Growing up in a town where the most exciting thing to do on a Friday night was to go to the local superstore and "hangout," I would resort to the movies that lived on the shelves next to the television set to relieve my boredom. In front of me, rows of my sister's favorite Disney movies and my mom's rom-coms sat ready for me to dive into. As happy as I was that Belle ended up with her prince in the end, Meg Ryan found Mr. Sleepless in Seattle, and Robin Penn stumbled upon her message in a bottle (because every teenage boy enjoyed watching romantic comedies, right?), I never clearly identified myself with those characters or plots.
For some reason, the idea of me falling madly in love with my wife or my princess, getting married, and having three kids was never a picture I imaged in my frame of life.
I never quite fit into any group through my early education and found it was easier to distance myself from others. As senior year of high school rolled around, I began to understand that the sweaty palms and raised heart rate I got around other guys was not because of my self-proclaimed awkward personality. But that couldn't possibly be right, I previously dated a girl and kissed her... TWICE! I felt something when I gently put my lips against hers, right? Something I had to come to terms with was that there are infinite versions of love, and my love for girls was a form of love that could not be painted on a canvas of passion and deep connection. You have to love your friends in a different way then you love your partner. I finally came out at the end of my senior year.
As I started my journey into the college jungle, I began turning stones on my own sexuality and discovered what I did and didn't want in a relationship. I valued a real human connection with an individual who I could laugh, cry, and struggle with. Each first date, each first kiss, and each break-up landed me to where I was months ago. I happily accepted a dinner date with a boy with a contagious smile and a heart of pure gold. The first date was stitched with endless stories about our family, favorite foods, wines, want-to-see locations, fears, and future endeavors. A night that I expected to last around an hour turned into a whole evening of getting to know one another (we didn't want to take up our server's table all night, so we made our way to a local coffee joint where we spent the next two hours chatting in the dimmed ambiance). As nervous as I was for that first date, I am so glad I took that leap of faith. I feel privileged to wrap my arm around the shoulder of an individual I cherish while reading my book at night. With soft jazz melodies playing in the undertones of the room, I feel privileged to drink my morning coffee with the cup in one hand, and his hand in the other. I feel privileged to badly karaoke my favorite songs in the car while he laughs and sings along and I feel privileged to call this man my boyfriend. When you give a man a boyfriend, everyone will be able to tell. Look for the brightest grin in the room, because it's mine. And I know that there is someone at home ready to give me a hug as soon as I walk through the door.
Here's to the men who could never be masculine enough. Because no matter how many times you told your father that you don't want to play football, you will never be good enough in his eyes. Here's to women who could never be feminine enough. Because despite your arguments to your mom about all the reasons that you don't want to wear a dress to the prom this year, she will never listen. Here's to those who chose not to categorize their gender based on societal and cultural expectations. Because no matter where you are in public, you'd rather hold your bladder than dare to walk into the correct bathroom. Here's to those in the LGBTQ+ community that want more than just the hookup culture. Because no matter how many dates you go on, another "not looking for anything serious" never surprises you. Here's to those who are afraid to hold hands with the person they love because of the judgemental stares and comments of others. Here's to those who are afraid to hold hands with the person they love but do it anyway, because it doesn't matter what other people say or think. Here's to those who refuse to tell their family. Because it's cold outside, and a warm bed is more important than making them think you're right. Here's to those who create a new family that supports the true them. Because your family would rather comply with the creeds of the past than believe the confessions of their child. Here's to the individuals trying their best to understand and accept. Because as difficult as it is, it will take time for the cultural acceptance we all are waiting for.