We’re here. It’s been quiet on the blog – I’ve had so much I’ve wanted to talk about but it all just seemed too heavy. It’s hard to find light words for something you feel really deeply about; this is true for me at least. When I go that route, when I scream all the things that have been worrying, stressing, and have been hard on me, afterwards I have extreme anxiety that I have offended someone or that someone might think I’m talking directly to them, so I don’t do it at all. I’ve worked really hard to get over that, to remember to tell my story, all my stories, because they’re mine.
Now, I don’t blast people personally, but sometimes it’s easy to figure out where I’m going with a post, what experience I’ve had and with whom. This might be a little more straightforward.
Okay, so the kids are in school and it’s going well. Maria has a really great group of friends, Charlotte is having some difficulty with separation anxiety but she’ll be okay, James comes home happy each day and Luke loves it.
To those of you at Asotin who were faculty members and also supported Luke during his transition and us as a family and allowed (or wanted to allow) us to create a safe and happy environment for him at school through education: THANK YOU. You know exactly who you are.
The principal was always supportive of us. He went above and beyond to make sure Luke was happy and safe. Same with the school psychologist, Luke’s teacher, and several other teachers who were vocal with their support. There were some REALLY lovely families who treated us no differently and I just love them all for all of that.
The superintendent? He called in attorneys before allowing any classes to be talked to about my child’s transition. And after that, he didn’t even allow me to share this HUGE, gigantic, life-changing transition that Luke was going through with his peers and classmates in a way that was easy to understand and promoted kindness and acceptance rather than judgement. One of the 2nd grade teachers made it her mission (it seemed like, although I can’t say that’s fact, ha) to make sure her students heard NONE of it. I remember quite well her saying, “You know what’s going to happen? Our class Facebook page is going to blow up with angry parents and I’m going to have to deal with it.”
Uhhh…guess what? You’re the teacher. You do, in fact, have to deal with hard things that come up with other students with your parents. It’s kind of part of the job. Mind all of you, the kids went to a public school in Asotin. It wasn’t a private school in which Luke’s transition went against its core beliefs. The reason I was unable to come and read a children’s book (“I Am Jazz”) to them was because it would “be like teaching curriculum and they don’t have parents come in to do that.” Teachers and parents spoke about us behind our backs, I got tattled on for writing a blog post (hilarious — because it meant someone went out of their way to try and stir the pot). People who were so nice to me and friendly before pretended like they didn’t know me when I saw them in public.
How different our experience was here in Portland. For one, Luke’s teacher asked me if I could come in and talk about our experience and what transgender means and answer any questions. I offered and even asked if I could do that at the old school. I think the principal (a really incredible man) would have been fine with it, but the superintendent (with some pressure from some teachers I’m thinking) said no. Instead, Luke told his class on his own. This shy boy told his class and then they went home without a clear understanding and without questions answered, possibly to parents who disagree and decide Luke’s not a good friend anymore. Yeah, that happened. We were dumped a few times. (so thankful for our lifelong, beautiful friends)
Luke’s teacher, when I asked if any parents would be upset, she said, “I don’t care. Maybe? But we’re teaching them something. We’re learning about differences and what makes us unique.” I asked if I could say the word “transgender” and she laughed and said absolutely. I don’t have to tell you what happened last year when the word transgender came up.
Children asked questions that were sensitive and inquisitive and kind, but real. “Will Luke have boy parts when he’s older?” “Did he always know he was a boy?” “Were you guys surprised?” and my favorite: “Is he happy?”
Yes. Luke is really, really happy.
And guess what, an 8 year old asked, “Will Luke marry a boy or a girl when he’s older?” and NO ONE LAUGHED. Because it’s a natural questions, something that even adults wonder I am sure. I answered, “Well, I’m not sure! I guess we will have to wait and see.” After I said that, NO ONE LAUGHED or gasped or giggled. Because children are good. Children are kind and accepting and inquisitive unless taught otherwise. Thank GOD for parents who practice what they preach, who value love and kindness over status and who teach their children to mind their manners and “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
And what makes me sad is that my tiny hometown community will continue to live in a bubble if there are no advocates for change. Children will go out into the world and find it to be this strange and scary place with people who don’t look just like them if their only lessons in diversity come from school. Teachers who don’t learn about their own students, their own community, their own future leaders and choose not to attend information sessions given to them will continue to teach only what they think and know: that different is scary, different isn’t good, different requires a parent consent form before learning about it. But what’s hard to grasp is the fact that it takes more than just a few dedicated teachers, a few parents who are willing to do the work. It takes more than a hefty handful of hard working advocates of change. As cliché as it sounds, it really does take a village. And I think we all just hope our village is kind and diverse and accepting and willing to put in the work.
In other news, people are constantly asking how it’s going for Danny and work and commuting to Pendleton. It’s not. That wasn’t a good schedule for our family – for him to be gone 5 days/nights a week. The kids asked if he lived somewhere else. They cried because they missed him. I hated it, of course. Everyday I think of how lucky I am that I have Danny. It was a difficult yet simple decision to quit his job at Pepsi and find something in Portland. I’m doing some freelance writing stuff for random online sources and we’re pretty sure of where Dan will be working but it isn’t final yet. Basically, we’re doing great. I know that it’s a decision that many people in our position wouldn’t make, but it works for us and it’s really no one else’s concern. Our kids are happy and we are happy and we’re all healthy and that’s what matters. It really is, don’t let anyone else tell you any differently.
I made friends, you guys. I made several. Most came from Josh but whatevs. We go to trivia and we have porch drinks and meet at bomb places like Cat’s Paw and parks and we love it. Portland feels like home and I’m so happy. My anxiety isn’t as intense and that’s something I’ve waited years to say.
And just because I can’t pretend it’s not happening: Trump. WHERE THE HELL ARE WE LIVING?! In what wonderful, dreamy place is it okay to blame people going through a tragedy for putting our budget out of whack? How does a country full of dreams and opportunity decide guns and the KKK are okay? How can anyone be okay with the hatred and bigotry and stupidity spewing from our awful president’s pie hole? But I’m like everyone: what exactly can we do? It’s like we’re stuck and it seems impossible that if, by this point he’s still ‘in charge,’ he’ll ever be out. I’m really lucky to have people who inspire me and speak out, and lots of them. Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, James Cordon: late nights are using their platform to speak out. Thank god. Instagram accounts like @_stillwerise and @slaythepatriarchy and @agirlhasnopresident and TONS of other personal accounts who aren’t afraid to go against what’s socially acceptable and socially polite and speak out against hate. I want to be braver, to be more like them.
So, I mean, happy Thursday guys! LOL. I’ll leave you with some pictures.