Recently, the state of New York has legislated gay marriage into law. I could not be happier. The gay rights movement is in full swing and it'll only be a matter of time before full marriage equality will be instated in every state of the country.
In many ways, the gay rights movement parallels the civil rights movement in the 1960's. They were both grass roots movements that gradually gained steam and became national movements that influenced the course of history. I wait for the day that the President signs a national bill into law that ensures equal rights for all Americans.
Equality also has a personal meaning to me. Yes, I am a young gay man, so gay marriage affects me personally, but equality also means something to me on a deeper level, deep within my psyche.
When I was 14 years old and in junior high, a classmate caught me checking out other boys in the locker room after gym class. He asked me (and these were his exacts words), "Nathan, you're not gay or anything, are you?" Now, I wasn't a flamer nor was I obvious, but I definitely was gay.
My face all red, my heart pounding, I stammered, "No, no, of course not."
"Good," he said. "Because I hate those faggots, like Steve. My dad tells me they're full of AIDS."
Embarrassed that he had caught me checking out other boys, I nodded along, barely listening to his hateful speech. I felt guilty for not standing up for gays and lesbians and for Steve (who was my best friend at the time and the only one who was out in our rural, conservative junior high school), but I didn't want any trouble from the hater, who happened to be the school bully.
So, I high-tailed it out of the locker room.
But the nagging feeling of guilt persisted all throughout college. I should have stood up for my own kind, defended them or even admitted that I was gay, but I didn't. Instead of fighting, I fled the locker room. I felt like such a coward.
Why did I have to hide my sexuality? Was I not proud of who I was? Of course I was, but revealing my sexual preference would have gotten me in trouble. I was fearing for my life. I had heard about cases of gay bashing, like the Matthew Shepherd case. I wanted no part of that. I just wanted to live my life in peace, without fear that an intolerant, prejudicial meathead was waiting for me around the corner with a baseball bat.
But still, the feelings of guilt and cowardice have followed me all these years.
What does this have to do with Lady Gaga, you might ask?
She is a fighter. She stands up for equality. She stands up for those that have to hide, for fear of retribution and gay bashing. We need fighters like her on our side to say and do what so many people are afraid to say and do.
I remember watching her speech at the National Equality March in 2009. Her eloquence and passion brought me to tears. There was something about how much she cared for the plight of gays and lesbians all throughout the world that made me not only admire her, but gave me the courage to stand up for myself and others.
After watching Gaga's speech that day, I ran into that old bully on campus. Instead of turning around and fleeing like I did in junior high, I confronted him head-on.
My heart racing, I said, "You're an ignorant idiot. Gay people are not full of AIDS. And yes, I am a proud gay American."
The shocked look on his face made my feelings of guilt vanish. They festered there after all these years, now, they were gone.
I thought he might hit me, but he turned around and walked away. I never saw him again.
A proud smile spread across my face as I went home.
I stood up for myself.
I did not have to hide anymore.
And it was all thanks to Lady Gaga and her impassioned speech for gay rights.
It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders.
I can't help but think what a better world this would be if everyone was like Gaga: tolerant, accepting, non-judgmental, loving.
Gaga, you rock!