This past weekend I attended a NOH8 photo shoot in San Diego.

Being in a hot, crowded conference room with people I don’t know would usually be far outside my comfort zone, and something I’d avoid. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, or that I suddenly became the world’s most outgoing person and formed lifelong friendships in the hour I waited for my photo. But I did meet individuals, couples, and families whose smiles made my day a little brighter. And even with those I didn’t really meet, just the simple exchange of eye contact with that depth behind it—we support this—meant something special.

I moved to California seven years ago from a…more conservative state. I hadn’t come to expect a lot from my state in the years I’d lived there (I am a member of a minority group or two). But California, now, California was the birthplace of cool. Surely a state such as this would be on the cutting edge of civil liberties, equal rights, and the freedom to marry. Right?

Guess you could say I was young and naïve. When Prop 8 was introduced, there was not a doubt in my mind that it would be defeated. I’d been living in LA for a couple of years, but I was still star-struck by how different life was in the city than in a rural southern town. So on November 4th, 2008, I—along with many Californians, and Americans—was shocked and deeply disappointed.

Then came a guilt phase, where I realized my assumption that all Californians thought like me had led me to take a passive role. So these days I am a little less naïve, and I try to be more involved. Participating in the NOH8 event was just another small way to take a stand, for my friends, for my future kids, for my students, and for a better California.