02/04/2013 02:55 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Harvey Milk Is My Religion

In times of strife, many people turn to God. Others turn to another sense of a higher power or meaning, however they define it. That sense of something bigger than any of us is comforting. While I knew since before I came out to myself that there are many gay people of faith and many faiths that accept gays, God and religion are not where I turned.

When I was coming out as a young teen, I made a bulletin board display about LGBT history in my high school's hall. When I was searching for my sense of identity in college, I traveled to the Homomonument in Amsterdam and the island of Lesvos in Greece. When I was in an abusive relationship in my early 20s, I read and reread a book about gay history. Learning about the stories of those LGBT people who had come before me gave me strength. Knowing that they often made selfless sacrifices to make sure that someone like me could live more safely today was humbling, touching and comforting. People like the Stonewall rioters give me this feeling of being watched out for. They are people I have never met but have inspired how I live my life.

Anyone reading this grew up in a time that was making LGBT history. Even if you're still growing up, in January 2013 alone gay rights were mentioned in a U.S. president's inaugural address for the first time, Connecticut got its first gay Supreme Court justice, and Nepal added a third-gender option to its citizenship certificates. These are amazing times to be alive for our community, and learning about the extraordinary things that were happening 100 years ago has surprised me.

My grandparents' generation was already publishing works, passing laws and protesting on the street for queer rights. One of my favorite stories comes from northern Spain, where I spent a year. Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga, two female teachers, married each other there in 1901. Elisa passed as a man, and they were wed in the church as husband and wife. They were discovered afterwards to be two women, but their marriage license was never annulled. They had to do a lot to escape Spain and country-hopped for a while before the record of what happened to them is lost in rumors, but I like to think they ended up together safe on a beach somewhere. (The first same-sex marriage between two men in Spain happened in 1061. I haven't learned how they got away with it or what happened.)

Just as the LGBT rights movement has catapulted forward in the last 10 years since I started learning about this history in high school, so has technology. I want to share these stories with the world in a new way, which is why I am creating the LGBToday mobile app. Each day, when you open the app, it will show you a story from that date in LGBT history. It could be that the first openly gay world leader was elected in Iceland. It could be that the casts and crews of three plays showing same-sex love in New York were arrested in a police raid. It could be that a member of the Italian parliament came out as bisexual. It could be that Will & Grace premiered, or that the first transgender parliament member took office in New Zealand.

I hope it will make some LGBT youth feel a little less alone to learn that many of their extended community went through this same thing over the centuries. I hope it shows them how they can make it through, too.

To learn more, visit