Natalie Morales, a 32-year-old actress best known for playing Tom Haverford’s girlfriend on Parks & Recreation, revels in her privacy, and to great effect — most of us wouldn’t look twice if we saw her walking down the street. That’s one reason her deeply personal, public essay that she penned for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls website means so much.
“I am a very private person,” she begins, “I lie to Lyft drivers when they ask what I do, I keep my head down when walking through places like The Grove, and I never, ever talk about my love life in interviews.” She goes on to say that being famous “sounds horrible,” and that the only reason she is writing this, the only reason she is willing to “blow all that up,” is to share her queer identity with the world.
Morales talks about growing up going to a Catholic high school, and dating a girl in secret.
“Katy and I had to hide,” she remembers. “We shared a notebook we’d write notes to each other in and exchange it by putting it in our lockers during the day to communicate back and forth. Her name in that notebook was ‘Jorgie’ in case my mom or anyone found it.”
Eventually her secret came out in a public way, and she felt “ashamed.”
“I knew that the church said it was wrong and that God said it was wrong (even though I couldn’t exactly figure out why, if it wasn’t hurting anyone).”
With time, she was able to grow up and to come to terms with her sexuality, to be proud of who she is.
“I am not attracted specifically to any type of gender. I’m attracted to people. Each person is their own incredible, massive universe. That is what I am attracted to; that is what I want to know, want to love, want to defend, want to take care of…I don’t like labeling myself, or anyone else, but if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer. What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight. That’s all. It’s not scary, even though that word used to be really, really scary to me.”
The reason for her opening up is heartbreaking, but as so many know, true: “Things are still pretty bad out there for people like me.” She references gay concentration camps in Chechnya, the people killed in Orlando. “Our safe spaces are not safe.”
She ends her letter on an uplifting, encouraging note to her LGBTQ+ fans, telling them to be themselves and to stay strong: “You are exactly what you are supposed to be, because nothing is supposed to be anything except for what it is, even if not everyone understands that. You are an essential part of the world just as you were created, and I want to see you. The real you.”
Her letter, or debut into the public world, as it were, has been read — and liked — thousands of times, and the reactions have been emotional and grateful, as fans thank her for giving them strength and for speaking out about an issue so close to their hearts.
Read the entire stunning letter here.