Heard a college age girl berating her mother yesterday for not coming out and supporting the LGBT community more fully in the wake of the Orlando shooting this past weekend. She apparently felt that the fact that her mother was gay meant that her mother was being a coward for not being more vocal and open. Oh, my poor, poor child. How do I explain to you that rather than being a coward, your mother is one of the bravest ladies I know?
Lass, I know you and your friends feel that being open about who and what you are is the natural and right things to do; and I greatly admire you for it. I'm even more proud and amazed of the fact that you can do so in (relative) safety, but it wasn't always this way.
Your mother no doubts remembers just as I do when a gay bar just outside of town was burned to the ground, and it was ruled "an accident". Your mother no doubts remembers just as I do when a "drag queen" was beaten to death outside another gay bar and the cops did nothing. Then there was Matthew Sheppard and Ryan Keith Skipper.
Nor was violence the only thing to fear. Your mother no doubt remember just as I do when the hate filled rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church was considered normal. Your mother no doubt remembers just as I do when being gay was considered a mental illness and no one blinked when a homosexual was committed. Your mother no doubt remembers even better than I do when "coming out of the closet" was almost certain to result in your family disowning you and denying your very existence. And she no doubt remembers even better than I do when being gay could and would result in your losing your job and being kicked out of the apartment you were renting. And finally, she no doubts wishes she could forget even as I do how many children just a bit older than you were conceived because someone decided that "one night with a real man will cure that" woman, and again the cops would have done nothing.
Aye lass, you're right. We do need to stand up for what's right, and we do need to make our voices heard, both LGBT and straight. You're right, we do have a long way to go yet. But oh how far we've come just in my lifetime and your mother's.
The thing to keep in mind lass, is that silence is not a natural instinct. We are not born thinking "Hey, I'd better not talk about this". We're born thinking that if we are hurt we should announce it to the heavens at the top of our lungs. No, keeping silent about something is something we are taught by having it beat into us, day after day and year after year. We learn to keep silent by learning that NOT keeping silent is more painful than the original pain. We learn to keep silent by losing everything dear to us if we dare to say anything, including our families. And this my child, is why I believe your mother is one of the bravest people I know. She learned the hard way what speaking out would mean, and yet she did it anyway. She came out of the closet and told her attackers and detractors to go to hell. She stood tall and she stood proud. Maybe you're right. Maybe she does need to be more vocal, more in your face. But when silence is safe, being vocal is hard; and she has been vocal. This is why she is one of my quiet heroes, one of those I look up to and admire. Go forth lass. Roar your defiance at the world. You have the heart of a lion child, and I know you will make this world a better place than I could ever have dreamed; but always remember. Remember your mother and those like her. Remember what they went through to pave the road you're standing on today, and remember their sacrifices. And honor them as I do for the miracles they have already accomplished.