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I was at odds with myself about writing this post, but the more I watch my neighbours in the US trying to destroy each other every day with an onslaught of barbs, jabs and hate speech, the more I felt moved to offer up my perspective….

I am a gay man. I was born this way – it is not a choice we make, so never let anyone tell you that it is chosen. Those who profess to be cured (“ex-gay”), were never gay to begin with. I am a loving, caring, soulful, spiritual man – an active member of society: I volunteer, I work in my church, I support my friends fiercely with their causes, and they know I will always be there for them. I strive to excel in my workplace and I am respected for both my work ethic and my contributions to my communities. I hold my family in the highest regard, and they bless me with the same love. I love my God and I am blessed in return with more in this life than I could have ever imagined myself. I am respected for “who” I am, for what I contribute, for this person you see before you.

But I am not – to cut through the stereotypes – promiscuous, into children, ready to marry my dog nor do I expect “special” rights. Nor am I a child of Satan, as “Michael Bresciani” has deemed gay people. I wish for the same protections, rights, freedoms, respect and benefits as everyone else. I have no hidden agenda, no secret recruitment scheme, no conversion tactics, no ulterior motive. I am not broken, misguided, evil, sick or less than.

I am exactly as I was created.

I want the same things as everyone else – to find love, to cherish each other for our similarities and our differences, to be respected, to be heard, to be treated with dignity and to make a difference in whatever way I can. For so long, gay people have been labelled as promiscuous, and I will agree that many are – just as many heterosexuals are. Hit any bar/nightclub on a weekend and the behaviour you witness is not so different in either community. However, to then deny us the opportunity to show that we are in committed, loving, respectful relationships or marriages, removes our opportunity to show that we function just like the majority. We too want stable, loving, beneficial partnerships to enjoy.

Same but different is not equal.

I have never understood the argument that “Same Sex Marriage” cheapens traditional marriage. How? How does my love for my partner – wanting that to be something beautiful – cheapen anything? How does it change your bond that I am blessed to live in a country that granted us the right to marriage equality, and have been married?

I was once asked by a friend, quite sincerely, “What does it feel like to be in love with another man?” I simply told her that my feeling of love felt exactly the same as it did for her. I watched as she sat for a couple of minutes – the look on her face changed, the light bulb went on and she apologized for the question. She proclaimed, “I had never even considered that it would be that simple.” I can only speculate as to why she had never considered that the emotional connection would be the same for me as for her, but her one question and my openness changed her life that day.

I am not going to wade into the religious argument – the mud-slinging in the name of God is fodder for numerous other posts – other than to say we were commanded to love each other. Judgements and hate-filled speech in His name don’t fly with me, regardless of which side of the issue you are on.

We seem, as inhabitants of this planet, to have a need to vilify each other on an ongoing basis. Pick a segment of society that has not been targeted in history: Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Japanese, women…what is our flaw? Why do we have the need to take down that which we find different from ourselves? What if you were next?

Whatever your beliefs, let us remember that we are all “people” – flesh and bone, full of dreams, wants, needs and the deep-rooted desire to be accepted and nurtured. We are “all” special, we are all worth something, we are all valuable. We are “not so different” from each other.

Temper your words, lead with love, speak with kindness; we are all bothers and sisters of humanity.

Go out into this great world, love your neighbour, and most importantly, love yourself.