To my LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters, and every beautiful shade of the rainbow beyond the identity binary system,
I don’t speak as a voice for the entire LGBTQ+ community. I speak from my own experiences as a cis-gender gay man fortunate to have an army of my family and friends at my side.
Throughout our lives, we battled many battles, lost countless struggles, and cheered in our triumphs. In recent years, these motions continue as they have in the past. Just when you thought we won, we are shattered to a million pieces.
Never lose sight on our strength. We survived generations of hate crimes; brutality by the armed services, close-minded communities, and perhaps your family; massive attacks and devastations such as the Stonewall Riots, the AIDs epidemic, and the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting; the passing of the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States and Proposition 8 in California; religious zealots and genocide; and so forth. The unfortunate reality is that this is our reality.
Despite the pain, remember our sacrifices and the outcomes as a community. For every Matthew Shepard murdered, a new Queer-Straight Alliance forms in a school. For every detrimental law passed, a progressive repeal or precedent is declared. For every Christine Jorgensen shamed out of the United States, a Laverne Cox is embraced by audiences. For every Ellen DeGeneres blacklisted for coming out, we have an Ellen DeGeneres who receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their good work. What makes our community are not the over-the-top galas or pride parades, or the superficial fictional characters on television. What defines us is our continued fight for equality and our diligence in that we are still standing because we never settle.
We live in a time where, instead of continued progress, our fundamental freedom as humans is still largely contested. This is nothing new. Take a breath, have a cry, and suck it up. While the LGBTQ+ community has lost many battles, we have won many wars. I know this from the scars we have to show from them. Although my life as a gay man has been an uphill road due to the world I live in, I am proud of who I am and the front lines I stand in—and I would never trade it for an easier one.
Like myself, you probably have those in your life whose political stances, religious views, or cultural upbringings leads them to support figures against our community. I am here to say you don’t have to accept it and you don’t have to accept them. The irony is that I am much more understanding of anti-LGBTQ+ people from rural communities in Middle America or extreme beliefs across the world with deep religious and traditional views. Why? Because this outlook is all they have ever known.
Which begs the question of what excuse is there for the masses in our own backyards that received the same mainstream exposure and diversity as us? Over the years, I continue to hear from those family and friends whose views differ from mine, “I am socially liberal, but fiscally conservative”; “I have gay friends”; “I have a gay [cousin/sibling/family member]”; and last, which is the most untruthful, “Don’t worry, if your rights are ever threatened, I will stand with you.” Honestly, they are all excuses and lies, namely the latter. The 2016 presidential election is a prime example. Here was thee opportune moment for that alleged support and stance they promised they would take with you. Did they? No. Do they care? Not enough.
I am not angry at them. Rather, I am disappointed by their selfishness and I think less of them. I think less of them because they choose to further their own rights and opportunities they have had since birth, rather than to protect and grow the fundamental rights we barely received in the past four years. I think less of them because of how they use the aforementioned excuses—of how the use me, use us—to justify their actions and make themselves feel better, as if we are tokens or show dogs. There is no shame is your anger, disdain, or disgust towards them. There is no shame in taking a pause to reevaluate the people in your life. The voices who say they will stand with you are the same that justified three-fifths vote towards slaves, the insanity of suffragettes, the “separate, but equal” notion towards African-Americans and Black-Americans, and that modern protests are just Millennial’s “whining.” You are not whining; you are standing. It is not inherent for these people to think about the issues we face every day because they are not affected. They don’t deserve your truth, nor have they earned it.
The questions then are always, “What do I do with them?” Or, “What kind of relationship can I have with them?” You need to forgive them. Forgive them not for them, but for yourself. Forgive them so we can move forward with our cause. We are strong because we are the bigger person. Resentment will only hinder your growth and our purpose.
In the face of adversity, embrace your allies. I am fortunate to have parents, family, and friends who embraced my openness and truly take that stance with me. How do I know this? From the fear I continue to see in their eyes ever since I came out. My parents and I recently discussed current affairs in our country. My mom is woman of few words; my dad has enough words for the both of them. When the conversation took a serious tone, their silence and concern in their eyes were all I needed. In that moment, I paused and then said, “Guys, I’m pushing thirty. You don’t have to worry about me. I can stand on my own two feet and I’ll be just fine.”
We have to fight our own battles and stop expecting others to fully accept what they can never understand. But, I am not calling for you to be the aggressor or the “angry gay.” I call for confidence. I call for strength. I call for courage. I call for pride. I call for you to hold your head high, use your voice, and stand your ground. For every person who challenges you, fight back with knowledge and education—do not hide; for every fist that is swung at you, defend yourself—do not cower; and for every person who wants to embrace you and will take that stance with you, allow them to—do not push them out. Be your own champion, and be a champion for each other.
To my brothers and sisters who are still in the closet, it’s time to live an authentic life for yourself. You cannot expect to fully fight for the LGBTQ+ community if you first won’t fight for yourself. For the people who cause you to hesitate, the heartbreaking reality is that you will lose people— maybe parents, maybe family, maybe friends, or maybe your community. You cannot change their religious beliefs or cultural views. I know because I lost people on my journey. It comes at the cost of coming out. Then again, those in your life may surprise you. Yet, for every person I lost, I gained an exponential amount in my life. How will you know unless you give them the chance?
Remember, you are not alone. When you hurt, others are feeling that same pain. When you come out, others either faced or are facing those same worries. When you fight, others are fighting those same battles. And when you celebrate, we all celebrate.
Do not question your sense of belonging in this country. This is your home. Fight for it.
Cover image property of: Sandbox.ryot.org
* I leave with Christina Perri’s song “Burning Gold.” It kept playing in my head as I wrote this. It captures how I feel about who I am—past, present, and whatever comes next.