Monday, June 13, 2016

Here we are again... unstable, known-threat, legally obtained an AR-15 and took the lives of *49* innocent Americans because he wanted to and he had the power to.   Most of the country (and world) is saddened by the significant, senseless loss of life.  Those same people are almost all angry too, because these same things keep happening and all we do is "pray and send love and strength" which, frankly, does absolutely f*****g nothing for the people who died, lost a loved one, or the ones we will inevitably lose in the next mass shooting.  

People are scared and, sadly, have every reason to be.  We are supposed to be the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE.  How free and brave can one be when any angry, misled psychopath can obtain an object that is ONLY designed to kill (and to kill many - *quickly*) and nothing is ever done to prevent it?

Every single one of these mind-numbingly infuriating, heart-breaking events has a ripple effect far beyond just that moment, or that city, or those loved ones.  Every single one of those events embeds itself in our psyche and changes the world... not for the better.

I grew up in New York.  That means I was raised on cultural diversity and acceptance (not the patronizing "tolerance", but true acceptancebefore it was "politically correct".  In turn, I mistakenly assumed that other human beings have the same outlook.  That they are happy to let you live your life by whatever means suit you, as long as your life isn't having a direct negative impact on their life, and we can all happily co-exist.  That is most certainly not the case.  There are many close-minded, hateful, ignorant people in our world.  Thanks to the internet creating an endless platform by which group polarization is perpetuated, and a certain Presidential hopeful making hate speech and discrimination more mainstream and "acceptable" than any other time in this Millennium, other well-meaning and genuinely good Americans need to constantly be on the defensive.

While not dismissing the impact and sadness of other similar tragedies, especially Sandy Hook, the events in Orlando hit particularly close to home.  In addition to my NY roots, I'm also a Lesbian.  Many have tried to dismiss the fact that the attack happened at an LGBT Club.  Most of those people are well-meaning in their effort to remove labels and stigmas, but well-meaning or not, it's an important fact in this particular massacre.  A specific group of people was targeted and a place they considered safe and fun was transformed into a place of terror and murder.

It IS important that this horrific massacre specifically targeted LGBT people.

I am happily married to the greatest person I've ever known.  We live out our fairy-tale-like love every day, while raising our incredible daughter, and succeeding in rewarding careers.  We cook and meal prep, food shop, clean our house, complain about working out, take family vacations, go on dates, endlessly dissect our daughter's future and well-being, plan for our future as a couple and as a family, binge watch Netflix, bicker and argue, communicate openly, follow Mom Blogs, get our nails done, and drive SUVs.  We are a normal, happy, healthy, functioning couple and family like anyone else.  We also live in one of the most archaic states in our country: Arizona, with the hopes of one day moving close to my wife's family in Florida.  That means, in either case of where we live, it is much more likely that we will encounter day-to-day discrimination, or even life-threatening discrimination.  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.

As it is, we often get glares or catch people staring if we have our arms around each other, leaning into each other patiently waiting for the Target cashier.  We catch people staring when they catch us whispering "I love yous".  We have to clarify for just about every server that one check is sufficient.  We constantly answer the inevitable question with "we're both her mom".  We have to justify and legitimize ourselves every day.  

As much as the most conservative people in our country disagree, the homosexual lifestyle is certainly not "everywhere" or “shoved down (anyone’s) throat”.  I am grateful for the fact that it IS becoming part of mainstream culture and finds new ways to be "commonplace" every day.  (I wrote a whole blog on the impact of that societal construct here, if you're interested.)  But the fact remains that it is still not normalized and hate is a common, tangible reaction. It's something we face almost daily.  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.

In most instances, I don't mind answering the questions or responding to the glare with a smile.  Yes, it gets old and tiresome because we want to just BE, like everyone else.  We are also happy to do our part to normalize our lifestyle, expand horizons, and help people see that we're just another family.  We politely answer questions, and smile while we explain -- especially when it's to the kids in our daughter's class who were at first confused at us "BOTH being (her) mom".  (Which, for the record, was immediately followed with "I'm not making fun of (her).  I think that's AWESOME!  I only have 1 mom".)   I don't mind educating and impacting.  I do mind when it has an actual potential to completely destroy our family...

At any moment, we could encounter one of these unstable crazy guys who has a semi-automatic rifle strapped to his back while we're holding hands in line at the grocery store, and he can decide to take matters -- and our lives -- into his own hands.  We could be getting back into our car at school pick-up and have someone take one of our lives.  We could be followed by an armed stranger if they catch us kissing at a stop light and be shot at the next opportunity.  We could be widowed or orphan our daughter with a moment's notice because precautions aren't put into place, and our lifestyle hasn't been normalized.  

Don't sit there and think that I'm blowing this out of proportion.  I assure you, I most certainly am NOT.  We have actually seen "men" in common places like grocery stores, the park, and Pet Smart strapped like they're off to war.  Hate Crimes happen every. day. and nothing is being done to stop this madness.  It's unsettling and terrifying to say the least.

Our society is still not completely open to normalizing LGBT people.  Even people who claim to “not care” or are in support of marriage equality, have something to say about “enough (being) enough”, and that networks and shows are being “too political” when they reveal a character to be LGBT, or to stop trying to “shove it down everyone’s throats”, or that they still don’t need “to see it”, or grandly claiming that we have an agenda to try to make others gay and corrupt children.  (That’s ridiculous and well outside the scope of this post.  But ridiculous to say the least… just ask my completely straight parents who raised me, and all of the kids in our life who innately understand love is love.)  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.  The fact that the LGBT lifestyle is far from normalized is an important, related fact.

There needs to be more representation of LGBT people in mainstream media for ALL AGES and in ALL GENRES.  Society in general needs to rip the bandaid and remove the stigma.  People need to see themselves represented in a multitude of ways; they need to learn about and respect differences in others.  THIS is the type of trickle-down system that improves society.  There are so many ways to make this happen… 

…perhaps Disney decides to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend*** or have an LGBT character as a major role in a future animated film. 

…adults speaking in non-gender specific terms when talking to kids/teens about people they have a crush on or may one day marry. 

…comfortably using the words lesbian, gay, bi and trans without feeling the need to whisper.  (It’s okay for your kids to accurately use them in conversation as well, when it’s not intended to be derogatory or offensive.)

…removing qualifying terms from things that are not orientation-specific (i.e.: it’s just MARRIAGE, not “GAY marriage”), and help others in doing the same.

…honestly and simply discussing love and differences in family structure with kids of all ages.  (Here’s how we educate our daughter: “You are allowed to marry anyone you want as long as you love each other and are good to each other” and “Every family is different in who their parents are, how many they have, and who they live with – but they all have love”.  Done and done.)

…including sexual orientation in high school health classes.

…showcasing same sex couples and families in ads for whatever product.

…stopping bullying or shaming in its tracks.

This list can go on and on – and it should.  It needs to.  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.  Normalizing the existence of LGBT people is necessary.

Who knows what would have happened if that man was inundated with a variety of definitions of what “normal” is from childhood?  Imagine if he had completely open-minded parents who spoke honestly and sincerely about people of all backgrounds and lifestyles.  Imagine if those thoughts were layered with societal messages in every form of media, education, and conversation throughout his life.  In America, this SHOULD be the case… or we are not truly brave or free.

People don’t yet have that benefit.  Society failed us with their lack of messages and education.  Society failed us with their lack of health care.  Society failed us with lenient laws that didn’t flag him when purchasing a deadly weapons.  …then he failed society by acting on his evil ways and lack of informed, loving humanity. 

To be clear, I am in NO WAY taking the blame off of him.  My 6-year-old will be the first to tell you that I am a FIRM believer that you and YOU ALONE are responsible for your choices and have to deal with your consequences.  No one can make the right choice for you, and no one should have to suffer consequences at your hand. 

HE is the reason those people are dead.  HE is the reason fear is in the heart of so many.  HE is the reason people feel unsafe and vulnerable.

I am certainly not one to run from a challenge or cower in fear.  I am sad to admit that I debated doing just that after learning about Orlando.  I questioned if WE were being irresponsible with our lives and family by being ourselves in public.  I questioned if WE need to choose a different place to live where we would be widely accepted and blend in.  I questioned if WE would be denied our right and dream of living a happy, full, safe, VERY LONG life together.  ...and I found myself at a loss of how to fix it.

I went about my day in a daze trying to sort this out.  It appeared in my "dreams" last night.  It was first on my mind this morning. Then it came out FULL FORCE when I channeled all my fear, anger and sadness into my gloved fists at my boxing class and had that heavy bag jumping on its clasp.

No ONE gets to take my feeling of security.  No ONE gets to take away from our happy family.  I refuse to allow that environment to exist in a world in which we live and are raising a family.

I got in the car with my family a few hours later to start our daily commute of drop-off and work.  My wife started the car and our song was on... the song that I was listening to when my emotions and love for her came crashing together years ago.  The song that she had playing at the end of the romantic, perfect proposal she planned the night we got engaged.  The song we danced barefoot on our beach to when we said our vows in Hawaii earlier this year.  The song that has filled me with such emotion and happiness that I've questioned if I was ever happy for a moment before then.

This blog began composing itself at that moment... with my wife's hand in mine, listening to our daughter sing-along in the backseat, watching the traffic ebb and flow, I decided I was ready to put "pen to paper" and hopefully open at least one person's mind.  Hopefully impact at least one person who was previously close-minded and tried to isolate themselves from the reality of how diverse and incredible people are.  ...and feel validated and heard and supported by my anonymous internet friends who are also looking for something on which to grasp in the aftermath of such sadness...

Society needs to do better.  People need to do better.  Love should ALWAYS be the driver.

The (colloquial) definition of insanity is to repeat the same behavior and expect a different result.

As long as our laws stay as is, this is our society.

As long as we glorify hateful people (AHEM Trump), this is our society.

As long as we continue to see mainstream inclusion of all types of people/families as negative and fight it off as a political move, this is our society.

STOP already.

Stop saying we don't have a gun problem and using your INACCURATE interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as a defense.

Stop supporting people who spew nothing but hate and an ANTI AMERICAN culture.

Stop trying to invalidate love and stigmatize families (especially when doing it “in the name of protecting your children).

Stop thinking about what YOU want for your tiny little life in this moment and think about the BIG PICTURE.

Imagine what our world could be if we didn't stop thinking at the tip of our nose, put love and people first, and actually thought about others.

Just STOP already… be HUMAN… and maybe we won’t be here again.

***FYI: If you comment on this blog and start talking about sexualizing movies for children with regards to having LGBT characters featured, I WILL delete it and not reply.  There is no room for that complete and utter bullsh!t here.  If you don’t see Cinderella and Prince Charming as sexual and inappropriate, than this shouldn’t be either.  Side note: I personally find a lot of Princess stories creepy and concerning if you break them down.  The ones made in this Century are the most comforting, frankly.  No stalking, Stockholm Syndrome, kissing unconscious people… ya know, that actual inappropriate stuff.