This is my attempt to write to you of my chosen family, in the tradition of my hero James Baldwin, in a moment of great strife. A few nights ago, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse, a gay dance club in Orlando, Florida and opened fire. He wounded 53 people, and killed 49. This is the largest mass shooting in our nation's history to date. My heart descends into my chest as I write to you, but looking to Baldwin as I so often do, I write with the hope of bringing some semblance of love into this world, crowded with the news of death and injustice. Some are already using the attack to further their own agendas of bigotry and xenophobia, while others seek to ignite a flame against the genuine evil that the militarization of our nation has led us to, I am not here for that debate. I am here to talk to you, my queer family, as one who loves you.
This is a letter is to you, gay child, trans brother, queer sister, who I do not know, and may never know, but love none the less. You are the ones I route for in victory and cry with in defeat. In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin wrote to his nephew, but since I have no nephew or niece and will never have children of my own, I use the surrogate name of Larry for Larry King, a gender non-conforming child murdered by his classmate 8 years ago. In writing his name, I find another way to honor still his struggle and his death. But this message is to you who are still live:
I love you and we are winning.
I love you for what you are, and what you will become. I love you because I am one of you, bound in strange solidarity with the rest of our unpronounceable anagram, LGBTQIA+. It's an amorphous group, casting out grasping hands over barriers of class, race, age and nationality to unite us into some queer patchwork family. We are all of us Queer and aching in this moment.
You may disagree with the word Queer. You may prefer some other term, and perhaps you should. You're reinventing how the world sees love and partnership, so why shouldn't you have your own language? I hope you will forgive me mine. When I say queer, I mean, those of us who refuse to see gender as a limitation to love, as a barrier to expression or as a guideline to behavior. Queer people are anyone who by thought or deed, fight against the strict separation of the sexes, and choose to look at humanity in all the richness of its expressions when choosing a partner or way of life. I am one of these people, and if you are reading this, I imagine you may be one as well.
It is out of my love for you, that I write to warn you: You are in danger.
You should know this, not that it will always protect you, but it can inform you and your decisions should you wish to survive. And I pray to every god and goddess I know, that you do. You live in a world that is so challenged by who and what you are or chose to become, they will seek to hurt you and all too often they will succeed. This has always been their tactic, from the the death camps of Nazi Germany, to the criminal blindness of the Reagan and first Bush administrations, even to yesterday with the murder of almost fifty innocent people in a gay bar in Orlando. These attacks are blamed on homophobia or transphobia, if the press danes to mention us at all, but these terms should be clarified. Phobia implies that they are afraid of what we are, but they're not afraid of your identity, they're afraid of your power. They are afraid of what you can take from them. They want to erase you because what you are and what you stand for threatens the tightly held enclosure of their dwindling control. They hold in their grips the power of confinement, of clear delineations between black and white, male and female, have and have not, and they mean to keep them. But know, that this power is false because it is founded on limitation, and contrary to the way we as humans exist. They have designated strict roles on outdated definitions as to what it is to be a man or a woman, even what it is to be human, to hold dominion over us, all the while dismissing the greatest assets humanity has at its disposal; our ability to learn and our means to adapt.
Your existence as a queer person is a transgression which they cannot and will not forgive. For this fact alone, you will always be expendable to them. In the media, they will minimize your voice or seek to silence it all together. If allowing you time at all, they will trivialize you and your arguments by criticizing your character or concentrating of the scintillating rather than the substantive. When you ask for equality or even an agreement on basic respectful language, they will mock you with jokes or outlandish claims of the end times or the travails of navigating the labyrinth that is "political correctness." These are only a few of their tools. They have an entire arsenal and they will pull out every weapon, from bible chapter and verse to a supposed "natural law," which you should know is merely a code word for "the way we'd been doing it for a while now." They will easily and readily call for your dismissal and subtlety or blatantly advocate for your death. This last crime, they will pardon themselves of in the eyes of their God as they forcefully overlook his greatest teaching:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." John 13:34
See, even we queers can quote the bible. It is easy to believe that in this age of somewhat societal liberalism, that these calls for your demise may be brushed aside as the rantings of a few conservative "crack pots." But when these same "crack pots" are given air time on almost every major news outlet from CNN to their favorite home away from home, Fox News, the message becomes abundantly clear: You are not wanted.
When they are not attacking us in media or the public forum of the internet, they will carry out the ghastliest deeds in person. They will attack us where we live. 1 out of every 5 LGBT person in this country will sufferer physical violence, 80 percent of these people will be people of color. When they succeed, they will count you among the long list of victims from Isla Nettles to Marc Carson, dating back or Matthew Shepherd or to the young child who's name I write to, Larry King. And no matter how despicable or unprovoked the details of your death may be, they will gloat as you die, hiding behind "God's will," as Pat Robertson and Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick did just hours after the news broke of the shooting in Orlando. Dan Patrick implied God's Will was done as 49 innocent people; mothers, children, brothers and sisters, lay dead and dying on the dance floor at Pulse. Even in death, they will take actions to see that you and your humanity are erased.
If not in these blatant and disgusting ways, they will use their systematic expulsion of your beauty and complexity that exists in the society all around you. The long assault on you, is begun in the earliest days of childhood, when "boys do this" and "girls do this," and anyone stepping outside these bounds is wrong; leading further on to the threats of being "man enough" or "ladylike" that continue to haunt us into adulthood. And if they cannot accomplish these denials themselves, they will hand their children their own prejudice, passing to them the tools for your torture and undoing. You'll be harassed in your schools, ridiculed beyond the point of degradation and driven as is too often the case to the brink of death. It certainly was for Tyler Clementi, Jadin Bell and Kenneth Weishuhn just to name a few.
I would love to tell you that it gets better, but the truth is, I don't know that it does. Even as an adult in the havens of the freethinking cities, I have seen countless friends beaten. Jaws broken, eyes blackened, limbs dislocated and shattered for offenses no more serious than walking down a street hand in hand with their lover or, at times, not even that. The assault on you is real, varied and sophisticated, because you are something that they fear.
You, my queer family, are breaking their rules. You are wrenching the chains that have kept women down for centuries by redefining and questioning the role of gender in our lives as a whole. You are destroying the straight jacket of masculinity, freeing men from the crippling regime of brutish strength, enticing them with limp-wristed compassion. You are challenging basic assumptions about humanity, that they have drawn together and curated through ages of oppression, control and fear, to keep people separated and afraid as they are. You are asking the world to look at our common humanity as a litmus test for worth, and putting out a call for love and peace in new, exciting and ever growing ways that exceed dream and they are frightened of that. Whether L, G, B, T Q, I or A, you are coloring outside the rigid lines of gender, and for that, they will seek to destroy you.
But far worse than that, they would have you destroy yourself. So many of us, still struggle in a world that continually tells us that we are evil, degenerate, unwell, and hearing this message, many seek release in the deceptive shelter of drugs and alcohol. Addiction and overdose will become all too common place in your world and even these losses they will try to steal from you. They will blame the victims for their own self loathing and disgust at their "lifestyle," completely absolving themselves of planting this messaging of self hatred out there in the first place. Far worse still, we as queer people will begin to use their weapons on ourselves. Self loathing gay pundits emerge everyday like Jason Hill, to tell you, from the horse's mouth, that you are worthless sex addicts with no moral character and an inability to love. Femininity in gay circles will be policed like plague. Body conformity will be regulated with a vehemence and a cruelty that at times rivals that of our oppressors. Racism and misogyny are often so rampant within our community, that one has to wonder who the real enemy is at all. This is another step forward in your annihilation, and perhaps the cruelest one, because they have handed us the knife and forced us to hack away at ourselves.
You are and always will be a threat, but I would like to tell you, that's a good thing. It's vital thing. The challenges you present are important to humanity if we are meant to survive. Now is the time for questioning. Now is the time for tearing down that which we cannot sustain and finding new ways to live. New ways that you, my dear queer family, are on the cutting edge of discovering. You are more than a word or a group of letters, you are a revolution. And it is time to break the rules, to challenge them, to stand up and be counted no matter how many times they would push us down. No matter how many religious liberty laws get passed or bathrooms are forbidden, now is the time to stand up and be seen. Because once seen, your brilliance can never be extinguished.
They will continue their message of your less-ness, when in point of fact, you are more. You are their future. You are dangerous to them, and there in lies your power. And it is time we used it. Defy the rules that need defying. Break open the flood gates of gender conformity on every level and ask serious questions about what love, compassion and justice mean in the modern world. This is our right and our power as queer people, and to this we must cling. There will battles, and there will be sorrows, but there will also be victories. You are variation in world pushed forward and revitalized by variation. You are vital to our evolution as thinking loving and compassionate beings. The road ahead will be long, and we will lose in heart wrenching ways, but everyday you realize you are loved, everyday you see your power, is a victory.
I love you and it may not feel like it, but we are winning