Where will it all end? When will the watershed moment come when Americans will say enough is enough, when they’ll say no more. When will rationality prevail and the ban on assault weapons will be reinstated?
“Where will it all end?” my mother always asked, coupled with, “Isn’t this unbelievable?” She was talking about technology. She couldn’t believe how many advances the world had made technologically since she’d been born.
When my spouse, Libby, and I moved to Shanghai we bought a Vonage box so our friends and family in the United States could keep in touch by calling a U.S. phone number at no charge. My mother was wary when she first began to call the Florida number we’d gotten from Vonage, wary that her phone bill would be astronomical because she was calling China, but once she had physical proof it didn’t cost her anything she took full advantage and called us like we were next door. We had the same phone number in three different apartments in Shanghai and in our apartments in Hong Kong, Italy, and now Sweden. “Isn’t this unbelievable?” she’d say every time she made her first call to our home in a new country, and then end with, “Where will it all end?”
The day before she died she was enthralled that we were doing FaceTime with my niece and her best friend in Washington, D.C., on my iPad in her hospice room in Florida. I remember closing the iPad after we said goodbye and my mother shaking her head and saying, “Where will it all end?”
One of the last things my mother said before she lost consciousness later that night was, “Libby, Libby,” my spouse’s name. Libby couldn’t be there when my mother died, but she’d called earlier from Dubai where she was traveling for work. “Where’s that?” my mother asked Libby. When Libby told her my mother asked, “How do you spell it?” When my mother hung up the phone she said, “Isn’t this unbelievable? She called me from Dubai,” though she pronounced it Dew-bay.
My mother loved Libby. I think in many ways my mother loved Libby even more than she loved me. I’m OK with that, appreciate it, actually, because it’s an affirmation of what Libby has meant to me and my family and an acceptance and validation of the enduring nature of Libby and my relationship. As my then 24-year-old nephew, Chris, said at our 2013 wedding when we were finally able to legally marry, “As far back as I can remember, there’s never been an Aunt Nancy without an Aunt Libby.”
Libby is the best daughter-in-law any mother could ever hope for—someone who is loving, caring, and full of integrity and kindness. A role model though Libby would never characterize herself as such. She unselfishly financially and emotionally helped me take care of my mother after my father died in more ways than I can count.
Both my parents’ and my siblings’ acceptance of Libby, and of Libby and my relationship and their willingness to include Libby in our family enabled the roots Libby and I began planting together to take hold quicker and fully flourish. Their acceptance, though, would not have been possible without our own self-acceptance. Self-love and self-acceptance take work and both Libby and I worked to accept our gay selves and then to accept our relationship, which we call “homoloveable.” When we revealed our relationship to our families, it was clear to them that if they were going to ask us make a choice between our families or each other, we were going to choose each other.
This past Sunday something unfathomable, something utterly horrific happened in Orlando. A man went into Pulse Nightclub armed with an assault weapon and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. Forty-nine people dead. Fifty-three wounded. Every time I see those numbers, read something about that horrible night or think about what happened, I find myself quoting my mother, “Isn’t this unbelievable?” It’s staggering, the sheer numbers, the sheer evil, and the sheer carnage.
When I read that the shooter’s father said his son became enraged when he saw two men kissing in Miami last month, the first thing I said to Libby was, “This guy’s latent, a closet case. He hates himself.” I wondered when his secret gay life would come out. It took two days.
The attack at Pulse is mostly being described as a Terrorist Attack. It was, but that’s too easy. Rile up the masses, stoke their fear, and blame it on the Muslim/Islamic terrorists. See? I told you. Let’s build a wall.
Alternately the attack is being described as a Hate Crime, though not as much as some people would like. It was a Hate Crime. A specific group of people were targeted—LGBTQ. On Latino Night.
More than that, though, to me it was a Self-Hate Crime. The shooter couldn’t reconcile his own feelings with his Fundamentalist upbringing and the homophobia of the religion that wrought his self-hate. He didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t, for whatever reasons, do the work necessary to enable him to cross the bridge from self-hate to self-love and acceptance.
Fundamentalism in any form, be it Muslim or Christian, combined with homophobic self-hate and easy availability of assault weapons is a boiling, toxic brew. The shooter pulled the innocent souls at Pulse that night, who were dancing and enjoying themselves and each other, down into a deep dark ugly cauldron with him rather than allow them to lift him up into their well-earned courageous glowing light.
It takes courage to love, to take the risks required to open yourself up and allow yourself to be vulnerable to someone else. This is especially true when you’re gay because not only are you vulnerable to the other person, you are vulnerable in the world, opening yourself up to not feeling safe, to discrimination, taunting, bullying, misguided hatred and, yes, even death at the hands of a self-loathing coward with an assault weapon. Every time another shooting happens in the United States, I find myself quoting my mother again, “Where will it all end?”
Where will it all end? When will the watershed moment come when Americans will say enough is enough, when they’ll say no more. When will rationality prevail and the ban on assault weapons will be reinstated? No civilian needs an assault weapon. It’s that simple. If the killer at Pulse had only been able to access a knife, everyone in the club that night might have been able to make it out of there alive with their futures in front of them, not prematurely gunned down by a self-hating killer.
When will the moment come when anyone who is gay will feel safe walking down the street with their loved one, holding hands, like any other straight couple, without fear?
I am grateful Libby and I did the work we did to be together. I am grateful for our families’ acceptance. I am grateful for 11+ years of living abroad in countries where gun ownership is either illegal or where assault weapons are banned, and grateful that we’re now living in ultra gay-friendly Sweden. I keep asking myself, though, where will it all end in the United States? I wish I, or somebody, had an answer.
Nancy L. Conyers has an MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She has been published in Lunch Ticket, The Manifest-Station, The Citron Review, and is working on a novel. Her website is www.nancylconyers.com.