The hazy late-autumn sun rises through her bedroom window. I roll onto my right side and gaze a moment at her peaceful, rested face. In those soft morning hours, it shows few signs of stress or worries from a life that has been filled with it. Then, as with most mornings when I wake up next to her, I shut my eyes and say a prayer. I’m not much of a praying type, but on these quiet mornings, I feel a compulsion come over me that almost seems like it’s not coming from me but is been commanded of me.
“Thank you for letting me live in a place and in a time where I am allowed to love her.”
I repeat this prayer of gratitude over and over until my heart clenches and I get a lump in my throat. My mind starts to race back to stories she’s told me and stories from other friends who have realized their truth decades earlier than I. There is so much pain in their stories, many of which I haven’t been told the details of because they just don’t want to relive it. Pain. Fear. Shame. Hurt. Rejection. Guilt. The times have changed but the residue of these memories is still palpable within them.
Those Who Aren’t Afforded This Peace
And then my heart thinks of the world, and of the many countries where the love and joy I am experiencing is a violation of the law. This year, 69 countries still considered homosexuality a crime. In 9 of those countries, the penalty is death. Death for consensual partnership. Death for experiencing real love instead of living a lie. Death for being born a certain way. I prayed for the people around the world that risk their lives to be with the one their soul desires.
I can have my relationship because of where and when I was born. That fortuitous placement has never been lost on me.
I’ve been haunted by the thought that if the dice were rolled again and my soul was born in Pakistan or Nigeria, I could be stoned to death for this moment right here. This peaceful morning moment.
I pray for change. I pray that the religious roots in the US and abroad that bring about these negative feelings, and harmful laws, and undeserved penalties someday realize their error in persecuting those who are just trying to live their lives and bring healing to the LGBTQ+ community. It seems like a goliath ask, but I pray it anyway.
The Benefit of Being Late to LGBTQ+
I recognize the privilege of entering the gay community later in life. I am an independent adult. I know I can take care of myself. I have a strong sense of self and know that I have a tightly-woven net of support from friends and family members that would love me whether I was straight, gay, or became a mime. I recognize this privilege every time I ask my girlfriend what it was like to come out as a young person.
I pray for our teens today who are trying to make sense of who they are and whom they feel an attraction to. I pray that they have families that don’t try to shield them from the existence of LGBTQ+ people, especially if their own child is one of these people. It only creates confusion and frustration when they can’t figure out why they don’t fit in the box that their parents made for them. I pray that their families accept them and love them for who they are.
You can’t “pray the gay away.” Trust me. I’ve tried.
I pray that more parents trust that, with love and support, their child will be okay. I pray that they understand that having an LGBTQ+ child is in no way a failing because THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING LGBTQ+. Condemnation and conversion attempts will only cause harm. I pray that these LGBTQ+ teens do not join the disproportionate number of homeless youth that have been kicked out of their homes for who they love or how they identify. THAT is how you fail as a parent.
Morning Gratitude for the Past and my Present
As I lay here next to her in this morning light, I know how lucky I am. I know how different my life could be had any other factors or choices changed. I am grateful for these morning moments. I am grateful for the many brave souls that came before me and paved the way for the life I am allowed to live today.
This morning, with her, having coffee. That was Johnny Cash’s description of paradise. I concur.
I am hopeful for the future of others, both youth and adults, here and abroad, that we are all allowed to love in a healthy, safe, and consensual way. I give thanks to those who made and make it possible.