Through the month of June, we are asking LGBTQ readers to submit essays about experiences in their lives that have brought them pride, happiness, and triumph.
Oscar Wilde gave us all some sage advice when he said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Indeed, life took me through winding paths before I was able to figure out who I am. I reflect on those paths, even the darkest, toughest ones, with gratitude. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am: an exuberant, radiant, joyful being.
To those who partook of one of the most memorable days in my life: I thank you. Picture it: Paris, 1999. Seven high school musician friends, traveling through Europe after a symphony tour of Belgium and the Netherlands. We are climbing the steps of La Tour Eiffel moments after the sun has set on La Ville Lumière. The scene is breathtaking.
I hear someone call my name behind me. It was not one of the musicians in my group. It was a trio of teachers from my former high school in Hatboro, Pennsylvania. We laugh and marvel at this chance encounter. We continue to climb. We are on top of the world.
Suddenly, like a faerie godmother, my keyboarding teacher turns to me in a manner that says she is about to impart timeless knowledge unto me. She moves her head close to mine and says: “You are the most important person in your life.”
Her message reaches me as though inscribed on parchment and tied to a raven’s foot, soaring across mountains and oceans, and arriving at just the right time, leaving a trail of purple glitter behind her.
Later that night, I leave my friends, follow my GPS (gay positioning system — this is before smartphones, after all), and hop on the Métro to Le Marais. It was there that I met the beautiful man who would take my virginity. Pedro, you treated me like gold, and you rocked my world. Thank you, Pedro. Thank you, Ms. Schaffer.
To those who have hurt me along my path: I forgive you. Equally memorable, for very different reasons: Philadelphia, July 6, 2000. I have just graduated at the top of my class from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, and am about to start college at Penn on a full academic scholarship. I go out that night, confident in my ability to take care of myself in my home town. I happen upon a stranger in the park. He has a dog. He is about three times my age.
Twenty-four hours later, I leave his house without any recollection of how I got there. Apparently, I missed my friend’s birthday. He blames me. So do I.
Nearly 17 years later, I have finally found the words to account for what happened that night: I was very heavily drugged and raped. The sequence of GHB, crystal meth, amyl nitrates, and unconscious sex acts left an impression on my soul like direct sunlight on the naked eye, leaving trails and blind spots for years to come. The raven carries my message, leaving a trail of black smoke behind him: You are a cruel, odious creature, Mr. Rapist, betraying the trust and goodwill of those younger and less powerful than you. I forgive you, Mr. Rapist.
To those who dance with me on the eternal stage of life: I beckon you. You are my family, my dearest friends, my lovers, and my soul sisters. At my highs and in my lows, you make life worth living. Let’s continue to make amazing memories together. I am now at the helm of my destiny, and I know who I am. I am funny, serious, sincere. I am weird. I love to dance. I can take care of myself. I am not afraid to fall in love. I don’t run away from having my heart broken by goodbyes. I believe that relationships are eternal. And I know that if I find you trying to hurt me or someone I care about, I will cut a motherf—er, and send a raven to pluck your eyes out.
This month we celebrate Pride. We celebrate ourselves knowing that the world is full of people who want to hurt us, for no reason other than they can’t experience joy for themselves, so they want to take it away from us. We have too many real enemies to spend time fighting with each other. If you ever doubt it, know it: You are good enough. Come as you are. Be yourself. Be a femme queen, a prude, a slut, a geek. Love yourself. Love each other. Forgive each other. Build each other up. Seek joy, and practice kindness. Never apologize for who you are. You are the most important person in your life.
Adam Alalouf was born in Jerusalem and came to the United States as a teenager. His interests include literature, music, art, cooking, hiking, business, and technology. His favorite activities include napping, cuddling, dancing, swimming in the ocean, and doing headstands in random places.