I was sitting in my stats class this week, looking up information on the Human Rights Committee instead of listening to the education I am paying far too much to be ignoring like this, when something my professor said made its way through my intentionally diverted attention span. “Our degrees of freedom,” he explained, “are based on how much we choose to include outside of the standard deviation.” Now I have no idea what the statistical significance of this statement is, although I am sure it has one since he was pointing to highlighted areas of a graph when he said it, but what I can tell you is that ever since I heard this, I’ve been walking around campus mentally tallying all the different ways I have been finding degrees of freedom; all the ways in which I am learning to stretch the limits of the standard deviation to include more and more.

Take, for example, tonight when I reclaimed the movie Rent. Two years ago, when it came out, I went to see it in the theater with a group of friends, including one of my roommates at the time. She was offended by the way it “promoted the homosexual lifestyle,” and insisted that we walk out of the theater. I did. At the time, I was not out to anybody, or even to myself, but I am appalled by the fact that I did not even bother to defend the rights of others to have their pain and beauty and laughter and tragedy portrayed in film with dignity. And so I watched the movie again tonight, from beginning to end with my current roommate and some friends of ours, and I wondered both at the beauty of the movie, and at all the ways that I have changed since I walked out of that theater. I know that I wouldn’t leave now, and that I wouldn’t stay silent while someone refused to honor the dignity of another person’s life. While very few people in my life know much about my personal journey to understand and accept my sexuality, almost everyone who knows me to any degree these days is at least aware of my firm believe in gay rights and a more inclusive theology. It’s not everything, but it is definitely something. Baby steps, as B and I are always saying. A year ago, I hadn’t talked to anyone about my sexuality. I couldn’t even say the word lesbian. I refused to voice, write, or even think anything that I felt fell outside of the “standard deviation.” So how do you measure a year? For me, for this year, it was in baby steps…in degrees of freedom. In friends found and in stories rewritten; in laughter learned and in words reclaimed.