Caleb, 23, shares his own journey and acknowledges the intersectionality that must accompany the progression of the LGBTQ+ movement.
My parents knew I was gay from a very young age. I’m not sure what outted me first: was it my Katharine Hepburn impression? Or the fact that I often dressed up in my grandma’s black and white polka dot dress and red church hat pretending to be my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Butterfield? Or maybe it was the hours upon hours I played with my mom’s vintage Barbie doll set? Whatever it was, they knew.
They knew long before I knew. They knew before I had the vocabulary or maturity to understand what sexuality is or know that people could hate you just because you love differently than them. They knew and they loved me anyway. And when I started the seemingly never-ending process of coming out, I did it with them.
“Mom, Dad, there’s something I need to tell you…”
The fact of the matter is, though, my coming out was pretty easy. I wasn’t even the first in my family to do it. I was the fourth! I have three gay uncles, two on my dad’s side and one on my mom’s. I wasn’t the last to come out either. I have a gay cousin and a bisexual sister! The gay gene is real and my family has it in spades.
Because of my ‘guncles’, I never had to do any of the convincing or explaining. I just had to say the words “I’m gay” and my family knew exactly what that meant: all of the joy and love and fear that accompanies kicking open that closet door. I was accepted and embraced by all of the important people in my life, friends, and family alike (we won’t mention the religious aunt and uncle that live in Seattle…).
I’m saying all of this not to boast or revel in any way. I’m saying it because I think it’s important to acknowledge the privileges I benefit from. I stand on the backs of people far stronger and braver than me. My uncles paved the way for me to comfortably live my truth very early in life, not to mention the trailblazers and riot starters in the queer community at large. The many names we know- Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, Edith Windsor, Harry Hay- and the countless others we don’t.
They had “roommates” so we could have federally recognized marriages.
They went to the funerals of their friends so we could go to brunch every Sunday.
They threw the first brick at Stonewall so we could throw confetti at our Pride parades.
And while we have made great strides in the 50 years since Stonewall, the last 3 years have shown us the struggle is far from over. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed but trans troops are banned from serving. We have a federal government that recognizes same-sex marriages but bakeries that are legally allowed to refuse to bake our wedding cakes. Queer culture is being embraced like never before with shows like Drag Race and films like Love, Simon but trans women of color are being murdered in staggering numbers. Until we can all live openly and safely, none of us can.
This Pride month, I want to take steps toward that goal. The modern queer revolution started with a riot. Today, it’s a celebration. And I think, moving forward, a marriage of those two is exactly what we need. I want to use the privileges I was gifted with to lift up those that need it.
I am a cis, white, gay 23-year-old man who got really, really lucky and until every LGBTQ+ person has a similar experience to mine, we will know we’re not there yet. So to whoever is reading this, however you identify, I wish for you the thrill a seven-year-old felt impersonating Katharine Hepburn, the joy of dressing up like Mrs. Butterfield, and the freedom to play with his mom’s Barbies.