I have been quiet for a long time. Partly because my children are getting older and I want to respect their privacy. Partly because I do not feel comfortable writing what is on my mind about my students—again for their privacy, as well as for my own. Partly because I haven’t figured out an honest and real way to communicate the things pressing on my heart and mind the most. And partly because to some extent I have been avoiding writing about those most pressing things, because the thought of doing it is exhausting and terrifying.
Wednesday night, though, I shared some of my feelings on Facebook following the shooting in Orlando. I have been silent too long. I am re-sharing them here, but not before I tell you how beautiful the responses from many of my friends were. It was overwhelming. We have wonderful people in our lives, and if I had stayed silent I would not have realized how many. My children would not know, either.
The fact is, every time I have chosen to speak up about something important, yes—there were people who stepped away, and yes—it hurt, but yes—there were many who stepped closer. Each time I spoke up I found out I was not alone. And each time I spoke up others found out they were not alone. I will keep at this.
I rarely feel ready to speak about something before the rest of the world is on to a new topic, especially because I am not always convinced adding my voice to the noise will make a difference. This time, though, I have to speak up. It has been brewing for months.
I have prayed, I have signed petitions, I have given money. I have read and read and read to try to understand this from different sides. I will keep doing those things, but I also want my friends to know that as the mother of a gay teen it breaks my heart that he is a particular target for violence. That some people may never be able to see what a gorgeous human being he is simply because he is not straight. That practically every day at school he has heard his peers using words that described aspects of who he is as synonyms for stupid, or perverted, or worse. That he has friends who are terrified to come out because of how their families and communities might respond. That he and his sisters woke up Sunday morning not just to the renewed knowledge that this world is full of violence and hate and horrible loss but also to the knowledge that there are people out there who would kill him if they could, without knowing anything else about him.
I have not yet gotten over the fear of judgment from my friends, especially my fellow Christians. But I love my children more than I fear what anyone else thinks, and to me it is a matter of faith to stand beside my son and support him fully. I pray that enough others are heartbroken by what happened in Orlando—that enough people will allow their hearts to be broken—that they will start listening differently. The most important question I ever asked myself, years before my son came out but still not soon enough, was “What if that were my kid?” I believe it is a question that saves lives.