A Message From Senator Sarauw on Leadership as a Lesbian


A heartfelt opinion piece penned by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, the first openly lesbian woman in the U.S. Virgin Islands to be elected to public office. Senator Sarauw is now in her second term and has made national news on several occasions.

As a young, Black and lesbian professional, the greatest levels of bigotry and discrimination I have received didn’t come from whites because I was Black. It came from my own because of my orientation. My journey has not been and is still not easy. I just don’t complain and look for self-pity. I was once the stone the builders rejected. It didn’t matter how smart, talented and educated I was. None of that mattered. My own only saw gay and that I was an abomination.

Every election year it gets extra crazy, as if who I am is some new discovery. The gay and lesbian comments, the memes — because I don’t wear skirts and makeup, the conclusion is that I think I’m a man and the list goes on.


Somehow, we come up with the crazy and totally ignorant misconception that because one is gay or lesbian, they will like little girls and boys. (It’s amazing how we CARELESSLY associate sexual orientation with being a pedophile — they are starkly different).

As an elected leader, I don’t get to pick and choose who I serve. I must fight for a better quality of life for the Christian, Rasta, Jew, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, bigot, racist, the intolerant. One’s gender, age, belief, orientation did not matter when my team and I worked from sunup to sundown giving aid for months after the storms. I still have to assist the people who launched the nastiest attacks on me; who at some point end up in my office desperate and in dire need.

This is the irony of the world. I find it amusing that one’s orientation no longer matters when you’re purchasing Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Tom Ford, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Yves Saint Laurent, Jason Wu, Christian Louboutin — as none of the above are heterosexuals.

When a gunshot wound victim is in need of immediate surgery do you run a query to see if the doctor is gay? Do you have time to ask the officer who is trying to save your life if they’re gay? When you are facing a life sentence and the attorney successfully pulls through an acquittal, do you care if he or she is gay? At the point of desperate need, do you run a test on someone’s sexual preference and then decide you’ll take death because the person is a homosexual?

I think not.

Please note: no LGBTQ person will intentionally choose a hard life and difficult road. We won’t intentionally choose a rocky road. Some of us are innately who we are and no amount of prayer, holy water, or attacks will change that.

I understand and empathize with others who are coming out. It is true, who feels it, knows it. The constant attacks and hurt that if no mental and emotional healing is done can create an angry, bitter, bombastic LGBTQ person. One day (maybe when I’m retired), I will take time from my busy schedule to pen my story.

In closing, please be tolerant. Intolerance has been the root of EVERY war. Our fears and inability to understand or accept what is different, what does not fit into our category of “normal” cripples us.

I’m not asking for acceptance. I’m asking that we offer respect.

To those struggling, it is okay to seek therapy if the journey becomes too much. Stand firm and to “thine ownself, be true.” Walk, believe, own and work your purpose. You will one day be the stone the builders cannot reject, but will have to eventually use to build. Have a productive week to all.



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