And Still We Thrive: A Love Letter to LGBTQ Youth
Dear LGBTQ Youth,
I’m 33 years old, and my mother still tells me to “be safe” when I walk out of her house. In that moment, it’s like she’s seeing all the parts of me that add higher threat levels to my existence: queer, brown, deemed masculine presenting on sight, tattooed chubby dyke.
How many parents and guardians say the same words to their children as they walk out the door? How many of them see all the things they can’t protect us from as we exit the safety of their homes and are consumed by a vibrant but utterly chaotic world?
And that’s for those of us who have that type of love and support from our parents or guardians. That type of love and support is not a given for our LGBTQ community; it’s a luxury, just like the idea of safety.
Pulse. Orlando. 49 humans. LGBTQ. Allies. Puerto Ricans. Lovers. Sons. Siblings. Humans. Celebrating pride.
Celebrating because we as LGBTQ people have always been here, shining brightly, living out loud and in Technicolor, and we will continue to thrive.
Celebrating because what else can you do but find the glory and beauty in all the people who are blessed to be queer and brown? Because it’s Latinx night and all the world in this moment is yours.
Celebrating because our defiance is miraculous.
Because no matter what laws they pass or how many times the bigoted, violent forces come for us, we rally and push back with every ounce of our universe-given right to live free and out loud.
LGBTQ youth, know that we, LGBTQ adults and allies, strive to create safer schools and communities for you and with you.
Know that as hard as we try, we cannot 100% eradicate the recklessness and cruelty found in an often homophobic, racist, transphobic, anti-Black, anti-immigrant and pro-violence society.
Know that we use our spirits, our bodies and our work in every way possible to build hope and community for all of you.
The forces attempting to suppress and eliminate the LGBTQ community are strong and you should know this.
You probably already know this.
It probably already lives on your skin.
We learn about the world off the blood of our family members.
We are here with 49 people to mourn, and thousands of our community members grieving, mourning and afraid to go out and dance into the night.
So what do we do? How do we move forward in bravery when our lives are at risk?
How do we reclaim our community?
We must reach for each other.
We cannot shield you from the often harsh realities of this world, but we can hold tremendous healing spaces for each other.
We rally our GSAs and organize vigils in our schools.
We embrace the grief process. Let ourselves cry.
We find solace in each other so that our wounds can begin to heal.
We gather our friends and offer home-cooked meals.
We work on those zines about radical queerness, intersectionality and summer love.
We put on Pariah and find strength in Alike.
We write articles and blogs about ourselves, in our words because others cannot tell our stories for us.
We dive deep into our studies and our passions because no one can stop us from excelling.
We name our fears, our oppressors and all that must be changed.
We put pressure on school officials, city council people, senators and other folks in positions of power.
We take over bridges as we march for justice.
We must continue to do the work and strengthen our communities because they belong to us.
We must engage in all of this work while loving on each other and forcing the world to stretch with us, with our queer, trans, non-binary, asexual, bisexual, Latinx, Black, Muslim, Asian-Pacific Islander, Buddhist, Atheist, neurodivergent, totally glorious human selves.
So, let’s hold each other by the hand and say, “I love you”.
I love you because you’re my chosen family.
I love you because we just met on this dance floor, and I never knew my heart could feel so whole.
I love you because you’re brave enough to cry. And vote. And rally. And rest.
I love you because you are vibrant, visible and glowing with pride.
I love you enough to keep fighting and thriving.
I cannot make the world safer, but I can walk with you.
I will dance with you.
We will dance together.
Because we are Pulse, we are Orlando, and we will never forget our fallen siblings in the struggle.
Love, Gabby Rivera Youth Programs Manager