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All I have is love

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property’s demonstration Friday has sparked controversy within Notre Dame and our LGBTQ community. I know some people feel that debate about this topic is overblown, but let me describe the situation from another viewpoint.

You see, I’m gay. This is news to almost all the people in my life. This was news to me until a few weeks ago. I only came to accept that I am gay recently, and I am in the early stages of coming out and living my life more honestly to myself. I did not see the demonstration last Friday, but the sign on The Observer’s front-page picture made my face fall. I’ve heard talk about hypersensitivity and the needless offense some people take to race or LGBTQ issues. However, I cannot say that I was personally offended by news of the demonstration. I was saddened. I was reminded that marriage, what I have been taught to see as the end goal to happiness, is illegal for people like me. I was reminded that some people believe I am unnatural and choosing sin. I was reminded that I am an outsider, unlike my peers.

Before I accepted my sexuality, I identified as an ally. I proudly believed I was “straight but not narrow.” And all the people I have spoken to about my sexuality have fit that description. In fact, between all the hugs and high fives I’ve received and the conversations which lasted from 90 seconds to 90 minutes, I have never felt closer to my friends on campus and I have rarely felt more loved. Notre Dame can be a great community for people of different sexual orientations.

But being on the other side of the “gay” issue has shown me less-positive perspectives I could not have envisioned while identifying as an open-minded straight person. Though my relationship with my roommate has not changed in the slightest now that I am out, I still felt I was obliged to tell him. It makes sense to tell him, and I wanted him to know, but it felt as if I had a highly infectious and dangerous disease he had to be aware of. What if he felt uncomfortable living with me? What if other people questioned him for choosing to live with a gay person? And before I came out, I felt guilty when a friend offered his futon if I’m ever in the area. I could only respond, “If that’s what you want.” I felt that being gay violated some principle of our friendship and I had betrayed his trust. Our generation is open and understanding, and I am lucky to have been born in such a time. Yet the stigma is not gone.

People say words like “gay” and “faggot” to describe things or people they dislike. I understand that they rarely, if ever, use them to describe or insult me. Some of my friends say those words, and I find it hard to begrudge them for it. But it makes things harder for me. I am still trying to accept who I am, and it makes it that much harder when people say, “that’s so gay.” It’s that much harder when people call someone else a fag. I’ve heard Louis C. K. insist the word no longer has nothing to do with being gay, and I believe he means it. But the word reminds me that people still believe I will burn for eternity just like faggots of wood — the origin of the term — which shocks me whenever I think about it. Just today I was called a homo. I almost confirmed the allegation and allowed the awkwardness to prevent him from saying that to anyone else, but he’s my friend, and I decided not to embarrass him. I try not to be offended by words, but I tell myself things like, “I’m so happy that I’m gay,” to help me be proud of who I am, and I can’t avoid feeling shame when I hear the same word used as a negative, undesirable term.

So when I see that people define love between a man and a woman as the only “legal” love, my face will fall, and I will be sad. I remember that, to them, my love is misplaced which makes me think of Beyoncé’s song about loving her husband, “XO.” At the beginning, it samples the ill-fated Challenger space mission saying, “Obviously a major malfunction.” This opening has an intended meaning, but I have my own interpretation. My love is a malfunction. Evolutionarily speaking, people like me add little to the species, and even though Pope Francis has taken a stance that I prefer, religions would tell me that my love is malfunctioning and misguided. Despite this, I am happy with my love. If I ever stand before God, Jesus and Saint Peter after I die, I will tell them that I loved openly and honestly. If they decide that is a malfunction, so be it, but I cannot and will not see it that way.

I do not believe people are “anti-gay” because they do not support gay marriage. My friends have been nothing but accepting of me, but I expect that some believe in traditional marriage, and I love and appreciate them just the same. But please understand why it hurts me to see demonstrators like the ones outside of DeBartolo last Friday. I am not trying to overblow anything on campus; I’m just trying to be proud of who I am. Overall though, I am incredibly happy with how Notre Dame treats its LGBTQ brothers and sisters. So happy, in fact, that it’s appropriate to call me gay.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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