June 26, 2015

I was awakened early in the morning by a wave of texts and social media notifications informing me of the news. Although the Supreme Court had been expected to make a decision on the case sometime that week, my half-asleep self still didn't believe what I was seeing. I was hesitant to get my hopes up that what I was being told might actually be the truth, that marriage equality was finally a reality, but when it finally registered, it was a feeling of happiness like no other. This was a huge milestone on the road to equality, not only for the LGBT community but for all American citizens, and was a day to be celebrated.

I couldn't have been in a better place to rejoice, as I happened to be attending a massive theater festival with some of my best friends that week. I woke up my roommate, who was just as happy to hear the news as I was, and we called a handful our friends over in the boys' dorms to meet up with us. My best friend, who happens to be gay, was one of them, and when we saw each other in person for the first time that day, we ran into each other's arms like a scene out of a movie.

Our whole day was a celebration of love, love of our friends, love of diversity, love of one other and, for the first time in a long while, love of our country. Random strangers at the festival would come up to us and give us hugs, rainbow flags came out of nowhere, announcements were made at shows and workshops that were received with standing ovations and everyone we encountered was in a state of pure bliss. It was a day to love who you were and to reflect on just how far we had come in the fight for equality.

That night, we went to a dance hosted by the festival, and the mood of the hundreds of theater kids crammed into a small space was through the roof. People danced like no one was watching and were unafraid to be true to themselves.

My best friend and I came up with a cliche, but sentimental idea, and after making our request to the happily obliging DJ, were delighted to hear the music transition from the upbeat club jam to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Same Love." The people in the room slowed their dancing down to hear what was playing and, when they realized the significance of that song on that day, absolutely lost it. I had chills up and down my body at just how much love was in that tiny dance hall, and when all the occupants began holding hands and forming a circle, I couldn't hold back my emotions. For the next few minutes, me, some of the most important people in my life, and several hundred complete strangers sang the words at the top of our lungs through simultaneous tears and smiles. When the song finally came to an end and congratulatory handshakes and embraces went around, my friends and I came together for a group hug, and through sloppy tears, my best friend looked me in the eye and said:

"We won."

Contrary to the beliefs of many people out there who were or still are opposed to marriage equality, besides people being given the right to love, the type of celebration that my friends and I had that day was all that came of the ruling. Marriage equality didn't open the floodgates to attacks on religion, bestiality, the crumbling of America's morals, the implementation of the gay agenda (whatever the hell that is) or any other event that would drastically affect the lives of U.S. citizens, as those with narrow minds seemed to anticipate. People now are freer to be themselves without shame, celebrate diversity and marry the person they love and that's all that happened. All the fears that bigots and opponents to change had about their own lives being impacted have been proved over the past year to be completely unjust and obsolete. Allowing "the gays" to marry hasn't stopped anyone from continuing about their lives just as they were before, and as surprising as it may be to some, the planet is still revolving and life exists just as they knew it before. The only difference is that the quality of life for many was able to take a giant step closer to that of their straight neighbors.

So on this anniversary of the legalization of love, celebrate. Celebrate who you are, gay, straight, bi, trans and everything in between, and how far we've come as a nation to secure equal rights for all of our citizens. Celebrate, time and time again, that intolerance has lost and will continue to lose. We still have far to go on the road to equality, and an even more difficult journey ahead of us in the quest to open minds and hearts to embrace diversity, and it's going to be harder than ever. We'll encounter hatred, violence, power, abuse and feel on some days that we've been stripped of everything we have, but love cannot lose as long as it lives inside us. We are a nation and a species rooted in determination and compassion, and nothing will ever take that away from us.