Hi. I’m a dad. I write about you all the time, but I don’t write to you. Perhaps I should have written this letter a long time ago. I’ve met some of you through my son. It is has been beautiful watching so many of you grow and become what you always have been. Anyway, here is a letter from a cis het dad on Pride month who loves you but messes up a lot.
The first thing is, I’m proud of you. I know I don’t know most of you, but it does not matter. When I was a little kid, Mr. Rogers would come on the television and tell me I was special and he liked me exactly as I was. He meant it and it showed. I mean it as well. I am not proud of you because you are trans or fluid or gender non conforming. That is also not the sole reason I care about you. It’s all of you. When it comes to love, we do not get to pick and choose which bits we love about a person and which bits we don’t. When we love someone, we should love all of them as they are.
To The Kid In the Closet
To those who are still in the closet. It’s okay and I’m sorry. The good news is that you are in control of the story of your life. You get to tell who you want, when you want, what you want. Beyond that, there is little that I could say that is comforting. You already know that I do not know what this feels like. I’ll never know the fear of someone else outing me against my consent. I have never had to tell anyone anything where they might stop loving me, kick me out of my home, say I am an abomination or a mistake, or physically hurt me. I have never had to face the fear of friends leaving me right after I have risked everything to be vulnerable to them.
But I do have some advice, if I may. Tell someone. Even if it is only one friend or even a stranger on the other end of an anonymous support group, get it out. We have closets because they are safe spaces from an unsafe world. But if you can create an opportunity to be in a closet or a blanket fort with a friend, it will be so much less lonely. The rest of us have to do the work of creating a world where closets no longer need to exist, but as you can see, we have a lot of work to do.
To the Kid in Church
I dunno what kind of church you go to. But I used to be a minister and I know the different flavors. Most of them are wrong and that pain and shame you may be feeling is wrong. They are wrong about you.
The ones who call you an abomination are wrong. Those that say that all sin is equal and that makes them on the same level as you, they are warped in their logic. There is no “sin” in being LGBTQIA.
Those that would place on you the onus of being the one to be the peacemaker to those that hate you over gender identity or orientation are so very wrong. When they speak of forgiveness, they do so often with no understanding of psychology, healthy boundaries, or proper education on what being a victim is. Your job, if you have been hurt, is to heal, not to forgive others at the expense of yourself.
Finally, to those in churches that say they affirm and accept you but are NOT facing the community, the school boards, the government, the other churches and the bullies. Their silence is a deafening scream and if you think they are full of s***, you are probably right. MLK says that we will remember the silence of our friends more than we will the words and actions of our enemies. Unfortunately, many of these accepting churches are all too silent while you go through hell on earth.
To the Kid With Non Accepting Family
I wish I could explain to you why love fails in family. This is not how it is supposed to be. And it is so f***ed up. In my teen and young adult years I felt I could never get the approval of my dad no matter how hard I tried. I should have just written him off, but even now I still long for the unconditional love and approval I never got from him.
A part of me wants to tell you to wash your hands of their smallness and hate and walk away with your head held high. But that is so much easier said than done. And all the well meaning allies who say you are a part of our family through memes do not get that we are not the ones you live with and we are not the ones who have broken your heart when all you want is their love.
If it is not a parent that has rejected you, but another one, I know it still hurts. An aunt, an uncle, grandparents, cousins, siblings. This is a little easier to handle. But it still hurts. All I know to say is this. I’m sorry. They are all wrong and what they are showing is not love.
You know that phrase blood is thicker than water? It is actually a gigantic misquote. The original quote is,“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” It comes from the civil war and means the exact opposite of what you usually hear to guilt us into being nice to family. It means the blood you shed together in the battle field of life with your friends is thicker than the relationships of your family.
If they do not love you and if they are not willing to stand with you in the battle ground of hate and ignorance in this ongoing war for acceptance and equality, they are less family to you than your friends are and you have zero obligation to them. In short. F*** them.
To the One Who’s Family Doesn’t Get It
This is the group I fall into. In my heart I love my son exactly as he is, but my head really gets in the way sometimes. The first 15 minutes after he came out to me as trans are fifteen minutes I wish I could take back. It was not that I did not accept him, it was that I was scared of this world. I did not want it to be true because I did not want the haters to hurt him. I know. That is some f***ed up s***.
Parents in my generation are very selfish sociologically. We have an almost supernatural way to make everything about us. And we forget that this is your gender, your orientation, your presentation (clothes, hair, makeup, etc), your journey and your life.
We will make mistakes along the road. We are sometimes slow to listen and do not respond as well and as quickly as we should. Sometimes we will draw the wrong line in the sand and overstep our bounds. You already know this, but I am gonna say it for the record.
This is your road. If passing is not important to you, that should be cool with us. If you found a name that fits you, we should be proud of you and embrace it as opposed to guilt you over how hard we worked on your birth name or dead name.
We are imperfect and we make mistakes. Often we are more aware and afraid of those mistakes than we will ever let on to you. A parent’s greatest fear is that we are gonna make a mistake and f*** up our kid(s). These are facts, but also know we will use this fact against you. We sometimes scream we are not perfect as a means to get you to stop talking. That fear we have is coming to reality in our heads and we are terrified of hearing the rest.
You have often had to be the more mature and rational one in this relationship and that is so unfair to you. Allow me illustrate with a story.
My son just graduated high school. He has had to relinquish the GSA he has been president of and hope it continues to advocate and accept all. That was his greatest concern the morning after he graduated. Me? The day after I graduated I woke up in a front lawn 50 miles away from home having to find my car, which was parked in a barn for some reason.
My high school experience was carefree and stupid. His was one where he had to stand up for himself, others, and explain to college educated adults the differences between sex and gender and gender and orientation.
We as a society and as parents have contributed to forcing you into greater maturity and strength sooner than you should have. And as we have taken away some of your childhood we then compliment you on how mature and brave you are. Yeah….I know and you know how truly messed up this is.
Please vote. If more adults had voted we would not be in this mess and I am really sorry they did not vote as boldly as they tweet and facebook. Run for office. March. Get involved. Make art that matters. Write things that are true that matter. Don’t give up on the fight for a better world.
I am not one who is prone to conspiracies, but I also need to say one more thing. Study history and read dystopian novels like the Handmade’s Tale. Combine these two for awareness.
Now is not the time and I hope it never comes down to this, but if we ever hit a point where things get even more weird and dangerous, better to be a refugee in Canada or another country than in a “camp” here. It is fearing this future that I say vote, run, march and express!
To the Most Vulnerable
You’re the hardest to write to. I’ve met some of you. I’ve also mourned your loss at funerals. To those who’s parents have physically and emotionally hurt you, to those who are bullied in such a way that it is systematic torture, to those who have faced sexual assault or been on someone’s bucket list and you meant nothing to them, and to those who have suffered and endured things beyond description and beyond the imaginations of a wine drinking privileged cis het parent living in the comfortable suburbs-I am so sorry and I know that is hollow and empty compared to the pain you have endured.
Please don’t give up. Find the resources that can help you heal. If, for instance, you are a homeless transgender teen in Chicago and homeless shelters will not help you and LGBTQIA centers run by the wrong people reject you, tell the bloggers, the reporters and the advocates out there.
Let them tell your story and put an uncomfortable spotlight on those who would keep you in the shadows.
I cannot imagine your pain. But I do know what it is to have suicidal ideations. That feeling of not wanting or able to go on another day is horrible. It is beyond description. Please don’t do it. Please hang on another day, and then another, and then another. Please.
You want me to tell you it get’s better? I can’t. I hope it does. I’ll stand with you and for you to make that future possible.
All I know is this. If this is your worst day, today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday and you are still here. I don’t know what it’s like to be you and I don’t know what you suffered and lost.
Maybe Pride is also a time we should be proud of all of you, especially the young, who are just trying to be who you are already are in a f***ed up world.
I hate open letters. I find them to be pretentious and when they make the news, I usually think it is dumb. Some blogger’s open letter to the president or some celebrity can feel like a cheap way to get hits. I am not here for the hits. I hope some of you read this somehow and I hope you know that I like you exactly the way you are. You are special. And I love you.
I hope that matters.
A Dad Who Tries