For all of my life I have been raised by lesbians who have been together for 32 years. They taught me to respect each person as an equal no matter whom they love. Growing up in such an environment, I thought nothing of the fact that I have two mothers and assumed that most people accepted it. My friends and their parent's seemed to have no issues with it as well. As a child, I went to gay pride rallies and did not fully grasp the astronomical issues facing gay Americans. It was not until I got older that I witnessed the kinds of discrimination that gay Americans are subjected to. Protests by groups like the Westboro Baptist Church personally affect me; the abhorrence they feel toward people who are different than them makes it difficult to think of them as humans. Despite not being gay myself, I can empathize with those who face such discrimination. My parents were fortunate that they faced far less bigotry than many other gay people. Yet they are still uncomfortable, at times, revealing their sexuality to friends and coworkers.
Now I am 19 years old and a sophomore at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. This summer I was an intern at Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) which is the world's largest HIV/AIDS service organization. It was sad to learn that many of GMHC's clients have either been rejected by their family, or struggle to find work, due to discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status -- and more. It also pained me to know that there are people living with HIV and AIDS, especially those who are gay, who have been shunned from their communities.
It is difficult for me to imagine where I would be if not accepted just because of my sexuality, to face discrimination just because of who I love. When I hear conservative commentators like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh argue about gay marriage, I see xenophobes of the highest caliber. While they should be allowed to voice hatred, we must understand that they do not represent the majority of America. In fact, a recent poll by Gallup showed 52 percent of respondents would support a law that would legalize same-sex marriage across all 50 U.S. states.
My mothers were married in August 2011 when marriage equality became legal in the New York State. While they did not feel like their lives changed much after the wedding, they were amazed that gay rights have come as far as it did.
Despite the advancements in equal rights, I and other young Americans have to recognize there is still work to do today. In many parts of this country, and abroad, there is intense discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation. President Obama came out for same-sex marriage a few years ago, but that does not mean the whole country has yet. Yet it is up to us, the next generation of potential activists, to make sure in the coming years the United States will fully embrace equality for all. So how do we that? Write, read and learn about the struggles of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and then spread your knowledge to others. Alone we cannot make change, but as a movement we have and we will continue to expand freedom and rights to all. My mothers have shaped me, and allowed me to be more open minded than many others and I thank them deeply for what they mean to me, and the impact they have had upon my life.