AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: NATE CHRISTOPHER, AE ASSOCIATE

For the third year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

 We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler. Now Nate Christopher, a retail packing evening shift supervisor in Ottawa, Kansas, is here to share his story of honesty, joy, and finding love by learning to love himself.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

NATE CHRISTOPHER

Retail Packing Evening Shift Supervisor, Ottawa, Kansas

 

As far back as I can remember, I always knew I was gay, but I repressed it as I went through my childhood and adolescence. I wore a mask hiding who I was for at least 20 years.  However, I’m here to say that it does get better.

As a child I found myself interested in music and acting. I joined chorus, select chorus, and even performed in multiple musicals and drama productions. In high school I found the Army JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) and became interested in the military. My desire to serve was solidified by the events of September 11, 2001 as I was in the first few weeks of my junior year of high school. However, I was afraid that if I were to come out, my chances of earning an Army ROTC scholarship to my university of choice would fall by the wayside. After all, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect up until mid-2011.

Even though it was becoming more socially acceptable to be gay, I was petrified of being outed. I am ashamed to admit it, but I severed ties with my childhood best friend for trying to out me to the rest of my high school class. I had a specific agenda: I wanted out of my small hometown and a chance to be the first member of my family to attend college in years – on an academic scholarship no less. I was not going to let anything prevent me from attending St. Bonaventure University while working toward becoming an Army officer.

My high school years passed, and I experienced my first true love with a girl. I earned that scholarship and we broke up because I was going away to college. Soon after my high school graduation, I met my first male partner and began a secret relationship that I somehow managed to keep hidden from all of my closest friends and family for nearly the next 10 years.

I went off to college at St. Bonaventure. I made some great new friends over the years.  However, none of them knew what I was hiding. I entered the Army after my college graduation in 2007, still in the closet. I continued to put on a face the whole time I was in the Army. I completed all my initial training and was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas in 2008. My partner and I saw each other a handful of times during my college and years in the Army, but his support for me was unwavering.

I had become a Type 1 diabetic sometime during my deployment to Iraq in 2009. This discovery was devastating – I had lost an astounding 70 pounds due to the condition.  I took the time necessary to get my diabetes under control while fighting for several years to remain on active duty. Despite my best efforts, the Army saw fit to release me from honorable service due to my medical condition. I realized during this time that my partner and I were no longer compatible and it would be better for the two of us if we were to end the relationship. The breakup was messy and stressful. We had been together for nearly 10 years and I still was not out, so I didn’t exactly have friends to discuss this with, and I found myself alone, unemployed, and searching for a new direction and purpose in life.

NATE CHRISTOPHER Retail Packing Evening Shift Supervisor, Ottawa, Kansas

Nate and his partner Steven in 2018. They went on their first date during Nate’s first week of working at AE. 

This was a very uneasy time for me. All I ever wanted to do was be in the Army from the start of my high school career in 1999. I had a degree in English but I had not really considered what I wanted to do post-military. I had spent a significant part of my time in the Army working with the supply chain and logistics fields and had discovered that I enjoyed that type of work.

I spent the summer of 2012 attending job fairs and traveling all over the country for follow-up interviews with various companies in a number of different industries. I interviewed with two HR representatives from AE in Chicago and they told me about opportunities in both Ottawa, Kansas and Warrendale, Pennsylvania.  If you had asked me back then if I had any intentions to remain in Kansas, I would have very clearly stated, “Absolutely not.” I had loathed my time in the Manhattan, Kansas area and found myself traveling to the Kansas City metro area for entertainment (I grew up near Buffalo, New York, so I was used to more of a “bigger city” vibe).

The HR reps saw fit to have me come to the AE Ottawa campus distribution center for an on-site interview. As soon as I walked in, my gut told me I was supposed to be here. I immediately fell in love with the warm welcome and cordial interviews I had with the management and HR team. I also developed a fascination for the operational environment. I was fortunate enough to be selected for a position as a Distribution Center Supervisor, and within a few weeks I packed up and headed east to the Ottawa/Lawrence area.

By the end of my first week with AE, I met my partner Steve and we went out on our first date.  This fresh start was exactly what I needed to get me to come to terms with my sexuality and to start living my life for me. As my relationship with Steve developed, I became more confident in showing my true self to people around me. I came out to my sister first, and then to most of my co-workers. In January of 2013 I returned home and told my mother and the rest of my family and close friends in person. I was fortunate to have a relatively low-key coming out. Everyone was surprised but supportive. Three months later, my youngest sister came out.

NATE CHRISTOPHER Retail Packing Evening Shift Supervisor, Ottawa, Kansas

Nate entered the Army in 2007 and bravely served in Iraq in 2009. He’s found a post-military career with AE — and love and acceptance with his partner Steve.

I’m a firm believer in fate and that things happen for a reason. I believe that developing diabetes was the best thing that ever happened to me. It set the conditions to end my first professional career (which I loved and secretly hated at the same time because I couldn’t be myself); it kept me in Kansas to accept a fantastic opportunity; and it allowed me to meet my significant other at the same time. After living out and proud for nearly the last 7 years, I can honestly say that I have never been happier than I am right now in my life. It is even more rewarding knowing that I work for American Eagle Outfitters. This is such a diverse and accepting professional organization and I’m blessed to be a part of it.

If I could go back and tell my younger self something about it getting better, I would say that there is so much more joy in life that becomes available once you accept yourself and come out. Had I known that I would have been this happy after being honest with myself and the people closest to me, it probably wouldn’t have taken me nearly 27 years to do so.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: CHAD KESSLER, GLOBAL BRAND PRESIDENT, AMERICAN EAGLE

For the third year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

In the coming weeks and months, look for guest posts right here from AE associates across the country about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better. Kicking us off is AE’s Global Brand President, Chad Kessler.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

Chad Kessler, Global Brand President

AIDS. Homophobia. Difference. A life alone.  These were all things I feared growing up gay.  I thought it would get better because I might outgrow my attraction to men and their bodies.  I am so glad that I didn’t change. Coming out was a humbling experience. I found many friends who in some ways knew me better that I knew myself. No one was surprised by my revelation. My friends had already realized, come to terms with, and accepted my truth. The best thing I heard was from a close friend.  He told me that being honest with myself and accepting, living, and embracing my personal truth would lead to an honest life – one without fear of being caught, without hiding, with personal acceptance. All of that has been true.

I am lucky to have a family that has accepted and loves me. I still am close with so many of my childhood friends who knew all along. But in addition to that, I have also found and cherish our empowered gay community. There are so many people of all ages, races, backgrounds who have come through the same journey of self-discovery and acceptance and love. We share a common bond that should rise above other differences.

I had two periods of coming out. First, I told family and friends but still tried to pass at work and in public. My second and equally powerful coming out was when I decided that, in all aspects of my life, I would be openly and proudly gay. This was especially moving for me when I married my husband seven years ago in New York City. To have the justice of the peace proclaim the State of New York’s support for and legal affirmation of our love was so powerful. Today, my husband and I are the parents of twins. Parenthood is hard and exhausting, but rewarding and brings so much love to our lives. It also fosters another community and common experience across the lines of sexual orientation.

If I could talk to my younger self, I would like to say don’t worry. Be yourself. Live your truth. You are lucky to be you. Your happiness will be as full as anyone else’s. Live a life that is honest and true to yourself. When you accept who you are, you will find support. You will deepen the right friendships. You will find community and support and love. And, boy does it get better.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Edith Cruz

 

Immigrant Rights Activist

@thatweirdchild__

 

At age 6, AExME Council member Edith Cruz immigrated with her family from Aguascalientes, Mexico to Lexington, KY. Now a 19-year-old student at Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Edith is using her voice to advocate for immigrant rights and education equity for all.

 

How is “equity” different than “equality”? Edith explains that it’s all about getting students what they need as individuals, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all solution.

 

“My parents made so many sacrifices to get us to the United States to have a better future, so that really inspires me every day,”

says Edith.

“I remember the hours my parents spent working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in order to have even food for us on the table. And just imagining the hard work they put in inspires me to keep going, and to give back to them by working hard.”

A brave and generous writer, photographer, speaker, organizer, and music fan (The 1975, Shawn Mendes, and Mexican band Zoé are some of her faves), Edith’s hard work takes the form of storytelling. Both her feature radio show, Sobre La Mesa, and episodes she contributed to her high school’s podcast, Lighting the Torch, have given refugees and immigrants like herself opportunities to tell their own stories.

 

“I don’t want to be the voice of everyone. I want everyone to be the voice of themselves,”

says Edith, who channels her voice into changing the world.

 

Looking for even more inspiration? Look no further than this excerpt from Edith’s favorite poem, “In Lak’Ech,” by Chicano playwright Luís Valdez:

 

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

 

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

 

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

 

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

 

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Red, White & YOU!

With the official kick-off to summer starting earlier this week with Memorial Day, it’s time for more sunshine. Cue all the bonfires, road trips and long weekends you have planned this season. And since Memorial Day is usually the first weekend pools are open, it’s also time to refresh your swimwear, too. What’s better than a bold & bright red, white and blue swimsuit from American Eagle or Aerie for all your summer plans? Not much.

Aerie Americana Swim

Wherever you’re headed for summer break – the beach, the pool, the lake – stay ready for everything that comes your way with new swimwear featuring patriotic prints, colors and designs. American flag swimsuits are a staple this time of year, so suit up in our red, white and blue bathing suits that go with everything else in your Americana-themed outfit. Wear them with your fave American Eagle jeans, shorts and tops and you’re set with an on-trend look that’s always right for summertime.

Aerie Americana Swim Aerie Americana Swim Aerie Americana Swim

Americana bathing suits are just right for all the parties you’re going to attend this summer, too. Family cookout? Done. 4th of July trip to the beach? Got it. Dive right into the party with Aerie swimsuits made with statement-making prints and fits that always feel good. Pick out a one piece bathing suit or mix and match your bikini tops and bottoms to create your ideal swim style, then wear them with sunglasses, sandals and other must-have accessories for a feel-good vibe everywhere you go this season.

AE Americana Swim AE Americana Swim AE Americana Swim AE Americana Swim

For guys we’ve got Americana swim shorts in the classic board short fit, 6” swim trunks and 8” swim trunks so you always have the fit and feel you’re looking for. You can’t go wrong with the fresh prints, colors and designs of American Eagle swimsuits for your next pool party or trip to the beach. Designed with quick-drying fabrics and all the best details like drawstring waistbands and water-draining pockets, these swim shorts mean business when it’s time for your next day at the pool. Wear them with slides and red, white and blue baseball hats and you’re good to go with your Americana-themed look this summer.

AE Americana Swim

Check out the full Americana shop for men and women to find all the other necessary elements like shirts, sandals, hats and other accessories designed to keep you looking good and feeling even better.

Show off your red, white & you outfits by tagging us on Instagram & Twitter with #AExME or #AEJeans @americaneagle and you could be featured on our site, social media or blog!

WHAT IS AExME? | ADD YOUR PHOTO

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Samuel Getachew

 

Award-Winning Poet

@samuelgd 

 

Poetry should be heard, not just read, and to hear 16-year-old AExME Council member Samuel Getachew perform his poetry is to believe in the power of words. “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible,” says the Oakland, Ca,. resident, who we dare you to try to resist, quoting the artist Toni Cade Bambara.

 

The Ethiopian-American high school student’s poetry about gun violence, the immigrant experience, and racial injustice have garnered over half a million views online and landed his strong, vulnerable words in news outlets including NPR and the New York Times. In addition to co-founding his high school’s student activism club and serving as features editor of his school paper, Samuel is the 2018 Oakland Vice Poet Laureate and the Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Grand Slam Champion… for 2017 and 2018!

@samuelgd 

You’d think speaking at events with Zendaya (nbd) and members of Congress and the Senate (uh, kinda a big deal) would be life achievements unlocked for Samuel. But he swears his proudest moment came at a recent open mic night when he realized his poetry is inspiring other people to find and use their own voices. A girl who’d never before read her work in public shared that seeing Samuel perform his poetry inspired her to share her writing.

“In that moment I realized I’m not just saying words to open space. When I perform there are people watching and it actually is changing people’s lives.”

 

Samuel looks up to Barack Obama and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, he says, but his biggest role model is none other than the Queen herself, Beyoncé:

“The way that she creates for herself without really worrying about what repercussions are going to come of it or what people think, that inspires me a lot.”

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Saaneah Jamison

 

R&B Artist & Body Positive Activist

@saaneah

 

If you don’t already recognize AExME Council member Saaneah from the summer AExME cast, you’re gonna recognize her soon. The rising R&B artist and body-positive activist is taking over big-time, using music and movement to transform hearts and minds.

 

She’s appeared on American Idol, opened for Ledisi, and created a series of mega-popular classes—called “Curvy Confidence”—that blend dance, fitness, and self-love.

 

“It’s about body gratitude, showing love for the body that you have because no one else has it… That’s how you bloom where you are,”

says the Tennessee State University grad who’s worked in her hometown of Nashville as an educator, including with students with disabilities.

@saaneah

Saaneah lives by the mantra that it’s an “artist’s duty to reflect the times” (words by the great Nina Simone), and her art reflects both the times and her unique take on them: everything Saaneah does it about eliminating self-hate, building self-confidence, and helping people find their voice.

 

“Spend some time alone,”

Saaneah advises anyone looking to find their voice.

“Listen inside of your soul and find the things that you may need to heal. Find the things that get you out of your comfort zone so that you can get to a place where you function in your freedom.”

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.