The Orlando massacre. Let’s talk about it.

For me, there are two very important issues surrounding the atrocious act of hate that happened at Pulse nightclub: gun control and homophobia.

I will put aside the gun issue for now because I don’t want my message to be lost in the debate over laws, rights, or the belief that guns don’t kill people. Some of you may already want to tell me that it was a person who killed 49 other people and not the object he was carrying.

Yes, he is to blame. And yes, perhaps he would have found another way to kill 49 people if he didn’t have a gun. But if our views are not the same, let’s agree to disagree on the ease or reality of that.

Let’s focus, instead, on the killer’s targets. Whether the killer was struggling with his own sexuality or just had a fear and hatred of anything not falling in line with heterosexuality, he chose to specifically target the LGBTQ community. Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Queer.

Please don’t let those letters be lost. And please don’t be afraid to say them. Please embrace those words and labels that define the people who have found it so hard to be accepted. Please embrace my community. I am a parent. I am a mama. I am a spouse. I am also a lesbian. I am queer.

Call it internalized homophobia, plain old homophobia, or a blatant disregard for humanity, one man went into a gay nightclub with the intent to kill gay people. I didn’t know any of the victims he killed or injured, but I know they were sitting ducks in a place where they felt safe and free to be who they were in a world that would clearly rather see them dead than happy. He was targeting people like me, like my friends, like my family.

Let me tell you about people like me. Let me tell you a little about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community.

On June 10th, my twins turned three. They woke up that morning and tore open presents that were presented to them by their two mamas and their big sister. We then sent my oldest daughter off to preschool while I packed the van for our family vacation.

After we picked my daughter up from school, we went to the local park for her preschool graduation. The emotions of making it three years with twins were suddenly overridden by emotions of watching my first baby reach another milestone. How can my sweet girl be heading off to kindergarten? Didn’t we just bring her home from the hospital?

After putting on their pajamas, my partner and I loaded our three kids into the van for a seven-hour drive to the first stop on our road trip. Our family of five was ready to indulge in the perks of being away from the everyday routine. We were ready to spend time with long-distance family members. We were ready to relax our bodies and the rigidity of our schedules.

Shortly before sunrise, we arrived at the hotel. We arrived tired, but safe and sound. Two days later, as I ushered my kids into the hotel’s dining area for breakfast, I saw the news. I didn’t feel safe and sound anymore.

I haven’t been able to fully process the attack on the individuals at Pulse, on the families and friends who lost loved ones, or on what this means for not only the LGBTQ community, but for humanity.

It finally hit me yesterday as my family of five walked along a pier. My daughter picked a flower and gave it to my partner. “Now you can get married,” she told us.

“We already are married,” I reminded her.

“Well, now you can get married again. Now kiss!”

With one eye on my children and one on my partner, I kissed her. I kissed the mother of my children, my wife, and my best friend. The beach was quiet, but we were not alone. If someone had looked in our direction, they may have seen the two seconds of physical affection.

Later, when the rest of my family joined us on the pier, they would have seen three more kids and their parents. They would have seen six kids pointing out fish while four parents reminded them to stay away from goose droppings. They would have seen four adults happy to be in the sunshine instead of in offices. They would have seen six happy kids with peanut butter and jelly faces and sand covered feet. Anyone on that beach would have seen love.

They would have also seen two LGBTQ families. One with two gay mamas, and one with a transgender dad married to a queer mama.

What is scary about adding those letters? What is threatening about one person loving another? What is awful about children being raised by loving parents?

Again, if your morals or religion put us in a place where we disagree, can we at least agree upon civility if not kindness? Can we make an agreement that we won’t kill each other? I want my kids to be a part of a generation that values love over hate, understanding over ignorance, but is it too much to ask to live in that world right now?

The person who killed 49 other people did so out of fear. Maybe he was afraid of who he was, afraid to be what his God, family, and friends didn’t approve of. Maybe he was afraid of what he thought the world was becoming, afraid to understand and accept deviations from what he thought the world should be.

Can we put down our fear? We don’t need laws or restrictions to do this. We can just do it.

You have the choice to teach tolerance. You have the ability to open your mind. You have the ability to show your family, friends, children, and strangers that you are not afraid of differences. Put down your fear. The world needs this. I need this.

I am a member of the LGBTQ community. We need this.

It’s not too late to live safe and sound.