Eighth grade dance. You’re sitting on the bleachers. The girl who asked you to the dance is ignoring you, somewhere in another corner with a cluster of Heathers. You’re sitting there, elbows on your knees, chin on hands. You look so sad. You also look beautiful. I didn’t know why you were sad and probably back then you didn’t know yet either. Or you knew but couldn’t say. It’s the 80s and you are only 13. I wanted to hug you. And cry with you. I didn’t know why.

College job. We’re cracking up telling each other the funniest stories we know. You’re obsessed with Kinkos. Sometimes you go even though you don’t have anything to copy. You’re always so happy, so kind. So beautiful. One day you were wrapping pastries up to put away. I was watching you, and though this sounds schmaltzy the sunlight was pouring in the window behind you, literally hugging you in its beams. I wanted to hug you too. These are the people I was raised to believe are wrong. Ugly. Sinners. It was this moment I realized, though I knew all along, that everyone who taught me that, everyone who believed that was wrong. Ugly. Sinners.

On vacation with girlfriends. They had known each other for years; I was a newcomer to the group. I was sitting outside, drinking beer, slightly stoned. Inside there was excited, hushed whispering. I emptied my beer and went in for another. Everyone was in a huddle. I have something to tell you, you said. You’re gay, I said. Yes, you said, how did you know? I shrugged. That’s cool, I said. It was cool. I was so happy for you. You were so happy. So happy. I hope you’re still that happy.

I’m in a meeting. We’re working on an LGBTQ campaign and trying to figure out media, budget. Why is pride an entire month? someone asks. Uh, because it’s fabulous, you say back. Yes, it is.

We’re cousins or second cousins or something but we’ve never met in real life. We like each other’s posts and pictures. We believe the same, love the same, think the same. You and your wife are expecting your first child. I am so filled with the happiness you two feel. Reading messages from you fills my heart with joy and the pain of the people between me and you that are no longer alive. I wish we had met when we were little. I hope we meet in real life soon.

I married you two. I cried. It was one of the most important things I’ve ever done. The pictures of you hugging, kissing, smiling, dancing. They’re so beautiful. You’re my people; I will never let you go. I feel so protective of you. Looking for houses, I worry the neighborhood is too conservative. There are places that feel like you’ve gone back in time. There are places where ugly people live. Is this that place? I won’t let anyone be ugly to you. I can’t. I love you. You are my people.

I’m writing this. I’m feeling so much happiness, love, worry and fear that I’m crying. I don’t know why. My kids are eating chocolate chip cookies. I want them to be whomever they want to be and not be afraid.

I’m proud of you all. Tomorrow, I will celebrate. Every day, I celebrate. I love you all.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.