(June 16th, 2012, thoughts following the tragedy)

I’m fragile today, as all of us are. I’ve thought a lot about the victims and the people they loved and the people who loved them and how this is effecting the entire LGBT community as well as the world and I’ve thought a whole lot about the mothers. The mothers, the mothers, the mothers. While I’ve been thinking about and reading about what happened, I’ve been on this trip with Kingston’s family, and this very specific overlap has made me even more aware of human nature’s tendency to, at one end of a behavior spectrum, bristle in the face of the differences of others and at the other very extreme end, to destroy. All day I’ve been thinking, when it comes to how we react to the differences between us, it’s very very important that we nip it in the bristling.

I am used to spending time with children who don’t fit a typical mold, and in light of what we’ve all been reading about today, I’m even more sensitive to the difficult day-to-day reality of a person who is viewed as atypical, in whatever way, when measured against current societal norms. One of the earliest and most terrifying alarms that goes off in a mother’s head is the alarm that tells her that her child will be regarded as “different” by society. I could list the labels I’m aware of that set off the alarm, but I’m not going to. You can make a mental list of the labels that come up for you when you think about this. There are so many.

(I need to say right now that I want to steer away from a possible misunderstanding that I’m insinuating that being LGBT is inherently different. I know that an LGBT orientation is and has always been more naturally common than it has been allowed to be publicly and has simply been stifled by societal conditioning for so long. I am also, hopefully obviously, not comparing an LGBT orientation to a “disorder.” I hope you know me well enough to know that’s not what I’m doing, but just in case you don’t: that’s not what I’m doing. What I’m doing is drawing a parallel between the many realities that make mothers fear for their child’s safety and happiness. And beyond these two parenthetical statements, I also vehemently disagree with the word “disorder,” but that’s a subject for another time.)

This week, I’ve spoken at length with Kingston’s mom about a lot of things, including her experience of first receiving the news of Kingston’s label. Kingston was her first son and he was born into the right family because they understand and love and accept him unconditionally. But, I also spoke to a woman this weekend who has four kids, the youngest of which being a 5-year-old boy with Autism, and she told me that his diagnosis broke up her marriage because she could come to terms with it, but her husband could not. I could swap the word “Autism” out for a lot of other words in this scenario. I’ll let you make a mental list of what those words are, as well.

Having a child who will most certainly face more discrimination than most is a heavy reality for a parent. Some parents know right away that -all of life- will be harder for their child, specifically. Can you imagine that weight? I can *only* imagine that weight. Even though I work extremely closely with that weight every year, I have never carried it myself. Awareness and experience are two very different realities.

Kingston’s mom looked at me tonight and she told me that she is so proud of how far he has come and how well he has done, but she worries about other people in this world making his life hard for him in the future. Hearing these words, with today’s tragedy on my mind, made my stomach churn in a more severe way than it typically would have. It is from that emotionally stomach-churning place that I express these thoughts to you:

The whole “mass shootings/gun laws/hate crimes/general inevitable evil in the world” stuff is overwhelming and none of us feel like we can do much to touch it because we probably can’t do much to touch it. But we can be more sensitive to the differences of people around us, WHATEVER those differences may be. Generally, when you meet someone that comes across as “different” to you, assume that person is absolutely starving for safety, always has been absolutely starving for safety, and become a safe place for them, in whatever way you can. Don’t point out their differences, don’t make a scene about them, don’t create shame for them. I’ll even go further than to say “ignore their differences” to say: find beauty in their differences and celebrate them, if you can. Diversity is fantastic and fascinating and extraordinarily stimulating and wonderful. And the truth is, whatever difference you’re noticing and highlighting is not novel. It has been pointed out a trillion times before, since the beginning of that person’s life. And no matter what the difference you’re noticing is, they’ve already faced persecution because of it, simply because it hasn’t been common enough, for long enough, to have been normalized yet. And because it hasn’t been normalized yet, the difference you’ve noticed has already caused them to weep in emotional pain that has at times been so extreme that it’s turned into physical pain. The difference you’ve noticed has already caused them to question their own worth. The difference you’ve noticed has already challenged them to dig for their own unique ways to lift themselves up after being torn down, over and over again. If you notice it, it’s noticeable, and it doesn’t need to be pointed out again, except in celebration.

Anything we can do to counter the gross divisions that this world creates, and the atrocities those divisions provoke, on whatever scale we are able to counter them, we’ve gotta do. This is my response from my vantage point. I don’t know what else to do except express these things and hope it helps someone in some small way.

If there’s any helpful takeaway you’ve come to today, I’d love for you to share it with me.

Love love love