I told her that Julia and I are an old married couple and don’t go out clubbing, because, well, I needed to say something to reassure her.
Because, how do you explain to your mother what it’s like to have to be careful all the time?
How do you explain that going home to Ohio makes you anxious because, what if you kiss your wife in public without thinking about it prior to – because, heaven forbid, you love each other – and it happens to be in front of someone who thinks it’s an abomination?
How do you explain that when you’re on a family vacation to somewhere like Tennessee, outside of your hotel, you and your wife silently agree it’s safest to pretend to be best friends or sisters because you’re in unfamiliar territory?
How do you explain that when you plan trips and know you’ll have to drive through small, rural towns you don’t know, that the thought that you might need to get gas or find a restroom in those unknown places gives you a near panic attack because you’ve convinced yourself that the person with the Bible verses littering their car will immediately know you’re gay and take great pains to make sure you know you don’t belong there?
How do you explain that, on your very first date with a girl – a euphoric, wonderful thing where you were awkward and nervous and just all around kind of stupid like a love-struck teenager – that someone saw you talking. Simply talking. And felt the need to scream “DYKE” at you?
How do you explain the feeling of how that immediately stole the wind from your fresh-out-of-the-closet sails and reminded you that you needed to be careful, that you couldn’t let your guard down?
How do you explain how completely fucking liberating it was to go to a gay club for the first time. Overwhelmed and self-conscious, but also so sure that these were YOUR PEOPLE and at last you were home?
How do you explain that this attack shakes you to your core because this is the stealing of the safe haven that LGBTQIA+ clubs have always been. That the places where you weren’t afraid to truly be you – no mask, no worrying about what others think – are now tainted and you feel like you need to be even more on guard anyplace your community gathers?
How do you explain that every time you meet a new person, you have an anxious knot in your stomach because you don’t know how they’ll react about your “wife, Julia”. And you war inside yourself about how you’ll react if they aren’t approving. How every interaction can sometimes feel like a choice to be an outspoken activist or to keep yourself safe?
How do you explain that, as a middle-class white woman who can easily pass for straight with little effort, you often get overwhelmed thinking about how hard it must be to be any other combination of gender, race and economy, and that you get mad at yourself a lot because, in that way, you have it pretty easy, so shouldn’t you just stop whining?
How do you explain that the words of caution and staying safe are so, so hollow, because you’ve ALWAYS had to be safe. You’ve always had to be aware?
How do you explain that when you’re in a town like Northampton or Provincetown and you can hold hands with your wife without thinking first, and you can say I love you without worrying about who might overhear, it feels like a goddam miracle and you never want to leave?
How do you explain that you’re sobbing while you type this because everything has finally hit you and it all feels so goddamn PERSONAL, even though it’s so far removed from your actual reality?
I am queer. I am blessed and lucky to be married to the absolute love of my life. I lead a life full of so many wonderful people that it almost feels like an embarrassment of riches how lucky I am.
So how do I explain that, yes mom, I’ll be careful, but it’s not me you have to worry about.
It’s the people who hate me for being happy. Who hate me for being in love. The people who have weapons of mass destruction and are driven to use them.
They’re who you need to worry about, mom.
I’m always careful, mom.
But, surely, so were those we lost in Orlando.