I have come down from the mountain of my silence to give this to you. I dare to command you even with these imperfections: in a straight marriage, gun owner, white, privileged. I fling this out into a sky filthy with similar birds, though stalked by hawks.

  1. Never forget that everyone, including the monster himself, was once someone’s baby. My favorite part of my daughter is the back of her head, where her curls come down over her tiny little neck. This is where I want to kiss her the most, where I watch her as she plays without knowing I’m watching over her. It’s likely that everyone who died in that club had someone who loved them as a little baby, watched them grow and play. The media, and our imaginations, can never fully absorb the soul-shattering ripples that have radiated out from the epicenter of this violent act.
  2. Vote. I command you to vote. Encourage and enable others to vote with all the powers that you possess. Share articles, change your profile pic to something with a rainbow, go hold a candle at a vigil all you want, but if you don’t vote for people that want to change our gun laws and protect the rights of LGBT people, your sympathetic actions are meaningless.
  3. Religion, you need to just knock it off. I don’t know what other way to put it. Maybe hell and damnation and sin and all that stuff was totally functional for society during the middle ages where nobody could read and we needed it to keep morality and societal order. We don’t need it any more. IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE MORALITY WITHOUT RELIGION. Good people know how to do the right thing without being threatened by punishment in the afterlife. I know writing this and publishing it might cost me a couple of acquaintances or friends. But religion is a tool, and we all know that almost any tool can be a weapon in the right hands. A hammer can build a house, or split a skull. Religion can and has adapted to our more enlightened modern consciousness. How can we get rational, compassionate, accepting religious folks of all faiths to drown out all the voices of hate? I don’t have an answer for that. Just… sick of religion right now.
  4. We need to ban guns that are meant simply to kill human beings. If you own a gun like that, you are comfortable ending human life, simple as that. There is a difference between an assault rifle and a double-barreled shotgun that you have to reload after 2 shots. That shotgun is meant to kill birds, and you have to break open the breech after two rounds to re-load. We call that sport, and a good-hearted sport hunter always gives the animal a chance to escape by not giving herself too many advantages. That shotgun is not a weapon for a mass shooting, it’s for outdoor recreation. People don’t get that, and I think a lot of gun owners who just like to hunt or target shoot get defensive about gun control because they feel like folks are judging them based on their interests. Hunting runs deep in some families as part of their identity, and for some people it really does put food on the table. There are plenty of gun owners out there who are devastated about what happened in Orlando. Look, I know the government can be scary. I just read Animal Farm and studied Soviet Russia. But is having access to weapons to overthrow an unjust government (like, just in case this regime ever becomes totalitarian) really worth these mass shootings, and all the accidental shootings? Is the Second Amendment really relevant anymore?
  5. The legalization of gay marriage does not guarantee that everything is stable and safe for the LGBT community now, like someone waved a magic wand and the discrimination ended. After the slaves were legally freed, African Americans were terrorized and lynched for decades. After the Civil Rights Movement, they are still not safe from hate crimes and discrimination that can happen at an institutional level. Yes, the strides we have made are fantastic, but the fight is far from over. Don’t put LGBT rights on the back burner, and can we agree that compared to this, the bathroom debate is just nonsense that needs to stop immediately?
  6. Use education to eradicate violence from our society. Pour money into SCHOOLS. Schools full of functional buildings, technology, fabulous art and music programs, up to date books and materials, nutritious lunches and hunger outreach programs, and qualified, passionate teachers who feel supported by their administration. Schools teach people not to bully, how to work cooperatively with others, how to read an argument and decide whether or not you actually agree, how to look at things from someone else’s point of view, how to research and investigate, how to think logically, how to have empathy. And, schools SHOULD be supporting and protecting their LGBT students. I can’t speak for every school, but every place I’ve worked, we’ve always done our best for our students, to give them a sense or order in a chaotic world, a safe place to go. I really believe that if we can improve all of our schools and produce students who are true enlightened critical thinkers, we would have less violence overall. Debasing and devaluing education and educators makes society more violent. There, I said it.
  7. We need to find a way to change the narrative about power and masculinity and violence. I love so many men in my life: my husband, brother, father, close friends, family members. I am not anti-man. But men seem to do an awful lot of shooting people. What the hell is happening? I am not blaming “all men.” But I charge society to autopsy itself and figure out what brainwashes men into seeing violence as their only option.
  8. VOTE. DO STUFF. I put it on here twice because it’s so important. Don’t just retweet stuff, go write a letter to your lawmakers.
  9. Don’t let fear cripple you. Go to Pride. Go to the clubs. Go to political meetings. Go to big landmarks like the Eiffel tower even if you’re worried about terrorism. Obviously be smart, if you see something, say something. But the idea is that monsters want to disrupt your life and scare you out of being who you are, or doing what you want to do. If you get scared, bring someone along whose hand you can hold.
  10. Turn off the TV, and put down the phone for awhile. We need you strong, and you’re going to run yourself ragged. You’re going to traumatize yourself. Take a break and do some soul-searching about this incident and what it means in the history of terrorism, mass shootings, and the long, long ancestry of violence against the LGBT community. Really access your feelings, and let it out in some way, through writing or crying or whatever. Hug your family, take a break, and then decide where to go from there. I’m going to take my own advice and get off the computer right now.