"Why would anyone do that?"
That was the first question my 8-year old trans son asked the morning after the horrific massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. "Why would anyone do that?"
He couldn't understand that kind of hate. He couldn't understand how one human being could be so offended by another human being's existence that they could be driven to violence and murder.
Neither could I.
When the details of the shooting began surfacing on news feeds, I hesitated to tell him. Was he too young to understand the tragedy? Would he only grow more fearful and frightened to be out and proud to be trans, and not hear the hundreds of thousands of voices that cried out in love after the shooting?
Just a few months ago, we moved from our home because we could not find acceptance. My son had been bullied at school and shunned by the community. His anxiety grew, as did the sense that some harm would come to him, to his community.
Now, an unspeakable, indefensible massacre had fallen. Fallen onto 49 members of the LGBTQ community. And my son needed to hear about it from me.
I told him the basic details first. The where, the when, the numbers. I tried to keep from crying as I delivered this tragic news to my son. I explained how it was a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, a crime meant to send a message of fear and terror. I explained how many, many people were gathering in vigils around the world to mourn the dead and share their grief. To honor the fallen.
I asked him if he had any questions at all.
"Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone want to hurt us?"
How could I possibly answer?
Because the shooter hated. Because he hated himself. Because maybe he wasn't loved enough as a child or as an adult or at any point or at some point. Because something inside of him was broken and he thought he could take it out on someone else. Anyone else. First his wife and children, and now our community.
None of those answers were correct and all of them were. We will never be able to answer why because we could never be capable of that kind of hatred ourselves, and that was the only answer I had to give.
Then we pulled up the pictures and descriptions of all the victims. One by one, we went through the list.
We read their names aloud and their ages. I pointed out that one man was the same age as my son's babysitter and another shared the same name as a friend of ours. We paused at each photo, taking in the images of smiling faces, of carefree individuals secure in themselves.
Together, we read about their lives, their dreams, their plans for the future. We read about their hobbies and their jobs and their families. We read about husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. We read about somebody's children.
I told my son that they were heroes, those beautiful, authentic people that died in that club. They died heroes. I told my son that their lives, and his, were worth living and that no one had the right to take that away from another person. No one had that right but someone had taken it anyway.
"Are you afraid?" I asked him finally, when our private vigil was done.
"I'm sad," he said simply and closed his eyes and held me tighter.
I understood sadness and anger and I told my son that both were okay. But that man, the man that took those lives, wanted us to hurt and to fear. He wanted us to disappear from the face of this earth, never to speak up again. He wanted us to be afraid to live.
And we could not let that happen. We could not be afraid to live.
My 8-year-old son looked at me with troubled blue eyes, sparkling with unshed tears and unbroken innocence.
"I'm not afraid," he assured me. "I don't know why anyone would do this but I know that I love more than he hates."
I pulled him into my arms — tightly, fiercely, so proud of this child that was given into my care.
I love more than he hates.
If only the world was so simple. If only the courage and determination of one child could right all wrongs, save the injured, heal the broken. If only the love of my son could change the world.
I love more than he hates.
Then again, why couldn't it?