Originally posted in The Temple News, here.
My best friends are not only strong, unique and intelligent, but also are dependable through everything. They have helped me through my weakest moments and reminded me that my future is bright. They never once judged me for my mistakes, flaws or sensitivity, but instead believed in me when no one else did. On top of all that, they are by far the most wild and hilarious group of people I have ever known. The fact that the majority of them are from the GLBT community only makes me appreciate them more.
I met my circle of friends in grade school and we formed instant bonds. We grew up together, too young for sexuality to be an issue. We didn’t know gay or straight. All we knew was that we were the weird kids, and we cherished it.
When we made it to high school, things started to change. My friends began to find themselves. They started to come out and openly talk about their attractions to the same sex. I didn’t mind that I was “the straight friend,” because at a time when insecurities were at a peak and a secure self of identity is hard to come across, we understood each other. We helped one another grow.
Unfortunately, we went to a rather conservative high school. I started to notice that people referred to my friends as “the gay kids.” I listened to others giving underhanded comments in the hallways and saying derogatory terms under their breath. It infuriated me. I wondered why sexuality mattered when it had absolutely no bearing on what beautiful people they were. But the ironic thing is my friends weren’t affected as much as I seemed to be. While I was defensive, they let others’ insolence empower them. They stayed strong to who they were, not letting the ignorance of homophobia intimidate them.
I specifically remember a time we all went to a nearby shopping mall. One of my best friends Billy was wearing a fluorescent rainbow sweatshirt and pink shorts. His hair also had hot pink streaks in at the time. He walked through the stores, head held high, laughing and making jokes as usual. But I noticed something strange–people were staring at him, pointing and whispering.
Becoming increasingly annoyed, I gave these strangers dirty looks, warning them to look the other way. I felt like I needed to protect Billy from their ill-placed judgments, but in all reality, he didn’t even notice. He was so comfortable in his own skin that the people gawking at him faded in the background.
Billy’s just one example of an inspirational member of the GLBT community, but I can’t even express how proud I am of all my friends. Their struggles and triumphs make them such powerful and passionate people. They each have an individual story and unique obstacles they have overcome–obstacles that most of us will never have to face.
When other people didn’t understand them and questioned them, they remained sturdy in their principles. When they were terrified to tell their families, they found the courage to do so. They don’t let what society expects of them change their plans, and that’s what makes them role models to all young people who ever feared or fear coming out.
I also feel privileged to go to Temple where diversity is celebrated, not put down. I met so many more GLBT friends here, including my former three roommates. There’s a true sense of gay pride here, which needs to extend beyond campus, into the city and across the country.
The straight community needs to come together and help their GLBT friends and family members in their fight. Being gay friendly isn’t really an option anymore. It’s necessary to stop the discrimination, hatred and fear that causes so many problems in society. As more members of the GLBT community come out, proud of their sexuality, we can all form an alliance and fight together not just for gay marriage, but for equality–something that is supposed to be guaranteed. This is the 21st century. Let’s start acting like it.