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The Fight for Global LGBTQ Equality Isn't Over

Eduardo Verdugo
Eduardo Verdugo/AP

This Pride is as much about spreading love as it is demanding justice. 

"I love you," I nervously said to my boyfriend not long ago while we were away at the beach.

Almost a year into our relationship, it was the first time in my 32 years of life that I'd uttered those words to anyone romantically--unless you count my elementary school playground crush, whose reputation I'll spare--and it was the first time I'd heard it said to me.

For someone whose romantic emotions have been, at times, more guarded than Buckingham Palace, that we both expressed our love for one another warmed my heart in ways I didn't expect. It was freeing and delightful, and upon later reflection, made me thankful that I live in a country where expressing my love for someone of the same gender no longer means prison time, death or torture.

Yet as we celebrate Pride Month--when I'll no doubt don a variety of rainbow-colored arm bands and flags, and toast with my friends to being out and proud--we know that the work of equality and ending homophobia isn't complete. This month marks the tragic anniversary of a lone gunman killing 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest incident against LGBTQ people in United States history, and it is a haunting reminder of the fragility of LGBTQ life. It shook our community to its core, and showed that despite the tireless efforts of those who've made my gay life possible, not everyone feels safe, as free to love or as capable of being who they really are.

Related |OUT100: The Survivors and Heroes Of Pulse

This is precisely why the global voices of those who push for full inclusivity of LGBTQ people remain so crucial.

That includes people like Megan Munson, who's calling on Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State to put an end to conversion therapy, the practice of 'curing' LGBTQ people of their sexual and gender identities, which can heighten their risk of depression and suicide for those patients. Currently, the practice is only outlawed in California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, and Vermont.

And Joshua Mesman of Louisiana, who--after the public learned that the U.S. will not tally LGBTQ people in its 2020 census-- reminded us that not doing so suggests that LGBTQ citizens aren't full citizens, which ultimately means failing to take into account the ways in which lawmakers can legislatively improve the lives of our community. He and thousands of others are fighting to make sure our lives and identities are made visible in our society--and marked in history.

Or Igor and Artyom of Russia, who, despite the physical danger in doing so, have sought to expose and stop what's believed to be the abduction, detainment, torture, and sometimes murder of gay men on the part of the Chechen government. What's being described as a "gay hunt," advocates and Russian citizens are putting their lives in danger for the sake of safeguarding the humanity of LGBTQ people abroad.

Reflecting on initially saying "I love you" to my boyfriend, I recalled a younger me who had to pretend I didn't like other boys and told myself that Jonathan Taylor Thomas of Home Improvement fame was just a guy I wanted to be like, and--no thanks to the larger culture at the time--wasn't free to truly explore my emotions and sexual identity in the way my heterosexual friends did throughout the years. I mourn that that was the reality for myself and so many of my LGBTQ friends. And I'm low-key livid I didn't get to take that cute guy I liked to the prom or display that Taye Diggs poster in my locker.

But as a happy and proud gay man today, one who's surrounded with a multitude of love from family and friends, I know that if we want a better future for our community--and if we believe that love is love is love is love--then the fight for justice, equality and elevating marginalized voices isn't over.

And if history tells me anything, we won't give up, and we'll wave our flag high while doing it.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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