I’m a 22-year old college student born and raised in Bangor, and can easily recall the numerous times growing up I was called a “faggot” in high school, or had my books thrown out the window of the school bus — long before I was out of the closet. It wasn’t until getting to Washington, D.C., to attend college that I felt comfortable enough to accept what I had always known, and was opened up to a world of support from friends, faculty and the city itself.

Like a large number of proponents on both sides of the gay marriage debate in Maine, I’ve been following the buildup to the marriage equality hearings closely. I have a lot of pride for my state, and think the dialogue on the issue is extremely important. I don’t have any difficulty accepting that gay marriage is an issue that may pose problems for strict heterosexual-marriage advocates. (I, along with countless others, shy away from the term “traditional marriage,” since there are a lot of “traditional” marriage practices in our collective history that render the term useless in describing modern families).

But while I am sensitive to these concerns, I firmly believe in marriage equality for everyone. I won’t propose to know everything about the issue, although just like everyone else who holds an opinion on it should, I have worked to understand the constitutional rationale for gay marriage and the human rights issues it invokes. I understand that the strong religious convictions others hold against gay marriage are not the enemy. Those are everyone’s personal right, just like any other social issue.

But reading many of the comments posted in response to gay marriage in the paper have made me sick and extremely disappointed. The explicit bigotry and false claims that have been thrown into the mix are a painful reminder of why it took 18 years and a change of location for me to feel OK with who I was, only further com-pounded by the upsetting news of hate crimes throughout the state in recent years.

Regardless of the marriage issue, it should be clear to everyone in Bangor, and Mainers statewide, that there still remains a generation of young people who are taunted and persecuted because of their sexual identity or perceived sexual identity. And regardless of where you stand on gay marriage, it’s up to everyone to stand tall for decency and tolerance.

Gays and lesbians are everywhere, and I hope that soon enough, from Augusta to Washington County, there will be teenagers who feel they have enough support to live proudly, without having to fear heading off to school or venturing into the community. I take comfort in social progression and a growing acceptance among young people.

The rallying cry of previous generations of human rights activists does — I believe — still ring true: The times, they are a’changin’.

Isaac Rosen, a Bangor native, attends college in Washington, D.C.