I like you too.' And I said, 'No, I mean, I like you. And I don’t know what to do about it, but I just thought I should tell you,'" Morales wrote. "Katy had never flirted with me. Katy had never, ever crossed the line of friendship, and by her look at that moment, I realized that she just didn't think I was into girls. Hell, I didn't think I was into girls. I'd genuinely pined over only boys up until that point, but Katy made me feel like my entire body was smiling."
Morales went on to explain how different things were back when she was in school. There were no Pride posters and no LGBTQ clubs. Instead, she had to hide her relationship with Katy, who was openly bisexual. Eventually, the two broke up (in dramatic fashion) and Morales says that she had to retreat again, feeling like there was something genuinely wrong with her.
"I was told gay men are fine because they're funny and have good taste, but lesbian women are wastes of space," she wrote. "I was told the idea of two women kissing was disgusting."
The NBC alum notes that her coming out process was slow and didn't happen until she was in L.A., pursuing acting, and in her twenties. Through self-exploration and discovery, Morales says she now considers herself to be queer, a scary realization after everything she'd gone through growing up.
Of course, the actress published the essay to help others who are discovering their sexuality, though she'll be the first to say that she's still holding privacy close to her chest. She acknowledges the challenges facing LGBTQ people all around the world, but she's hopeful. Morales is also hoping that her story — and the fact that she's out and visible to everyone — will encourage others to face their own fears and accept themselves for who they are.
"The reason I decided to share this with you and with the world is because even though me telling you I'm queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me," she says. "I think it's important that I tell you that this familiar face you see on your TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, so that if you didn't know someone who was queer before, you do now. I also think it’s important that if there are any scared kids out there, like I was, I can tell you that whole 'It Gets Better' campaign is true."
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