I have read countless stories of all the bad that comes along with being LGBTQ. Everyone is so quick to talk about the discrimination. How we cannot legally marry our partners, or the fact that you can still be fired in many states for being LGBTQ, or that schools do not protect children from being bullied for their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. While these issues are important and affect so many lives, we should remember to focus on the positive as well. Why are we proud of being LGBTQ? We are so quick to defend ourselves with, “I didn’t choose to be gay, I was just born this way,” and, “Nobody would choose a life full of discrimination, hatred, and persecution for something they cannot change,” when there are a million more reasons to be proud of who you are. Would it really be so bad if someone did choose to be LGBTQ? Since this weekend is pride, and I am working and unable to attend, I thought I would share some of the reasons that I am proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community.
I love women. This does not mean that I hate men, simply that I love women. All kinds of women. Thin, curvy, short hair, long hair, caucasian, african american, asian, short, tall, femme, androgynous, blonde hair, red hair, blue eyes, green eyes, intelligent, funny, serious, shy, confident, quiet, loud. Women are just sexy: all of them. Their soft skin, their plush lips, their luscious curves. The way they feel and taste and sound. *shivers* Also, boobs. Enough said.
There is a sense of community that comes with being LGBTQ. Even though I am surrounded by people who love me, not despite, but because I am gay, it is still nice to have somewhere to feel like I belong, like I am not alone. Somewhere I feel like I am connected to others who have the same interests I do, who have to tackle the same challenges I do, who know what it’s like to feel the way I do. I have so many people striving to make me feel like I fit into their world, and I am so happy to call those people my family, but it feels fantastic to have somewhere that I fit in without effort, where I fit in simply because I am me. I am so proud to be a part of a community that not only recognizes people’s similarities and differences, but celebrates them.
Being gay has given me the opportunity to get to know so many strong, beautiful people that I might have otherwise never met. It has made me check my ignorance and privilege. I am white, I have money, most of my family is conservative Republican and Southern Baptist. If I had been straight, I could very easily have been close-minded and overlooked so many wonderful people, just because we are not alike. Being gay has made me appreciate people for what sets them apart. It has given me this hunger to get to know people, to study what makes them who they are, and to apply that to my life. I think being gay has made me a better person.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to show people how their words and actions affect others, even when they do not mean them to be harmful. I grew up hearing that “all of those foreigners need to just go back to their own country. This is America.” Every other sentence in the hallways at school was “That is so gay.” I was taught that, because I am a woman, I need to act a certain way. I cannot wear that skirt because it is too short and will make me look slutty. I cannot wear those pants because they are for boys, and I need to be more feminine. I cannot go jogging alone because that’s just asking to be raped. I cannot voice my opinions because that makes me look bitchy and none of the boys will like me. I am not as intelligent or accomplished as my male counterparts. Another one I got a lot is that I need to talk more and smile more, or people will think I am rude. And then when I did talk to people about what I think and believe, I was alienating them because my beliefs are different to theirs. The general idea was that in order to make people like me, especially men, I had to change myself to fit in. Reading all of those here makes them look so obviously terrible, but I heard it so much growing up that I actually started to believe some of it, and that makes me sick. I think that being closeted and hearing people make assumptions and tell outright lies about queer people really made me think about the things I say. I sometimes catch myself making assumptions about people and judging them for things I don’t understand. Now, though, I always stop and try to think from that person’s perspective. It is hard to hate and judge someone if you understand where they are coming from, and that is what I try to teach those I meet. When I am around somebody who makes a comment that offends or upsets me, I do not get angry. But I do stand up for what I believe. I refuse to have a screaming match with someone, but I will calmly explain why their comments have upset me and ask them to refrain from saying those things in my presence. If it continues, I will remove myself from the situation. The point is that I get to teach people to be more thoughtful of how their words and actions will affect those around them. And that, to me, is beautiful.
Being LGBTQ means that so many more stereotypes and expectations get placed on me, and I get to crush them. I get to prove that you cannot put people in a box, that human beings are so unbelievably complex that there is not a box big enough or a label inclusive enough to fit us into. Not all gay men are super feminine, and not all lesbians are just dykes who have a daddy complex and want to be men. I get to show people that there are so many things that make a person beautiful, and that there is not one perfect body or personality that we should all be working toward.
I enjoy having a sense of history with people like me. I like that I can look back at people who were LGBTQ and see how they changed the world. I like learning about what queer people have contributed to make the world a better and safer place for all of us. It gives me hope that maybe one day I will get to raise my children in a world that will not hate them because they are different, where they will not feel like they need to change any part of themselves to be accepted. A world in which being different is not a bad thing, but that we should celebrate those things about ourselves that set us apart. And I like that I get to a part of that. That, even if it is just one person, I get to change the way people treat each other.
There are so many more reasons to be proud being LGBTQ, but at least this is a start. I hope this can open up conversation about what it truly means to be LGBTQ and why we should all be proud to be who we are. I hope that one person reads this and it makes them think. I hope that this gives somebody hope, or makes them think about choosing to live. If you are reading this, let me know what you think. Why do you love being LGBTQ? How does your sexual orientation and gender identity affect the way you think and interact with those around you?