Like many of us in the wake of the Orlando massacre, my daughter, a former patron and fan of the club, has been reeling and weeping. Her fear and sorrow only escalated when mutual friends share d with her the snapchat of an acquaintance, Amanda Alvear, a girl the same age, now listed among the 49 dead. The short video shows Amanda’s puzzled face on the dimly lit dance floor as shots pop in the background. Amid many thoughts, feelings, and memories, one in particular came back to my daughter, the day she came out to me and my reaction surprised both of us. Since then, I’ve quipped, “I always thought if my kid turned out gay I’d be cool about it.” But I wasn’t cool. I wasn’t angry, either; I wasn’t a jerk. But as her “mama bear,” the one protecting her all her precious life, I was afraid, because when she said, “Mom, I’m a lesbian,” I heard, “Mom, I’m the target of hatred.”
When she remembered that moment, she wrote me a letter and agreed to let me share it with you.
When I came out to you, I know you were afraid. You told me you worried my life would be harder because of it. You said life is already hard enough without a sexuality that doesn’t conform to what I will begrudgingly call “the norm.”
I thought you were naive. I might have rolled my eyes. I don’t remember. I do remember that I told you the world was changing in my favor, that hate crimes were uncommon and so was hatred, that I would be safe, that I would be careful, that I would be smart.
All my life, you told me there was safety in crowds, that it was smartest to stick with the group, and that I should surround myself with people who love me. I always have, Mom. I’ve worked hard to make sure that the people around me treat me well and that my friends and partners are good to me. I’ve weeded out the ones who don’t, and I’ve watched you do the same. I remember every time one of us went through a breakup, and we sat up with ice cream and chocolate and watched romantic comedies, laughing and hugging. You have always been one of my best people, those who love me and treat me well.
You raised me to devote my time doing what I loved whenever I could. You believe that doing things that don’t bring you joy is time wasted. You always encouraged me to seek joy, to get out there, and show myself to the world.
All of that is why, when I lived in Orlando, I went to Pulse with friends. It was a safe, casual space full of nothing but love. Everyone was in a group. No one felt alone. Everyone felt safe. Everyone felt loved.
Less than two days ago, someone took all of that away. He made me realize why you were scared. It could have been me. After the music and the gunfire stopped, phones on the dance floor kept ringing and ringing. Hauntingly, on the dance floor in the multi-colored dance light glistening black with so much blood, one of those phones tucked in the shadows of the injured and the dead could have been mine, could have been you calling and calling, begging to know I’m okay. My dorky Five Nights at Freddy’s ringtone could have been echoing with the others throughout the nightclub, “Mother mobile” lighting up the screen, your contact photo flashing beneath it, again and again, never to be answered again by me. Now, I understand.
I understand why you’re afraid, because I am too. But I want you to know I won’t let it control me. I will continue to be who I am. I will continue to try to be safe and smart. I realize all I can do is try. We all get so little time. I won’t waste my time with fear. I know for a fact that there are many wonderful things and wonderful people out there. I don’t want to miss any of them. I’ve watched you get hurt by so many, but you kept getting up, and now I see you smile every day, and see you building your happy home with your husband. I want that too, with my partner. That’s why I’m not giving up.
I hope to join you again this year at Pride that you wear your “Proud of my gay daughter” tee-shirt.
I wish I had more rainbow clothes.
Your loving and grateful daughter,