This weekend my social media feeds were brimming with attendees reporting from the 24th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards, The GLAAD Awards celebrate positive portrayals of gay and lesbian people and issues in television, print and online media.
A highlight has stuck with me. Anderson Cooper, who publicly came out last year, was honored with the Vito Russo Award for promoting equality. After being introduced and kissed by a Boy-Scout uniformed Madonna (which interestingly enough is on MY lifelist, not yours, Cooper!) Anderson made an acceptance speech where he thanked his boyfriend by name. He movingly said:
I’ve had so many blessings in my life, and being gay is certainly one of the greatest blessings. It has allowed me to love and to be loved and to help open my head and my heart in ways I could never have predicted. The ability to love one another, the ability to love another person is, in my opinion, one of God’s greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life – my family, and my friends, and my partner Benjamin. Thank you very much, and thank you for being here.
I keep coming back to this. Being gay as a blessing.
It made me think back to a conversation I had a few months ago with a woman who wanted some feedback about how she handled a conversation with her teenage daughter. She thought the teen may have been trying to come out to her, or was perhaps testing the water. The mother said she did her best to create a space for acceptance while also encouraging her daughter to take her time to figure herself out.
“If she’s gay, I will love her of course,” she said, “but I’m scared for her. I want her life to be easier, not harder. Not full of hate or bias. I want her to be straight because then she’d be free of all of that.”
As part of that conversation, I remember assuring the mother that the hardest thing about being gay is if you can’t be wholly yourself. The burden is exterior, indeed it’s damaging when a lack of acceptance occurs from people who matter to us. But along with what’s hard, and especially when we find places of acceptance, the blessings emerge thousandfold.
Like Anderson, I celebrate queerness as a huge blessing. You gain a confidence and sense of purpose after pushing past exterior biases to self-acceptance. An untouchable and fierce core self develops. A tender spirit often flows within those who have had to deploy resilience and determination to love who they love. Our community is resonant with brilliant minds, wild creatives, determined doers, early adopters, trendsetters and forward-thinkers. Our families and friendships are forged with intention and connection to each other as found “family.” And we throw the best parties, brunches and, yes, weddings in the world.
It’s a blessing to be gay.
Truthfully, that would be the best response a parent could have to a coming out kid, a celebration of this really cool thing. Everyone might be a little queer, but not everyone gets to be full-on gay! If your family is lucky enough to win the rainbow lottery and you can open your mind and heart to it instead of seeing it like dire results from a dreaded medical test, you are lucky, lucky indeed. You will get to meet wonderful, cool, blessed gay folks, and your life will be richer for it. Wonderful, blessed people–for example, your daughter.
I’m glad Anderson framed his queerness that way at the GLAAD Awards. He’s right, so very right, and it’s an important to count our blessings every day.
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