I remember the first time I had an intense crush on a girl. I had spent my summer at a Girl Scout camp called Camp Laughing Waters. One of the counselors was a woman named Betsy Brown AKA Sarge. Sarge stirred such intense feelings in me. I followed her all over camp. On the last day of camp I was lucky enough to get a goodbye hug from her. That hug made my summer.
My parents witnessed that hug and started making fun of me. Their teasing made me feel dirty. They made me feel as if I had done something wrong. I spent the next 25 years trying to ignore those feelings.
Parent's acceptance and unconditional love for a child is EVERYTHING! Without that there is a lot of self-hate. Self-hatred can lead to a host of emotional problems including homophobia. People with intense homophobia strike out at people in the LGBTQ community because they hate the feelings they are having and transfer those feelings to those who are out and proud.
I finally came out when I was 38 years old. It was hard. Thankfully I had and still have a very supportive group of friends. People who celebrated me and loved me. That's what the our community is about. We celebrate and support each other and when someone comes in and harms us, we stick together no matter where it happens.
We of the South Dakota LGBTQ family are here for you, Orlando. Your pain is our pain. Your loss is our loss. We are all one.
As you go about your day, hug your children and remember that unconditional love is the most important thing you can give your child.