This week I decided to shelve my own words in favor of one of the most moving messages I have read in quite some time. Robin Maynard, the author, is one of the good ones. Simply put, she is as genuine, kind, and giving as you can get. She and her soon to be wife, Tracy, are living examples of #orlandostrong and always at the ready to help contribute in any way they can to our community, both LGBTQ and at large.
I am posting in its entirety, because every word matters. When I asked her if I could post this she immediately said yes, followed by a statement that I love more than anything else. “No more hiding!” Thank you for having the courage to “run around naked on Facebook” and for allowing me to share your words here.
“We couldn’t help but get emotional when we heard the heartfelt regret, empathy and compassion from Mayor Teresa Jacobs at the Lake Eola Vigil. We looked at each other in tears and said softly “she just apologized, and she means it”. Wow.
I will warn you this post will be the longest I’ve ever written and I will share things I’ve never discussed.
First let me say I’m proud of Orlando and the entire country. 17 Million was given and will be dispersed in October from the OneOrlando Fund and while it takes a few months to accomplish, it’s ensuring things are done the right way by learning from past experiences and making sure the funds end up exactly where the donors intended.
I am also proud of the local grassroots nonprofit that is dispersing funds now (www.PulseofOrlando.org) with 47K raised and 28K already in the hands of Pulse staff and others affected). More donations are needed there and would be very helpful to cover bills between now and October.
I am also extremely proud of a task force that was formed almost immediately to create a unified LGBTQ voice and a one stop resource and navigation guide. Forty respected leaders were asked to form the LGBTQ Alliance that has been an invaluable resource for all affected. (www.HealOrlando.org)
Lastly I want to share some personal experiences that I’ve never shared publicly before. I am already in tears and will do my best to get through this. I’m sharing these things for a multitude of reasons. One is that I have many many friends (FB and other) with different views and values. I don’t block people or turn them away from seeing my life because intertwining is the only way to truly see each other.
To attempt an understanding of why any of us believe the way we do. I want them to look at me, all of my life and I want it to be harder for them to say I don’t like gay people but I love Robin so I’m torn. My preacher says I should condemn you but when I really see you, I don’t understand how I can. Some haven’t changed …not yet anyway. So here goes:
I didn’t want to be Gay. I really really didn’t. My Father was a preacher. I grew up Southern Baptist. I moved from NY to FL in 6th grade and somewhere in that transition I knew something was different. I would watch Grease with my Sister and while she would go on about John Travolta, I knew I was more drawn to Olivia Newton John. I had girl crushes on Meg Ryan, Stevie Nicks, etc….I just didn’t know what it was called. Maybe that was normal.
I went on to date boys and had a 2 year high school relationship with a wonderful, compassionate, good looking guy on the football team. We had fun, he was kind and considerate and of course understood that I was waiting for marriage before I would have sex. That’s what I was taught. That’s what was ‘right’. I finally admitted to myself at 16 that I had feelings for one of my friends that was a girl.
Let me be clear that I had a good relationship with God. Not one contrived by my parents, I actually had a spiritual connection with my creator in spite of my preacher Father, not because of him. I had a Mother who didn’t ‘preach’ with words, she simply showed me by her walk and actions what it truly meant to be Christ like.
So I prayed. And prayed some more and begged God to take the feelings away. I bargained and pleaded and made promises I surely couldn’t keep. When I tell you that if praying the gay away were possible, I would be married to a man with 2 kids, a puppy and teaching Sunday school at the local church. I left my high school my senior year to remove the temptation of being around the girl I was so drawn to. Flee temptation. That’s what you do.
I paid my tuition myself to go to a small Christian school with only 29 seniors. I was surrounded by doctrine and had bible classes and I was doing everything I could think of in my power not to be gay. I had been told how wrong it was, how wrong I was. I was so determined. If anyone could make this go away, I could.
I then, at 17 went off to a private Christian college far enough away from Lakeland, FL and from my crush. If I could just bury myself in religion, it would surely go away. Internally I was tormented but still talking to God. Not the recite a prayer way either, my relationship was truly a relationship.
I daily and with mindful intentions convened with the one who created me. Everything was great minus this one huge flaw. I was confident, had great friends, kept a smile on my face but inside I felt like a fraud from this awful plague of feeling love and attraction for the wrong sex.
None of my pleading worked. I fell in love with another preacher’s kid. She was beautiful and thoughtful and funny and a cheerleader and we were 18 and adventurous and…. this should have been an incredibly happy time …it was torturous. I cried. A lot. My internal conflict would not allow me full happiness based on what had been instilled in my core being.
Of course we had to hide our relationship, it stated clearly in the college handbook that you would be kicked out immediately for homosexual acts. I just wanted to go home. I told my Mom I was failing out and to please come get me. She knew better. She came to the school, checked into my claims and said you have straight A’s, what’s really going on? I didn’t feel like I could tell her. So I stayed.
It was then that I turned away from God. I didn’t pray for the next 5 years. Only because I had been told again and again that you can’t be a lukewarm Christian. It’s either black or white, you can’t live in the gray. I kept trying to reconcile the thought that being gay was a choice. I truly realized then, that it was not. It was WHO I was. The only real choice I had made was being a Christian. Sadly, I thought I had to trade one for the other.
I came out in 1988 to my Mom, Sister and a select few others. Like it or not, this was me and now we had to all figure out how to deal with it.
Close that Chapter for a moment now that I’ve shared the history of realizing who I was.
Prejudice. Discrimination. Hate. Injustices.
They exist now and they existed then. Many of you that know me have only known the confident & strong career Paramedic and Crime Scene Investigator that responds well in crisis. I have served Orange County from mass casualty incidences, the tornadoes of 1998 to digging up the remains of little Caylee Anthony in 2008.
That’s not the same me that I was when at 19, I had trash thrown at me walking across a bridge with my friend to go surfing as a group of guys yelled profanities and called us F#%*ing dykes.
That’s not the same me that got a job I loved and enjoyed in the early 90’s (after traveling the country in my VW bus for quiet self-reflection) and was groomed to take over until it was discovered that I was gay. I was then immediately fired because their company was a “family business” with “family values”. I was fired simply for being gay.
No, that wasn’t the same me. They helped foster this me. The pain they provided helped create the me that wants nothing more than to help people, to fight injustices and advocate for those who don’t have a voice.
I share these things to show that hate and discrimination aren’t things that affect some far off people that you don’t know. They happened to ME. When you vote against anti-discrimination laws, you’re voting against me. When you don’t vote for equality, you’re voting against me. When you sit in church on Sunday like a robot torn between your own soul and a preachers words, you’re drinking the kool aid against me.
By the way, my relationship with my amazing creator was reconciled and those 5 years without my spiritual connection were hard. You can, in fact, have it all. A creator who loves you exactly where you are and for who you are. A creator that knows your heart.
Believe me when I tell you that I have inside information and it’s the so called representatives of Christ that are causing division between God and the gay community that are going to feel the repercussions and it’s a pretty big deal to create a block that separates people from God. (I know many of my scientific counterparts don’t agree with my faith either, you don’t have to. It’s mine.) That’s the joy of not judging people. We get to coexist in unity, of all different faiths and beliefs.
I had no intentions of writing this. My intention was to repost an amazing article that shows our incredible community and nation responding in love to this massacre. That shows politicians apologizing and new straight allies locked arm in arm in a circle of protection for their LGBTQ brothers and sisters. (Please also read it here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/10716484.html ). Maybe it’s because of the emotion of the past 3 weeks that I’m vulnerable enough to share, I don’t really know.
I know that 3 weeks ago today I woke up to phone calls begging me to help find Granddaughters, friends, partners, sons and daughters. That I rubbed the sleep from my eyes while watching CNN describe a massacre that happened in a safe place where I’ve danced, held charity events, attended parties, a place a block from my office. In a place that has been a safe haven and comfort for so many. I know that things have to change.
I am writing this because a 19 year old survivor of the Pulse shooting wrote “Mom ” and a phone number as his emergency contact and when we asked for her actual name he didn’t know it because it was his friends mom. His own abandoned him because of who he is.
Allow people to evolve. Mayor Teresa Jacobs has. Some of my very conservative church friends have. Even I have. The truth is that up until my relationship with Tracy, I still wasn’t comfortable holding hands in public. Professing my love publicly and I certainly never thought the day would come that I would be on a public beach with 30 straight and gay friends helping me ask the love of my life to marry me.
I don’t know if it was my own fear from the past or the job discrimination or what but I am still evolving and I intend to give the same grace and heart space for those around me to come around as well. However, I truly believe the time is now
We aren’t finished yet. This was written for those that still can’t bring themselves to put up any sort of rainbow flag/pic/logo acknowledging this hate crime. For those truly struggling about what you were taught and what your heart knows to be true. For those of you who are uncomfortable with me at your family reunions because I have fallen madly in love with your relative. For those of you who still aren’t sure whether you support my soon to be marriage. For those of you who truly believe this was some simple choice I made to be a member of a persecuted minority and the largest targeted hate crime group. It was written for those that are driven by fear and ignorance. It was mostly written for those of you struggling. Follow your heart as you read mine.
Join the movement against hate. Don’t allow 49 lives to be snuffed out in vain. Let this tragedy be the biggest testament to the TRUTH that LOVE actually does WIN.
Robin Maynard (pictured left) has served the citizens of Orange County as a Paramedic and Crime Scene Investigator since 1995. After the loss of her Mom to breast cancer in 2006, Robin knew saving lives would take on a whole new path and with that, Libby’s Legacy foundation was formed in 2007 in her Mother’s honor and memory. She is also the recipient of the 2012 National Association of Social Work, Citizen of the Year, 2014 Congressional record, Women in Leadership and is Vice Chair for the non-profit Pulse of Orlando.