A DOUBLE-EDGED BLESSING
Like so many things now days, it began with a message on my Face Book page. Film maker, Brian Alexander, had read Love in the Balance, a book in which I fictionalized the murders of Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett, and he wanted to interview me for the documentary he was doing on the murders (http://www.pittmannpuckett.com). I was both surprised and pleased.
But, that was only the beginning. He had sent a copy of my book to Susan Pittmann’s daughter Cynthia, and to say that I was nervous would be an understatement. When I was writing Love in the Balance, I purposely kept my knowledge of the murders to only what had been reported in the news – minimal at that time (1992), after-all they were lesbians and there was no such thing as a hate crime. But, after meeting with Brian, I was very surprised to find out how close to reality my imagination had taken me. There was a daughter I didn’t know about, threats and circumstances that I hadn’t known, so I had no idea how what I had imagined would be scrutinized by someone so close to what had actually happened.
What I did know was how close to home those murders were, how frightened and angry it made me, and how a community of people like myself had come together in the face of clear and present danger to make a difference. And, that was what I wanted to applaud.
Then, I read the letter that Cynthia Pittmann wrote to her late mother on her birthday (http://oasiswritinglink.blogspot.com). Her words brought tears to my eyes. She spoke to her mother and told her the things a mother longs to hear from her daughter – she thanked her for being the mother that she needed, and of the lessons she was still learning from her – then she told her about my book. I have never felt so honored.
“Did you see that book cover I posted here, Love in the Balance?” She wrote. “It has a character, Evonne, who is loosely based on you. And the scene of the murder trial, news reports, the sentencing of Mr. Brooks are all factually correct…There is one mention about a daughter, Jenny, who speaks to the reporters and at the funeral. Her words make people understand that her mother was a loving mother, grandmother, and friend – and that living a lesbian lifestyle does not mean that you are someone who is separated from the normal embrace of family life. That message is what I try to share as well. I think you would like the book. It’s about self-acceptance and celebrating life.”
No, I think ‘honored’ is not a big enough word for being a part of helping her share that message. I wrote her and told her that, and I asked if she would honor me further by writing the foreword to the sequel, The Indelible Heart. And what she wrote put a profoundly personal face to not only her own mother and her partner, but to all the families and friends, and to the hearts that are in pain and broken, and the senseless personal losses caused by hatred and intolerance.
Cynthia’s mother and her partner were murdered before hate crimes had a name, when fledgling LGBT organization’s numbers were few and their voices barely a whisper. Yet, even now, with the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in place and representation by strong LGBT organizations, the struggle is not over.
As Cynthia said at the end of her foreword, “…realize that it is our duty as members of society to stand together and continue a united struggle against intolerance and violence.”
It has been a privilege to get to know Cynthia and to be a part of carrying her message to the world. She is a true inspiration, and it doesn’t stop with her. Cynthia’s daughter, Amber, has been selected to work the LGBT outreach at her school and works through the human rights club, Spectrum, educating her community in San Juan, Puerto Rico, about LGBT issues.
Together we make the difference.
Causes Marianne Martin Supports
HRC, Michigan Equality, Gay & Lesbian Task Force, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, ASPCA, HSUS