I grew up in a struggling, post-industrial Ohio town in the 1990s where ignorance and intolerance often reigned. I stood up to bullies my whole life, and when put under physical threat, I fought them.
No bully can intimidate me, and so even though I was definitely a weird kid, I was also funnier, smarter, and stronger than them.
They tested me, in the ways that kids do, and learned to be respectful. They also knew I would not tolerate bullying of others, so if anyone picked on someone just for being different, we were going to have a problem.
Bullies are low, broken people; weak-minded and insecure.
But instead of being tough on themselves to grow into better human beings, they desperately try to mask their weakness and insecurity by acting tough to try to intimidate others.
It’s tragic to see in any child and sad to see in any teenager, but when bullying manifests in grown adults, it’s pathetic; an inexcusable and disgusting stunting of the mind.
When I was in high school 20 years ago, being LGBTQ put a big target on your back.
Our American culture of the time still largely kept LGBTQ people ostracized, shamed, mocked, humiliated, and “othered.”
Powerful, influential LGBTQ people in sports, music, film, and business often stayed hidden in the closet, preferring to torture themselves mentally by living a lie than risk the very real possibility of deadly physical violence.
Nothing made these horrifying stakes more clear to my young mind than Matthew Shepard being tied to a fence and beaten to death in 1998.
He was 21, only eight years older than I was at the time — thinking about what kind of monstrous world I would have to live in.
I grew up knowing how to be tough in a tough city, but I knew I could not come out while I lived there, or I would be fighting constantly, no matter what respect I had earned. I’ve never been scared of a fight, but rumbling with idiots every day to defend my right to peacefully exist is not my idea of a good time.
Once I got far enough away to feel safe, I came out and my life has been absolutely blessed and beautiful ever since. I’m very fortunate and grateful for that. I wish the same for all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched America transform from that dark place of hate and intolerance to one of widespread LGBTQ toleration and acceptance, at least in our popular culture and some of our laws and cities.
I give credit to all enlightened citizens of good conscience, and each new generation, for largely discarding the loathsome societal shackles of the past to carve out a new path.
Unfortunately, many Americans remain in thrall to the weak, insecure, hateful bigots and bullies, who are trying to fear-monger our newfound cultural acceptance in a despicable attempt to once again dehumanize us, and erase our lives and experiences. Read more