This is a Facebook post written by a dear friend of mine- a woman who is brave. Jennifer is sharing her words in hopes that her voice might add to the light that is surely permeating the darkness. Thank you, Jen.
I’ve been struggling to find the right things to say in the wake of this tragedy in Orlando, but the truth is that there really isn’t much that I can say that is worth anything to the victims and their friends and families.
I was 14 years old the first time that I realized that I was in love with a girl. I was too crippled by fear of other people’s reactions to let myself be open about my feelings.
In the years since, I have had a handful of relationships. I have been in love with and in committed relationships with women. I have feared for my safety, my heart beating in my ears, while holding hands with girlfriends in public. I have had insults shouted at me through car windows. I have been in relationships with people whose families disowned them because of who they were.
I have been to several gay clubs – in NY, SC, and in FL. I have never felt anything but safe and loved in those spaces. Never once did I fear for my safety while dancing with friends and significant others. It feels like magic, you guys, to have those spaces.
Had 14-year-old me known about the joy of being in a safe space with other queer folks, maybe I would have been more brave.
This tragedy isn’t about me. It’s not about my experiences. As we mourn those who lost their lives, I can’t help but think of the far-reaching consequences. Those teenage queer kids who are already nervous about being out now have to face the harsh truth that even their safe spaces may not be safe. Imagine that, if you can.
I benefit from the perception that strangers have of me, based on what my life looks like. I am very happily married to a man. I have two beautiful children. I don’t live with the fear that I will be on the receiving end of violence when I’m out with my family. And I have taken that for granted. I have become complacent.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m doing my best to raise kind and compassionate children. They are aware of the diversity of our community and we are fortunate to have queer friends and family members.
I don’t know what to do from here. I do know that I won’t buy into the divisiveness that I’ve seen on Facebook these past two days. Pointing fingers only serves to hurt other people. Blaming another group has never done anything to unite us.
I will live in love and with honesty. My home will always be open to LGBT people who have lost friends and family members because of who they are. I will make sure that my children love and respect everyone, regardless of how they identify, of political affiliation, of their stance on gun control.
I can’t undo what has been done. I grieve for the lives lost, for the family members and friends who are missing their loved ones tonight. I cry with them and I will go forward as a light… Because what else can I do?
If you’re still reading, thanks. And if you can’t accept my words, you can see yourself out without bringing me down. My heart hurts enough as it is.
Jennifer Hilliard is a lifelong learner living in coastal South Carolina with her husband and young son and daughter. She is a proud geek, craft beer enthusiast, and outspoken voice for children and minorities.