Today our editorial team put together an incredibly brief survey for our readers to partake in (it really is brief—the average time respondents are taking to fill it out is less than 7 minutes). So far, a fair amount of you have started filling it out, and our staff is forever grateful. We’re coming up on our 4-year anniversary since launching Equally Wed, and we want to make sure we’re offering you what you need. If you haven’t put your two cents in, click here to do it now. We’ll still be here talking when you get back.

One of the questions we ask is what do you find useful/entertaining/wonderful on Equally Wed, and one reader wrote a word that made me emotional: “hope.”

OK, I’ll confess now that I’m incredibly emotional. I’m a Pisces and thus easily moved to tears—both happy and sad. Now, I’m not weak, let’s get that clear, too. Tears and vulnerability are a sign of strength, not weakness. This area, this “Open Dialogues” section, is for all of us to speak openly, honestly, casually and seriously about topics that matter to us on varying levels. Since I’m opening up this discussion, I feel like it’s appropriate for me to give you a blip of a background. Maybe I’ll go into it more later, though I’m saving much of my material for a memoir I’m about halfway through writing, but suffice it to say that I think I’m the strongest person I know. Cocky? Nah. Confident. Definitely. I’m confident in my emotional strength. In this short lifetime so far, I’ve been alive, weak, a child, tricked, emotionally and physically abandoned, repeatedly raped, molested, forgotten, mistreated, ignored, bullied, taunted, dumped, cheated on, loved, married, cared for, orphaned, befriended, triumphed and renewed.

Through it all, I’ve only lost hope a few times, and that has been when my father died in 2008, when my mother abandoned me in 2009 and my only sibling, my brother, died earlier this year. Those have been the strength-testers. But I’ve risen above, as we always do. We’re human; we can handle almost anything because we’re strong and adaptable. I also think what has gotten me through the darkest times has been my belief in humanity and my devout love for people on the whole. If you’re reading this, I love you. Not for reading this, but because you exist. You are loved. I believe that we are all woven into the same universal fabric. Like a patchwork quilt, we come in different forms, some bumpy, some scratchy, bright hues, neutral colors and mixtures, such as plaid and madras. You are part of my fabric, my universe, my world. And I love you for that.

It is this love that keeps me going and makes me want to do something valuable with my life. One of the ways that I feel I’m contributing to society is through Equally Wed, the online magazine for same-sex and allied couples that my wife and I launched in March 2010. Brief background: I’ve been a professional editor and writer for about 13 years now, and my wife has been a professional graphic designer and web developer for about the same amount of time. I had written about weddings and for bridal magazines, but didn’t really notice that there were no brides who looked like me—someone marrying someone of the same gender—until Maria proposed to me on Feb. 29, 2008. That a-ha moment of realization of the outright discrimination through elimination hurt me to my core. The more Maria and I delved into our wedding planning and experienced an annoying bit of blatant homophobia from vendors coupled with ignorant questions from well-meaning friends and relatives (“That’s legal?” “Who’s the bride?” “Will Maria wear a gown?”), we knew that our services were sorely needed.

As soon as we got through with our 18-month-long engagement (a full-time job in and of itself), married in a garden wedding in June 2009, and returned home from our honeymoon in St. Maarten, we set to work building out EquallyWed.com, billed as the nation’s premier same-sex wedding magazine. Our primary editorial mission was—and remains—to showcase LGBTQ weddings in a gorgeous way to 1) validate our community’s weddings, no matter if they’re legally recognized or not, and 2) to provide hope for couples who may not have thought such a dream could be a reality. It is this dream to offer hope that has been realized over and over, giving back to my soul just as much if not more than I have given back to our community, that caused my eyes to brim with tears when I read the reader’s comment today in our survey that she reads EquallyWed.com because it gives her hope.

Thank you, anonymous reader, for writing this word and to all of you for providing feedback on what we’re all about here at EW HQ. You’ve given me even more hope knowing that I’ve achieved my goal of providing you hope.

So I’d like to open up this discussion thread to anyone wanting to talk about hope. What are (or were) your hopes for your wedding day? Who and what stands in the way of those hopes being realized? Your comments are anonymous, so feel free to share your inner thoughts. Think of Open Dialogues as a wine bar or coffee shop. The modern-day chat room. But without the pervs and plenty of safe, friendly people around you. So, let’s chat! Start commenting below.

Want to submit a full post on the theme of hope (or any other topic) for Open Dialogues? Write me anytime at kpalladino@equallywed.com.

Photo by Our Labor of Love