Thursday, July 7, 2016

What AM I Gonna Tell My Kids?

Another day waking up with coffee and cats and internets. . .

Another black man shot and killed by police.

On camera.

Y'all. . . . my soul is sick, and I don't know how much more it can take.

There was a time in my life when I would have willfully tried to ignore all the tragic loss of life in our country.  All the killing.  There was a time when I was so consumed with what was going on with ME (me me me me MEEEEEE) that I would've put the problems and injustice of the world on the backburner, while I instead focused on what was in my own head and my own back yard.

No more.

I no longer have the luxury of doing that.

Because I have children now.

And I'm supposed to be teaching them.

Not just their numbers and alphabet, and how we hang our towels up when we get out of the bath, but also about how this world works, and how to safely traverse it.

Only problem is just. . . how in the hell am I supposed to do THAT?  . . .

A couple of weeks ago, we were returning home from a much-needed family vacation at the beach.  About halfway through the drive home and we stopped at a gas station for a restroom break.  And while I was standing there, holding my young son's hand as we waited on a stall to open up (because I still refuse to let him go in a restroom alone), a lady that worked there began proclaiming her anti-transgender opinions loudly, and to the room at large.

Again. . . there was a time when I would've simply ignored her.  I can see it now. . .  I might've rolled my eyes, or felt quietly enraged, but ultimately would've shrugged it off.  My reasoning being that she clearly felt pretty strongly about her opinions, and odds were low that I was going to change her mind that day.

I will say again:  NO.  MORE.

So on THAT day. . . I contradicted her.  Me.

I LOUDLY and angrily disagreed.  (Which, as a lifelong introvert and all around "shy" person, was not an easy, or comfortable, thing for me to do.)  She had shared her opinion with me (though I didn't ask for it), and ended her rant with something like: "Can you believe that??"

And so I proceeded to share MY opinion with HER.  To summarize:

Yes.  Yes, I CAN believe that.  Trans people have been using the restroom beside you for your entire life, and you've never known it.  They're not pedophiles.  They're just trans.  And unfortunately for all of us, that little stick sign on the restroom door does not now, and has not ever, had the power to keep sickos and perverts OUT of that area.  Your children are not going to be in any more danger than they ever were, so please spare me the "WHAT OF THE CHILDREN???!??" tirade.  . . . And actually, if you want to get more to the POINT of the safety of your children. . . let's talk statistics:  Your children are statistically more likely to be harmed, abused, or molested by someone they know.  Someone in your family; someone in your church.

So I told her:  "Ma'am, I'd rather my son use the bathroom with a room full of trans women than use the restroom at your church."

And speaking of churches. . . and I only bring this up because DURING this incident at the gas station restroom, there was another woman standing in line who heard the entire exchange.  She could tell I was getting pissed, as I made absolutely no secret about it.  And THIS woman made a point of telling the first lady that SHEEEEE was a Christian.  And SHEEEEE agreed.  And SHEEEEE wishes they'd just make a separate bathroom altogether for all these "weirdos" to use.

You know. . . so all the "normal" people could feel safe.

And SHEEEEEE almost stunned me into silence.

. . . almost.

But not quite.  =)

To her, I had a few words as well.  Words like:  "Where the hell is your compassion?!?"  
Where is your empathy?!?

No, you're clearly not trans.  But you're a human, right?  I mean, not to make presumptions, you're not acting like one, but . . . you certainly LOOK like one.

Can you even imagine?!  How incredibly, unbelievably DIFFICULT IT MUST BE to feel as though you WERE BORN "WRONG"???!!  To have people TELLING YOU THAT??

Can your shriveled little heart imagine that??
How awful and heart-wrenching it must feel?  And then, once you've figured out what the problem is, how horrible it must feel AGAIN, because you know that, unless you completely hide who you ARE, and make your life a complete charade, to KNOW that you are not going to be accepted??


. . . Can you imagine if it was your CHILD that was going through that??

. . . And can you then imagine your child innocently walking into a restroom, only to hear this kind of intolerance being spewed at him by a complete stranger?

I can.

My child is not trans, and that makes absolutely NO difference whatsoever.  

Because now, whether it is because I am now a mother, or perhaps just because of the way my heart is set. . . I CAN imagine.  

I imagine every trans person nervously walking into a bathroom as my CHILD.

I imagine every LGBT kid that's been kicked out of their home for coming out as who they ARE as my child.

. . . I imagine every victim in Orlando as my child.

. . . 

And it HURTS.  

It continues to hurt, and hurt, and hurt some more.

And I hope it never STOPS hurting.  

I'll take the hurt.  I'll take the tears shed for people I've never known and will never know.  I'll take every bit of the confusion and anger and despair.

I'll take it all, if it means that my heart never hardens to the point that I've lost all shadow of empathy for my fellow man.

I'll take it, and I'll shoulder it without complaint, if it means that I don't have to literally walk in someone else's shoes before I have compassion for the difficulty of their journey.

And still I hear that Restroom Lady's refrain in my mind:
"What about the CHILDREN?  What are we gonna tell our CHILDREN??!"

Welp.  Gotta say, that one stops me in my tracks.

. . . What AM I gonna tell my children?

I'm gonna tell them everything I can.

And odds are, I'm gonna cry when I say it.

I've already told them about a certain rape case where the rapist basically got off scott-free.  Though I did NOT mention the word "rape."  And yeah.  I cried when I told them.

I said: "There was a girl on a college campus, and she was drunk.  That is not unusual on college campuses.  But there was a boy, about your older brother's age. . . and he was hurting her.  And two more boys drove by on their bicycles, and saw it.  And they STOPPED him.  They held him down until the police got there.  And if they HADN'T. . . he would've gotten away with it.  They were just normal boys.  And they saw something bad happening, and they STOPPED it.  They stopped it, boys.  . . . And that is who I want you to be.  I want you to be the boys that are brave enough to stand up and STOP IT."

Now. . . I'm sure, someone will have a problem with me saying this to my kids.

I would like to loudly state that I DO NOT CARE.

No, I don't share every horrible thing that happens in the news with them, and I am diligent in protecting them as best I can, for as long as I can.  But when they ASK me why I'm crying. . . as delicately as possible, I'm gonna TELL them.

I'm gonna tell them because they cannot FIGHT the darkness if they don't know it EXISTS.

I'm gonna tell them because I DO want them to be the boys who stop it.  I DO want them to be brave.  I want them to know that that is what is RIGHT, and it is not easy.

But it is EXPECTED.

But back to the idea of WHAT AM I GONNA TELL MY CHILDREN???

Honestly, in light of what is happening in this country, and most recently and tragically in Baton Rouge. . . I'm asking myself that very question.

What am I gonna tell my kids??

When they're old enough to be going out, and driving, and hanging out (like kids do) . . . What am I gonna tell them about the police?

. . . .

And this is where I start crying again.

I saw something posted on a friend's timeline this morning, and as soon as I saw it, I literally felt physically sick.  It was a picture of that white rapist (I refuse to even utter the name), alongside pictures of two black men that have been killed by police officers.  With the caption: "It's safer in this country to be a white rapist than to be a black man selling cigarettes or cd's."

So while all these people are worried about having a not-originally-a-woman peeing in the closed stall next to them, I'm wondering how in the hell I'm gonna explain how THIS statement came to be the truth in this country.

????  . . . Any ideas?  Anyone??

(And I'm gonna stop anyone before they start:  I have former police officers in my family.  They are GOOD people.  . . . That does not mean that there aren't BAD cops out there.)

How about this:

I have two small(ish) children.

One of them has blonde hair and blue eyes.

And honestly. . . I'm not as worried about him.  Because racism exists.  It is real.  And he lucked out in the genetic lottery and, fortunately for my heart, probably doesn't look like what a cop is going to think of as a "potential threat."  He looks like your basic pasty-skinned white kid.

And then there's my other child.

He has beautiful brown skin, and dark hair.

And I'm just gonna say it:  I worry about him.  I worry more about him than I do my other son.  I worry about his safety.  Because he looks a certain way.

And he's not even black.  Just mildly brown.  And it is enough that I worry for him.  

. . . And I weep for every mother whose child is a certain-shade-of-skin, or darker.

Because their children are in danger.


. . . How am I supposed to HOLD that?!?!

. . . ???

. . . How am I supposed to explain THAT to my children??

. . . How am I supposed to explain this very real fear?

. . . .

But back to the woman in the restroom.
And to the family of the victim in Baton Rouge.
And to every mother OUT THERE that has REASON to worry for the safety of her children.

You can factor in my long history of shyness, and the deeply-ingrained Southern part of me that says: "Respect your elders.  Don't you contradict them.  Just let it go."

So. . . . why didn't I just let it go that day?

Why didn't I just let it slide?
----Our children are being taken from us.

This Restroom Lady was a stranger to me.  And my comments to her that day are almost certainly NOT going to change her mind, or her views.  About anything.

So. . . why did I do it?

. . . .

Because there is simply not ONE MORE THING that I can let slide.
I did it because we've all gotta start somewhere.

I did it because my son was watching.

I did it because I'm a mother.

I did it because I DO have a tender heart.

I did it because kids -- kids in OUR COUNTRY -- are feeling so unaccepted, and so scorned, that they are LITERALLY KILLING THEMSELVES.

I'll say again, just in case you think this is not that big a deal:

I did it because our citizens are being killed on the street by our law enforcement.  Men. . . women. . . kids.

And because I realized that I can't listen to any more bullshit.  As in:  this white girl LITERALLY CAN'T EVEN with one more ounce.

I did it because silence can easily be confused with agreement.

I did it because I want her, and anyone like her, to KNOW just HOW MANY PEOPLE DISAGREE WITH HER.  I want her to KNOW that her opinions ARE NOT MINE.

I didn't do it because I thought I was going to change that one woman.
I did it because I am out for nothing less than to change the entire freaking world.