Anyone who knows me knows that I do not like controversy. I don’t talk politics or religion. I can’t stand when people get together for a friendly gathering and end up in a heated argument that so easily could have been avoided. So why am I sporting a brand new tattoo of the colors of a rainbow on my arm?
Let’s go back a bit. From the time my daughter could walk, she followed around boys. She was in love with her preschool teacher, Ben. She was in love with a boy she met on the school bus, Matthew. She was in love with her ski instructor, another Matthew. I never, in a million years, thought I would hear her tell me that she also perhaps liked girls. What happened after that conversation was a yearlong process of me getting over my sheltered upbringing.
It has also been a year of people saying, “It’s probably just a phase,” and “she’s only twelve, how does she know?” I think about these questions, and I think back to myself, “marrying” my friend Scott on the playground in school when I was in the second grade. I think about how I was forever chasing boys around. By the time I was twelve, I had a long list of past and present boyfriends, all of whom I loved very much for at least a day. All innocent kid stuff – yet no one once asked my parents, “how does she know that she likes boys, she’s only twelve?”
When I fell in love again after my divorce, I was worried that I would hurt my daughter. I thought maybe it was too soon and she wouldn’t understand. Then a very good friend told me that it’s good for her to see that love is organic – you can’t choose who you fall in love with, it just happens. You can’t go around pretending you’re someone you’re not, or worrying more about what other people think of you more than your happiness. Little did I know how quickly that lesson would be one for me to learn again.
Perhaps by the time the ink on this page dries my daughter will actually like boys again, exclusively, who knows? That is not why my arm is sore, not why I open myself up to a conversation (and possibly enough, a conflict) whenever someone sees my tattoo. The reason why I got this tattoo was to support my daughter. To let her know that whatever she decides to do in life, or whoever her soul is attracted to, I will be there beside her. I got it so that it is literally written on my skin that I love her enough to leave my comfort zone on a daily basis. I will stick up for her, I will protect her (better yet, I will teach her how to protect herself), and I will unconditionally accept whoever she chooses to have in her life, so long as they are kind to her.
I do this because I have seen and read about what happens to people – kids, teenagers, adults – when they feel alone. Like I have told my family; there are not more gay people in society today than when they were younger or when I was younger. The difference is that not so many years ago, people who felt different were forced to hide who they were. People entered unhappy marriages and pretended they were someone they were not, all to fit in. Kids ended their lives because they were different.
I don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell my daughter that I love her no matter what. I don’t want a tattoo in her honor because she is gone. I want her to know that I am proud of her and I support her, right now, today.
In the words of Brendon Urie, from Panic! At the Disco, “Love is not a choice.” That’s true – love is not a choice – but wearing my statement on my arm was a choice. And it is one that I will make every day for the rest of my life.
© 2017 Amy Sampson-Cutler