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.