Struggle & Strength

Ten years ago, I sat my dad down at the dining room table before heading off to college and came out to him. The realization was all still very new to me, but I knew I definitely wasn’t straight and had finally come to terms with it.

He had lots of things to say, all understandable and none bad. Naturally, there was some confusion, but more importantly, there was unwavering support and love. But there’s one thing that currently stands out in my mind more than anything else.

Dad told me he was worried because my life would be more difficult and dangerous as an openly gay man.

It was a reality I was already aware of and I’m sure I agreed with him, while maintaining my truth. But it’s a reality that I don’t think I fully grasped until Sunday.

Sure, I’ve dealt with my unfair share of haters. I’ve heard all the names and the rhetoric. I’ve been an “issue to be dealt with” and not a person to be loved. Every day, it seems like there’s a new version of “coming out” we have to encounter. And you know what? Some days, in some fleeting moments, it’s easier to say “roommate” than deal with the potential fallout of saying “boyfriend.” Perhaps that’s a terrible thing to admit, but it’s true.

But this — this is different. This is life and death, literally life and death. And sure, we all deal with life and death and our own issues. But this is people wanting to kill us for simply existing or showing any form of affection to someone we love.

Over the last few days, I’ve read and heard more times than I care to count that there will always be people with hate or evil in their hearts. Maybe that’s true. But should we not at least try to erase the hate and replace it with love? Should we not at least try to eliminate the evil and replace it with good? Is it not worth at least an attempt?

My dad was right. Our lives are filled with different and sometimes greater challenges for being different. But I wouldn’t trade this for the world because I am also stronger and smarter because of it. I have met some of the kindest, most beautiful people I have ever known, and will ever know, because of who I am. And I have learned from them.

We are fighters. We are fierce. We love because we all too often feel the sting of hate as a result of fear. We understand the importance and value of diversity and celebrate it. We support each other because sometimes it feels like no one else will.

So while my dad’s point was right, it was not the full story. Thank God it wasn’t the full story.

One of my favorite quotes lately has been one from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

We. Are. Beautiful.

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