When the first blog post I wrote went viral, I was shocked and overwhelmed. Being a blogger was never on my bucket list, and it was something I was completely unprepared for. I called my father to let him know what was going on. He was well aware of my son's crush on Glee's Blaine, so there was no surprise there. Instead, his reaction went like this:
"Are you anonymous?" he asked, his voice low and intent.
"Yeah, Dad, totally."
He continued in that same tone: "Good. Now I don't have to worry about you being shot."
I know that that might seem a little melodramatic, but I don't think my father's concerns were totally unfounded. In our society, being loud and proud in support of LGBT rights has, many times, led to violence. And here we were in a red state that will probably be the 40th or so to have marriage equality. Like my father, all I could think about was the safety of my kids. It made the decision easy: I started out anonymous, and I was going to stay that way.
That was over a year and a half ago, and I have learned a lot since then. Anonymity comes with a price. Although my close friends and family know I'm the blogger known as Amelia, most of the people I deal with every day don't. At first it was fine. I was so overwhelmed by the whole thing that it honestly helped to think of what was going on as though it were happening to someone else. I'm not good at taking compliments, so when people said such lovely and nice things, I would process it by saying that they were talking about Amelia, not about me. And when I talk to my friends about things happening with Amelia, they often stop me and say, "Hon, you are Amelia." And they are right. I am the one dealing with the hard stuff, the bad stuff. I am the one who loses sleep when I am up all night responding to emails from LGBT kids. I am the one reading the hate messages. I am the one who struggles to figure out what to say next.
And as any LGBT person who has lived in the closet can tell you, being two people sucks. There is so much lying. It makes me crazy. I can't count the number of times someone has asked me why I look tired, what I did over the weekend or why I'm distracted, and the answer, the true answer, is on the tip of my tongue, and I have to swallow it back. I end up saying something like, "Things are crazy at home," or, "Things are nuts at work," when what I really want to say is, "I've been Amelia a lot lately." And the truth is that I've spent a lot of time being Amelia. Responding to the messages from LGBT kids and adults has become a huge part of my life, and a part I love. I often spend entire evenings online or on the phone with teens, LGBT adults or parents of LGBT or gender-nonconforming kids. And some of these people have become my very good friends. There are weeks when I spend more hours being Amelia than I do on the job that pays all our bills.
But as much as I would like to say, "Screw being anonymous; this is who I am," I don't feel that I can. I am a mom, and I'm not willing to compromise my son's safety, security and childhood. The reality is that telling our family's story is controversial. That fact annoys me to no end, but it's true. A young child identifying as gay makes a lot of people uncomfortable, sometimes angry. I get nasty comments and emails. People threaten to steal my son from me so that they can "make a man out of him." People tell me that they are waiting for the chance to "beat the fag out of him." This is my kid they are talking about, and it is my job to keep him safe. He is just a little boy. So no matter how difficult and annoying anonymity might be, I still think it is the right choice for my kid.
And here's where the difficult part comes in. I feel like complete anonymity is getting in the way of what my blog posts are all about: reaching out to people and being damn proud of my kid. But how proud can I really be if I'm speaking from behind a faceless headshot? I'm hiding behind a mask, and it feels wrong. I am so proud of my kid. I am so proud that I get to be his mom. And I am proud that I get to write about our life and share it with the readers of The Huffington Post.
Being faceless is also limiting. I have been doing what I can from behind the curtain, but it is not enough. I'd like the opportunity to speak to more parents about celebrating our LGBT kids and meet more of our fabulous LGBT youth. Those things are impossible to do without literally putting myself out there.
So I've finally arrived at a compromise: I am going to continue being "Amelia," and the most I'll show of my kid is the back of his head. There are too many threats to my family for me to reveal everything about who I am. (The emails I get can be seriously nasty.) But I am not going to hide my face any longer. It is time for me to show some pride and give some real visibility to the woman, the mom, who is sharing our family's story. So, with the help of the fabulous guys at the NOH8 Campaign (something else I am so proud to put my face on), I have a photo to show. Here I am, tattoos and all. I am Amelia.
Photo by Adam Bouska, courtesy of the NOH8 Campaign