a letter to the white families of my queer partners: past, present, and future.

if we ever cross paths (again, or for the first time), perhaps you’ll learn that i am a person who carries a lot of feelings. sometimes i express them. sometimes they get buried. sometimes they just travel throughout my body, burning to get out. there will be a lump buried at the base of my throat. my heart will move with a rapidity that convinces me it’s about to rip open my chest. i have to curl over from the pain in my stomach. these are the ways i experience my feelings. viscerally. and oftentimes, they inspire writing. this is one of those moments.

because i’ve been wanting to write this letter for quite some time. i mean, fuck, i’ve needed to write this letter for quite some time. but out of fear, or consideration for the womxn i’ve loved, i haven’t. but today is the one year anniversary of the pulse massacre. you remember:  forty-nine black and brown queer folx were murdered at a nightclub in orlando. that day, a year ago, was one of the most heart wrenching days of my life. but today is also loving day. the fiftieth anniversary of the supreme court ruling, in favor of mildred and richard loving, saying that folx of different “races” could get married. as a multiracial person, sometimes it’s jarring to realize that perhaps i would not be here had it not been for the resilience of the lovings. so today is a day filled with lots of emotions. and, at the moment, my body is telling me it needs to cry: that heaviness, at the base of, and behind, my eyes. but, at any rate, today feels like the right day for this letter. today feels like the day that these things need to be said; if for no other reason than to honor the folx whose lives were stolen a year ago in orlando, by asking the world to consider being a little more kind today.

i talk about y’all a lot in therapy. how my relationships with you have informed who i am today. the way that i trust. my need for acceptance. the ways in which this black, queer, body is triggered. and how i work to move through those moments. your bigotry and intolerance has led to a lot of pain for me. and my partners. a lot of warped understandings of what is good and healthy and acceptable. a lot of warped ideas about the kind of love and respect that i deserve. and a lot of warped ideas about the love and respect that i feel comfortable asking for. so as you can imagine, i’ve had a lot of healing to do in therapy. and outside of therapy. and in my mind. and for my body.

i don’t often think about the relationship i was in when i first came out. i don’t think about the butterflies. the excitement. the aha moment, realizing that i was attracted to her. i don’t often think about choosing to love her. and the beauty of having that reciprocated. but i remember that, because of all of those tender feelings, i was never scared to come out. in fact, i was elated to be able to share that love with our families. like, “hey! everyone! i figured out something really important about myself: i’m not straight!” the liberation of that moment. of recognizing myself in the mirror. saying, i know you. i see you. the love you’ve found is beautiful. and worthy. and important. so i wasn’t scared. i felt grateful for the opportunity to come out. until i did. and, as a nineteen year old, experienced what it meant to be rejected by the people who were supposed to love you. and by the people who were supposed to love your partner, and you, by extension. and i have gone through this pattern in relationship after relationship. telling myself i won’t let it happen again. i won’t allow myself to experience that trauma again. until i do. but, i still have those moments, looking into the mirror and saying, i know you, and the love you’ve found is beautiful. and i look at my partner and am able to say, i love you, and what we’ve found is beautiful and worthy and good, unequivocally.

but some days, throughout these relationships with your children, i’ve just felt like an outsider looking in. trying to understand how you could ever reject this beautiful humxn that you helped bring into the world. how you could reject the person that she is. the life that brings her joy and wellness. it astounds me. but when i can’t remove myself, and merely be a witness, i find that i feel that rejection, viscerally, too. and damn, i mean some of y’all haven’t even ever said my name, some of you didn’t know that your child loved me, or didn’t want to know; but i’ve personalized your rejection. i’ve imagined that your bigotry is directed at me, specifically. that i am the problem. that you resent me. because of your child’s love for me. and that is when the warped ideas began developing. that is when i became set on "earning" your love. proving myself worthy. buying you flowers. waiting patiently for you to be ready to see me. feeling honored when i was finally invited back into your home. letting the racist comments about black and brown folx slide. loving your child, fiercely, despite it all. so that maybe, one day, you might find me worthy. and as i write this, i just think HOW SHITTY IS THAT. and how misguided i have been since coming out in my nineteenth year.

i think one of the most difficult aspects of your rejection, though, has been its basis. the foundation you stand upon. you know it used to be mine, too, right? i used to drive myself to mass every sunday. i used to beg my parents to take me when i was younger. i used to get in trouble for staying too late at youth group. i used to pray the rosary while driving to school with my best friend. i used to lead my team in prayer. i used to read the bible. carrying it, and books about it, with me always; wanting nothing more than to understand what it meant to be a good catholic. a catholic who lived by the book. i was humble. and loving. and reverent. and steadfast. i used to live by everything that you currently stand upon.

so it’s jarring to have that foundation thrown back in my face. to listen to you tell your daughter, and me by association, what god believes. what jesus believes. what the church believes. what that huge group of white men in some big, ornate, building in rome has chosen to believe. it’s jarring to listen to you say homosexuality like it’s a fucking curse. it’s scary to think that you actually believe that jesus - this all loving, radical, radical (i’ll say it again), RADICAL man who was murdered by the state - would give even a moment’s thought to the fact that i love your daughter. other than to say, thank you, for loving someone as deeply as i have loved you. i write this to say that i think you’ve got it all wrong. and this isn’t the liberal in me. this isn’t the gay agenda. this is me, once an insatiable student of catholicism and my faith - and still, a person who loves words, and who yearns to understand more deeply - who has read what your savior has to say. and, in case a summary is needed: he just asked us to love.

and, yes, that means loving the forty-nine brown and black queer folx who were murdered in orlando last year. that means saying their names. that means not scrolling through their story, or flipping past it in the newspaper, because perhaps their lives weren’t all that important to you. because your savior said that every life should be important to you. every single one. that is what love is. so that means not ignoring the hatred against the queer community, hatred that often finds its roots, and certainly its teaching, in the very churches you occupy; that means not ignoring the hatred and disgust that resides in your chest. that means owning it, and moving through it, and past it. and recognizing that it is this hatred that led to that massacre. that their murders were this hatred, manifested. and it is hatred and bigotry, that continues to try to erase their stories today. that erases all of us. black. brown. queer.

so i have a hard time associating myself with the catholic church these days. between the hypocrisy of these holy men who have sexually assaulted our children and been protected anyways, the racism, the sexism, the every -ism under the sun, the complicity - OH, THE COMPLICITY - it’s hard to believe in the unwavering goodness of this institution. but, i’ve realized i can get down with jesus. and his message. and his radicalism. and his love. and my hope for you is that you’ll begin to more deeply understand his message, and that maybe that will give you clarity about your child. and the people whom she chooses to love. and the beauty of her love, unequivocally.

and if we ever get to a point where you are ready to really know me, i think it’s important for you to recognize the complexity of our relationship. i am, as i said earlier, so grateful for the resilience of the lovings. i am grateful that my black and brown elders and ancestors fought for themselves, and fought for me, and fought for the future of our people. but i also recognize that choosing to love a white person, as a person of color, can be challenging. and a few years ago, i chose to be colorblind in these relationships. i chose to internalize the microaggressions. to remain silent. to allow them to continue. and so what i want you to know about me is that i am not that person anymore. your child has chosen to love someone who will demand love and respect. and that means leaving the racism, the microaggressions, the “jokes,” or comments about my hair or my complexion at the door. and, if you’re not capable of that just yet, if you haven’t done that work just yet, it means being ready to learn. to be called out. and called in, if i have the energy. it will not be easy. but i am learning that it is what i deserve.

i’ve been angry at you all for a long time. i’ve carried this with me for a long time. for the ways you asked your daughter to choose between us - dangling your love in front of her as a reward. and sometimes undermining the love we were building, as a result. for those times you tried to set her up with men while i was out of town. for the times you pretended you didn’t know she loved me, to spare your own feelings. to stay comfortable, even if it meant shoving her, violently, back into the closet. for all the days you refused to say my name. for calling us unnatural. for that disgusted look in your eyes - yes, i saw it. for asking us not to tell people we were dating. for those months you wouldn’t invite me into your home. for letting your other children pretend i didn’t exist. for the nights i spent sobbing, drowning in your rejection. for believing that you were giving me a gift with your tolerance, and not realizing all the days i’d given you the gift of my patience. for the pain. the pain. the pain. and for treating me in such a way that i forgot i was in control of the relationships i choose to engage in.

i am remembering this fact. i can choose to have a relationship with you. or not. i can choose to share my beauty and tenderness and energy with you. or not. i can choose to put myself in situations where i may get hurt. or not. and i can choose to keep laughing with her. and holding hands with her. and dancing with her in our kitchen. i can choose to keep building with her, again and again and again; and to be grateful for the radiance of the smile she shares with me. and i can choose to let your rejection fall somewhere other than upon my body, and continue to love your child. deeply. and viscerally. and in the most natural and life-giving way that i know how. i can choose myself. and i feel well and tender and so, so loved, remembering that fact.

in truth and flowers and tenderness,

kristen