It Could Have Been Us

I know I said this week I wanted you to hear from voices of my LGBTQ friends and their parents, that my thoughts and feelings needed to wait, but sometimes my thoughts and feelings consume me until I can express them. Last night I couldn’t sleep so I posted the following to FaceBook. Many friends asked if they could share and I’m more comfortable sharing it this way than making my post public. So, stay tuned and I will continue adding stories from friends this week, but first, I had to get something off of my chest:

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It’s 3:40am. I’ve been awake since 1:30am. My mind can’t rest. I toss and turn in bed and think, “What can I do? How can I help?”

Straight friends, I know many of you don’t understand why the shooting in Orlando was such a big deal to me and LGBTQ people outside of Orlando. Even my husband didn’t quite understand at first, bless him. When I told him I would be postponing my plans to go shopping on Sunday so I could check on my friends and take care of what I consider to be MY community, every bit as much as my church community is MY community, he gently asked me why we would be so devastated and physically distraught when it didn’t happen here. I knew empathy is not his strongest point and sometimes he has to have feelings explained, so I gently looked at him with tears brimming and said, “It could have been them. It could have been me. It could have been here.”

He knows that many LGBT activists here get hate mail and death threats. He knows what we’re up against. He’s rallied to my side every time I’ve been Bible-thumped or called names. He knows I’ve gone to numerous events and fundraisers at “gay bars/clubs” and always cautions me to be careful yet he still didn’t understand until I explained it to him, “It could have been here; it could have been us, my friends and me. This IS Kansas after all.”

Then he understood. He entertained the kids while I texted and called a couple of my friends here. He heard my voice crack as I asked, “What can I do? How can I help?”

It became more real to him as he watched and listened as I planned a vigil and took calls from reporters and the Chief of Police. He hugged me a little tighter before he took the kids to soccer tryouts while I went to an event to mourn 49 lost lives AND the loss of the illusion of safe spaces.

Straight friends, I’m hoping that maybe I just needed to have this same conversation with you to help you understand. I know many of you don’t understand or agree with me, that many of you don’t have a single LGBTQ friend in your life, but if it happened here, if it happened to me, would you mourn? Would you become angry? Would you understand then that things need to change? That words like “love the sinner, hate the sin” are contributing to the problem? Would you console my family and do real things to help and comfort them? Or would you ignore it? Would you callously tell my husband, my parents, my children, “Well, that’s too bad. She was a nice lady. I hope she doesn’t go to hell. I’ll pray for her.”

So I sleeplessly laid in bed, heart aching, asking myself, “What can I do? How can I help?” Since Sunday afternoon, I’ve been asking that question of my LGBTQ friends. I’ve called, emailed, texted, messaged and listened. I’ve planned a vigil. I’ve given virtual and IRL hugs. I’ve resolutely determined to continue my GLSEN work without pause, and redouble my efforts to make sure that LGBTQ students FEEL SAFE AND RESPECTED IN THEIR SCHOOLS. I’ve opened up my blog for my LGBTQ friends and their parents to use to get their voices heard by people who don’t have any LGBTQ friends in their FB feed. Yet I still laid in bed this morning asking myself, “What can I do? How can I help?”

I’ve checked off every answer from my LGBT friends I’ve received so far and I’m still unsatisfied that I’ve done enough, because my FB feed is still filled with so much pain while you’ve already moved on to normal life, cracking jokes, without a single acknowledgement of my pain or the pain of “my community”. So I’ve also prayed. I’ve prayed for you to see why your silence hurts. Why your inaction hurts. I’ve prayed for your hearts to open up. I’ve asked God why he didn’t give me a different calling, an easier calling that wouldn’t hurt so much, that wouldn’t make well-intentioned straight friends say things like “You really should post less gay stuff. It’s alienating your friends,” and make me say things like, “It could have been us,” and “What if it were our kids?” But I’ve seen over the past five years why I’ve been called and I can’t deny the difference God has used me to make, so I will continue, head held high, even if I’m heart-broken on the inside, even if you don’t understand, even if you unfriend me.

To my friends who’ve rallied with me, who’ve stepped out of your comfort zone to “like” a post or post something of your own, who’ve called and messaged me to ask what you could do, THANK YOU. Together we’ll make a difference for our families, friends and our children. Together we’ll make a tomorrow where I can sleep at night knowing we’ve done everything we can.

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