I haven’t known what to say since I saw the news about Orlando Sunday morning. More than 100 LGBTQ people and allies dead or injured. The largest mass shooting in America. The largest loss of life in a terrorist attack since 9/11. What words of comfort can you offer in the face of so much pain?
And this feels a little too big. Is this a story about religious extremism? Is this a story about gun control? Well, yes. Those are absolutely a part of this.
But at the end of the day, this story is about those who were injured and murdered. How and why they were targeted are topics worth a conversation, but first and foremost, we need to focus on who. We need to focus on the young man trapped in the bathroom, texting his mom. We need to focus on the young men who, instead of having a wedding ceremony, will be sharing a funeral service. We need to focus on the mom who protected her gay son with her life. We need to remember the dancers and artists and accountants and students and bartenders and volunteers.
I want to have conversations about ISIS and guns. I want to talk about radicalized views of all stripes. But right now, I want to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, especially to those who are close to me. So here are my promises to my LGBTQ loved ones.
I will not be defensive. My LGBTQ friends are grieving and for many of them, they express that grief through hurt and anger, and rightfully so. They live under the threat of violence every day, to a degree that I, as a straight, cis-woman, cannot understand. They have watched their personhood treated as a political tool. They have watched people offer condolences following Orlando, but know that the next day they will be writing legislation to deny them rights. They hear prayers being offered for their comfort, followed immediately by prayers for them to be something else, something not so gay. They get to feel anger, and they get to express anger. It’s not my job to make sure their tone is pleasing enough to make me comfortable. So I don’t need raise a ruckus if you don’t mention how kind I was to you this or that time. I don’t need you to be careful about how you phrase your tweets. I can remember that this isn’t about me – it’s your grief and I can put my defensiveness on the shelf.
I will listen to your words. There is a strong tendency for us to look for people like us to tell us how to feel about world events. We want to know how “our people” feel, so we elevate their voices in these discussions, while ignoring the voices of those who are actually affected by the events. But your words matter. Your words have insights that I cannot get from people like me. So I will listen to them, I will share them, I will take them to heart.
I will tell you that I love you. I love that you share pictures of you and your spouse kissing. I love that you can celebrate the good even in the midst of the hardship. I love that you share your strong words, even when it is frightening to do so. I love that you stand firm in the knowledge that you have worth, that you are beautiful, that you are powerful, even when the world and the Church tries to tell you otherwise. I love you, and I am proud to stand with you, as a mom, as a friend, as a person of faith.
I’ll keep these promises after we stop talking about Orlando. We all know how it works. As Trevor Noah said, “We’re shocked, we mourn, we change our profile pics, we move on.” I probably can’t change that, but I promise that I can keep an open mind, keep listening, and keep loving you even when the rest of us have “moved on.” Because part of being an ally is remembering that while I have the luxury of moving on, you don’t. If I want to remain with you, I need to remember that.