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Dear Dad,

I’m not sure how I expected you to respond to this tragedy that has taken place. I’m not sure if I expected you to sigh and quietly pray through your tears, or if I expected you to shrug and say it was someone’s fault (maybe the gays for being there, maybe the muslims for being terrorists, maybe this nation’s for not following God). I don’t know if I expected that you would nod your head, when someone mentioned that things need to change here, and that a wall needs to be built around our country keeping out the Muslims. I refuse to believe that you nodded your head and said to yourself “they had it coming” – for being gay, for being in that place at that time, for not being you.

But what I wanted was for you to call me. I wanted you to say you’re sorry for this tragedy and you’re mourning the loss of those members of the human family. I wanted you to say you’ve prayed for each and every victim on that list, and for their families. Remember, Dad, when you used to pray so much? Remember when you prayed for missionaries by name? Remember when you prayed for people who were struggling, and you used their names, Dad? I wanted you to say their names in prayer, Dad.

I wanted you to call and tell me that even though you’re not coming to my wedding, and even though you don’t believe my marriage to Kari is God’s will for me, that no one deserves to be gunned down. That gay people don’t deserve to die just because they are gay. That you’re ashamed sometimes to call yourself a Christian, when Christians spew so much venom. I wanted you to say that you’re so glad that I wasn’t at that club, because, Dad, the people at that club? They were me. They went there because it was safe, and because there were other people there like them. That club was their sanctuary. And like that church shooting that happened in Fort Worth, or the one that happened in Charleston last year, they were in a place where they thought they could be themselves, and love, and find safety in a community. And that sanctuary was destroyed by violence.

I wanted you to say it’s not ok, and that you stand on the side of love, and you stand on the side of your daughter and that you would be there to protect me. I wanted you to say that you don’t know how to respond, but that your heart is breaking over this. I wanted you to say that you recognized me in those faces, that you recognized yourself, and that you want to support me in whatever way you can. I wanted you to say that you love me, and that love is all that matters. 

Dad, this tragedy is affecting me in more ways than I can say. Yesterday, I was at the courthouse in Denton when a crazy man began shouting threats and ranting 10 feet from me, and I was immobilized, standing there, watching as police took him out of the courthouse. Watching later as a bomb squad investigated his car on the news. And I curled up in bed and covered my head and prayed that somehow love will win. Because I sometimes lose hope that love will win. I lose sight of hope when the words become too much, and when the people we love most don’t respond in any way because they don’t know how to respond, and when the american people stand by and do NOTHING, again and again and again.

Dad, people like me are targeted every single day here and around our country. I walk into a diner in Texas with my fiancee, and I can’t hold her hand in public because every eye is on us, because I’m afraid. I’m afraid to be in public. I’ve never lived my life in fear. I’ve never been afraid to walk down the street. Until now.

I’m afraid of the actions of one madman, yes. But I’m more afraid of the inaction of millions of others. Others who just stand by and say “this isn’t my tragedy. This isn’t my problem.” Others who, because they don’t know what to say or what to do, say and do nothing. If there was ever a time to act in love, Dad, it would be now. If there was ever a time to say that love is the most important thing, regardless of differences in opinion or religious belief, that time is now. If there was ever a time where you could stand for me, even though you don’t believe as I do, that time is now.

Tonight I am going to another vigil. I am going to hear the names of the dead read in quivering voices over a mic, and with other people, I will bow my head in sadness. Tonight I am going to a community space. A place I’ve been intimidated to even visit, because it’s a gay bar. The only gay bar in Denton. An obvious target. Tonight I am going to join with my brothers and my sisters gay, straight, and everything in between to mourn the loss of 49 members of our human family. 49 black sheep, like me, Dad. And I am standing on the side of love. Because, of all the teachings you taught me, of all the sermons I’ve heard, of all the times I’ve read the bible,  I keep coming back to one thing: love.

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