Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the past few months, you’ve heard about the horrible person who left a hate filled note on their neighbor’s door wishing death upon her autistic child.
You may have also heard the infinitely better news about a young girl in Colorado who won the right to use the girl’s restroom, despite having been born with a penis. This was followed by the awesome news that California is taking this policy state-wide. If you were smart, you didn’t read the responses of a fearful few to this news.
If you were reading closely, you may also have heard that New Mexico is legalizing gay marriage. And that some people believe this violates their rights to bring their children out in public without seeing gay people being affectionate.
All of these reaction stories, from delivering hate mail to a neighbor, to fearing transgender or gender creative youth, or believing that we have the right to be in the world without seeing “others” have a common thread.
The fear of having to have potentially uncomfortable conversations with our children.
So let me pop your bubble.
Not everyone is like you.
That does not give you the right to demean them, discount them, or put them in a closet for YOUR comfort.
I’ve had to have some uncomfortable conversations with my own kids about people who didn’t fit into my ideal world view. We’ve had to talk about people who spew bigotry and hate, and how they too have their rights and their place in this country.
We’ve had to talk about what makes people so angry, so afraid.
We have had to remind each other of the Serenity Prayer.
We have had to ask for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Our fear of the “other” does not give us the right to deny them their freedoms. Our fear of having uncomfortable conversations with our children about the existence of people who are not like us does not mean those people have to live in hiding to avoid damaging our delicate sensibilities.
We need to be better than that. It’s important to have these conversations.
When the trans* girl in Colorado won her case, my family celebrated. And it gave us an opportunity to talk to our girls about another slice of the rainbow of human experience. It gave us another chance to talk about the truth that gender is largely a social construct, to remind them of all the ways that we all break gender barriers every day, to talk about the ways in which gender expectations and gender norms have changed throughout history. When we told them pink used to be a boy color, it blew their minds! (Even more than a girl who was born with a penis.)
When they found out my favorite news anchor is a lesbian they asked me if I would ever leave their father for her. (I’ve said out loud how much I love and respect this woman.)
“No, babies. I love Rachel, but I’m not attracted to women. Besides, she’s already in a happy relationship.”
When my children have questions about disabled people, I try to answer them as honestly as I can. Depending on the situation, I tell them that some people are born with different physical or mental abilities. Some people are in accidents that change their abilities. We have a friend who is in a wheel chair because of an accident he had as a teen. He is also the most hardcore bicyclist and skier I know. (And a hell of a dancer!) His accident changed how he moves through the world, but it didn’t change who he IS.
When my children have questions about people of other races, I do my best to answer them without drawing on stereotypes or resorting to unhelpful statements like, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
This idea is founded on intersectionality: the idea that the rights and freedoms of any one person are predicated on the rights of the whole. I am not free unless everyone is free.
If I believed that these people were somehow not the children of their creator, perhaps it would be harder to have these conversations. It’s uncomfortable to claim to have a God who is Love and yet preach hate and intolerance. How do you tell your children in the same breath that God loves all his children, but those people are an abomination?
Perhaps people who find themselves uncomfortable with the idea of sharing this world with people who are not like them should examine their convictions. If they expect freedom, they must also be willing to grant it to others.
Pop—there goes your bubble. Welcome to the real world.