My mother is terrified that I will be shot and killed one of these days. She has told me this many times over the years.
Like so many LGBTQ+ people, my mother's relationship with my identity is a complicated one, so it was easy to dismiss her fear. Growing up, I knew that LGBTQ+ people live under a constant threat of violence. I witnessed it first-hand. As a vocal advocate fighting for LGBTQ+ people and communities in Chicago, I am unapologetic about my views on equality and ensuring that we as a people are protected in this country.
I now understand that my mother is right. Her deepest fear became a reality for dozens of other mothers on Sunday. It happened in Orlando.
As Americans begin to process the aftermath of this horrific day, LGBTQ+ people are coming to terms with what many of us have tried to deny for so long -- our own lack of safety and security. LGBTQ+ people have had to create safe spaces in this country because of laws that have made our very existence illegal. Gay bars and clubs were the first places the LGBTQ+ community could find fellowship and companionship. I, like many other LGBTQ+ people, met my first Chicago friends and boyfriend in a gay club just like The Pulse.
Many LGBTQ+ people woke up on Sunday to realize that we are not even safe in our own safe spaces. Which begs the question, am I safe anywhere? I look around and see people spewing hate towards LGBTQ+ people all across this country on the daily. We allow it.
The shocking truth is the deadliest gun shooting in our nation’s history was targeted at LGBTQ+ people. It happened because of hate.
There’s a strong undercurrent of homophobia in this country that tells people that it is okay to treat LGBTQ+ people as the other. Tells them to pray for their poor souls. To make it illegal for them to marry who they love, adopt children or give blood; to even use the same bathroom.
These examples should not be protected by someone’s beliefs or religion. I don’t believe in excuses anymore -– these are examples of hate. The same kind of hate that drove a man to murder dozens of LGBTQ+ people of color.
If you support someone who would limit LGBTQ+ protections, you are supporting the very reason that drives others to hate and kill. You are proliferating hate.
I am sick of hiding in a bar, or walking down the street scared to hold my significant other's hand. I am sick of consoling my mother and telling her that I will not get shot when I know full well that I may be shot just because of who I am. It's time to fight back and tell our elected leaders that we will not allow hate in this country.
Take the time you need and mourn the loss of every single one of the people who died in Orlando. Learn their names and their stories. Please think of those LGBTQ+ people that you know and love -- your family members, friends and neighbors.
Then, let’s stand up together and make an impact. We will say enough is enough, walk to that ballot box and elect the people who are going to protect LGBTQ+ people in the statehouse and City Hall, in Congress and on the bench, and you better bet, the White House too.
My mother may be scared about my safety but she’s by my side in choosing the right way forward to protect people’s lives. We will vote for people who are going to stand alongside the LGBTQ+ community and challenge those who would try to limit our protections and our potential to live full lives.
Does that change everything? No, but it really matters. Lives are at stake. Just ask one of the 49 Orlando mothers.
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