Action in a time of grief

(Posted on Facebook after the Orlando killings.)
Straight parents who are wondering if they can do something to help on this devastating day: Yes! You can explicitly normalize LGBTQ-ness to your children. If you’re not sure how, I have suggestions for every age and style! Please feel free to ask. I would love to talk to you about how to be comfortable. If you have any hesitation, I guarantee your kids will be chiller than you are. (I offered this on twitter yesterday and someone took me up on it–a wonderful conversation!)

It’s never too late or too early. Kids are ready to hear about love, about learning who you are. And they need to hear it from you, both so they know other people are okay, and so they know that THEY are okay if they are gay. Trust me, your daughter is no more likely to be “confused” about whether she’s gay than she is to be “confused” about whether she prefers a smaller allowance and an earlier bedtime. Your son is no more likely to be “confused” about whether he’s a girl than he is to be “confused” about whether he actually wants to pick up his room and finish his homework and take out the trash without being asked. Kids are who they are: this will not be the time when your slightest suggestion transforms them utterly. 🙂

The only thing you can confuse them about is whether you’ll love them, love their friends, love your neighbors, no matter who they are.

Here are just a few ways to teach your child to love, and teach them that they are loved no matter what:

1. Read them books, and later give them books, with well-represented LGBT characters.
2. When you imagine their future, use language like “if/when you fall in love with a man or a woman…”
3. Matter-of-factly identify LGBT families. If you would talk about a friend’s mom and dad, talk about someone else’s moms.
4. If you don’t know (or don’t know that you know) any trans people, learn and talk about public figures, or read books about them. “I Am Jazz” is a great picture book.
5. Never out trans people without their consent, but if you have a friend who’s okay with it, you can say, “X is a boy, but when he was born, many people thought he was a girl”.
6. Always offer your child the same options you respect in others.

These are all expressions of love. Your child NEEDS to learn this love, perhaps for others, perhaps to understand that you love THEM. I’ll be blunt: it’s easier than figuring out how to tell your kid that someone slaughtered fifty people who were dancing.

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Think/Feel

Three years ago, some time around now, I decided to stop watching all-white TV shows. I had realized that I had quite a few in the rotation, and I was…I guess just uncomfortable with how comfortable I was, watching them. I didn’t actually quit any shows I liked; I just didn’t start any new ones. The first direct impact of this plan was that I couldn’t watch The Crazy Ones, despite my fondness for Buffy and Robin Williams. Instead, bored and casting vaguely about for anything that met my criteria as the fall season began, I picked up SLEEPY HOLLOW and BROOKLYN NINE-NINE.

One of the most interesting effects of the “On This Day” feature in Facebook is that I can see the slow, enormous, incredible shift in my viewing over the next year or two. Three years ago I asked for summer viewing recs. In a comment-discussion about gender-swapping a very male show, I suggested about six white actresses plus Erica Cerra. I didn’t have a mental roster of women of color, so my imagination was limited.

I’ve been thinking lately about how hard it is for me to just like things, or not like things, how little I trust decisions made on that basis. It’s tiring and sometimes self-alienating and most of the time I’d like to think a little less and feel a little more. But.

Three years ago, I made a decision to train myself to feel differently. And I feel really, really good about it.

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Too soon I’m not ready!!

Ayyyyy stop wait it’s not even Easter yet! I have a whole month! Stop, wait, I’m not ready!!

 

pesach

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Ras na hEireann

Violet and I got our timing wrong and ended up waiting 10 minutes for the St. Patrick’s day road race to pass our intersection. Conclusion: next year we’ll run it. Obviously.

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Hawaii Five-0

I quit watching Hawaii Five-0 a while ago but today Facebook reminded me of the time when Rachel was pregnant and I couldn’t figure out whether we knew who the father was, and I found a season finale recap online and didn’t realize for two pages that it was fanfic. Four years later, I discover that (a) Rachel said it was Stan’s baby (b) IT WAS REALLY DANNY’S ALL ALONG and (c) that kid is back for a long arc this season. Also, Steve and Danny accidentally go to a couples retreat. This show was so often dumb but I loved it so very very much. Probability that I will watch the couples-retreat episode tonight == 1.

FYI for those not familiar with the show, it’s listed as “action/crime drama.” Not, surprisingly, soap opera.

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“Boston Accent”

T: “Did you see the Boston Accent trailer? It’s hilarious.”
Me: “Yeah, I think my favorite is the part about how the characters are always, what, ‘talking about knowing each other’s relatives and inquiring as to their whereabouts.'”
T: “Obviously that’s your favorite part.”
Me: “But, maybe just because of the city-wide beginner music concert last night, because my mom was there and I spent the first ten minutes saying, OMG is that L. from daycare with the bass at the end? Look, there’s R.’s mom, where’s R.? Oh I see her. Mom, do you see the girl with blue hair? I think that’s [high school friend]’s daughter. T., A’s parents are waving to us, look up.”
T: [extremely pointed look]
Me: “You think I’m proving their point.”
T: “Everything about you right now is a justification for that trailer.”

*If you’re wondering, the Boston accents were uneven, with the exception of the Kennedy accent which was terrible. My second favorite bit was the city names, especially the growl on Brockton.

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Mendez v. Westminster, 1947: “There cannot be justice for one unless there is justice for all.”

Today’s serendipitous MLK reading is the fictionalized-true-story Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling. In 1941, fourth-grader Sylvia Mendez lives on an asparagus farm. Her family is renting the farm from the family of Aki Munemitsu, who have been placed in an internment camp (Poston, in Arizona) during WW II. The Mendez children thus live closer to the Westminster School than to the run-down, underserved Hoover School by the barrio, but are refused enrollment because they’re Mexican. (As a side note, and relevant to a recent discussion about race vs. “whiteness”, Sylvia’s cousins are offered a place at the Westminster school because they’re light-skinned and have a French surname. Their mother refuses.) The resultant lawsuit, Mendez v. Westminster 1947, produced the first anti-school-segregation ruling in the U.S. and paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.

Besides the obvious importance of this story, a few things stand out for me. First, a historical note: Westminster offered to settle the original lawsuit by allowing the Mendez children to attend the school of their choice. Their father, Gonzalo Mendez, refuses. Conkling writes:

Sylvia was stunned. All this time she had assumed that the lawsuit and all of the trouble was just about her and her brothers. Now, for the first time, she understood that something bigger was happening. Her father wasn’t doing this just for her family: he was thinking about kids she would never meet, who went to schools she would never see.

Her father said, “Sylvia, there cannot be justice for one unless there is justice for all.”

He returned to his seat at the dinner table, pulled up his chair, and reached for his fork, just as though nothing had changed. But for Sylvia, something HAD changed greatly.”

(What, I’m not crying. Why would that make me, as a parent of a fourth-grader, cry at my desk? No.)

The second thing that strikes me is this. The Mendez family was able to live outside the barrio, and consider themselves entitled to the Westminster school, because they were leasing this farm. In a way, their opportunity could come only because that Japanese-American family, including citizen children, had lost their rights. And the Munemitsus too were “lucky”: they had a good banker who had helped them buy the farm, putting it in the name of their son, a native-born American citizen. That banker also helped them lease it to the Mendez family. And Gonzalo Mendez drove 250 mile (how often? I don’t know) to deliver the rent check by hand, so it wouldn’t be stolen by the censors. This is how Sylvia and Aki first met. So often, I think, one group slips out from oppression for a moment because another group has fallen a bit lower. And yet: there cannot be justice for one unless there is justice for all. And this is how revolution must be made.

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