Dear Friends and Others,
I love you.
In third grade, my tomboy friend Deborah asked me if I knew what “gay” meant. “You mean happy?” I asked. So innocent. She replied, “No, it’s when two men…” her voice trailed off. “You wouldn’t understand.”
I didn’t. But I liked Deborah. I knew she was different, but I liked her all the same.
In high school, my friends Jonathan and Philippe were openly gay/bisexual. I’d had a brief crush on Jonathan in 8th grade, but something told me it was not meant to be. Although I became “born again” in my teens, it didn’t affect my affection for them. When they invited me to go dance with them at Bojangles, the gay dance club in Sacramento, it was so incredibly tempting. If it weren’t for fear of my parents, I would have been there in a heartbeat. Despite the teachings of the bible, I knew who they loved wasn’t a choice. This was how they were. And although I’m sure I said some ignorant things from time to time (and probably do still do), I really did love my friends.
Decades later, I sat with Jonathan at a park around midnight in my old neighborhood, talking about the bullying we both suffered at school. I asked him, “Was school worse for you than for me? It must’ve been.”
Staring at the cigarette dangling between his fingers, he whispered, “It was a nightmare.”
I love you, Jonathan. And all of my gay and lesbian friends. My bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and asexual friends. Even those I don’t know. I love you. I care about what’s happened to you and what’s happening now.
A few years ago, my friend’s teen daughter came out as asexual. I confess, for the first few seconds I had a sort of inner parental type of panic. Is she okay? Has she seen the doctor? But those thoughts were quickly drowned out by feelings of love and acceptance. She’s okay. She doesn’t need a doctor. She needs love.
It’s what everyone needs.
When I was a contractor working at the FOX lot in 2005, one of the employees there was transitioning to female. I saw her every day from my desk as she went in and out of offices down the hallway. I wanted to tell her that she was amazing, fearless, fantastic. But I didn’t want to scare her, to make her think I was invading her privacy or fetishizing her experience. So, I said nothing. I never knew her name.
But she really was amazing, fearless, fantastic.
Sunday morning, I woke up to the news of carnage committed by a man boiling over with hate and violence. I cried because he’d tried so desperately to destroy a community I love. It felt useless posting anything on social media because it would get lost in the torrent of political rants and the overly simplified memes that Facebook favors. When I saw my friend Travis later that day, I hugged him hard and took his hand. In that moment, I realized how much I care about him and his boyfriend, and I felt some hint of the terrible agony they must be experiencing. Of being hated and unsafe. I know because I’m a white straight cis woman. I’ve been stalked, threatened, attacked. But not like this. Never like this.
If I could shelter you all from the hate and violence, I would. I’d wrap my arms around you so the bullets could bounce off my skin. But I can’t. Instead, I will fight beside you and, more importantly, I will try to listen to you. From what you’re saying, it sounds like you need to know people care. The word “compassion” in Latin means “to suffer with.” Please know that I’m here suffering with you.
And loving you.