I’m From Lawrence, KS.

by emily kolatch

People don’t usually ask you what it’s like to be gay. They ask you how your parents reacted when you came out to them. They ask you when you knew. But they never ask what it feels like or what it means to you. When I tell straight people that I’m gay, sometimes they fall all over themselves trying to let me know that it’s okay with them. Sometimes, they get really quiet and end the conversation. Lately they’ve been asking if I got married before Prop 8 passed.

The only time I can remember anyone asking me what being gay means to me was in Paru Paru, Peru. I was working with a group of American teenagers and local Andean farmers planting potatoes. One of the teenagers started telling me about a friend of his who’s a lesbian. “She’s awesome,” he said. “Really fearless. Like she walks around town barefoot. But she thinks being gay is the worst thing that’s happened to her. She wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What’s it like for you?” There was the question I always wish people would ask. (And here it was coming from a sixteen year old.) In the least expected place, thousands of miles from my hometown and my current home, I finally got to tell someone what it feels like to me. I got to tell this young kid that being gay has brought me an incredible relationship with my partner, a unique perspective on the world, a community of interesting people, empathy for those who are “different,” the comfort that my family loves me in spite of what they might see as unforgivable, and a whole lot of confidence in who I am. I finally got to say that being gay is one of the biggest blessings in my life. “I would wish it on everyone,” I told him. I wish someone had told me that when I was sixteen.

6 Comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing, I feel the exact same way.

  2. It was is a blessing to see the world from the perspective that gay people get to see it, to be able to celebrate difference.

  3. I have never thought about someone asking. I tell stories so others might have some insight, hoping they will read them.

  4. Just found out about this site and couldn’t help but search for my hometown–and it turns up with somebody I knew many years ago!

  5. thank you for this beautiful story. as someone who feels so isolated as a result of being gay, i love reading about how you don’t. hope is a powerful thing.

  6. Kudos! Great perspective and sentiment. I think if I had had a frank discussion about being gay when I was in my teens with a gay adult, I may have been able to come to terms with what that means much sooner than I did. I do not regret the mountains and mole hills I needed to negotiate to get where I am today but if I could, I would spare others from some of the harder times I encountered along the way. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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