Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to focus on learning about the realities of marginalized communities.
I’ve chosen my books wisely, follow people on social media with intent- people of color, black activists, authors, LGBTQ folks. I’m thirsty for knowledge on experiences that I haven’t lived, trying my best to learn how to make things better, using my privilege the best I know how.
I’ve listened harder.
I absorb more information everyday. I volunteer when I can, I donate what I can, I attend rallies when I’m able.
I try not to be one-issue focused, but of course I’m partial to advocating for trans rights because this is my son’s reality. This is his life.
It took our lived experiences to truly wake me up. (And I say “our” because my son is young and I’ve had to do a lot of advocating on his behalf.)
Of course I’ve known discrimination, racism, and bigotry have existed. But my privilege tended to always allow me to look at society through rose colored glasses. So much so that when then Black Lives Matter movement began, I was one of the ignorant white people who just didn’t get it.
I had to listen harder. I had to read stories and recounts, look at statistics, absorb. Quietly, without the “but not all white people” interjection.
I was called out on Twitter once by the amazing Bishop Swan for appropriating the BLM movement by saying women should “take a knee” in protest to Kavanaugh last year. It was a humbling experience.
I listened. I learned. I didn’t respond in defense, but with humility and willingness to do better.
I do my best to teach Dylan about real history, the history that schools refuse to teach. I do my best to not recreate the ignorance I lived in for so long.
No ally is perfect. I’m far from it. But if we are going to change society, it’s the allies that need to do the work.
As a public advocate, it can be even more tricky because I’m always concerned with stepping on toes or somehow powering over voices who matter more.
Ally-ship is a verb and it’s a constant evolution.
And what I’m receiving on this end of advocacy in response to many of my posts are messages such as “Protect ALL kids, not JUST trans kids”, or, “Oh, SO MANY kids are bullied. It’s just part of growing up”, or, “Medical care can’t be that difficult to find”, or, “You’re being dramatic”.
Similar to what folks in marginalized communities hear every.single.day, and have for decades.
Here’s some wisdom to those sit in that camp, who make negating statements:
You’re not listening hard enough.
And you’re not an ally if you’re making these statements.
You’re dismissing every trial and tribulation of marginalized people.
When you tell me, “Protect ALL kids”, you’re not hearing me. You’re not listening to trans people. You’re not doing the work.
You’re not hearing that I had to sit through 3 hours of a school board meeting where I was called a child abuser, where my child was compared to a mass shooter, where my child was called a pedophile, where people spewed their hatred, all endured just so my child could have equal access to bathrooms, so his correct name and pronouns would be used in school.
You’re not hearing that we have to drive over an hour to find a doctor who is trained in caring for trans kids, and when I say trained, I mean willing to use his name and pronouns so they can treat my kid for a cold or a sinus infection or a sprained wrist.
You’re not hearing that every move I make as a parent, whether it’s traveling for the weekend, planning a move to another city, choosing a school for my child, etc., has to be decided and executed based on the fact that my child is trans.
You’re not hearing the stats on bullying, that approximately 90% of LGBTQ kids have been assaulted or harassed in school.
You’re not hearing that my child cannot serve in our United States military for no good reason at all.
You’re not hearing that homeless trans people are now forbidden to utilize pubic shelter, and that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.
You’re not hearing that most medical care for trans teens isn’t covered by insurance, even though it literally saves their lives.
You’re not hearing that the majority of states in our country do not have anti discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, so the likelihood of Dylan being fired or denied housing because he’s trans is real.
You’re not hearing that 51% of trans teen boys have attempted or thought about suicide…because society treats them like shit.
You’re not understanding that your cisgender (non trans) child, does not need protection from any of these things.
You’re not listening.
And just because society is talking more about equality and trans rights, “better” does not translate into “equal”. At all.
And “better” doesn’t translate into safety or acceptance, either.
There will always be work to do as an ally. There never space for complacency or sitting idle. And there’s certainly never space for dismissive statements such as “All Lives Matter” or “Protect ALL Kids”.
Are you really listening? Are you listening as hard as you can?
Listen until you’re uncomfortable. Until you’re pushed to rethink everything you every believed. Listen to the anger, to the impatience, to the rawness, to the the exhaustion of marginalized communities.
They don’t owe you patience or kindness or an explanation of their existence or validation of their experiences.
But as a fellow human being, they’re owed equality, equal access, and safety.
Stop negating. Those rose colored glasses are lying to you everyday. And you’re believing the lies…because you can.
Protect Trans Kids. I didn’t stutter.