I quickly forced myself onto the Brooklyn train as it started rolling. Although the train was flooded with people, it was easy for me to find an empty seat. There was one corner where a young boy, Adam, with ripped jeans and a worn-out hoodie, would sit. There were empty seats around him, and he was always alone. From previous train rides, I knew that he was homeless. We hardly knew anything about each other, yet we exchanged smiles as if we knew each other for centuries. He was the sweetest boy that I had ever met. In exchange for my leftover snacks, he would be my bodyguard—a magnet that repelled others. This day I learned something unexpected about him. A man sitting a few seats away switched on the news channel. The reporter badmouthed the proponents of same-sex marriage, and the man burst out in anger. He yelled, “These people are insane, they need to be treated. Everyone knows that marriage is between a man and a woman.” As a sensitive, intellectually-gifted child, I was highly receptive to emotions, and noticed Adam scowl in frustration. He let out a sigh. “Why can’t people just let you live your life?” he complained. I found myself locking eyes with him; the hurt was obvious. My immediate thought was: Oh my gosh, he is gay.
Coming from an orthodox religious family, I was told to frown upon him. I always believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. That was what I learned in school. I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. The very instant before, I saw Adam as my bodyguard, and now, after knowing that he was gay, I was afraid of him. Why did this minute detail change my entire perception of him? How could I be so judgmental? I wanted to get up and move away from him, but my nerves weren’t helping much. My hands were trembling slightly, and he sensed my anxiousness. He lowered his gaze and said, “You can move if you want to. I thought you knew that about me. You wear boy clothes”. Having grown up with just brothers, I was a ninth grade girl who dressed up like a tomboy. I couldn’t help but laugh. I guess that was the reason why no one else on the train sat next to the two of us. Everyone on the train despised “us.” Looking around, for a brief moment, I was truly able to feel his isolation. My face tensed again. “No, I didn’t,” I replied, my voice shaky. “Oh,” he sighed. We both kept silent afterwards.
For the remainder of the train ride, my mind kept juggling the issue of same-sex marriage. If men and women don’t get married, then how will we have children? Didn’t same-sex couples adopt all those children that were neglected by their real parents? When the train arrived at my stop, I quickly got up to leave. “Wait, before you go, I just wanted to ask: Why can’t we be with the person whom we love?” he asked. I didn’t know how to reply. I got off the train. My lips curled in a frown, and I started crying. I couldn’t find an answer to which both my mind and heart agreed upon. Why couldn’t we be with the person whom we loved? I wasn’t gay, or at least, I thought I wasn’t. But if gay meant to want to be with someone whom you truly love . . . then doesn’t that make us all gay? I guess I am gay, because I strongly believe in every person’s right to find true love. I can’t apologize for hurting Adam’s feelings, because I never saw him again after that day, but I can stand up for others like him. I was aware of several typical marriages that had fallen apart in my family. I knew that marriage was between people who loved each other; otherwise, it wasn’t a marriage, it was a compromise. I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me who to marry, and so I shouldn’t tell others, either.