I started writing this at 4:00 a.m. with tears in my eyes, so I’m sorry if this is a bit scattered. I am so angry, and so sad.
If you aren't familiar with me, my name is Elijah Daniel. I am mostly known for doing very dumb things. I really hate being serious, and I make an effort to make everything into a joke. I try to find the humor in everything, because I feel like laughter is the best medicine on this planet. But this is a time for anger, and change. I have to be serious for at least a few minutes. I wanted to write an open letter to LGBTQ kids, or any kid who feels like they don’t belong, or feel alone in this world.
I never thought I would have to write a coming out letter. and I never really wanted to. I thought we were past the whole “coming out” thing. But after this weekend, I’ve realized we are not. We have such a long way to go.
I want to sincerely apologize to the LGBT youth for neglecting to use my platform to help them, and make them feel less alone. It’s so easy to get comfortable and forget how it was to be closeted, to be scared of being you. Terrified of people finding out, what they would think, or do. That was so fucking scary. I grew up gay as hell in an extremely religious family, in rural Michigan, homeschooled on a farm. I know that feeling.
Reading about the horrifying Pulse attack, I felt that fear again. I mean, the fear is still always there. In the back of your mind—when you feel like you can’t hold hands in public, or go certain places, or be "too gay” in fear that people won’t want to work with you. That fear of being who you are. But I haven’t felt it in this capacity in awhile. I’ve been fully out for two years, and I live in Los Angeles now. I don’t really have to worry about some guy wearing camouflage in a pickup truck yelling “faggot” at me anymore. California has been so accepting. I’ve never felt more okay with being me, and that is such an amazing feeling.
But what I have neglected is the millions of LGBT kids who live every single day crushed by those fears. Terrified of being themselves. .
Earlier yesterday morning I saw a video—it was a mother crying, sobbing, terrified. Saying her son was at Pulse in Orlando the night of the massacre, and she still hasn’t heard from him. I couldn’t stop thinking about the video all day. She was so heartbroken. All she wanted was for her son to be okay. I’d never wanted a happy ending more than I did for her.
I opened my phone at 11:00 p.m. and saw her son was one of the confirmed dead. My heart sunk so deep, I was so fucking sad for this woman. I felt her pain. That could have been any of us. I immediately texted my mom saying “I love you” while ugly crying like Kim Kardashian. I tweeted:
A girl responded on Twitter with a screenshot of a text from her mother, where her own mother said she wished her daughter was one of the victims in the shooting. My heart sank again. I am so lucky to have a loving, accepting family now that I forget what it was like when that wasn’t the case. When I wasn’t able to text my mom about these things, or feel comfortable being myself. When I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to. So many other people starting responding to the girl saying they relate, and they're going through the same thing. How? It’s 2016, how are so kids still going through this? This is so wrong.
I decided to open my Twitter DMs. I tweeted:
I received over 500 DMs within 15 minutes. And they were so heartbreaking. These kids telling me how scared they are, how they feel so alone, how they can’t be themselves because they fear for their lives, how their parents won’t accept them, how they don’t want to come out because of the shooting and they don’t feel safe, how they have no one to talk to, how they feel broken, how they feel like they’re not normal, how they don’t feel accepted, how they live in countries where it’s illegal to be gay and they can be killed, how I’m the first person they’ve ever told because they can’t talk to anyone else.
Of all the messages I got, the one that hit the hardest was from a kid in the South saying:
"You know, I could just leave. Not talk to my family anymore. But I love them. No matter how hateful they can be. No matter what they say about me. I love them. I don't understand why it's so hard for them to do the same. Just love me back.”
"Just love me back.” This kid just fucking wants to be loved back. How is that something anyone should have to ask for?
Parents, please just love your kids. It’s not something you should have to be asked to do. Let them know you accept them. Let them know you love them. Let them know it’s okay to be who they are. I’m sure there are things you don’t understand, especially if you were raised differently, in a different time. I understand that. But do not let that get in the way of loving and supporting your children. Educate yourself, learn about what it means to be LGBTQ. Your kids should not ever feel like they can’t talk to you.
And to the LGBTQ kids: Every single one of you, no matter where you are, no matter how old you are, no matter what you are going through, no matter if you are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, pansexual, asexual: you are loved. There are so many people going through the same things as you are. I know you are terrified, I know you feel lost. But you are not alone. We live is a scary world, but our community is so strong. There will always be more love than there is hate in this world. The world is changing. And love will win. We accept you, we love you, and we are here for you. You will always be welcome. We are a family. We are fighting for you, and we are rooting for you.
These kids have no one to turn to. Why are we not doing more to help them? Why are we not letting them know we are here fighting for them? This is a time where we can not be silent. We need to stand up, we need to fight. We need to be a community. We need to be the gayest we have ever been.
I have been living my life openly for a long time, but I never actually came out. I never thought I would have to. But I now see the importance in living openly, being proud, and the power in saying “I’m gay. I understand what you’re going through, and you’re not alone.”
I will no longer neglect my platform. I will no longer live in fear of being "too gay." I am very gay. and I am very proud. And from the bottom of my heart, I love you all. I am here for you. I hope this rambling somehow makes you feel a little less alone in this big dumb stupid world.
My DMs on Twitter will remain open to anyone. Please DM me if you need to talk.
Elijah Daniel is a comedian and writer living in Los Angeles.