Slaughter of the Innocent

It’s been two weeks.  It has taken this long for me to be able to put feelings into words.  Haven’t been able to blog, to tweet, I’ve posted very little in my regular forums.

Two weeks since a man wearing a mask entered the basement of the Tel Aviv center for the GLBT community, where there was a youth support group / social gathering in progress…and opened fire.  A counselor and a 16-yr-old girl were killed.  15 more wounded,  4 seriously.  Average age of the wounded: 16-17.  The killer has not been caught.

This was in a building that isn’t advertised, no signs pointing the way, the guy had to have known exactly where he was going. It’s been a GLBT community center for decades. This was a place that was supposed to be safe.

This is the first time our daughter has faced the fact that there is danger other than the common dangers we all face every day.  That there is a specific danger that could target her own family and safety.  I so wish she didn’t have to learn this.

The support group hit was there for youth to deal with their own identities, share and grow, and partly to learn how to come out.  Most of them were not yet out to their families.

Coming out.  Never easy.  Everything changes in some way.  And it’s scary.  For most minority groups, your family is your support base, where you can share a common experience, stand together against the world, if necessary….  Not so for LGBT kids, where your family is often the first place to condemn you and the last place you can get support.   In coming out you risk losing your basic support, your home.  Not in all cases, of course.  But sometimes you don’t know until you risk it.  My coming out wasn’t so bad, compared to most.  Although my mom’s reaction was “You stay in the closet, or you get out.”  Two weeks later I was living 400 miles away.  Still, she didn’t break off the connection.  (She chose to ignore “it”, actually.)   Even our own darling daughter, who grew up calmly explaining to nursery school teachers, et al, why she needed to make two separate Mother’s Day presents, etc. – even she was hesitant when she asked me if we would be upset if she found out she was bi.  (Aside – the answer was no, but truthfully, I think she’s straight but curious – also natural and ok.)

So naturally one of my first reactions when hearing the reports after the shooting about the terrified kids at the hospital who didn’t want their parents notified was concern – what a hell of a way to come out to your family.  And soon after came the news that one set of parents, upon learning where their teenager was shot, refused to visit him in the hospital.  And when he was released they wouldn’t allow him to come home.  So he is recuperating in a foster home, and counselors are trying to work with his family.  My heart breaks when I think of him.

The funerals.  I cried when Nir was laid to rest and his family proudly placed a rainbow flag on his grave.  I cried more for Liz.  Her family’s statement, in which they felt it necessary to emphasize not once, not twice, but three times in a brief paragraph, that she was not “like that”, that she was there in that place by accident, that her sexual preference was “normal” – was like another bullet.  My daughter was confused by it, we talked about why the family was reacting like that.  In her concern to be fair, she said, well, sometimes kids are scared to go someplace by themselves, they need a friend for support, even though the friend may not belong.  I pointed out that the kids there knew her, and so did some of the other counselors.  I asked her if she believed that Liz was there by accident.  She thought about it very seriously, then looked me in the eye and said “no”.

So I guess the only other thing I have to say is to Liz’s parents.  I know they’ll never see it, and I wouldn’t want to intrude on their terrible grief now anyway.  But I need to say it.

Liz’s parents.  You have lost a daughter to terror.  It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with.  The world will never be the same place it was.  You will never be the same people you were.  But you will go on.  Sometimes you won’t know how, and sometimes you won’t even know why.  Know that my condolences are deeply heartfelt.  I’m a mother too.  But I need to make one request.  Talk to the other kids in the center who knew Liz, talk to the counselors.   Before you jump to judge, before you claim to know everything about who your girl was, make the effort to find out what was in her mind and heart that perhaps she hadn’t yet shared with you.  Please give her that respect.  In your shock and grief, don’t further wound the community that she was either a part of or at the very least cared about.  Your beautiful, loving daughter was slain by a hatred called homophobia.  Please.  Please.  Please. Don’t show her memory the same hatred that killed her.



One Response to “Slaughter of the Innocent”

  1. Egonne Says:

    Thanks Chana. We joined the vigil in Jerusalem for a couple of minutes and what you wrote to Liz’s parents is what actually needs to be shouted off the rooftops.
    Hope to see you in teh autumn.

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