Each year, I volunteer with the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference Kids' Camp programming for trans youth, their siblings, and children of gender-diverse parents. It is one way I pay forward those who helped me discover and uncover the woman you see today.
Some of these trans kids have become my little pen pals. We keep in contact throughout the year via postcards or Skype, with their parents' encouragement. I was with one of them, she's 10, on Sunday, marching beside her and her mother in Philadelphia's Pride parade. This was Sunday morning, as the body count of the carnage in Orlando was becoming apparent.
How do you explain terror to a 10-year-old? How do you explain that she is safe and loved precisely for who she is, yet that some people instead hate her simply because she exists?
I could see her listening as the adults spoke. The only thing harder than answering her questions was wondering what she was not asking about.
As a young transgender girl, she has already been teased and has already been misunderstood by her peers. Something beyond her control, her gender, and the sheer bravery she had to express it, places her at heightened risk -- from others, if not also herself. She knows this, so how do you tell her not to be scared to be herself?
The only option, as I told her, is that we will love our lives all the more. We must appreciate the fragility with which all of us walk this earth. We must not let blind hatred change our resolve.
Asserting our own and ensuring others' freedom of expression is the greatest expression of freedom there is.
I said this to the crowd upon the steps beside New York's Stonewall Inn, site of a turning point in the modern queer rights movement. We must love ourselves -- and each other -- all the more. My promise to this 10-year-old girl is that I am here for her. I will cheer her on as she gets an education. I will be someone to call after a lousy date, or after a great date, too.
We must move forward in time after pausing to reflect. We must go back to the bars, we must never stop dancing. We must go on dates. Tonight, tomorrow, and the next night if necessary. The more love we create, the more love will win. As fate chooses us to become partners, parents, aunts, uncles, or mentors, we must especially stand behind our youth so that none fall through the cracks.
We promise to love our children if they are like us. We will love them even more if they are cisgender. We will love them even more if they are straight. We will love them even more if they are vanilla and boring and jam to elevator music. They will at least know by our example that others can be different. And that difference is OK too.
We are left with many questions as we learn this night at Pulse was Latinx night or that drag and transgender performers were featured. While I respect the thirst for information, my honest belief is that those who executed this massacre could not have cared less.
Hatred does not waste time looking for distinctions among the nuances of L, G, B, and T, so why should we? If there is one lesson we can take to heart and practice from this hatred, it is that love can be equally blind.
Rights for any of us are rights for all of us. Attacks for any of us are attacks upon all of us. We are in this together; this is the movement from today onward.
HANNAH SIMPSON is a medical student, engineer, marathoner, and unabashed nerd. Her writing on transgender advocacy has been featured on Refinery29, MarieClaire.com, the Jewish Times of Baltimore, and elsewhere. She has appeared as a television guest commentator on trans issues with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC and on Fox 5 (WNYW) Good Day New York. Follow her on Twitter at @hannsimp.