Recently, my family has become bombarded with the reality of homophobia and prejudice in our schools, a place we hear about as a cesspool of ignorance, but hate to admit it as such.
I’m going to tell you about it in vague terms, for the sake of my kids’ safety, and privacy: a dear young friend of ours was recently the victim of bullying, harassment and alienation at school because some kids decided she was gay.
My own daughter was terrified and shell-shocked by the verbal brutality and back-stabbing she witnessed, directed at her dearest friend. My kid wasn’t the one getting bullied, but she heard the hatred. She found herself witness to cruelty. She shed tears for her friend. She saw the ugliness and was forced to face it, head-on.
You want the best part? This terror was justified by some of the parents involved. Eventually, despite the ignorant defense of the behavior, it was handled.
But what about the child who had to face it? What about her little soul?
What about my kid, who had to watch it, and deal with it? Somehow.
Why the hell should they be dealing with this crap?
And why aren’t more parents freaking the fuck out?
The next time I saw this child, I hugged her a little too long. As she sat curled up with Ava on the bed, giggling and looking at books, playing Barbies, lost in their fantasy land, I wanted to move my family to an abandoned island. I wanted to pull all kids of all people I know out of school and homeschool them (you know, cause that went so well last time I tried it).
But my feelings were not all so gushy.
To put it bluntly, I was also fucking pissed.
AND I STILL AM.
A certain sentence keeps coming to mind: “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”
I see the truth of those words everywhere:
If you aren’t doing something to change it, you’re doing something to maintain it.
And people, that is where we are right now.
Our kids are going to school with the offspring of the ignorant. They are hanging out with kids raised with bigotry and hatred. They are going to school with children indoctrinated with beliefs and approaches we would rather not believe even exist in 2012.
But they do.
And the thing is, it isn’t enough to just not be bigoted ourselves. It isn’t enough to teach love and acceptance of others and figure our kids will know what to do when they are confronted with some kid getting bullied. We all want to think our kid won’t be the follower of the bully, but it isn’t enough to think, or hope, or assume. We must face these things directly.
It isn’t enough to send our kid to school each day figuring they’ll stand strong when the homophobia of American society stares them in their young faces.
It isn’t enough to figure “We live in a liberal community. Everybody is open here.”
Bullshit. They aren’t.
If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.
If we aren’t explaining to our children the injustices of society, we’re part of the problem.
If we aren’t empowering our kids to act, we’re part of the problem.
If we aren’t making it VERY CLEAR what we’re up against in holding the belief that all people deserve equal access to civil liberties, we’re part of the problem.
This isn’t about marriage equality (though seriously, how do we not have it yet?!). I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about basic respect for humans, whether or not they live like you do.
My friend came out when he was 15 years old. He immediately faced harassment. He approached his teachers and they did nothing. One day at lunch he walked up to a table to sit down with the kids who used to be his friends, and none of them would sit by him. He turned around and walked out of school, and never went back.
[Incidentally, he moved to San Francisco and joined the circus, which clearly makes him the coolest human being to ever walk the earth, but that’s another story.]
The fact is that someday our child will be the one standing next to the kid who just came out.
Our child will be at that lunch table, deciding, watching.
Our child will watch a girl’s face fall as it turns toward the hatred of her bullies.
Our child will be the one who will make the decision, to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
What are we doing to help determine the outcome of that moment?
Or, our child will be the one who just came out.
There is so much power in the home. There is so much power in motherhood. WE are the ones creating the new wave of citizens. Often we think of power as prestige and control in a high-powered position. As a spot in government. As a place “above” a bunch of people…
But I believe a bigger power lies in the words and hands of mothers and fathers, in the way we speak to our kids about what’s going on in the world, in the books we choose to read, in the version of history we share. In the tools we place in our children’s hands: awareness, perspective, a sense of justice and morality, a sense of what’s right.
And a passionate desire to defend it.
When I was around 5 years old, my babysitter was a lesbian. One night I spent the night at her and her girlfriend/wife’s house (not sure which). The next morning, when I got in the car with my mom, I asked “How come they are both women but they sleep in the same bed?”
She responded, “Because sometimes women love men, and sometimes women love other women.”
And I remember thinking to myself “Oh, okay.”
And I never questioned it again. Such is the power of a mother, to form the foundation upon which a lifetime is built.
Yeah, this is a call to arms: for you, for me, for us. Why now? Because I’ve been shocked by the proximity of ignorance and hatred to my own children.
And it ain’t funny.
Once again I see that I can’t protect them fully, block them from the assholes, shield them from what I’d like to ignore.
And so I must choose. To back down, to turn away, to let it go. OR NOT.
These are our kids. This is our future. And we’ve got some say in that.
Because we’re mothers.
And such is our power.