I am part of a minority looked down upon in societies across the globe. It is not my race or my religion that sets me apart from ninety percent of the human population. No, I am alienated because of my sexuality. I am a lesbian.

People ask me how I can know, how can I really be sure? I answer with another question. How can one be truly sure that she is straight? I've known since my early childhood that I liked girls. But I never told anybody. No, I kept my secret to myself. In religion class, I sat for eight years listening to the Catholic teacher rant about the sins of homosexuality. Though I sat with a stoic stance, inside I was burning with hatred for my unforgivable sin. Why was I cursed this way? What had I done to deserve this damnation?

As my childhood progressed into my early teenage years, I began to question the moral values of Catholicism. Why would a God hate me for loving someone? Upon questioning, I began to grow apart from the Catholic faith, and I began to love myself for who I was. By my thirteenth birthday, I had given up on God. I could not believe He would damn me eternally for who I was. Sometimes I wish I believed in a God, for when I am alone, I long for guidance. But the Catholic Church has closed the doors to my kind.

It is not only religion driving the hatred my people encounter daily. These homophobic views are passed through each generation. Discrimination is found in the workplace as well. It is legal to fire someone for their sexuality in twenty-nine states. Most states do not permit marriage between two persons of the same gender. Throughout the world, a person can be executed for the "crime" of homosexuality.

But there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. You, the people of my generation, can be the ones to change the world. The power rests in our hands. I believe that one day I will be able to walk down the aisle with my fiancée in my own state, my own church, and nobody would think twice about whether or not it was morally sound. We need to elect leaders who will address the issues the queer population faces, without judgment or prejudice. We need to realize that homosexuals deserve the same rights as heterosexuals, no questions asked. The time to start is now.

Everyday, I hear anti-gay slurs thrown around to degrade people. I can easily say I hear the words "that's so gay," and "faggot" snarled dozens of times each day. It hurts me that nobody, not even the teachers, try to put an end to this. It takes a lot of willpower to get up in the morning and face the hatred of the human race. But I proudly display a rainbow wristband wherever I go, to show the world that I am not afraid to be who I am. I was born a lesbian, and I will not live my life denying that this is so.

A large part of my extended family views me as a different person, a bad person, now that I've come out to them. But my cousins, the people of my generation, dare to counter their parents' moral views and support me and what they believe in. It is up to us to take the first step in ridding our society of homophobia and discrimination. We need not be afraid to stand up to authority figures and demand equal rights, whether it is a priest or a president. Our world leaders need to put an end to horrors such as "correctional rape" done in Africa, where men rape lesbians to try to turn them straight.

But world changes start at a personal level. We need to stand up to our peers, and stop anti-gay bullying in our schools. As the president of the Gay and Straight Alliance in my school, I seek to educate my peers about the consequences of harassment and homophobic slurs. A large percentage of suicide victims were LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) persons bullied by their peers. With the halt of anti-gay bullying, these teens can grow and develop into productive members of society.

Though it may not be the norm to stand up for one's beliefs in high school, it is imperative that we do so. Change cannot occur on global levels if it cannot happen in our own schools. We must question the morals of those before us and pursue a course of action to acquire equal rights for homosexuals. We hold the key to the future in our hands. The future starts now.