Since Election night, two Pride Flags have been burned in Rochester. On Wednesday, a friend of mine, who is Muslim, was told to go back to her country.

When hate speech, and hate crimes occur, it shakes the communities facing violence to their core.

I’ve been out as a gay man for about 8 years. It took me about 2 years to come out fully, and when I did, I wasn’t quiet about it.

Being gay, or lesbian, bisexual or transgender is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is being Muslim, or a person of color, or having a disability, or being an immigrant.

Today, I stopped at Wegmans on East avenue. As I parked, I looked down and saw a Pride wristband in my console. And I decided on something. Usually, I’d wear it during the Pride festivities here in Rochester in July. But I decided to wear it this evening.

Why?

I’m stepping out to be the brightest light I can be. I’m not ashamed of my identity, and I’ll live a more authentic life. This is who I am.

And if someone has a problem with that, they’ll need to step out into the light. They don’t get to hide, or call it “ignorance” or imagine its ok to express their hate speech. It’ll never be ok to disrespect a woman or her body, terrorize someone because of their religion, murder someone because of the color of their skin, bully someone to the point of suicide because of their gender identity or expression, burn flags or attack a person because they love someone of the same gender.

If you can step out and be the brightest light you can be, then do so with me. If you can’t because your life would be threatened or you aren’t ready, know that we are with you, and support your decision and will work to make the world we live in a better place.

And to those who leave flyers at night, or burn flags, yell at Muslims, know we see you, we’ll stand up to you, and you will be called out.

For those who want to be an ally, but don’t quite know how, there are many resources here to help you. Feel free to email me at ImScottyBTW@gmail.com and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Together, we rise.