Another day of self reflection prompted by the events in Orlando. The onslaught of political views on the tragedy. In one post someone proclaimed that they would unfriend anyone that incorporates religion, politics or sexual orientation into a post about Orlando. I respect their concept that it should be about the loss of lives but to see sexual orientation included left me perplexed. At the gym yesterday morning I overheard someone in their late 20’s, “If they had chosen to not be gay they would still be alive”. Regardless of your view of sexual orientation, it has absolute relevance to the dynamics. My thought, unfriend me.
The surfacing of the painful last communications from those lives all taken too soon brought the word Acceptance to the front of my mind.
Acceptance? Third grade is when I can recollect the first moments I felt I was “different”. I pushed these feelings deep inside my heart out of uncertainty to what made me different. Throughout my education I felt taunted for not playing sports like the others, not openly dating someone and whatever else someone viewed me as different. I found myself turning to school related volunteering activities during and after hours not in the pursuit of acceptance rather every effort to avoid the empty feeling of rejection.
I further engrained myself into school activities as my mother’s illness continued and her passing. Spendingmost of my sixth grade lunches with Spanish speaking kindergarteners. These kids came from very low income, spoke little English, taught me Spanish and often were the highlight of my day. Not wanting to go home to my family situation, I volunteered everyday assisting teachers until 4-6pm. My time with the students and teachers was when I felt accepted for myself, I didn’t have to give much thought to mannerism, sport ability and is my voice deep enough. I was allowed to be me and feel immense reward for helping out others.
I came out to my family when I was 16 years old and a senior in High School. I shared that I was bisexual in thinking it would be easier for others to accept and not reject me. I am extremely fortunate that of all of my friends and family only one family member voiced strong opposition of “my choice” and has stood by it for twenty years. I commend him for standing by his beliefs even if it caused incredible anguish and awkward family gatherings. My father being accepting of me was a pivotal moment in my life. With mom gone, I did not want to look into my father’s eyes throughout life as unworthy or a disappointment. To this day my father takes special moments like birthdays and holidays to tell me how special and loved I am, with the most powerful words, how proud of me he is for creating my own career path.
I have heard the question, why do people go to gay bars or PRIDE events with society so accepting now. Growing up in California, Georgia is quite a different place with the Atlanta bubble in 2016, just short of 30 miles out to the mid-west and northeast is 1996. I have witnessed the concept of PRIDE evolving from a time to join as a community to push forward equality to now showing cohesive, family, commonality, acceptance, and for many place to publicly share affection. Enjoy a slow dance, a hug, a kiss, hold hands, the things I grew up to be taboo. I’m very hesitant to publicly display affection which Nick early on had a hard time understanding. Whether good or bad, my actions are guided by ensuring I don’t make others uncomfortable which I find myself constantly referring to Nick as “they” versus “he” or “my fiancé”. Having only gone to a small amount of PRIDE events, at each I remember that feeling of heightened alert and discomfort before finding calm in being surrounded with others “like me”.
Thinking of the lives cut short in Orlando, Acceptance? Not from the perspective of the souls lost rather from their family members. Not all parents are the mother with the intuition to frantically look for her son Christopher at 3am unfortunately hearing the news later he and his bf were both lost. The journey of coming out varies so much by generation, geography, religion and culture background. Without a doubt some family members lost their loved ones with words unspoken. Perhaps the last conversation being strong enough rejection for them to move away to pursue a life where they felt they could be accepted for who they love. Days, months, years may have passed since they last spoke, but now grieving loss and the reality that words will forever remain unspoken. Family feuds occur but I believe when family members love one another and without malicious activities, the unspoken words can be overcome by acceptance even when they ascend into heaven to watch over us. For the injured, this may be a time to start to rebuild or strengthen relationships with loved ones.
During these difficult times I pray for peace for the injured and the survivors left behind.
To my father, my hero, I love you. Be humble, be grateful, be true to you.