An Open Letter to LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults After the Election
Dear Young and Fabulous Ones,
I wept Wednesday morning as I listened to Hillary Clinton give her concession speech. My wife held my hand as we sat on the couch in our home; as my throat tightened, my stomach turned, and tears streamed down my face. Probably like many of you, I wasn’t crying because I know Hillary Clinton personally. I voted for her, to be sure — but my tears were about something bigger than a lost election — I was crying because I was witnessing the death of my American Dream.
This iconic image of the “American Dream” is often about propsperity and lifestyle, but my American Dream isn’t about that. It’s about the promises and declarations that our forefathers made when they declared independence: liberty and justice for all. For me, it’s about the pursuit of happiness for all people, which inherently includes things like safety, respect, and peace. For me, it’s the dream of a country where my marriage counts, a place where my children can grow up never having to hear the debate about whether or not their parents’ love is worth anything. This dream isn’t just about my equality, though — it’s about everyone’s. My dream is about a place where immigrants are welcome. Where racial justice and gender equality become reality. Where people live together in peace.
This wasn’t always my dream. Somewhere in my early twenties, I met Jesus and figured out that I’m queer. The latter probably seems like more of a surprise — but it was actually the former that took my breath away. Turns out Jesus really does mean all that stuff about loving the poor, welcoming the stranger, and seeking justice for the oppressed. Turns out Jesus is always looking for the lost, loving the marginalized, and making room at the table for everyone. The combination of meeting this Jesus and experiencing myself as a queer woman led to a total melting down of my life — and my heart.
People who said they loved me suddenly abandoned me. “Christians” wanted to change me — or worse. I learned very quickly where I was welcome and where I wasn’t, to look for who might try to hurt me. Even members of my family, my own flesh and blood disowned me. Like so many of you, I know that sickness that takes root in the pit of your stomach when you are unsafe, when the people you love refuse to stand up for you, when you find yourself alone.
As Hillary Clinton conceded, I experienced this sick feeling again. Knowing that some of the people I love voted for a world in which I would be less safe — both physically and fiscally. Knowing that so many of my neighbors had such little regard not only for my life, but for millions of other Americans. And I know that if I am experiencing this feeling, that you are, too. I know that if I feel scared and broken-hearted, that it is worse for you. Especially if you are still a minor, especially if you live in a place where you are outnumbered, unwanted, feared, persecuted, or alone.
In the last eight years, as we have moved toward equality and greater understanding of sexual and gender differences; so many of you probably felt safe enough to come out. To whisper to your friends or family about who you are. In some places, some of you probably came out in style (and hats off to you!). But now, many of you are experiencing bullying, loneliness, and cruelty. Now, many of you feel unsafe — and perhaps many of you wish you had not come out. I so wish that there was a quick fix to this…but there isn’t. Instead, even though there are many, many issues at stake in these next four years — while we are not the only minority group that will struggle with this new reality — I feel compelled to say something to you, with all of my heart, and with all of my authority as an ordained priest in God’s church:
God loves you. I love you. There are many of us who love you. And we love you regardless of who you love, what color your skin is, what part of the world you come from, what name you use for God, what gender you are, or who you want to be when you grow up. We love you if you or your parents are undocumented — whether you can dance, or cook, or sing — or not. We love you if you are funny, or serious, a Trekkie, or a jock. There is a place for you in this world, and in this country, if you are nerdy, goth-y, shy, college educated — or not. God loves you — and made you just the way that you are.
Remember that there are many people who have walked this path before you — and that it’s not over. If you need help, please go and find it. Look for an LGBTQ youth center. Find an affirming church or mosque or temple. Find a friend, hold on to a lover. Call a suicide hotline, reach out for help. Visit websites like The Trevor Project, use their TrevorSpace, or look for organizations like True Colors. Go and find our community. Pray. Write. Cry. Grieve. Make some art, or some music, or some food for your friends. Love yourself and each other.
If you feel betrayed or alone, I beg you to remember that you can build your own family. That you are not bound by the accident of your birth (a phrase my wife likes a lot) to anyone who doesn’t love you, who doesn’t appreciate you, who isn’t willing to make sacrifices for you. It is terribly painful — but you can survive. Relationships are two-way streets — and we deserve to be honored as much as we honor others. Remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for who you are or for who you love. It is okay to put down the mantle of needing to belong — and to come out into the world to be with us.
If you are too young to leave, if it’s not safe for you to come out, be careful. When you can, we will be here waiting for you. There is a whole world of us out here waiting for you to bring your gifts, your talents, your passion — your sparkle and jazz. And until you’re here with us, we will be fighting for you. To make this better. We are aching and grieving with you — but hate will not have the last word. We will continue to struggle to make your world better. So that your coming out will be easier. So that your life will be more peaceful than ours. And so that our children might someday live in a world where no one debates their humanity or measures their worth because of who they love.
And finally, let this experience connect you to the others who are being bullied and wounded now. Join hands with the other minorities around you — find safety in each other where it is possible. Let this experience make you a good ally for others. We will not be the only victims of hate crimes, and we are not the only people who are frightened. Hate crimes have already been visited on our African-American, Muslim, Jewish, and immigrant brothers and sisters. In the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing.” We are stronger together — and this unity, this insistence on the American dream of justice and equality is our best hope. Hang on to this hope — this dream — and don’t let yourself give in to fear and hate. Let’s hang on to the truth that there is room at the table for everyone, even those with whom we disagree.
This dream — our dream — of a country where all people are welcome is like the dream of many who came before us. And it links us to so many of our brothers and sisters who are still working, and praying, and waiting for freedom. Don’t be alone. Ask for help. Know that you are loved. And that our dream of love will triumph.
The Rev. Marissa Rohrbach +