I have been out for about nine months now, so I haven’t been fighting the equality fight as long as others have—at least not outwardly. For most of my life so far, my battle for equality has been an inner one. For 23 years I battled my own mind, doing anything I could to prove to myself that I wasn’t gay, that I couldn’t be gay because it would just make everything so damn hard.
Well you know what’s harder? Pretending to be something you’re not.
Holding in such an integral piece of myself was awful. There is no softer way to say it, no way to sugarcoat the fact that being in the closet drove me crazy. Almost every single thing I’ve ever done that I regret I can directly link to the fact that I was trapped inside myself, to the fact that I was trying desperately to drown out the incessant pounding of the real me trying to get out.
I did not grow up in a homophobic environment, so you may be wondering, if it was so unbearable, why didn’t I just come out? For a while my answer to that question was I really don’t know, but now I realize the answer is simple: I was scared.
This world can be a frightening one to be gay in. Knowing that my family and friends would accept me did not make it feel less heavy and confusing. Knowing I’d be loved no matter what did not make me love myself any more. Having several out friends whom I deeply cared for didn’t make it feel any easier to confront. It all just seemed so daunting. I didn’t want to deal with figuring it all out.
It didn’t feel fair that I would have to learn to live a life that our society was not structured to support. I did not grow up in a homophobic environment, but, like any girl, I grew up being asked which boy I had a crush on and the type of man I’d like to marry. I grew up being playfully mocked because my best friend was a boy and that must have meant we were in love. I grew up watching movies and television shows where only men and women fell in love and any divergent from that ‘norm’ was considered gossip or a scandal or was so blatantly stereotyped that the characters didn’t even seem human.
If these kinds of assumptions were to disappear, then maybe when kids came out, they would stop having to spend years asking, Now What? There’d be nothing to figure out beyond the typical fare of love, sex, and dating because the idea of homosexuality would be engrained in our day-to-day lives.
On June 26th, 2015, the United States of America took one giant step toward that ideal. By legalizing same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court of the United States has given the next generation of gay youth an opportunity to grow up in a society that is structured to support them.
The babies being born today will not know a government that ever thought it was okay to tell its citizens who they were allowed to love. They will grow up seeing same-sex marriage not as a fight but as a celebration as normal as any other. Some of these kids will probably still be bullied. They will still face discrimination. It will take more than a Supreme Court ruling to exterminate the intolerance of those who choose to hate. But hopefully, as same-sex marriage becomes more ordinary, we who do not hate will learn to stop raising our children under any sort of assumptions. Hopefully this decision will help more kids grow up in an America where being gay does not have to be something you surrender to after exhausting all efforts at being straight, an America where we are not told by friends and relatives that we are loved in spite of who we are, but rather, because of it.
I am crying as I write this piece. I am crying for all of those who have been fighting for years to marry the person they love and finally can. I am crying for the single people like me who will never have to fight, who will be able to fall in love without fear that love will not be recognized. I am crying for the people who are not here to see this historic moment because the hatred that they faced was so terrible that it made them want to stop surviving. I’m crying for the future little girls who may not have to cry, who may not have to grow up so confused about why their best friends give them butterflies.
I am crying for the self-assured teenager I never got to be and the calm, collected college student I know I could have been. I am crying for the way my closeted actions and emotions affected other people, and I am crying when I think about the fact that maybe, just maybe the gay babies being born today won’t have to face these kinds of regrets.
For me, this ruling is about so much more than the fact that we have won this decades-long external battle. I believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage will help so many win their internal battles, too. There will, unfortunately, be kids for many generations more who grow up with homophobic friends and family—and also those who simply grow up facing some incorrect assumptions—but I hope this ruling will help some of them look past their individual environments to see a country that embraces them and teaches them that there are many kinds of normal.
I hope seeing more and more same-sex couples tie the knot will help kids at least be able to identify and accept their own feelings because before you can battle your friends or your family or your government, you have to win the battle against yourself—you have to understand that you’re worth fighting for. I am so grateful for all of those who have spent years fighting for gay rights, who knew I was worth fighting for before I could realize it myself. Because of them I get to fight a little less hard now.
Coming out has been the best thing that I have ever done. I love being gay, and if I had the choice I wouldn’t change. I can’t know if I would have come out sooner if I’d been born into a world where same-sex marriage was legal or where shows like Orange Is The New Black, Grey’s Anatomy and Pretty Little Liars already existed to show me the beauty of same-sex love. There is no use in dwelling on what might have been. What matters is I am out now, these shows exist now, and now, the love that will someday make me want to say ‘I Do’ will not be seen as less than.
There is a lot more work to do, but right now we get to celebrate how far America has come. We get to celebrate that the gay children of tomorrow might get to grow up feeling a little less tortured. Soon, their minds may not have to become battlefields at all, and to me, that is everything.