To the Citizens of the United States of America,
I thought addressing this to my fellow citizens made me sound like a pompous windbag, and calling all of you my neighbors is to narrowing, but I wanted to address every single person I share my citizenship with so I figured this would be the safest route. But I do think of all of you as my neighbors; I think of all of you as part of a larger community in which we all serve and live within, so I feel a special attachment and responsibility for each of you. I hurt when you hurt, I celebrate in your happiness, and I would fight till my last breath for you. Our history was started upon this sense of community, and although we all feel the incredible distance between each other (I do not deny the obvious differences that separate us into our own smaller, individual communities), we are all connected under this larger banner of community. We all belong to this country. We all have a history with it, whether big or small and we all try to survive within it.
Due to this connection I feel with you, I do not hesitate to air my hurt, my pain, that many of my countrymen have caused me, even though millions of you have never met me. After this letter, many of you still won’t know of my existence, but I know of yours. I know of your existence, even if I do not know your name, or your face. Some will say that is impossible, but somewhere, someplace in this large country, I know you exist. I know you exist because of the scars I’m bearing because of you. You, the nameless, faceless, stranger, thousands of miles away from me, and although not all of you have caused me this great pain (there are millions who have tried to help soothe my pain without ever meeting me), change and awareness doesn’t occur simply by staying complacent, silent, and a stranger. So I’m introducing myself to you, and I’m telling you that I love you even though some of you will wish me harm. I love you because a deep part of me loves this country, and what it means to be a part of this country, and all of that meaning wouldn’t exist if you didn’t exist.
We are facing a lot of problems right now in our country, and although those problems seem new and raw, they are the same problems we’ve faced a hundred years ago; two hundred years ago. We face economic uncertainty, the strain of battle, wariness of the future, bitter inner-fighting, and issues over civil rights. I do not question the pain the entire country is feeling, and the utter disconnect from each other as we delve deeply within our own intermediate issues. That is what survival requires us to do, and as a country, we are only as strong as our ability to survive. I do not fault anyone for that, nor do I fault the bitterness occurring between us. I wish I could do more to help my neighbors survive; I wish I could do more to help you survive. Although I am wholly incapable of figuring out a cure for our economic, and socio-economic issues, I did the only thing I could think of; I became a volunteer EMT. I may not be able to save your home, but I would do everything in my power to help you if you called for me. I wanted to do that for you. I wanted to help people in any way I could, even if it meant simply holding a dying stranger’s hand. I may joke about moving to a different country, but I love this country…I love my people.
Even if I am not always proud of all of you, and I do admit that in recent times, I have been downright disgusted and disappointed in many of you. But mostly, I’ve just been hurt, because many of you hate me without knowing who I am. You hate me simply because of who I love, because of who I’ve given my heart to. It’s an ironic knife that twists in my gut in regards to this “Land of the Free,” to be subjugated to hatred, humiliation, violence, fear, and ostracism, under the same laws protect rights that many take for granted. I say this, because unless I told you who I’ve loved, or who has given their heart to me, you would not think to hate me. You would see me as the stranger on the street, as the EMT walking into your door, as the person teaching your children how to read, and write. You’d see me as the girl four rows down, and three seats to the left, enjoying the same concert as you are. I’d be the same person crying with you in a movie theater, breathing the same air on the beach you lay upon. I’d be the same person mourning the loss of a loved one, just as you have.
By this time, I know you have assumed, as I have revealed myself to be a female that the love I have spoken about giving so freely, would be to another woman. You wouldn’t be incorrect in your assumptions, as I have given my heart freely to two women in my past. I gave my love to them as I give my love to you, without prejudice or discrimination. I didn’t care that they were women. I didn’t care that their skin was a different color than mine, or that they came from rich or poor families. I didn’t care if they were blind, or deaf, nor had a learning disability. I didn’t care if they were short, or tall. These two women had found their ways into my heart, and I tried to love them to the best of my ability, because you will never be able to control loving another person. I can’t control loving you, even though we shall never meet. I just know that I love you, even when you commit damaging wrongs against me; even when you hate me. I may not always forgive you, and I might resent you to the point that it feels like hatred (and I know hatred), but if you ever needed me I would be there. It doesn’t make me better than you, for I have many flaws that would make it quite difficult to be up upon a pedestal, it just means that I am willing to put aside my own opinions of you to allow you the chance to live.
So excuse my difficulty with you when you feel that you have the absolute right to dictate my life to the point where you disrupt it. When, even as a stranger, you decide what is physically, mentally, and emotionally allowed for me to live a happy and peaceful life. I do not deny anyone the rights guaranteed to all citizens under our constitution. I do not disallow anyone the freedom to education, love, shelter, food, and clothing. I have not compromised someone’s safety or security, but more importantly, I have not violated any human right. I have not taken a life, nor will I take a life unless my own life is in peril, and even then, I will do all I can do to preserve life.
Do you know what I love most about this country? It is the opportunity to learn how to coexist with someone who disagrees with you on every single level of your being. It is an interesting existence to experience, what it means to sit down and have a meal with someone whose opinions and ideologies are so counterintuitive to your own, that you just want to shove their face into their plate. But you don’t, because this country is meant to allow that existence to occur. It is how ideas are shifted, and created. It is how problems, seemingly unsolvable because everyone refuses to budge, suddenly are solvable. It is how so many differences can exist under one roof.
So why the hurt? It almost seems expected to face harsh and damaging criticisms to my person, except the criticisms do not stop merely at words. They exist in actions. They exist in the destruction of beliefs, abuse of religions, and in the physical taking of a life. I feel no safer in my country, in 2012, than I did when I first realized my own truths now almost 11 years ago. A decade of ostracism, fear, hatred, and disillusionment has defined parts of my existence and all because it is simply easier for you to hate, than it is to love.
I have heard all of the excuses, the reasoning’s behind why it is okay to pass laws, and sanction the continuing hatred directed at me, and the millions of people in which I share a smaller community with. I heard stories of tradition, of right and wrong, of nature. When I point out that there are the same arguments used to deny other races, and women, of the rights they now enjoy, I am scoffed at. This is different, and there are more reasons given. And yet, not one person can truly prove the validity of their hatred. In Christianity, the over-arching rule is to love, to give love and receive love. In traditions, marriage was about creating an economic unity that ensured survival, and in later years…to represent love. Yet, with each refuted argument, I still get the same outcome:
“Why is it wrong?”
“Because it just is.”
“Because it just is.”
I stop asking questions by this point, because if a person truly believes something to be wrong, it doesn’t matter if logic disproved that person. It is what they truly believe in. However, just because they believe it, doesn’t make it right, nor does it make it okay for someone to deny another person a right in which they themselves fully enjoy. Someone may believe me to be fully wrong; it is my right to be wrong. It just isn’t anyone’s right to limit my existence just because they don’t like that my lover might be a woman.
I dislike corn because I don’t like the way it tastes, and that it isn’t a wholly digestible food doesn’t sit well with me. I dislike the color pink because I was told all my life that is what girls are supposed to like, and so I rebelled. I eat my steaks rare, not only because I think it tastes better that way, but because it tends to gross my friends out. I would never ban corn from a person simply because I dislike it. I won’t stop my future children from enjoying the color pink. For my truly squeamish and vegetarian friends, I order chicken. I do this, not because I am denying myself a right because my friends/family hold a different perspective, but because I would never deny another person a right for something in which I enjoy myself; the right to be happy. To live in happiness, to experience love and laughter and the insanity in which this life pulls us all through; this is the basic human right every person is guaranteed the minute they are born into this world. Now I know you are thinking, disliking corn is not the same in this regard, but honestly, the only difference is the difference we want to see. There is no actual difference. Who I love has the same impact on your life, as my preference for corn. It truly is that simple.
So, honestly, I don’t care if you find my existence revolting. I don’t care if a book, or a person, tells you that my existence is wrong, or the work of evil, or if it is because I didn’t get enough hugs as a child (which I did…very huggy family). My hurt is not from your opinion of me, but simply the actions you are willing to take to satisfy your idea that by creating laws, and preaching further hatred and violence against me, that somehow you will drive my existence out of this world. Except, the problem is, is that you don’t know me. You may hate me, yes, but you don’t know me. You don’t know that I was the girl who walked in your door, and starting the chest compressions on your child to save his/her life. You don’t know that I was the girl your mother, or grandmother, spoke about making their day because I offered my help to them. You don’t know that the girl you hate so much, that you would deny her the right to create an economic and loving home with another person, was the same person who donates her blood every few weeks. The same blood that might have saved you, saved your neighbor, saved your lover, husband, wife, mother, child, uncle, aunt etc.
The ultimate fact, my friend, in this entire debate, is that who I love does not dictate how I serve alongside of you in this community we both are a part of, nor does hating me, or killing me, guarantee the end of my existence. Who I love, who I marry, who I decide to raise children with, who I decide to die next to, means absolutely nothing to you because it doesn’t define who I am as a human being; it doesn’t define what it means for me to be a woman, an EMT, or a United States citizen. It simply puts a face to the love that flows through my body, and although it might be a different kind of love, the same concept applies to your face. The one I might have seen, on a strange street in the middle of a distant city. My love for my people, for my homeland, is reflected in your face…even when that face returns my gaze with nothing but hatred.
But it does hurt, to live in fear. It hurts to see that pain in a lover’s eyes, because we yet again are denied what you enjoy, simply because you don’t experience life the same way. It hurts not to be free in the land of the free when I know you, my dear friend, will not experience a single change in your existence simply because I married a woman 2,000 miles away from you. So yes, I’m hurt and sad. I’m hurt that you would allow a hatred that has caused the end of life for so many people. I’m hurt that you would rather teach hatred, than the joys of love. I’m scared for you, because I know how draining that existence can be. I am angry with you for turning your back on friends, family…children, because they simply dared to love honestly, openly, and chose to believe in their own self-truths, instead of what they were told was supposed to be true. My heart is broken because you sat idly by while I was beaten, cursed, and my life threatened, and told me it was for my own good. I feel sorry for you, for not allowing yourself the chance to experience the chance to let life be. It is breathtaking what beauty can exist when one is truly free. I’m hurt because you would deny me that experience.
But more importantly…I want you to know that I love you. I love you, even though I feel like I’ve been dragged through a never-ending war, I still love you. I love you even when you hate me. How can I not? You are a part of me no matter how much kicking and screaming I go through just trying to deny it. Sometimes, it sucks loving you, but I do. Sometimes I think loving you will kill me, but I am not afraid. I’m not afraid because one day you will realize that who I love will not change your ability to survive. Who I love will not pervert, alter, or destroy your own ability to love. One day…someday…So I end my letter to you with one simple question: What is your favorite kind of food?
I want to be prepared for that day when we sit down together for that meal.