An open letter to my LGBTQAI+ friends

‘I’m sorry that the media refuses to call the Orlando massacre what it is – a hate crime’

Dear Queer Friends and Family,

Since the fifth grade, I knew I was physically attracted to women, yet for many years, tried to suppress my feelings. Growing up in a very Christian town with limited resources for LGBTQAI+ individuals, I felt as if I was a deviant, my feelings unnatural and wrong.

Three years later, through a combination of a more accepting political climate towards gay rights, leaving the church, and seeing more Queer individuals positively portrayed in the media, I finally felt comfortable enough to come out to those around me. My friends took the news very well. My mother did not.

“Mom, I’m bisexual,” I said as we sat on her houndstooth comforter. It was a humid evening the middle of August, two weeks before I was set to begin high school. She let out a sigh, taking a moment to process the words I’d told her before contorting her face into a fake smile. “Okay,” she said with forged enthusiasm. “If that’s the kind of sex you like to have, thats none of my business.” I turned red. “That’s the last time I tell anyone,” I thought to myself. I never brought it up again.

To this day, she is the only family member I have chosen to tell about being bisexual.

Over the next few years, I used the privilege of passing as straight that often comes with bisexuality as a way to avoid this discomfort. I’ve never needed a safe space to express myself. I’ve never feared being disowned by my family, losing friends, or being fired for my sexuality. I’ve never even questioned wether I’d legally be able to marry the love of my life, or wether I’d be able to walk down the street without being assaulted.

It wasn’t until the shooting in Orlando that I realized the extent of my privilege.

When I stepped off the train at Coney Island last Saturday to attend the annual Mermaid Parade, a spectacle of bedazzled seashell bras, drag queens, and extravagant floats, I couldn’t help but feel afraid.  As I looked around the swelling crowd, I, still shaken from the horrific attacks less than a week earlier where nearly 50 innocent people were killed at the hands of a homophobic shooter, suddenly wanted to leave.

“I don’t feel safe here,” I said looking at my friend who had accompanied me to the parade, as we walked along down the stairs onto Surf Ave. He gave me a strange look. “Why not? he said, with a concerned expression. “I’m scared there will be someone with a bomb or a gun.” Fortunately, we were safe.

On the train ride back to Manhattan, I began to think about the Pride Parade scheduled for the following week. For years I had wanted to go to Pride yet my parents, fearful of letting my venture into Boystown for the annual event when I lived in Chicago, never let me. I was 20 years old and living in New York City for the summer, with the time, energy, and jurisdiction to attend the event. Despite these perfect circumstances, I decided it wasn’t worth it. “There’s probably going to be another attack,” I thought to myself. “I shouldn’t go.” Suddenly, a lump formed in my throat. “What am I saying, I am so lucky that I feel safe enough in my daily life postpone attending this event.”  I stared blankly at the Brooklyn backyards through the train window, my heart breaking. I was silent for the rest of the ride home

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For this reason, I want to apologize to my fellow LGBTQAI+ friends and family.

I’m sorry that the media refuses to call the Orlando massacre what it is – a hate crime. As a journalist, I find it unethical and disrespectful that news outlets use fear mongering, attempting to pit two marginalized communities against each other, to compensate for their internalized homophobia and racism.

I’m sorry that lawmakers in this country struggle with taking common-sense measures to prevent tragedies like Orlando from happening again. I promise that I will do everything in my power to advocate for these positive changes, such as stricter laws about obtaining guns, and increasing liberties for members of the LGBTQAI+ community. It’s terrifying to think of how many lives will have to be lost before we finally come to our senses.

I’m sorry that after taking so many steps forward over the past century, culminating in the Supreme Court’s ruling last year, it feels like we’re almost back where we began, when homosexuality was a crime punishable by death. Despite this frustration, I urge you not to give up. We’re stronger than that.

Most of all, I’m sorry that your safe spaces may not feel so safe anymore, that violence, homophobia, and hatred have infiltrated their way into the few places where many individuals free to express themselves. If you feel nervous attending Pride today or going anywhere at all, I’m available for anyone who needs accompaniment, a hug, a hand to hold, or just to vent. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to lose your sense of security in your own community. I am here for you, today and always.

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