Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Remembering the Mothers of Our Dead: A Special Comment

Pat Mulder at her son Ryan's graveside (photo credit unknown)

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  For the women who have lost children to the unreasoning hatred of LGBT hate crimes, this may be the most trying holiday of the year.  Perhaps it is because I have met so many of them in the course of my travels and research, but I feel a particular debt of gratitude for the courage and loving tenacity of such great women, everyday, of course, but on this day of the year most of all.  I cannot tell you how much I admire these mothers, and the other women related by blood ties and choice to the women and men who died because of hatred.  All of them: the ones who kept their griefs private and out of the public eye, as well as those who found their voices to speak out for justice and against hate.  But is especially for those mothers and grandmothers, aunts and sisters who have become advocates for us that I feel a keener debt of gratitude.  None of these remarkable women dreamed they would ever become advocates for LGBT rights.  Outrageous fortune and the deeds of malevolent ignorance forced them to face the worst prospect a mother could possibly face: the loss of a child to hate crime violence.  All they wanted to do was grow old loving the children they brought into the world.  But the long, crooked arm of homophobia and transphobia reached into their family circles and broke those circles apart.  One by one, these brave women have found their voices, raised them in courtrooms, on the steps of city halls, in PFLAG meetings, at Pride events and vigils, before the glare of television klieg lights, and in the halls of Congress.  These are the redoubtable women who refuse to let us forget their children, and refuse to let themselves or us rest until justice for everybody’s child finally comes to pass in this nation.  They are the staunchest allies the LGBT community has, becoming the mothers of queer kids everywhere. Since they come from out of every class, religious tradition, ethnic background, status cohort, racial group, and region of the country, no single woman can possibly sum up them all.  But when Elke Kennedy speaks out in South Carolina for her son, Sean, when Pauline Mitchell appeals to us not to forget her two spirit boy, F.C. in her Navajo gentleness, when Billy Jack Gaither’s sister Kathy Jo pushes her scooter chair toward the podium in Montgomery, Alabama, and when Pat Kuteles refuses to let the U.S. Army get off lightly for the death of her dear Barry, somehow all the women united by such pain gather with them and stand beside them.  When Sylvia Guerrero, mother of transwoman Gwen Araujo, spoke in October 2009 on what would have been her daughter’s 25th birthday, she called upon us to honor our LGBT dead by reaching out to bring about a better world, “Light a candle, release a balloon, or do a good deed for someone less fortunate than yourself.  Thank you for keeping [Gwen’s] memory alive after 7 years” (Examiner.com).  The least that we can do is to honor the witness of these remarkable women by joining the struggle of justice and remembrance ourselves…and then one thing more.  We can reach out to these women with our love, as a Psychology Today article suggests we do: “People get so uncomfortable and often feel the need to ‘error on the side of caution’ so as to not upset the person they care so much about. This, however, often leaves the mom simply feeling forgotten. A card, a phone call – even an email – wishing her a happy Mother’s Day can go farther than you could ever know. While she’s on her own path of redefining where she now “fits” on this day, you are helping her to know. She fits where every other mother fits – in the spotlight. She’s still a mom, and she still needs to know that she is viewed this way by everyone else.”

Pat Mulder, Ryan Skipper’s mom, once told me that for a grieving mother who buried her slain child, “there is no closure.”  She and her husband, Lynn, soldier on, turning their sorrow into advocacy, wrapping their arms around gay and lesbian kids wherever they go to let them know everyone deserves to be remembered and loved.  On this Mother’s Day, reach out to the women (and men} who have borne so much, and remind them with acts of loving kindness that like their children, they, too, are not forgotten.  ~ Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

May 8, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Condolences, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Uncategorized, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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