A Letter to My Daughter
This piece is the third in a series of reflections on mass violence from members of Sixth & I synagogue in Washington, DC.
Little one, your mother and I love you very much. Both of us, both of your mothers whose names are on your birth certificate, who will claim you on our taxes for the first time next year when we file together as we’ve only been able to do legally since 2012, who think you are the most amazing human, even though we’ve only known you for six weeks, love you more than we can possibly express.
We know that the world is a scary place. We knew that it was scary when we started trying to have you three years ago and one could argue that things have gotten worse since then, but maybe it’s just perception or media representation, but there seems to be more shootings, more mass violence than there was before - or maybe I’m just paying closer attention.
I was eight months pregnant with you when the Pulse nightclub shooting dominated the news. I blamed it on hormones when I found myself elbow deep in dirty dishes, listening to the news on NPR, tears streaming down my cheeks - a man used a military grade weapon to unload his hatred on people like your mothers. While it couldn’t have been us, because we are too old and boring to even think about stepping foot in a gay club the way we used to, it has still been us, we’ve still been in that club, a large group of people whom others hate all together in the same place. I’ve never thought of us as sitting ducks in that way, together at the pride parade, at a well advertised gay parenting event, just waiting for someone to come and kill us. I mean, that’s not quite the way it is, but it’s how a gathering might be thought of if you’re full of hate, ready to explode, and have access to a military grade semi-automatic weapon.
There are a lot of reasons that someone might want to kill you. This is an odd, chilling thought for a new parent who is striving happily to keep you alive between feedings, but it is true enough in a country where mass shootings have been targeted at children, where women are subject to all manner of violence literally all the time. The fact that you might be subject to violence simply because you are out in the world with your parents, your mothers, is not something that really occurred to me until that day.
But know this, it is love and dedication which brought you into the world. Ask any gay couple with children how they got them, and you’re going to hear about a lot of work, a lot of infrastructure, a lot of small tense moments. Love is work. And it is work to go out into the world and know that you’re going to encounter people who might hate you. People who don’t think you belong in the world just because of who you are. People who want you to make yourself small. People who think it is okay that you exist as long as you don’t bring too much attention to yourself.
As I look at your little face as I write this, your long eyelashes framing your hazel eyes which still might change color, little six week old arms reaching towards me, there is one thing I want for you and that is the confidence to move about in the world despite knowing that you will encounter people who don’t want you to exist. People who think your family is an abomination. People who think that a woman should not speak up, should not have autonomy, or authority over even her own body. This sounds so extreme. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s happening. So I will say this, though people may want to kill you for it, do not move around the world as if there is anything to fear. Because ultimately, it is fear that will consume you. Where you first choose not to go here or there, because it’s scary. Where you choose not to speak up because it’s easier not to. This behavior only snowballs. It will cause your world to get smaller until you fold into yourself and you are only a shell.
My beloved daughter, choose to speak when you feel compelled. Choose to go where you want because that is your right. Choose love because it the only thing that makes life worth living. Just ask your mothers who chose to love each other, who because of love, chose to make you and in doing so discovered that all the effort, all the work, was worth it in spite of the fear.
This story "Reflecting on the Pulse Nightclub Shooting: A Letter to My Daughter with Two Moms" was written by Sarah Mercure.