If you're like me, you were #TeamBarb all the way while watching Stranger Things' first season. There was something so endearing about her loyalty, her fashion sense, and her good-hearted nature, especially as the world around her was filled with mean-spirited high school students and a people-killing Demogorgon. But believe it or not, Shannon Purser, the woman who plays our beloved, late Barb, is even greater IRL.
Purser has used her platform to start powerful conversations about important subjects like rape culture, OCD, the benefits of therapy, and sexuality. To honor Coming Out Day, Purser, who revealed that she is bisexual in April, shared an series of inspirational messages on Twitter with people in the LGBTQ community who may find it difficult to embrace their true selves while also being people of faith.
"Coming out to myself was one of the hardest parts of my journey. Tears were shed, desperate prayers to be changed were prayed," she tweeted. "It's been a struggle to accept myself and I couldn't have done it with the help of so many others who have paved the way for me. So, if you're religious and wondering if God could really love you as you are, if you can be LGBTQ and faithful — the answer is yes. Wherever you are in the journey, you are worthy of respect and love."
By sharing her personal experience, Purser reminded so many people that true love isn't something people deserve despite of who they are, but rather because of who they are. Her supportive tweets are especially important now, as religious conservatives continue to draft and push legislation that harms LGBTQ folks.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would be encouraging agencies to do whatever they could to accommodate "religious observance," a call to action that could undoubtedly undercut protections for LGBTQ employees. Earlier this year, Trump announced his decision to no longer allow trans recruits into the military.
These types of directives send a message that LGBTQ people are somehow less valuable to the church, the government, and society. It's up to us as community members and allies to demand equality and a culture of acceptance.