Thursday, June 16, 2016

From a mother to a son

Following the Orlando Incident, a reader and follower of The Red Elephant Foundation's work felt moved to share a letter that she wrote to her son. While initially, she intended for it to be for her son, she felt that the emotional process of writing the article made it a compelling need for her to share it with the world. 

Dear Son,
I choose not to name you, because coming out to the world beyond your family is your decision to make, and we know you will make the decision when you feel it is right, comfortable and the right step for you to take. But I want to make this letter public, because I have something to say that goes out to everyone in the world that is willing to listen.  

Orlando became a tragedy overnight for those that lost loved ones. It became a hashtag for those that are outraged enough to spare a thought online. It became another reason to be angry for those that are wronged over and over again on the same journey. What happened in Orlando is a reminder, that such hate crimes happen everywhere, and that it shouldn’t take inertia on our part and a massacre for us to wake up to the truth. That, to me and to many parents like me, makes it the grimmest reminder of all.
People are angry. They are confused. They don’t know why it happened, or how it could happen. I mean, we are a free country. We talk about a free world. We are raised to believe that we can chase our dreams. We grow up thinking that this is the truth – that we can and should be who we are, and shouldn’t back down for anyone. But the trouble, my dear son, is that even those who choose violence think that this justifies their choice to be violent. Sadly, innocent people pay the price for that.

What do I tell you today, son? That the times that I told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, that the times that I told you that the world was your oyster – I was not telling you the truth? Or that every time you tell me you are going out for a drink or to watch a movie with your friends, there is a deep rumbling tsunami of fear building up inside of me? Do I tell you that there is a lump in my throat when you call, as I hope that you are not calling with distress to report? Or do I tell you how it feels to be relieved of the pain at the end of each day, when I see you walking in through the door at home?

You are fifteen. Three more years until school becomes college. Three more years until you leave home. Three more years until I will wait to hear your voice on the phone, telling me that you are fine.
What I’m going through is not something I face alone. And this has nothing to do with you, son. You are a bright, wonderful and beautiful boy, and you will always be your father’s and my star. It doesn’t matter to us that you are gay. It doesn’t matter to us that you spent a year questioning faith enough to even refuse gifts on Christmas. It doesn’t matter to me that you hate broccoli, but you can somehow eat that awful plate of kale salad and still ask for more. What matters most to us is your safety. And because of that, what matters to us is that there are people who don’t think you deserve to live, or if you do live, to have a happy and peaceful life, because of your sexual orientation. And that worries me.

Today, they’re in your life in the form of seniors and juniors who think that it’s cool to wear hatred on their sleeves. Tomorrow, it’s these that grow up to enable hate, and to allow that hate to turn into something so vile and inhuman, that taking lives seems so easy for them to do.

I started writing this letter three days ago (June 14, 2016). It took me until today (June 16, 2016) to finish it. I stayed up last night, thinking about you. And it struck me then. Why should you live in fear? Who is anyone to decide that you don’t deserve to live? Who can tell you what you do with your mind, your body and your sexual orientation? Only YOU have the right over yourself, and only you should be the one to decide what your life should be like.

This is not just a letter to you, but to every parent and every child who identifies as gay. You, just like everyone else, deserves to live and live a life of dignity, with the freedom of choice that is inherent in you. You, like everyone else, have hopes and dreams, ambitions and goals. You, like everyone else, deserves to live. 

Pride is more than a word for us. It is about personality, it is about standing for who you are, and by extension, who we are. I take PRIDE in being your mother. I take PRIDE in having been born the day you were born. I take PRIDE in every moment of your life that we have shared together. 

And that is why, when we celebrate pride, I will celebrate you – like I celebrate you every day.

With love,

Your mother, Sam.