In 1993, my father came out.
It was five years later that Matthew Shepard was murdered.
For the first year after my father came out, I didn't tell anyone. I'm not new to openness and honesty so imagine a highly social 14 year old girl who simply does not tell a soul that her father has dropped the biggest shock of her life in her lap. I didn't tell because I was afraid.
I was afraid someone would hurt my dad. I was afraid he'd get AIDS and die. I was afraid someone at my school would find out and hurt me or make my life a living hell. I wasn't over-the-top in these fears. At the time, people were permissible hazed for this sort of thing. I was at a conservative school. I was genuinely afraid of the hate that might come my way.
But then I was at a pride parade where I thought, I can't be here pretending to be "proud" if there I don't tell a soul. So I went home and said, oh well. If it costs me all the social groups in the world, this is who he is and this is who I am. I'm proud and I have to be honest to be truly proud.
And I did.
I went home and told anyone, any time it came up, that my dad was gay. And interestingly no one batted an eye. I was lucky that way. I'd love to take credit for being brazen in the way I presented the information, and I was. Or give credit to the people who didn't let it influence any part of what they thought of me, because good on them. But in all reality, I think I was just lucky. I didn't get picked out as a target for the hate of that time period toward gay people.
So today, and every day that I see progress toward truly equal rights, I feel amazingly blessed. I feel grateful to see where we're headed. I feel grateful that when my son says he wants to marry the guy painting the house (he's also said he wants to marry a few girls his age,) that I can say, "you can marry anyone who you feel is the one and who feels the same way about you."
Make Matthew Shepard and all those who have fallen to the hate that went before proud. Be proud of the progress. And grateful. I am.