My wife and I got married two months ago. It was something I wasn’t sure would happen, and I felt a huge burst of happiness, joy and pride when we were pronounced “wife and wife.” I’ve worked hard for marriage equality, and I am proud of the progress my community has made. And yet, there has never been a day when I haven’t carried a small piece of worry around with me. Constant vigilance is exhausting, and there is no such thing as a truly safe space. This weekend’s massacre in Orlando has proved that point with a finality that should shock and horrify every person in this country.
As the events unfolded, all I could think about was how that shooting could have easily killed any of my queer friends scattered across the country — or, for that matter, me. I didn’t and don’t have words for the outrage and grief I feel, and so I turned to the members of my family who truly understand the situation: my dogs.
My dogs don’t care that they have two moms. They love us, and we love them. It is as simple as that. My dogs have never turned to me and said, “Your lifestyle disgusts us.” They have never said, with a mixture of love and condescension, “We don’t approve of your choices, but we still love you.” They have never turned to me and said, “You just haven’t met the right man.” Even better, they haven’t said, “You’re gay only because you haven’t met me yet,” and then tried to force themselves on me. Best of all, no dog has ever walked into a room full of people and shot them with an assault rifle. No. My dogs love me without conditions or hypocrisy, accepting me for who I am.
Growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender isn’t easy or safe. I can’t count the number of days I’ve come home in tears, but I remember them all. It adds up. It’s exhausting. From high school to college to adulthood, hatred, bigotry and violence have shadowed my footsteps. Burdens like that are par for the course in my community, and we learn to live with them and, in general, get on with our lives and make the best of it. It’s not all doom and gloom. For me, the bright spot has always been my pets.
I have always sought out animals for comfort. Dogs, cats and horses have helped me remain strong and made me feel loved. My pets tell me every day that I deserve to be alive, and without my furry support network, I honestly don’t know where I would be. My pets were there for me during the darkest days of my life and helped me get through things I didn’t feel I could talk about to anyone. Every LGBT animal lover I know will tell you the same story.
There is a reason most of the gay, lesbian and trans people you know are a little obsessed with their pets. To us, our pets are our biggest support systems. Sure, we have friends and family, but at the end of every day — and for many of us, those days are long and dangerous — our pets are waiting without judgment. We need them. Pets are the best bundle deal out there. You get love, acceptance, comfort, company and a reason to get up in the morning, all rolled into a bundle of fluffy joy. They are the silent civil rights warriors who give their people the strength they need to get up and fight, live and love every single day.
The waves of support that followed the tragedy are a reminder that most of the world stands behind my community, but that is a small comfort at the moment. There are times when the pressure of other people’s ignorance and hate is too much to bear. I turn to my pets during those times because I simply can’t handle humanity. If you need me, I’ll be hanging out with my dogs, who have figured out what a disturbingly large percentage of this country has yet to realize: Love is love. It really is that simple.