If you follow me on social media (Instagram, mostly, as I rarely post on Facebook) you have probably heard that our family is moving. It’s all true, I don’t lie, we are leaving the LC Valley for something a little bigger, more accepting, more willing to understand and embrace.
First, if you are an LC Valley resident and this offends you, I’m sorry. This isn’t personal and isn’t meant to hurt anyone. It’s just kind of a fact. Look at the demographic here. White, republican, Christian seems to be the majority. That’s not wrong, but what tends to happen is that this particular demographic, as a whole, tends to have a hard time accepting and embracing those who don’t fit the mold. There are exceptions to this for sure (NOT EVERY WHITE, CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN IS THIS WAY…did you hear me? So you can’t say I said “they’re all like that”), but it’s hard to argue that I’m wrong. I’ve had to talk to my kids more times than I should that the people yelling on the corner of the blue bridge are racist. That the bumper sticker in front of us is offensive. That the tee shirt being worn at the grocery store is not appropriate.
In Portland, I wore my “No Human Being is Illegal” tee shirt and in 48 hours do you know how many people mentioned it? Seven. Seven people said they liked my shirt and one man in his early 30s told me it was “just beautiful.” Not one person out and about has commented on it positively here.
Anyway, my heart swelled with love after Luke came out publicly as being transgender. I had people ‘like’ my post, more than any other post. I had people text and call telling me how brave we were, how amazing we were, how wonderful Luke was. But as time went on, that support remained, but the judgement also came creeping in, slowly. First, a teacher at the school, of the other 2nd grade class, refused to hand out invitations to his party unless they were in white envelopes and even at that, posted something on her class’ Facebook page “warning” parents about what they were going to see. She freaked out when I wanted to talk to the kids and explain that Luke is still the same friend even though he is changing his name. I assured her that I’d never go into details about what Transgender means and nothing would be talked about as far as sexuality (dude, these are 2nd graders for God’s sake). But still, no. A children’s book, “I Am Jazz” wasn’t allowed to be read because it said “transgender.” The concern was the teacher’s Facebook page being blown up by parents who were unhappy, not that the children would learn something.
Little girls in the other class, ones who I thought were so wonderful and sweet, ones who were friends with Luke last year (good friends!), started reminding Luke weekly (if not daily) that he’ll never be a boy, he’ll always be a girl and that they will call him Alice.
Some parents told me that it was okay for them to be school friends, but they couldn’t get together outside of school. I pushed, because that’s what Ruthie does when she’s hurt and offended, and asked if it had anything to do with him being transgender. She won’t text me back.
Comments from friends told to other friends behind my back, questioning why we would “let” our child do this. Not having another family here with a young transgender child to connect with. The lack of resources here for both Luke and myself – no support group, no counselors well trained in this area, nothing.
If we stayed here, Luke would grow up being the token trans kid in the valley. He’d be the one everyone knew (I grew up here, my parents grew up here, we know many people in the valley) and the one thing they’d say about him before all else is: he’s transgender. He’d likely have a hard (if not impossible time) dating when he is old enough. School dances would be rough. Traveling for medical appointments would suck. Living in a very small community would Just. Plain. Suck. This is just the way it is with small towns — there aren’t enough resources to pull from, not enough experiences to relate to if you’re a bit different.
We’ve been so incredibly lucky to be able to support our large family. We don’t take that for granted and it’s something we are very grateful for. But here’s something money can’t buy: it can’t buy the feeling of acceptance or security. Money can’t keep your child from crying after school or when he hears he’s been denied yet another play date with one of his best friends. Money doesn’t make it so that Maria has to defend her younger sibling all the time to people (children!) who feel comfortable telling her how weird our situation is, using God to try and make her feel less-than. Maria needs to worry about herself, be a kid for the small amount of kid-time she has left. She loves her siblings and she would do and say anything to make them feel safe and happy, but that’s something she shouldn’t have to always be doing. Money doesn’t buy my friends back who have quietly and slowly pulled away.
Change doesn’t magically happen.
I’m tired. I’m tired of creating this bubble for my kids where I tell them they can be anything they want, they are loved regardless of what they look like, how they feel, how they act and who they are. And once they leave that bubble, they’re disappointed. They’re shocked. I teach my children about diversity not through living it in our everyday community. Not by having it be just part of life. No, here I have to seek out books and movies and we have to travel to other places. I have to have conversations with them about what it means to be gay and how everyone should be able to love anyone they choose. I have worked my ass off to ensure that when we see someone anywhere who looks different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, what they are wearing, how they dress, or a visible disability, my kids don’t flinch. They can ask questions, and I’m okay with that, but they aren’t surprised or appalled or taken aback because that’s just not how it is in our small community. I’m tired of people telling me they support us but where are they, really, when someone needs to be called out for making an awful joke or when they’re aware of bullies but do nothing to stop them?
Let me say that I know it’s hard. And it’s okay for this community to be here, to function as it is, to continue to be exactly what is is. But it’s also okay for me to know that for our family, for my children, myself, it’s not okay for us to stay here.
It’s our jobs as parents to protect our children. To love them and make sure they are happy and healthy and if that’s not happening, it’s our job to make a change. Even if that change comes with stress and uncertainty and leaving our very best people and sometimes tears. It’s our job, our responsibility to do what’s right for us.
For us, we want every single one of our children to not only survive, but to thrive. Would we be ‘just fine’ staying here? Yeah, for sure. But I don’t wanna be ‘just fine,’ especially when there are other options. I want Ollie to be loved for being exactly who she is and I want Luke to be loved for being exactly who he is. I want to be somewhere, someplace bigger with more people who are different, so that James has a network of people who share his interests, who love him for being exactly who he is. I want Charlotte’s buzzed hair to not cause people’s jaws to drop and I want Maria to experience lots and lots. Francesca, she’s one who will do whatever the hell she wants, anytime she wants, so I’m not worried about her. I want to see signs in yards all over the place that say:
So we are making a change. Because we can, because it’s our choice, because it’s what we feel and know is the best for our entire family. And you might have the same politics and feelings as I do but stay in the Valley and that’s okay. I don’t think you’re wrong for doing it, I don’t think you’re in denial, I don’t think you just don’t care. I think we all do our very best and we all do what is best for our family – and sometimes change isn’t best for every family. You might have completely opposite politics as I do and take all of this as an insult, but please don’t. This is a very personal choice for us.
And if you live in the valley and think I’m wrong and are are hurt by how I feel, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make you feel bad, make you feel like I dislike you (we can have different beliefs and I can still really, really love you. I promise.) or make you feel like I’m bashing your beliefs and lifestyles. I’m not. I only know what we’ve experienced and from that, what we need. We love LOTS and lots of people in this community. LOTS. And we will continue to love them and respect them and I hope we will stay in touch and I hope that when we come back to visit, we’ll see all our friends.
And what has happened at school? I know that will happen anywhere. But I also know that where we are headed will have more people who can help, who can support and who will understand what we’re going through. I know there will always be people who don’t like how we choose to raise our children and I don’t think we’re just running away from it all and it will be magic. But I know it will be easier.
And let me be very clear: my friends are amazing. It’s not as if we have no one here who supports us and sticks up for us and who would do anything for our family. We do, we have many, some that have different beliefs than us and some who have the same. And the kids’ school has gone ABOVE AND BEYOND in making it a safe place for Luke and a place where Jamie can thrive. Mr. Nicholas is incredible and I’m sure received some backlash from teachers and parents for his continued support of Luke, but he kept it up, he never let us down and he helped more than he’ll ever know in making Luke feel comfortable transitioning. The exact same goes for his teacher, Mrs. Cook and the school psychologist, Mrs. Crockett. And 90% of the staff out there. Thank you, thank you – I’ll never be able to say that enough.
So there it is. We’re outta here. Some of you will cheer, I’m sure, but for those of you who like us, come visit. Follow us on Instagram (@ruthiepizzle) and Snapchat (@ruthieprasil). Send us good vibes and we’ll do the same for you. ❤