I love you.
I love you, very much. I am upset with you, for what you did. You hurt many people and did a lot of damage to this world, and to our community. I find it impossible to understand how you could have done what you did. But I forgive you and love you all the same.
I wanted to write you a letter, because many people are talking about you and what you did, and I fear that remembering the human being you were will be forgotten. I know that you were a human being. I will never forget it.
I know that you weren’t a terrorist, whatever that is, simply because your name sounds Arabic in a way which conforms to a certain conception of ‘terrorism’ as it used by politicians and fearmongers in this country. I know that what you did was the result of storms and storms of irreconcilable forces raging inside you, that the force of these storms was too much for you to bear, and thus you burst and did the horrible thing you did. So I want to talk about these storms, so that what happened and what you did doesn’t get transformed into some tool for others to use to promote more killing and violence.
Because this is about you. Nobody else. This is about the forces which pushed upon you and were too much for you to bear. And only by focusing on those forces and on you and on how painful it all was for you can we hope that others don’t have to bear the same suffering that you did, and prevent others from buckling beneath it the way you did.
I know that you might have been gay. Or that you might have been attracted to other guys.
Maybe you weren’t. Maybe you were straight. Maybe you were any of a million things. But if you were gay, that was OK. If you liked having sex with dudes, that’s OK. If you wanted to be married to a woman and have children, that’s OK. If your parents were religious and you wanted them to be happy in seeing you have a family, that’s OK. It’s all OK.
But if you liked guys, that was OK. Maybe you didn’t think so. Maybe you never got over all that your parents and religion and your communities and society taught you about what it means to be ‘gay.’ Maybe all those conflicting messages were horribly confusing for you. Maybe they went against things that you felt and emotions which arose in your mind, which you couldn’t control, and you felt powerless and weak. Maybe all those messages told you that this and that was right, that humans were supposed to feel and think in certain ways, and behave correspondingly. And then you felt things opposite of that. They were exciting, or relentless, or pervasive, or incredible feelings that wouldn’t go away. They tormented you, made you feel like a failure, made you feel weak and isolated from the communities you’d grown up in. They made you feel worthless and unimportant, like you didn’t belong and would be thrown away and discarded and rejected.
I know what that’s like. I grew up and had feelings like that and then thought the same things about myself. It was awful. I felt like my mother and friends and school and society would hate me and would throw me away because I wasn’t what I was supposed to be. I hated what I was and tried to change it.
This created a lot of discord inside me, a lot of pressure and steam. All that pressure can never stay bottled up, it needs to find a way out. For me, it found its way out in self-destructive behaviors: isolating myself from the world around me, lying and lying, pretending to be something I wasn’t, using drugs, running away from others my age and chasing relationships that weren’t healthy for me, having unsafe sex that could have ended my life prematurely, treating the people around me like crap. And on and on and on.
And just like you I found that the queer community isn’t a land of perfection, of universal acceptance and togetherness. There is a lot of judgment and hate here, too. Lots of fear. Lots of rejection. Lots of uncertainty and a lot inability to coexist. That hurt me. That made me afraid. I hid, or I lashed out and hurt others if we got too close. But somehow I held on and time passed, I continued and found people, genuine people. I keep finding community. I keep finding people who accept me, who I can accept and we can be together just as we are.
I was luckier than you. My family accepted me as I was, I had that as a refuge and sanctuary to retreat back into as I tried exploring and got hurt or scared. I live in California, a place filled with others like me, of all ages and races and walks of life. These were all cushions, they padded the walls and ground as I leapt off cliff after cliff of my fear and indecisiveness. It seems you didn’t have those cushions.
But, it seems like you tried to jump off them all the same. You ventured out into the realm of all you feared and you had been made to believe was wrong. You went to gay clubs and used apps and tried to meet people. What happened out there? Were you rejected? Did you not find acceptance? Did you hear messages of: you are not good enough, not beautiful enough, not sexy enough? You are not interesting enough? You do not belong here?
You do not belong, here, either? And so you thought: I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t belong with anybody.
How painful that must have been. How excruciating. I weep for you, Omar. How painful that must have been. I am sorry. I am so, so, so sorry.
So I will say it now, even though it’s too late for you, and for those who you hurt. I love you.
I look at the selfies you took, looking into the camera, earnest. Your eyes and soul are shining through and asking: do you like me? Do you think I’m cute? The answer is yes. I think you’re adorable. You look cuddly, you look like you have interesting things to say, you look cool and fun and like an awesome dude and human. I accept you. I would have listened to everything you needed to say and get out. I would have allowed you to be whatever it was that you were, mass of contradictions and unknowns and un-understoods that it was. We could have figured it out together. I don’t know it all about me, either. But we could have talked and accepted each other and figured it out together.
You would have found someone. It gets better, I wish I could have told you and somehow convinced you, it gets better. You could have found the right people. You could have found community and acceptance. You didn’t need to suffer alone, you didn’t need to bear all the weight of the world and your parents and your religion on your shoulders. You didn’t need to figure it all out alone. You didn’t need to do what you did.
Oh, Omar. I love you. I love you so much. I accept you just as you are. I forgive you. You are part of our community: the LGBTQ community, the human community, the Muslim community, the American community. Part of your family, part of mine, part of them all. And no matter what you did, no matter how terrible and horrible and incomprehensible for me it is, I forgive you, and accept you as you are. I will help you, and anyone like you, if and when I can. The anger and rage inside you, the loathing and loneliness, the confusion and misery; and the terrible way you lashed out, are part of our community too. They are part of queerdom and humankind, of the queer community defined by the separation and distinction forced upon it, of a humankind which teaches division and violence, a queerdom and humandkind which rejects its own members and thus engenders loneliness and anger. And only by accepting this part of ourselves and as it is, can we began the journey to understand it and rising above it.
I love you, Omar. I refuse to pretend that you are something other than what you are, that you are ‘evil’ in contrast with the rest of us who remain in the realm of ‘good.’ I refuse to believe that what you did makes you subhuman. I refuse to believe that I am better than you. I refuse to believe that you could not have been helped to understand the storms inside you and construct a positive self-image. I refuse to believe that you were a terrorist. I refuse to believe that the loneliness and anger you felt were not valid responses to the people around you meeting you with messages of hate, rejection, and division. I refuse to believe that you did not deserve to be surrounded by loving and accepting people who could have helped you to overcome what you didn’t understand and what tormented you. I refuse to believe that we could not have helped you to not do what you did. I refuse to do anything other than love you and accept you, and everyone else, every other human being, everywhere, no matter what and who they are.
I love you, Omar. I am sorry you are gone, and I never got a chance to learn about you and your life. So, I hope you can know now, that I love you.