Dear Zachary and Elijah
Can you recall when you first met me on stage? Your Papa took you to Las Vegas’ 2018 show. The lights, costumes and crowd amazed you both. Afterward, you both said: “I didn’t know Daddy could do that.”
Once upon a time, I didn’t know I could do it, either. You’re 11 and 9 years old now, and when I was your age, I could never have dreamed where life would take me. In 75 years of my life, I can see so many accomplishments and so many lessons. You are two of the most important parts of my life. I would like to share some of these lessons with you.
When I was young, I was told to fit in, to do what others expected even when it didn’t feel right. Now, I know I am only me. I found my voice and faced my worst fears by being true to me. I’ve forged deep friendships, found the love of my life, and became your Daddy. Whoever you grow up to be, just be you—fully and completely you.
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I know being accepted for who you really are in the world isn’t always easy. In my 75-years as a gay man I’ve seen so many positive social changes. It used to be that LGBTQ+ people were seen as “wrong,” or “the bad guys.” We still have a ways to go, but, your Papa and I felt safe enough to bring you both into this world. As the kids of two fathers, we believed that you’d be welcomed here.
Yet, even though we loved you so much and felt pride and love for you, there was still a part that was scared. Do other children make fun of you for having two fathers?
We read to you stories of families just like yours at bedtime. What was your favourite? The Family BookTodd Parr Both of you immediately grasped its simplicity. “There are lots of different ways to be a family,” it said. “Your family is special no matter what kind it is.”
Elton John, David Furnish and their sons Zachary, Elijah, arrive at a September 16, 2017, Premier League match, Watford. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images).
Getty Images-2017 Getty Images
You knew you were different from the moment you entered school. Knowing that you are different made you feel loved. You and your teachers were open to answering any questions that your classmates had. You had a chance to grow—and so did your classmates.
This opportunity is for every child on the planet. But as I write this letter to you, the government in Florida wants to stop kids’ teachers from even “saying gay” in their classrooms.
Continue reading: What Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Could Mean for LGBTQ Kids
Think about what it would be like if your teachers were prohibited from talking about your family. We are not allowed to tell stories about ourselves at school. There will be no reading of books about boys by two fathers. This bill may prevent children from receiving the support they require if they have difficulty understanding and accepting who they are.
It is actually happening. While some areas of the world are accepting more, other parts become more divided and more dangerous. It’s causing us all to fall backwards. According to Human Rights Watch, there are at most 68 countries that continue to criminalize LGBTQ+ persons. Just for being themselves, your Papa or I might be taken into custody. Never forget the blessings we have.
So, that brings me back to my second life lesson. Build bridges not walls. I’ve played to billions of people in my career and had the joy of meeting many thousands of them. Most people—gay, straight, Black, white, rich, or poor—all want some basic things in life: to be safe, respected, loved, and free. Today, however, too many people shut down diversity and refuse to embrace it.
My commitment to fighting AIDS has opened my eyes in ways that I never could have imagined. For decades, people living with HIV and AIDS have been shamed, stigmatized, and harshly judged—or even worse, ignored.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation was established thirty years ago by me to offer HIV treatment and essential HIV testing to millions. It also helps people with HIV overcome stigma. We have brought together the AIDS community with the governments of many countries, large pharmaceutical companies, churches, media, and the religious. We have created a space for dialogue and helped turn the tide against the AIDS epidemic.
We still have work to do—including, right now, in Russia and Ukraine, where this devastation is hurting vulnerable people and preventing them from getting access to the services that could save their lives. Born in the wake of World War II and raised in Europe, I didn’t think I’d ever see this kind of conflict again. It’s heartbreaking. This must end.
Continue reading: LGBTQ Refugees Seek Safety After fleeing Ukraine
These are not the ideal circumstances for a child to grow up in. My goal is for you to be a happy child, free of conflict and where your hopes, dreams, and goals can come true. And I want every other child—every other person, everywhere—to have that same opportunity. I’ve seen how we can make progress by acknowledging our differences and learning how to have compassion and empathy for each other.
This brings me to the final lesson. Give back. The most fulfilling thing that you can do is serve someone else. This world is unequal and unfair, and it’s on us to make it better. That’s why I have given so much to my music and my foundation. I have received so much joy from their influence.
It has been an amazing 75 years. I’ve had my share of adventures, and I’ll tell you about some of the wilder ones another time. The most fulfilling journey of my life was the one that I started 12 years ago when I met your Papa and decided to have a family.
David Furnish, Elton John and Zachary, their sons, attend the 23rd Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party in Los Angeles on February 22, 2015. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images to EJAF
Getty Images: EJAF 2015 Michael Kovac
Zachary, Elijah. You are both the best gifts I have received. You have filled my heart with love and my life with purpose and meaning in ways I didn’t think were possible. My proudest accomplishments, you are both my greatest, and I love each of them so so.
After the lockdown, I saw my world in a new way. I’ll always love to travel and play music for my fans, but you showed me I could have just as much fun at home with you playing UNO, or going to Pizza Express.
I will end my advice with these words:
You can be yourself. Be yourself and push the limits.
Keep in mind that we are more united than divided.
Take care of one another—and try to be part of something bigger than yourself.
Never forget to tell your Papa how much you are loved by me and mine.
Love, love, love,
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