How I learned to embrace who I am and what I love with pride

by Zach Giordano

I remember the moment I changed my favorite color. I was in the fourth grade, talking with friends about what made purple so special. The blues, reds, and greens of the world got all the attention, especially from other boys my age, but my eye was always drawn to the brightness, boldness, and richness of purple.

Until someone nearby overheard. “You like purple? Boys can’t like purple. You must be gay.” The accusation—here more insult than observation—made my stomach drop. From that moment on, when anyone asked, my favorite color was orange.

Growing up, I learned to edit myself into someone subtler. By the time I entered high school, I dulled my quirks to hide from the world what I thought it didn’t want to see. And I changed who I was to hide from myself the things I wasn’t ready to admit.

For many years, I made decisions—from wearing baggy clothes, to hiding my “Desperate Housewives” obsession—based on how I believed I was supposed to look, act, or feel. I felt the need to conform, to fit in, to be “normal”—all at the expense of my own happiness.

It wasn’t until I fully embraced who I am—which so happens to be a gay man—and put aside what I thought was expected of me that I was able to fully appreciate all the wonderful things I have to offer.

With an honest heart and the love of those I hold dear, I learned what makes me me also shapes me, like the letters that form the words that make up the sentences in this paragraph, into the unique, intricate, beautiful person I am. And while everyone may not like every word or approve of every chapter of my story, I know there is no critic worth changing for.

20 years later, I love who I am because who I am is as bright, bold, and rich as my favorite color. And if you ask, I’ll say it suits me just fine.