A little more than a decade ago, something happened that made me feel so incredibly honored. My cousin Peter came out of the closet — and I was the first family member he told. To this day, I am still so grateful that he put enough trust in me to tell me, and I can clearly remember exactly the change in his voice when he heard me have the reaction he needed to have — which was a shoulder shrug and no reaction because his being gay simply didn’t change one thing about the high-quality human being he was and is.
It has been easy to see since his coming out that he has fully grown into the person he truly is. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have to hide a part of your identity because of fear of acceptance, and even out of fear of violence from total strangers. His coming out did a lot for me, too, because it opened my eyes to the fight that the LGBT community had on their hands to have the same rights everyone else has. I never gave a fig about if someone was gay or straight, but I really had no idea how rampant the hatred, bigotry, prejudice, and injustice was for people like my cousin Peter.
Now that I understand so much better, I consider myself an advocate for those who are LGBT. I don’t hide my acceptance and love of people whose orientation is different from mine. I will speak out on behalf of that segment of our society. It is truly amazing how my perspective deepened once someone I loved and cared about was suddenly faced with hatred and prejudice and discrimination simply because he was born gay. It really makes the need for equal rights for all citizens glaringly obvious.
My daughter would like to work someday in the gay rights arena. My fervent wish for her is that work on behalf of LGBT individuals is not necessary and she will have to find some other line of work for herself — what a wonderful problem that would be for her and our whole society!