Sometimes I forget. Like, completely forget. Sometimes I am putting gas in my car, or buying groceries, or nagging my kids about their homework and too much screen time and shouldn’t they go play outside for a while?…
Sometimes I completely forget that I am not at all like most of the people around me. I forget that my difference is very visible to them. I forget that the written and unwritten rules in my country, my community, my state, my workplace, my kids’ school, many “mainstream” faith communities, etc., etc., etc., were written by, for, and about people who are not like me. The written and unwritten rules in all of those places often never even considered the existence of a person like me. Or if they did consider my existence, the written and unwritten rules were created to protect others from people like me. In some cases, they were written by, for, and about people who firmly believe that people like me should not be able to experience a physical, social, emotional, or spiritual life in the same way they do or to the same extent they do.
Sometimes I forget all those things...until I don’t. Until I can’t. Until there’s an ugly word, a dirty look, or a comment that was “just a joke”. I forget until I see body language that communicates clearly a person’s complete discomfort in my presence, a news piece about another new law proposed that makes sure that people like me don’t get to have, do, or be, in the same way as everyone else.
Sometimes I forget that I am not like most other people until that moment inevitably comes when I am in a new environment or talking to someone I don’t know. I have to evaluate in a split second whether or not I will still be safe or accepted if I own my voice, my life, my identity, and show who I am at my most authentic. Sometimes I have to evaluate if I even care if I will be accepted or rejected, if I will be safe, or if I will have to defend myself and my right to exist and be who I am… in a split second.
Moreover, sometimes there is violence. On June 12, 2016, in the early morning hours, a man opened fire for unknown reasons in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, killing 49. On June 13, I woke up to that news and it broke me. And I broke again when I learned that many significant others and life partners weren’t being notified of their loved one’s death, because only next of kin can be notified. However, in some of these cases, the next of kin had already previously rejected and ejected that person from the family for being gay and did not know or care that there was a life partner, or a chosen family, desperately searching for news of their loved one. Instead, they had to wait for the media to release the names of the victims so they would know why their person did not come home and would never come home again.
I broke again when later that week I heard a well-known public figure congratulate the shooter and then go on to say that ALL gays should be lined up against the wall and shot. I am the mother of twins and they are my entire heart displaced from my body, just out walking around the world on their little legs with their achingly beautiful smiles. When this…person….said all gays should be lined up against a wall and shot, my children were 5 years old. How does someone look at two 5-year-olds, the very essence of purity, innocence, love, goodness, and vulnerability, and tell them that their mothers should be lined up against a wall and shot?
I continued to break when I heard that many of the victims’ bodies were not being claimed because again, bodies can only be released to next of kin and those kin would not relent in their rejection long enough to ensure a proper burial.
The United States Supreme Court had just legalized gay marriage, with a one-vote majority in June 2015, just one year before the shooting. Since then, there have been court battles over whether or not someone can be fired for being anything other than heterosexual, there have been social and court battles over whether transgender individuals can use the bathroom or play on a sports team appropriate to their gender identity, and hate crimes have continued and even increased in recent years. Hostility that had previously been at least quiet and more covert is being expressed openly in many environments and communities.
June is LGBTQ Pride Month. There are those who ask, “Why can’t I have a straight Pride month?” There are those who say an LGBTQ Pride Month is discriminatory or hurtful to those who are not LGBTQ. To those individuals, I say this…I do not fly an American flag to make Canadians feel bad.
Pride is the time I pay deliberate homage to those who went before me; who did the impossible in creating a world where the United States Supreme Court recognizes that I should be allowed to legally marry the mother of my children and receive the same rights and benefits of marriage as all others.
Pride is the time I reaffirm MY voice, my journey, my joyful existence, and my most authentic self. Pride is the time I reaffirm my responsibility to those who still haven’t found their voice, haven’t completed their journey, haven’t found their joyful existence, and who don’t know how beautiful and welcometheir most authentic self is.
The other 11 months of the year, I reaffirm YOUR voice, your journey, your joyful existence, and your most authentic self. The other 11 months of the year, I work to help you find your voice, complete your journey, find your joyful existence, and learn how beautiful and welcome your most authentic self is.
Because “we” means everyone.
-Kai McGee, Quality Improvement Director