Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: How Do I Talk to The Teen About Orlando?

sundayreflections1On May 19th of this year I got to interview John Corey Whaley, so I took The Teen with me. I remarked to him then that I was pretty sure this was the first time that my teenage daughter had gotten to talk to an openly out adult and that I thought this was a pretty significant event for her, for us both.


I was born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s. Around 1990 I became a born again Christian. Everything about my life involved the stigmatization and rejection of the GLBTQ population. And to be honest, that has been a hard mindset to shed to become the imperfect ally that I am.

So as we were driving home for that interview The Teen asked me about a story that Whaley had shared about coming out to his parents at the age of 26. I shared with her then that coming out as GLBTQ was one of the leading causes of teenage homelessness as many families kick their children out and shun them. I mentioned to her that it was all also a leading cause of suicide. And then she looked at me and asked, “what would you do if I told you I was gay?”

I always try and take the road of honesty with my children so I told her, “I am a 43 year old woman who has a youth ministry degree from a conservative Christian college. I would struggle with this in a lot of ways, but no matter what happens in this life, I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU AND YOUR HOME WILL ALWAYS BE WITH ME AND YOUR DAD. I want you to be happy and healthy and comfortable in your own skin and to know that you are safe with us, always. We are your home, your family.”

But what I did not tell her was that this revelation would terrify me. Not because of my faith or my personal beliefs, but because I understand that we still live in a world where many people are angry and hostile and actively wish members of the GLBTQ community harm.

And then Orlando happened.

I did sit down and talk with my daughter about Orlando. I cried as I told her that a man had gone into a nightclub and fired his gun, killing 50 people and harming many more. She is a teenager, she has a variety of devices that give her access to the Internet, and I wanted to make sure she processed this information in a way that was accurate – it was a hate crime against the GLBTQ community – and in the context of our faith. I can’t speak for God and I stopped trying a long time ago, but our God, the God of my faith, commands us to love above all else. I want her to know that love is the way we should always approach each other.

The reality is, some of the people I love most in this world identify as GLBTQ. I adore them and slowly, sometimes painfully, I have been able to shed the hatred that I was taught in the past. Some of my loved ones try to reconcile their faith with who they are, others have left their faith all together. But I was awakened to the fact that they all live in constant fear. Fear of losing loved ones who don’t approve of their lifestyle, fear of being fired or discriminated against, and a very real fear of being physically harmed or killed by those who label them sinners and pariahs and more. It’s 2016, and many Americans still live in fear from their fellow citizens.

So what do I tell my daughter about Orlando? And when will we live in a world where I no longer have to sit my daughter down and help her process these type of horrific events?

My heart weeps for Orlando.