Hate is in 'navy blue' Mass. too: It's time to 'raise the volume' on love
Ten weeks ago, I became a mother. And in the process, I entered the haze of sleeplessness and snuggles and feeding and soothing where dates and times have little meaning. Most of the time, I feel like the world is no bigger than the three of us, warmly ensconced in our apartment. But every time the haze breaks, and I read the news, I am overwhelmed by a new sensation of grief about the world I have brought my child into.
A world where politicians seek to ban books that represent BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identities, and to punish librarians and teachers who have such books in their classrooms and libraries. A world where physicians are being criminalized for extending gender-affirming care to trans children. (In the past two years, at least 25 states have introduced legislation to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for minors.) A world where perpetrators of violence on Black and Brown people are heroicized.
I grew up in West Virginia, a state where hate is one of the primary mandates on the legislative agenda this year. I grew up Indian in a community where there were very few people of color; and queer at a time where there was little language, and no visible modeling, of what it meant to be queer. I grew up in a context where my identity was largely rendered invisible through silence.
And yet, I consider myself lucky. Because even though folks might not have understood me, I had coaches and mentors and family who loved me as best they could. Who took me on my terms, instead of making me adhere to the terms that they set for me.
Recent headlines make it clear that yesteryear’s silence has been replaced by today’s vitriol.
Recent headlines make it clear that yesteryear’s silence has been replaced by today’s vitriol. Vitriol that my biracial daughter, with her queer moms, will not escape, no matter where she lives, because it is everywhere.
It is on the Southwest Corridor in Jamaica Plain, where a man screamed that my partner and I were “f------ faggots.”
It is in Central Square, where Cambridge police shot and killed Sayed Faisal, as he appeared to be clearly in the midst of a mental health crisis.
It is in Stoughton, where the superintendent has banned teachers from decorating their classrooms in ways that affirm the identities of all students. It’s erasure masquerading as neutrality.
It is in Newton and Wellesley, where a local chapter of Parents Defending Education is suing schools for teaching about race, gender and sexuality, and for creating spaces where students of color can process their experiences with racism.
It is at Boston Children's Hospital, where medical staff providing life-saving care to our babies are being menaced with bomb threats because they also provide gender-affirming care, which I would argue is its own kind of life-saving for some of our young people.
This is not the world I want for my child. In fact, none of us should want a world where erasure and violence are the banner items on a political party’s agenda, and its leaders provide sanction for brutality. Our children deserve a world, and a narrative, where they all are the beneficiaries of care and respect and love, no matter their identity.
It’s easy to delude ourselves that we are “safe” in navy blue Massachusetts. That vitriol can be contained within geographic borders. But the vitriol and violence are here too: Jamaica Plain. Cambridge. Stoughton. Newton. Wellesley. Safety only exists if we actively fight for its existence.
It is not enough to express your disdain of red state policies, or to pretend that there aren’t large numbers of queer and BIPOC folks who live in those places, and are harmed by the passage of laws that erase them. We need legal defense funds for teachers and librarians and pediatricians. We need model legislation protecting the rights of these caregivers. We need to flood our libraries and classrooms with books that mirror the identities and experiences of all our kids, and support organizations that work to do the same all over the country. We need to be actively building the kind of world we want our children to inhabit.
The teachers, writers, librarians and physicians currently under attack are doing precisely this: extending care to our children by messaging that they love and respect the full range of identities of our young people. They are not “groomers” or “indoctrinators.” Quite the opposite, in fact: They are full of love for our youth. And it’s authentic love, predicated not on forcing children to be who you want them to be, but on the belief that a young person is deserving of care, whoever they choose to be. These adults know that to understand their own identities, young people need affirmation. They need to know that they are seen as fully human. They need to see themselves reflected in the books they read, in the classrooms where they learn, in the clinics where they receive care.
I want my child to walk through a world that feels safer than mine did growing up.
Late at night when I’m rocking my daughter to sleep, I sometimes think about what might have happened to me in the absence of adults who extended such care. Adults who raised the volume on their love to drown out the racism I experienced, who supported my interests and modes of expression, and by doing so, helped me forge the path towards my most authentic expression of self. I survived — thrived, I’d argue — because of the adults who extended their love past the bounds of their own nuclear families.
We already know the consequences that exist for LGBTQ+ youth when they aren’t supported. Which leads me to ask the question: What am I doing to turn up the volume on my love for these young people? What are you doing? What are we all doing, collectively, to drown out the vitriol?
I want my child to walk through a world that feels safer than mine did growing up. To be free of slurs and silence and censorship. I want her to walk through the world without feeling the heavy weight of violence’s scepter. To know that her humanity is embraced not just by her chosen family, but by all of us.
I want this not just for my own child, but for all of our children. They need to be loved loudly, no matter where they live.