I believe in being gay. For most of my life, I tried to repress my sexuality. As a young boy growing up in central Arkansas and rural Oklahoma, I kept my feelings inside. And later, as a college student, I continued to keep my secret to myself. Not until months after my 22nd birthday did I finally reveal the hidden truth to one good friend, something I wanted to reveal so desperately to many friends in the years that came before.
Now, almost five year later, I have learned that being open about one’s true self does not solve all of life’s problems, but it can make the journey easier. Being honest about my identity, I removed a heavy burden, and that was my first step toward becoming a confident, content human being.
I believe in being gay, and I believe in being proud of it. In a nation still struggling with the issue of “what to do with the homosexuals,” it is important that the subjects of this debate are known, seen and heard. In every corner of America: in the heartland, on the islands, on the coasts and in the cities, there are frightened, closeted gay people. They are usually young, but some are older. They are trapped behind a door of society’s creation, but now is the time to open it. Now is the time to live!
I believe in being a proud gay man because I believe in being a proud human being. Whether one is gay, straight, woman, man, black, white, brown, red, able-bodied or not, everyone should be proud of who they are. If you happen to be gay, you can show your pride by wearing the t-shirt of your favorite baseball team, ordering up an ice-cold beer, listening to rock n’ roll music and defying the stereotypes, or you can show pride by wearing brilliant, beautiful colors, grabbing a frozen margarita, and teaching the world how to break dance to the latest techno tune. You can be either of these things or something entirely different, so long as you feel comfortable.
Being defined by my sexuality is not something I want, nor is it, I hope, the primary characteristic for which friends and strangers remember me. But in this time where attitudes are changing and dutiful citizens are debating, I want to be sure that this part of me is known, and more importantly, that it is clear that I am not ashamed of it. I am lucky to be among these people – gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folk – America’s last, great minority. And before my time is up, I look forward to helping that minority move out of the shadows. I’ll work for the day when the next gay 20-something from Wyoming, or elementary school kid from California, or shy teenager from Oklahoma does not have to worry about hiding pieces of himself for a small chance at survival. I look forward to that day, because on this day, in this hour, in a small room beneath Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, I am being honest about me, and that’s where every real conversation should begin.
Oklahoman and human. Red Sox fan, American. Grandson and son. Friend and co-worker. Tenacious and gay. I am these things, and I believe in them intensely, passionately; absolutely! I must believe in them. To realize my true potential, to rise as high as hard work and divine favor will allow, to become whoever it is that I am supposed to become, I hold tight to these convictions. I believe in being gay because I believe in the virtue of struggle and the success that often follows. I believe in being gay because I believe in the fight that makes us stronger. I believe in being gay because I believe in gay people. I have faith that we will accomplish great goals many once thought impossible, and I am glad to be a part of it. I believe in being gay because it’s what I am. It’s a part of me. And I can’t help but believe in that.
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