I’ve kept quiet about what happened in Orlando. I’ve switched my laptop on so many times to write something, and yet I couldn’t find the words to say what I wanted to say.

I now know what I want to say.

When the shooting at the Bataclan in Paris happened last year, I couldn’t stop reading the news articles and watching videos on YouTube and gathering more and more information about the whos and the whats and the WHYS? Oh the WHYS. There were, and still are, so many. After the news broke about Orlando, I purposely stayed away from reading any media articles about what happened. I don’t know why, exactly, but I think it has something to do with it being just too close to home.

I am gay. And the people in Pulse nightclub in Orlando were also gay. And it seems they were killed for that very reason. Killed because they were different to the man who—and I’ve heard that maybe he was gay himself—didn’t like that about them and decided, in the most harrowing, brutal way to show the world that he meant it.

I’ve found that most people don’t like different. I am one of those people. I can be a real twat, you know. Sometimes, I find it really hard to be open-minded in the face of a person or a situation that’s different to what I consider normal (what even IS normal?) I accept that about myself. I think it’s part of human nature, to automatically reject what is different to us. I have this theory—and I am certain that it is not my theory and I heard it somewhere else—that there’s still something in our human conditioning that dates back to our hunterer-gatherer days, when being different was dangerous and massively risky. Not only to yourself, but to your people, your tribe. To be different back then meant certain death. Nothing good was to come from breaking away from the tribe and wandering into a forest alone, or shouting and hollering, drawing un-wanted attention to the tribe. And so, we learnt instinctively to be like everyone else. To blend in. To keep safe. To talk and do as the rest of the tribe did, and in doing so, remain secure and liked. To belong.

Our brains, of course, have evolved since then. And with this progress, we now have a huge capacity for emotional connectedness. We can be kind and show compassion to others in a way the hunter-gatherers couldn’t. Even when we don’t necessarily agree or are challenged by another person in some way.

Someone challenged me the other day on my Facebook page. About something I posted. A quote, written by someone else, that I liked and thought the people who read my page might like too. I didn’t like being challenged. And I certainly didn’t agree what with the person had to say. My first reaction was to delete what this person had written and remove them from my page. Get rid. I don’t need that kind of difference on my page. They don’t belong here.

And yet I didn’t delete the comments.

Instead, I took a big, deep, breath and replied to them. With kindness and an understanding that it’s ok to be different.

Being different paves the way for interesting conversations and ideas and other ways of thinking about things. We can learn a lot through our differences, you know. When we take the time to listen to another person—and I mean really listen—it’s such a beautiful thing.

I’ve been in Germany for just under a year now. I really love living here. For so many reasons, and yet…. I’m the most lonely I’ve ever been in my life. I haven’t met many English speaking people, and my German, although getting better every single day, is still far from being good enough to have proper conversations. I know that there’s a popular website, for English speaking people living in Germany, with forums and opportunities to meet other people, and, although I often read through the threads, I haven’t posted anything. Do you know why? Because there’s a small part of me that worries that people won’t to be friends with me because I am gay. Because I am different. And it’s so stupid, right? It’s so stupid to think that way….until 49 people are killed in a nightclub because of their sexuality. Because their difference was just too much for someone.

I want to live in a world where being different is ok. Where it’s celebrated. No matter whether you’re gay, straight, transgender, bisexual, black, white, WHATEVER. I want to live in a world where children learn from a really early age that it’s ok to be different, to not have to be like everyone else. To not have to blend in, and talk and do as everyone else does in order to feel safe and liked. And I’m not just talking about sexuality and race here, I’m talking about EVERYTHING. I want to live in a world where it’s ok to be ourselves, no matter how and what and why we may differ from the next person.

“Hurt people hurt.” I have to remember this a lot. We judge and blame and bitch and complain about others when really, we’re just judging and blaming and bitching and complaining about ourselves. It’s much easier to throw shame at someone else instead of looking at your own shit, right?

Hurt people hurt. Maybe the man who shot 49 people in an Orlando nightclub was in a world of pain. The same world of pain that the family and loved ones of those 49 are now experiencing by his very hand on the trigger of a gun.

I notice my American friends on Facebook talking about the gun laws in their country. And the need to do something about it. I agree, absolutely, that something must be done. Petitions can be signed and calls can be made to their Senators and Representatives, asking them to support extended background checks and to work to prevent people from buying firearms. After all, firearms serve no other purpose than to maim and kill.

It will take time. To make these things happen. I hope they happen in our lifetime. A lifetime that some will now have to live without the person in their life who was killed in a nightclub in Orlando.

It starts with us. Everything does. With our beating hearts and wonderful brains and being less twatty with each other.

We have it within us to be kinder and gentler and more understanding with people who are different from us. We’re born with it. I know this because I am the mother of a one and a half year old boy and it’s all he knows, to be kind and gentle. And yet I also know, as each day he grows older, that the world will teach him things I don’t want him to know, that he’ll come face to face with different ideas and beliefs and thoughts that are not his. And I know it will be up to him to decide how he responds to these things. It both breaks and opens my heart even thinking about it.

We all judge. We don’t like difference. That’s ok. It is.

And what makes it ok is that we get to CHOOSE how we behave and respond to others, regardless of what we think and believe about them.

CHOOSE gentle instead of harsh.
CHOOSE kindness instead of hate.
CHOOSE understanding instead of judgement.
CHOOSE being less of a twat instead of being a twat.

I know that all this CHOOSING won’t change what happened in Orlando. Or Paris. OR EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD where horrible fucking things happen every single day.

But if it’ll make the world even just a little bit softer, it’s worth it, right? It’s a start.

Our gentleness, kindness, understanding and not being so much of twat to each other can make a big difference……..in the face of big difference.

Over and out.