“What did we do wrong?”
“Your life is going to be harder.”
“I am afraid for you.”
“Now you’re not going to get married or have children.”
I do not deny that some parts of being LGBTQ can be difficult. There are many towns in this country where it is not safe to hold the hand of your same-sex partner or be visibly transgender. There are many religious (and until recently, military) schools that can legally kick you out for being queer. In Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Utah it is illegal for you to jointly adopt children with your same-sex partner. (Just to name a few of the challenges LGBTQ people face.)
Yet, I love being gay.
It makes me more engaged with news and politics, as my identity and my place in society is debated in national and international forums. This makes me feel that my life and my voice are important.
It makes me more articulate; I speak with all kinds of people about my life and issues of sexuality, gender and social justice. This has taught me how to effectively listen, explain and debate.
It makes me resilient. I know there are people who hate me simply because I am not heterosexual. I am not intimidated or afraid of them anymore. I have learned to be fully myself always, no excuses, no justifications, no lies by omission.
There are no rules for my engagement, my wedding, the division of housework and parenting, and who leads when my girlfriend and I dance the Texas Two-Step.
I have and will continue to participate in the civil rights efforts that will affect my life. I have been involved in civil disobedience at West Point Military Academy, organized sit-ins at the Times Square military recruitment center, done door-knocking to oppose Proposition 8 in California, cried with sadness in front of San Francisco City Hall when Prop 8 passed, and cried with joy when marriage equality passed in New York.
It motivates me. I regularly see the injustices my gay friends have to navigate. Feeling pressured to introduce the love of your life as your “roommate” to certain family members, fearing affectionate photos of you and your partner tagged on Facebook, fearing subtle repercussions if you come out at work, not having the choice to have your relationship recognized by the federal government, being forced to deny your relationship by omission on the Census, and on medical forms. My intelligent, successful, loving and tax-paying gay friends do not deserve such indignity.
And that is just my short list.
For other LGBT folks, the list might feature other benefits and points of pride. But what it's really all about is recognizing that the thing that makes us different can also make us great.