Paul and Natalie Cordova first met at a youth group function in South Florida almost 25 years ago. They married in Northern Virginia and decided to return to the Sunshine State in 2005. Paul works in IT and Natalie is an interior designer by trade. Their only daughter Johanna is in the 2nd grade at San Jose Episcopal Day School. They are avid music lovers and never get bored of entertaining guests for family game night.
“Nobody is better than anyone else because of the way they look, where they’re from, how much money they have or what their religious beliefs are. All people are deserving of our respect unless their actions show us otherwise. You should treat people how you wish to be treated.”
When they became parents, Paul and Natalie used these lessons as a foundation for raising their daughter. But they took it a small step further and included one additional lesson. “Homosexuality exists.” They talked with her in a very matter-of-fact manner about homosexuality and what it means to be gay. Johanna understands that if two people truly love each other, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks. And she understands that there are people spending millions of dollars each year to try to prevent them from gaining their equality.
They were part of the most recent production of the Jacksonville Coming Out Monologues. Natalie served as the Narrator, while Paul and Johanna provided a piece which Johanna wrote on her own over the course of 4 months. Below is the script of their performance that prompted our request to feature their family in our Ally Campaign:
My name is Paul and I am an ally. It would be naïve and disrespectful to pretend I am able to fully understand the anxiety and struggle members of the LGBT community face on a daily basis. I have never had to give pause to consider my audience when answering simple questions about the person I love. I have never had to pretend I was someone different than who I am to society, my family or my friends. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still have a voice in the fight. That doesn’t mean I can’t try to make a difference.
As parents, my wife and I made a conscious effort to teach our daughter from an early age that even though a lot of fairy tales involve a princess finding a prince, sometimes she finds another princess to live happily ever after with instead. We wanted to teach her about homosexuality in a matter of fact way before she gets older and learns about such things through a taboo or stereotypical filter. We reject the idea that kids are too young to understand what it means to gay. This is our seven year old daughter and what she is about to read are her words.
She asked a lot of questions and ran a Google search on gay facts to put this piece together, but the content and the perspective are hers alone.
Hi! My name is Johanna and these are some things I know about gay people: Being gay means that a boy loves a boy and a girl loves a girl. Nothing is wrong with that to me, nothing. But some people do not think that love is love. I believe that love is love and that’s ok. The number of homosexuals in the U.S is estimated to be about 8.8 million people…that’s a LOT of people!
Some people think that straight marriage is the only marriage. But its not. So, all you have to do is believe that love is love. 11 of the 50 U.S. states legally recognize same-sex marriage. Florida is not one of them.…yet. Being gay is not contagious. Some people are just born that way. It’s not a choice. Some people are just meant to be gay. I have gay friends and they are very funny and nice. Being gay should be right in the USA.
I don’t like it when straight people say mean things to gay people. There is nothing offensive about love. In some Native American cultures, having a same-sex attraction was called being Two-Spirited. The tribe honored such people as having special gifts and being especially blessed… It is not the same now. Maurice Sendak who wrote the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” is gay. So was Alexander the Great who conquered the known world by the age of 31. This proves gay people can be amazing people.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice report, homosexuals are probably the most frequent victims of hate crimes…that makes me mad. When I see kids get bullied at school, it makes me sad. Once at school, my friend, Josie was over by the monkey bars and was saying mean things to people. I tried to make it stop, but I couldn’t do it by myself. When grown-ups bully other grown-ups, it makes me upset. Grown-ups shouldn’t do that because they are teaching their kids bad things. They should know better.
If you’re going to be so mean, then leave me and my gay friends alone. They can’t make babies like you guys can, but that doesn’t mean they can’t love each other. Gay people are really nice. I’ve met a few people that are gay, and they are just like everyone else, really. Think about it, have you ever heard the rule love is love? Check the dictionary!
I would change the laws if I could. I would make sure everybody had what they wanted for their loved ones. 26% of gay and lesbian youth are forced to leave home because of conflicts with their families over their sexual identities. That means that one in four families only love their children if they are straight. (In response to Stephen Peano’s parents**) I would say. You must just be big fat scaredy cat babies for saying, “Oh hey just because you’re gay were kicking you out of the house forever.” If I was ever gay and my parents did that to me I would be so mad I wouldn’t ever bring my dad donuts or Oreos ever again.
If I were a grownup and my 15-16 yr. old kid came home and told me, “I’m Gay”, I would still care for them and love them just the way they are. If they are gay or lesbian or had a purple eye, I would still love them. Kid’s jobs are to be kids.
Gay people can be bullied a lot. If I try hard enough maybe I can stop straights only getting married because gays should marry also. I would never treat gay people any different or any less. That’s the way it should be forever. A lot of times gay people don’t realize that they’re different until they’re teenagers and their friends and families can be really mean to them because of it and it makes me sad.
I try to support gay people as good as I can. If one of my friends told me they were gay, I would say I still love you as much as I have from the very beginning and would never treat them any differently. Gay people should not be treated any different or any less. They should have equal rights. An estimated one million lesbians and gays are military veterans… That is a lot of gay people who fought for our country.
People shouldn’t try to change gay people because they are happy being the way they are. I know kids who have gay parents and they are no different from any other kids. About 1 million children in the U.S are being raised by same-sex couples. It is a dumb thing to hate somebody just because they are gay.
I go to a Christian school and know some people say the Bible is against gays, but Jesus would say that’s just the way it is. He wouldn’t treat them any different. He would care for them and love them just the same. And we should do the exact same thing.
**Johanna’s reference is to Stephen Peano, another performer who shared his personal coming out story in the production which had a focus on family conflict.
In a follow-up, written statement from the Cordovas, they summarize their desire to join the We Are Straight Allies Cause as this:
“It’s not enough to have the Supreme Court strike down DOMA and declare gay marriage to be legal. We still live in a city and a state that says there is a subset of our society that is “less than” and does not provide them protection from discrimination or the equal rights they deserve. If the laws are ever going to change, more straight families need to stand in support of LGBT rights. We are allies because we want to live in a world where the core values we raised our daughter on aren’t just flowing words without meaning. We want to believe that we live in the land of the free where all people are created equal. That those too aren’t just flowing words without meaning. For this reason we gladly lend our voices to the growing chorus of opposition in this fight.”