Editor's note: Allison Hope is a freelance writer and LGBTQ advocate. The views expressed here are her own. When I first came out at age 16, I told only select friends that I was a lesbian. It took me a year before I told my parents (actually, they confronted me until I admitted I was dating a woman several years my senior). Once they knew, the first thing my parents said to me was that they were worried about my safety. They were scared I was going to get beat up on the mean streets of New York City for being queer. It was the late '90s, and Ellen DeGeneres was the only celebrity who had come out. Her show was subsequently canceled, which shoved her back into the proverbial closet. Matthew Shepard had been beaten to a pulp and hung out in a cornfield to die in Wyoming. It was no picnic being a sexual minority, even as we approached the millennium in one of the biggest and most liberal cities in the world. But sadly, harassment was something I had already experienced.
However young and invincible we might have felt then, momentarily, I can still taste that first sting of fear that came with the realization that somebody might hurt me just because I'm gay.
After months of dark, secret rendezvous in stairwells and corners when no one was looking, this felt like the sun had at long last come out and was warming my heart with true love.