Ethan Vaughan,  Staff Writer

Coming out is different for everyone. For me, it happened this summer, and the worst part of the experience was anticipating what those around me were going to think. I allowed my fears to grow so out of control that by the time I finally sat my parents down to have the talk, I was surprised at how mild their reaction was.

When they said they didn’t care what I was, and that they loved me, and that above everything else they wanted me to be happy, it caught me off guard. I’d prepared myself for an epic, hours-long conversation, but found that after five minutes there was nothing more to be said. They accepted me. That was it.

I came away with a feeling of profound gratitude, built upon the realization that others before me, and many even today, faced real battles just to be who they were. We who enjoy the rights that others fought and died for are blessed, and we should remember it. When things are difficult, I try to.

I am so thankful that I was born when I was; in 1988 rather than in 1968 or 1948.

I am thankful that I came into the world at a time when the prejudices of old were past their crest, were beginning to fall away.

I am thankful that the incomplete process of their destruction was so far progressed when I came of age; was advanced enough to allow me to breathe and to be.

I am thankful that I can walk outside and see the blue sky and extend my bare arms into the warm sunshine.

I am thankful that I can feel joy in myself and in the things that truly give me happiness without having to hide it, that I am free.

I am thankful that my soul and mind weren’t imprisoned in a body that was locked in an era, that I didn’t burn inside for decades, that I didn’t have to wait and hope that maybe one day deliverance would come, that I didn’t cry into a pillow and pretend that evil wasn’t happening.

I am thankful that the cruelty of a past age didn’t touch me, that I never felt its wicked fingers.

I am thankful that the people who hurt so many, who destroyed countless like me, died or aged into living death before I was an idea in my mother’s mind.

I am thankful that I can revel in beauty without having it assailed or obliterated.

I am thankful that the very fact of me isn’t enough to incite rage and violence, that I will never swing from a summer oak or hear the pounding on the door in the middle of the night.

I am thankful that our neighbors need not fear terror in a white hood, that I don’t have to pretend I hate my own friends to divert the fire from myself. I am thankful that our camaraderie is not forbidden.

I am thankful that my mother and my sister live in a time and a country when they are considered people, human beings with as full a right to prosperity, independence and success as anyone else. I am thankful that my sister will never be held back by the hem of her dress.

I am thankful that a reverend came before me and began to diminish the hatred.

I am thankful that they will never triumph again, that they will never hold this region or any other on a vise of searing terror.

I am thankful that I can be so careless in my honesty.

I am thankful that the only South I have ever known is a land of wealth and gorgeousness, where the tongues of a hundred nations and the hues of the entire world mingle freely.

I am thankful that I can hear Arabic spoken in the park.

I am thankful that this state has become a symbol of progress.

I am thankful that this means so much to me, that I understand. Yet I am also thankful that my generation takes for granted this peace. I am thankful that people can finally be who they are, that our society considers it natural to be natural.

I am thankful that the persecution I have known pales in contrast to what others endured in the past, and I pray that the hardships to come are dwarfed by my suffering.

I am thankful there are people who see the work still to be done, and that they are dedicated to doing it.

I am thankful that Barack Obama can be my president.

I am thankful for every single person who died, for every life given in the knowledge that one day a people would be free. I am thankful for every old veteran who marched in the streets.

I am thankful that those who wept and bled and screamed remember, and that they will never forget.

I am thankful that I wasn’t just another dead faggot.

I am thankful that I could love someone one day, and give myself away to that love. I am thankful that if he exists, the world will not war to tear us apart.

I am so thankful.