Most of us know someone within our own family or social circle who identifies as part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The point being we are talking about people – and people matter because they are human. At the end of the day, human rights are either for all of us or none of us. It’s really that simple.
With the upcoming International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on May 17th which celebrates the rights of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and raises awareness of the ongoing discrimination and violence targeted against them, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own coming out journey.
I was a late bloomer when it came to realizing I was gay. In my early 20’s, I tied the heterosexual knot, but felt like there was something missing in my marriage which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I certainly loved my husband, but a great unspoken divide existed between us. Despite much effort and heartache, the marriage eventually dissolved for several reasons. This grieving period afforded me the space to reflect on who I was and what I wanted differently from love moving forward.
At first, I tried to fight the slowly unearthed truth of who I am for fear of judgment from my friends, family, and faith community. I was scared to lose what was most important in life – my tribe, my reputation, my sense of belonging. The coming out process for me was a long and painful experience, but eventually led to the decision that life was too short to live for the approval of others. I had to be true to myself and hold my head high. Be free to be me.
Unfortunately, that is not a luxury many 2SLGBTQIA+ people can afford. In places like Poland, 80 local governments have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.” Brazil has been ranked the deadliest country for trans people with the former president declaring “he would rather his son die than be gay.” In Hungary, the government recently banned the legal recognition of trans and LGBT people from becoming parents. The Florida “Don’t Say Gay” law is also taking a major step backwards with banning lessons on sexual orientation, gender identity, and prohibiting only LGBTQ educators from discussing their family status.
In many African countries, 2SLGBTQIA+ people are imprisoned and even executed for simply existing. Certain Caribbean nations still hold harsh penalties for homosexuality which they deem as illegal. This makes travel to such destinations sometimes fraught with danger. I always consider the country my family and I visit with an air of anxiety and hypervigilance. On one such occasion, I had to sadly explain to my son why he couldn’t refer to me as mama while we stayed in a certain tourist spot to avoid harassment or scrutiny. This is something the straight community never has to worry about.
What I worry about most these days is young people who may not have a safe place or person to lean on as they explore who they are. I certainly had no one to talk to because it was taboo to explore questions like sexual orientation or gender identity in my circles. I don’t wish such isolation or anguish on anyone. Eventually though, I did discover some helpful reading material and connected with a “coming out” group in the city where I live. This started the process which led to meeting my future wife. We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary next year.
I’m happy to say that I haven’t looked back since. Shortly after my wife and I married, we adopted a beautiful baby boy to complete our forever family. Years ago, when we used to drop him off at daycare, other inquisitive classmates would occasionally stop and ask us, “Why does Noah have two moms?” “Double the love,” I would always say with a smile.” They got it.
Looking back, I am so grateful to have been born in this country at this time in history where laws are now in place to protect me and my family. Not only is my marriage recognized and protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights, but my wife and I have been able to legally adopt a child and fulfill a lifelong dream to start a family. This would never have been possible a few decades ago.
As with the civil rights movement, I never take for granted all the blood, sweat and tears endured by my predecessors to secure the wonderful freedoms I get to experience today. I am both grateful and convinced that diversity is what keeps our society healthy, vibrant and in-check. Even more reason to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to remind ourselves what we are for.
If you told me 20 years ago that I would be married to a woman… from a different faith tradition… and adopt a Black child… into a family with a gay father-in-law, I would never imagine it possible. But here we are in all our glory. A dazzling rainbow world where love is love. I couldn’t be happier.