They Are Trying To Kill My Boy

premium_landscapeIt’s been seven days since a man armed with military-styled weaponry walked into a gay club in Orlando and open fired, killing 49 people and wounding dozens more.

But I just haven’t been able to move on. My son is a young gay man and I admit to a certain empathetic vulnerability.

News reports cover killings like this in great detail, and there’s one detail that’s shot like an arrow into my heart and I can’t pull it out.

It’s the story of Mina Justice hunched over her phone texting with her son, Eddie, who is trapped in the nightclub bathroom with the gunman.

Eddie texted Mina when things start going badly. The fact that he only gets into the details of his situation after telling her he loves her affects me.

At 2:05 am, he texts, “Mommy, I love you” and “In club they shooting”

Mina is wide-awake now. At 2:07, she immediately texts him back with the question uppermost on her mind.

“U ok”.

“Trapp in bathroom,” comes the urgent reply.

She’s still trying to figure it out and has to get the detailed information from him. “What club,” she texts.

And then, “for 44 minutes, she sat in the dark, staring at her phone, watching the attack unfold in increasingly terrified texts from her son,” according to the Washington Post.

“Call police” he texts.

“Calling them now,” she replies.

“Call them mommy. Now,” he says.

“Calling them now,” she replies. “U still there?”

“Answer your phone.”

“Call me.”

“Call me,” she begs him.

It’s no good. She receives his last text.

“Hes coming”

“Im going to die”

And Eddie Justice did die that morning as he was texting his mother the details of his entrapment.

My children are among my very few text buddies. My son and I text. And we both agreed in event of a horror like Mina and Eddie experienced, we’d likely be texting.

Texting my children feels like I’m holding a fishing line, an invisible, infinite reel of catgut that you can cast out as far as forever and reel in whatever is on the other end. It’s a stand-in for the long obsolete umbilical cord and the possibility of pumping life force through cyberspace.

And I think I can feel Mina experiencing that in the wee hours of last Sunday morning.

Keep texting, she’s thinking. Get him on the phone. That will keep him safe.  She couldn’t, of course. Her anguish, I know, must be great. And I’m so sorry her Eddie is gone.

Rearing a gay child, and I speak only from my own limited personal experience, didn’t make me look at my child any differently. My son is, after all, the one with the beautiful eyes and wide smile, the one with the sense of humour I totally get, the one with a loving heart and a clever mind.

Having a child who is a gay didn’t change my view of my child so much as it made me look at other people differently.

My son went to an alternative high school, one created for LGBTQ youth. When his father and I made an appointment at the school to talk about him becoming a student there, the teacher told us that in the more than 20 years of its operation, it was the first time both parents of a child had ever come into the school.

During the years of my son being a student at that school, my home became a way station for his classmates. My dinner table expanded with two, three, four or five children almost every weeknight, who replied with an enthusiastic “Yes, if that’s okay!” when I called out, “Can you guys stay for dinner?”

Permission calls were rarely necessary.

Potential suitors of my son’s had to, ideally, undergo parental vetting. And in addition to the usual suitor criteria of needing to be able to string a sentence or two together and being able to look you straight in the eye, it was important for my son’s father and I to know if the boy was out, if he was happy with his sexuality and if his parents were onside.

Because an answer of “no” to any one of those questions meant that our son might be exposed to a negative environment that could range from shame to hate. In the fashion of 21st century parenting, we wanted to create a “bubble of safety” around both our children. Homophobia, like chicken pox, had to be kept at a safe distance.

My son is an adult now and there’s no safe distance anymore.

And it’s one thing for a mad gunman in a gun-crazed culture, where even little children are fair game, to shoot up a night club, it is something else entirely when members of the Baptist faith, such as Pastor Roger Jimenez from Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento says that “Christians shouldn’t be mourning the death of 50 sodomites” and that “the tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.”

I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” preaches Jimenez.

Furthermore, as part of a sermon the church posted on its website under the title “The Christian response to the Orlando murders”, Christ’s representative on earth says:

“I wish the government would round them all up, put them against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

The video has been taken down because it was seen to have violated YouTube’s hate speech policy.

The idea that anyone has a hate on for your child is an anathema for most mothers. And the biological imperative makes me want to claw the face off Roger Jimenez from Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento.

But we’re looking for ways forward today.

The hope I see—and I understand that hope is a privilege people not in the direct line of fire can enjoy—is in the power of the LGBTQ movement.

It’s a mighty chorus that already has a rejoinder to death and hate.

When AIDS was killing gay people by the thousands, they took their cause to the media, the government, and to rich and famous people who could fund their efforts. They took to the streets to demand medical treatment and respect. And they continue to do that work today.

orlando-shootingjpg.jpg.size.custom.crop.350x197The LGBTQ movement’s response to hate has been to hold PRIDE marches to celebrate their lives.

My son’s life, and the lives of other mothers’ adult sons, daughters or wherever their children fall on the gender spectrum, has passed beyond what we, as mothers, can influence.

We now have to turn the issue of our LGBTQ children’s safety over to people in the LGBTQ movement, with the request that you please continue the fight to wherever it takes you, to raise the alarm whenever it needs to be raised, to say what needs to be said and continue to put love before hate.

And we will be here—I will be here—to support you in that work, with all the pride and love I can muster.


Gail PiAuthor Photo 01 Sandy Tam Photographycco is a strategist and nonprofit executive who has worked in the charity sector for 25 years, most of which as President of Gail Picco Associates. Prior to establishing Gail Picco Associates, she spent eight years working in a shelter for assaulted women and children. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a recent novel set in the nonprofit sector, of Your Working Girl, a blog of memoir and commentary on politics, charity and popular culture, and writes a regular column for Hilborn Charity News. She is a Principal with The Osborne Group in Toronto and Chair of the Regent Park Film Festival.


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