I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the tragedy in Orlando which has gripped this nation and once again made us all feel unsafe. I’m sure by now you may be thinking of how wild the world is, how nowhere is safe for anyone, how events like the shooting in Orlando can keep happening in a place like America. You may even be silently thankful those undesirables finally got what was coming to them for not being what you think is acceptable, who knows!?
I’m sure by now you may have even thought about your child. You know, the gay one? The trans one? The one you can’t bring yourself to accept for whatever reason? I’m sure you’ve thought of the lifestyle you think they lead. The lifestyle that could potentially lead them into a gay bar and be murdered just like in Orlando. You may have even had a twinkling of remorse for the child of yours you ostracized, abused, mistreated, or kicked out of your home. Somewhere deep in your heart you felt, as a parent of a child who isn’t cisgender or straight, that you and the Orlando shooter may actually have a few things in common.
That jolt of fear and repulsion upon realizing that you contribute to the same systems and factors enabling the situation which tore so many lives apart recently. The damning realization that you, too, have the capability of being as monstrous and violent as the man who took it upon himself to end lives of FIFTY people and injure just as many. A shocking realization, I’m sure, but one which needs to happen if we want to work to take down homophobia and transphobia.
You may not be aware of this, but nothing in this world exist in a vacuum: not your homophobic/transphobic words and actions, not the bathroom bills you support which attack trans people, not your casual mockery of men who may be “too feminine,” women who may be “too masculine,” or people who confuse you with their gender presentation. The words you say, the things you do and the pain you inflict on others is all part of a greater system which tells people like me -- people like your child -- that we are not human and we don’t deserve happiness.
We are hurting right now, the LGBTQIA+ community has once again been collectively reminded of the fact we still have a long way to go before we’re seen and treated as whole human beings. We’re hurting and we’re upset, because the dawn of marriage equality gave so many of us hope things were maybe, just maybe, looking up for once. But to no avail, things are not getting better for us, in many ways it feels like they’re getting worse.
To that child of yours who you may not accept, may not love, or may not want to ever see again; I hope they know there’s people out there who love them unconditionally. To that child of yours who may feel forever hurt and lost from your rejection, I want you as their parent to know there’s so much love in this world and even if you yourself can’t be a wellspring of that love, someone else will. Our community is one of resilience, of love, of strength, of so many different and marvelous things and no amount of hatred and intolerance will ever change that. If you refuse to be a parent to your broken and battered child, then I myself will fulfill that role. If I can’t be that person for them, someone else will, because we all know what it’s like in some way, shape, or form to not be fully accepted by our parents.
For us, community is power and community is everything. We’ll always have a better understanding of what family means than you, someone who couldn’t love their child for what they are. A family isn’t just a mom, dad and two and a half kids. A family isn’t just white picket fences and suburbia. A family is so much more than some myth of normalcy, it is a group of people who will always defend the personhood of those whom they love, no matter how they identify or who they love.
What happened in Orlando has truly shaken us all to our core, and for that child who you may never see yourself accepting, I can assure you they’re scared too. The world is so terrifying and cruel to people like us, why add to that terror and suffering through your rejection and hatred? Why add to that terror and sadness by refusing to accept the humanity of your flesh and blood or otherwise? Love can be a powerful driving force in the world, one which pushes us all to want better for each other regardless of so many factors, and I challenge you to find it in yourself in these coming days and spread it accordingly.
With all the best and dreams aflutter,
Joseph Coco (all pronouns) Hailing from the deep south with the scars to prove it, Joseph is a queer, trans, Black person dedicated to social justice and community organizing. Coco firmly believes in the power of communication and community in healing the trauma of bigotry, injustice, and discrimination. Coco is an advocate of bridging the gap between different marginalized groups. Willing to be on the front lines of creating change, Coco believes that intersectional activism and grassroots organizing is key for a greater and healthier community.