and i am here today because i am gay. and because maybe i can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. regardless, for me, i feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. i also do it selfishly, because i’m tired of hiding. and i’m tired of lying by omission. i suffered for years because i was scared to be out. my spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationships suffered. and i’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of that pain. and i am young, yes. but what i have learned is that love—the beauty of it, the joy of it, and yes, even the pain of it—is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. and we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame, and without compromise.