Growing up as a closeted, gay, redheaded, lengthy boy in Sioux Falls, SD was no walk in the park. I joke now that I was so closeted that I would frequent Narnia on my days off from school, but that feeling to be closeted always felt like the only way for survival. Attending a small Catholic school for my entire education didn’t exactly help with the strange feeling of being unlike most of my peers. I first realized I was different from the other kids in third grade and that realization progressed to a toxic complex that would ensnare my entire being. I had the all-American childhood. I grew up in a single-family, predominantly white neighborhood with both parents, one sibling, a spastic Pomeranian, and a generally happy outer disposition – beside one tiny aspect that caused me to constantly feel like my insides were tied in knots.
You see, I am a homosexual and 110% proud to be, but who I am today is nothing like the miserable, self-deprecating person I was. My school, my peers, my community, and often even my parents led me to believe that because of my sexual orientation I was somehow less than everyone me. The worst was that they did it so nonchalantly and effortlessly that I assumed I was nothing short of sin personified. Every incorrect use of the word gay or fag pushed me deeper in a toxic darkness.
It was seventh grade that I made a covenant with myself to never allow my true sexuality to come to full fruition. I spent years hating who I was and lying to others. I had convinced myself that I would live a “normal” life and have “normal” children with my “normal” spouse. I lived in a constant state of fear that my secret would become public. Publicizing my secret meant nothing but disgrace and a required detachment from everyone I loved. I often would think about ways to escape my “condition”. These escape plans were dark and too much for a lone seventh grader to bounce around his still developing, naive mind. I distanced myself from others and was terrified to speak in public, fearing someone would detect the “fag” that I was. I continued spirally until one teacher emancipated me from my internal cell.
It was during a required semester of speech class she mustered out a tiny glimmer of my true self. From that she convinced me to join my school’s speech team. This is where my life took a turn away from the ever-looming darkness and toward the bright future I am now experiencing today. Speech gave me the voice I had denied myself for years and enabled me to make true friends for the first time in my life. It also enabled me to travel outside the realm of my tiny, conservative bubble. Life outside the bubble was completely different. There were all types of people in this new world: large, small, black, white, straight, gay, lesbian, or whatever. The best part was it didn’t matter. What mattered was how well our performance went. Despite my new voice and confidence, I still had years of an insecure, hopeless complex to overcome.
I carry this complex, a pebble of what it was, with me everyday as reminder to continue fighting for equality. This complex gave me the feeling of being less and that is why marriage equality is so important to myself. If I had grown up with more LGBTQA role models, or a president who openly supported same-sex marriage, or lived in a state that legalized marriage equality, or even lived in an area where the word gay was only used positively and never as an insult, I would have grown up with a completely different self-image.
Marriage equality does much more that provide legal benefits to same-sex married couples. It will provide a sense of security and acceptance to children and teens growing up completely confused and lost. It will give them hope that things do truly get better and that they can lead a happy, productive life.
No, same sex marriage will not stop bullying, but it will give these kids a greater sense of community and strength, especially on the days where they are made to feel completely isolated.
My heart was overwhelmed with joy when Minnesota said it did not want to limit the right to marry last November. I can only imagine what went through the minds of the many LGBTQA youth who also stayed up late into the night waiting to see if their state supported or rejected them at their most basic level or humanity. I believe we are coming upon a new period of acceptance in our culture, a more free and equal society. By showing that Minnesota supports the legalization of same-sex marriage, we are also showing that we do not support the alienating and hatred of someone because of something they have no control over. We are showing our raw humanity and that is something our youth do not receive enough.
With love and acceptance,
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