Forty-nine young people, massacred in cold blood. Out dancing in the one place that was safe; the one place free of shame; the one place you were your true self; the one place you didn’t worry about being judged; the one place to gather with LGBTQ peers; the one place without fear of rejection—from the outside community, your religion, your own family— siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and worse yet, parents.
Members of many minority groups, especially racial minorities, at least have their families to come home to. Children don’t have to explain the pain to them. Children don’t have to come home and say, “Mom and Dad, I’ve got something to tell you. I’m Jewish.” But that’s how it is for LGBTQ kids.
Coming out to heterosexual parents is announcing, “I’m not the child you thought I was. I’m not one of you.” For an LGBTQ child, it doesn’t bring you closer to the family; it separates you.angry, or sad; some will ask, “Are you sure?” After the initial reaction, there is a period of adjustment. If you’re lucky, your family members will be loving and accepting. If not, you may get rejected for being who you are. You may even get thrown out of the house.
The nightclub in Orlando was a safe, even sacred space—a refuge for LGBTQ family. After the massacre, even that was gone.
That’s what my gay son just taught me. That’s why this is beyond horrific. It was a violation of the one space that, to the LGBTQ community, was home.
My husband and I, along with our son, attended the Baltimore City vigil to support the 49 people who were gunned down in Orlando and the survivors. It was a beautifully diverse group: young people, older people; gay, straight, transgender; black, white, Asian, Latinx; Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and atheist.
I watched the expressions of pain on their faces, felt the fear of hatred and violence, and witnessed up close how discrimination manifests itself. The tears of these sweet, loving people who came out to share their humanity, love, and grief overwhelmed me. They just want to be who they are, and love whom they love, without being under the microscope of people who have nothing better to do than judge and spread hate.
As they read the names and ages of the 49 victims, I broke down and cried. Each one of them could have been my child. I cried for the victims; I cried for their parents and loved ones. I cried for my son.
At the end we were asked to hug the people around us, whether we knew them or not. I felt connection; I felt humanity; I felt safe. Then it was over—back to the real world.
What do we do after the horror of Orlando?
- Feel it: the anger, the outrage, the helplessness, and underneath, the pain and sorrow.
- Reach out to your LGBTQ family members, friends, and co-workers. Let them know you support them, you love them, and that you’re an ally. Give them a hug.
- If you hear others make derogatory comments or jokes, speak up. Talk about how that hurts people in the community.
- Have conversations with others to create more allies. Share your story.
I learned a lot that night. Now I know I have to work even harder to speak up, to help others understand more about the LGBTQ community. I have to tell our story more often. That’s what changes hearts and minds—one person at a time, one conversation at a time.