Disclaimer: I’ve cried at least three times while writing this post. (It’s from the heart.)
I write this post both joyful and saddened of the world we live in. I also write it from a place of why does my opinion matter?, but isn’t that the point? We all have a voice, the ability to inspire and create change–and you never know who you might inspire. I have attended two events in the last 48 hours to honor and remember the victims and families who have been impacted by this week’s recent event. As the list of names was read at last night’s event–of those who once loved, and are loved–what I learned is that I was stronger by standing among this group of people who are “different” than me; they were not stronger because of me.
This is my first blog post writing on raw emotion. Part of the reason I struggle with blogging, well number one–I don’t have a computer I look forward to using to bring magical thoughts and #ootds to life–but mainly because I don’t write well on raw emotion. I usually have too many thoughts running across the crazy wires of my brain which I can’t even process, and I can never accurately express my thoughts or feelings so rather than trying and feeling like I’ve failed, I just don’t. But I am feeling compelled in a different way tonight after this week’s event–that somehow makes things clearer but also leaves us with more questions we can’t answer.
On a daily basis, I feel saddened, angered, frustrated, hopeful, thankful, hopeless, defeated, inspired and then I find myself back at saddened. I have both practical and naive senses to the ways of the world–I am naive when it comes to every day life, mainly because I assume everything is going to be fine. But more than ever, I realize I am naive when it comes to the reality of every day life for those who are “different.”
I have red hair. So I think the hardest thing I faced growing up was being bullied as a redhead–particularly middle school. That was definitely the worst, but those were also the most memorable days of redhead bullying. But you’ve never heard of a mass shooting event discriminating against redheads. Sure, we got some references on South Park, YouTube parodies and nicknames to last a lifetime but–to my knowledge–we haven’t made history (other than we’ll potentially become extinct in the next 50 years). Whatever end of the hate-spectrum redhead teasing falls on, it’s helped me develop a deeper compassion and understanding about the things we face as individuals for being different. I no longer feel any pity on my personal experience with bullying and the countless redhead jokes I’ve received after seeing the realness of “bullying”–and hate.
“Cool” vs. Reality
I can’t remember when it was–maybe high school or college–when I wanted a gay friend. There was something comforting about it–and also “cool.” Movies or television shows portrayed the gay best friend as a gal pal’s lunch date, gossip partner and shopping buddy–and I’ve always needed one of those. But now that I actually have a significant amount of friends from the LGBT community who are genuinely important people in my life, every stereotype or thought I once had in my mind about having a “gay best friend” disappeared before I even realized it. They were no longer “one of those.” These people immediately became people in my life who had more to offer me than I could offer them. They are human beings who have a unique voice, experience, wisdom, knowledge, humor and sincerity that allows them to connect with others like I’ve never imagined.
I have never thought twice about their sexual orientation or gender status. If anything, I have probably taken for granted their life stories and haven’t asked enough questions to truly understand and appreciate who they are because of social norms–like being afraid of disrespecting them by asking the wrong questions, using the wrong terminology or offending them. But the only way we learn and come to appreciate all of our friends, loved ones and neighbors (yes, our neighbors) is by asking the questions, starting the conversation, and increasing what we know so we can contribute to the equality in this world we all live in–so we can love more and hate less.
The night of the shooting, Sunday, June 12, I went to a candlelight at a gay bar with a dear friend of mine. This person is about 35 years older than me and someone I consider one of my closest friends. She knows everyone everywhere we go–no matter where we are. She loves her friends and family more than anything. She ALWAYS does what’s right–in business and personal life. When your heart hurts, her heart hurts with you. When she laughs at something you said or did, her genuine laugh makes you feel like you’re really funny. She puts love into the world and everyone loves her back (I’ve witnessed and experienced it). She is a lesbian, and she and her wife are the biggest relationship #goals ever.
We arrived late to the candlelight so we snuck in and found an open spot toward the back. But there was no sneaking in with this person. Within 60 seconds of arriving, one of the hosts of the event said: “You know when someone walks into a room and you can just feel the energy shift? Well that just happened when [this person] walked in.” She was referring to my friend, and she asked her to come up to the mic. Before she even made it to the mic, I was already crying. I always knew how important this person was to me, but at that moment, I realized how important she was to so many others–as an activist, a believer, a valued voice, an inspiration, a friend, a loved one and a good person. And I got to call her one of my close friends. How lucky was I?
She helped me feel connected to everyone who has been personally hurt and attacked by this event. It was that moment that I understood what people meant by: when it happens to one group, it happens to all of us.
Because Of You
As I stood with hundreds of people from the LGBT community the past two days, I wanted each of them to know I was here for them. They are not different than us–they are one of us. I am one of them. I am STRONGER because of you. I am braver because of you. I appreciate this world we live in more because of you. I have seen how many of us come together because of you. You have inspired us to embrace the different ways we can love and care for one another. And because you’re willing to fight and stand with those who have hurt you, you help us find hope for a better tomorrow that is worth working for. I am one of you.
I am naive. I believe in a better tomorrow in a world where tragedy happens every day. As I feel overcome with sadness and devastation because of things like this week actually happening, I also see the people it has brought together and the countless rainbows in the sky across the world. And I see immense power and I feel hopeful that people will continue coming together for the good of all of us–for my future, your future, our children’s future, our parent’s future and America’s future. And that generations to come will be able to look at our time and see the difference we made because we believed TOGETHER. But more importantly, I hope we’ll be able to feel, see and experience the difference in the world we’ve created for all of us to endure.
More Love, Less Hate
Now you’ve read this, I ask you to go check in on a loved one, tell someone you love them, and let your intentions be guided by kindness today! When we remove the labels, stereotypes, discrimination, hate and fear–we see the world light up. I know that because I saw it in a matter of 30 hours and it was empowering, inspiring and promising. We are stronger together. #OrlandoUnited #LoveWins #MoreLoveLessHate