On Jan. 3, 2011, a 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student named Zach Wahls stood up and delivered a speech about his life and experiences growing up with two lesbian mothers that resonated with LGBTQ people around the world.
The speech, delivered in front of the Iowa House of Representatives, was a response to proposed legislative efforts to end civil unions in the state. At the time, marriage equality in America was still four years away, and moments like this felt precious to many same-sex couples who often felt as though they would never win the right to wed.
Today, Wahls is 26 and running for Iowa state Senate. In the years since his speech, he has engaged in a number of battles for the rights of LGBTQ Americans, including co-founding Scouts for Equality, a national campaign to end discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America.
Seven years after delivering his speech, Wahls sees the viral video as a key moment in his life, one that played a major part in his decision to pursue a career in public service rather than his earlier interest in renewable energy. Last week, he described the experiences of that day in a powerful Twitter thread.
Wahls told HuffPost he still get messages from people around the world who tell him how the video affected them on a personal level.
“I hope [the video] can continue to do two things,” Wahls told HuffPost. “One: to help kids of queer parents know that they are OK, their families are OK, and that things may be hard right now, but they will get better. And two: I hope LGBTQ people who want to be parents someday will watch that video and know they are not going to mess up their kids just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Wahls went on to say that his birth mother had her own moment of realization about the value of queer parenthood in the late 1980s while talking to her cousins over pizza. Today, he says, LGBTQ prospective parents can reach similar conclusions thanks to YouTube videos and other platforms.
“Without a moment like that my mother had [in the ’80s], I literally would not exist,” he said. “So to be able to pay that forward ― whether here in the United States or internationally, whether it’s today or tomorrow or 10 years or 50 years from now, whatever the case may be ― that is its own reward.”
Editor’s note: Wahls is dating a HuffPost editor who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this story.