Last night something historic happened. For the first time, a transgender candidate won a major party nomination for governor. Her name is Christine Hallquist of Vermont.
She beat three other Democratic hopefuls.
Annise Parker, the chief executive of the L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Fund said, “Christine’s victory is a defining moment in the movement for trans equality and is especially remarkable given how few out trans elected officials there are at any level of government.”
I have written before about the importance of seeing one's self reflected in media, movies, government. It is especially important for those segments who have lived their lives searching in vain for someone, anyone in the public eye with whom they may relate. From people of color seeing their skintones or hair textures in advertisements. to seeing Idris Elba play James Bond (someone help me with the ^&*%$ pearl clutching going on about this), to a gay man seeing an on screen kiss between two men, representation is validation. Validation that you exist, that you are not alone, that you matter.
And while strides have absolutely been made in cinema and stage, TV shows, etc for many spots of the spectrum, the T in LGBT is still largely pilloried, ignored, or misunderstood. (Yes, there have been some good shows like Hedwig, The Danish Girl, Transparent.)
As a cis het white woman, I can tell you that I see myself everywhere. Ads, soap operas, rom coms are replete with me. I roam the City looking for Sex; I have 50 First Dates and more; I crash My Best Friend's Wedding; and My Star will be Born again this Thanksgiving. I am well represented.
As the mother of a pansexual, transgender son, I can tell you that he is not. He is targeted, he is misunderstood, he is parodied, he is fringed, but he is not represented. So I can also tell you that when someone steps up, steps out, unashamedly trans, unapologetic about their place on the spectrum - it means so much more to him than me seeing Reese Witherspoon win another dude on the big screen.
Christine Hallquist represents hope. She represents growing understanding, acceptance. She represents a trans identity not being the sole focus, the defining characteristic of who she is as a human being.
Yet as she spends today marveling at last night's results, she, like me, is also looking at a school in Oklahoma, closed for two days because of violent threats made against a 7th grade transgender Oklahoma student named Maddie. By adults.
The original post online was made by brain trust Jamie Crenshaw and read: “Heads up parents of 5th through 7th grade. The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY… Looks like its going to be a long year.”
What poured forth was a vile display of ignorance, aggression, and threats.
“If he wants to be a female, make him a female,” one user wrote. “A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.” Another post read, “You know we have open hunting seasons on them kind. Ain’t no bag limit either.”
They referred to her as "maggot" "thing" and "it." They - fuck that - THEY have names and are so proud of their ignorance and attacks on a child, so let's use their names.
Gina Segraves called her "it."
Ty Hays called her a "half baked maggot."
Seth and Shelby Cooper bragged of encouraging their children to beat Maddie till she stopped coming to school.
Eddie McCroskey warned that "this is what our future is if WE don't stop it."
Stop exactly what, you witless, shitless coward? A child from being who they are? Good luck with that. You don't get a choice in who your child actually is. And while I used to wish an LGBT child on cretins like this, I no longer do, because I do not wish these cretins on an LGBT child.
And as for the Coopers, fine Christians both? Way to raise YOUR children there. Forget education, understanding, empathy, compassion. Just beat the shit out of whatever/whoever you don't understand.
Maddie is not an "it." Maddie is a human being. That is the beginning and the end of it. That her struggle is so much more gargantuan that any these troglodytes will ever face, only makes her more so. She is experiencing something profound, confusing, painful, and unending. She is on a path not of her choosing - no one decides to be transgender any more than they decide to be cis het. They are simply born that way. And what she needs is support, validation, therapy, protection, love.
Everything my son has received. Everything that has helped him move forward to the full expression of who he is. Everything that gives him hope to get out of bed each day and pursue his goals, his dreams, his passions.
I promise you Achille Public Schools parents in Oklahoma, Maddie wants only what my son wants out of a bathroom break - to GO. To wash their hands, to safely leave and return to the activities they were pursuing when nature called. They do not want to run into anyone, see anyone, spy on anyone. Transgender people are not pedophiles, perverts, or monsters. They are PEOPLE.
Be afraid of the kids of parents like Jamie Crenshaw or Ty Hays. The ones being taught violence, egged on to beat up other students. Maddie isn't your problem. Their cherubs are.
I hope, in the fall out of all this extremist ignorance, Maddie watched Christine's victory last night. I hope it helped her injured young heart to see hope in action. To see the words "It gets better" brought to life.
Representation. It matters.
Last week, I was able to attend a concert with my son. Panic! At The Disco - whose effervescent front man Brendon Urie only recently came out as pansexual - played to a sold out arena - one of many sold out arenas on his current tour. Toby and I had VIP passes and front row seats - but the magic was happening even before we entered the arena. Draped in his pansexual flag, Toby took in the other young people, and some not so young, proudly draped in their PRIDE flags. His eyes were misty at seeing so very many young people unabashedly showing their colors, so many parents proudly standing next to their rainbow wrapped kids.
Inside the venue, head nods, smiles, even hugs were exchanged as flags passed flags, as humans lit up at seeing themselves reflected back.
The concert kicked off with opening act Hayley Kiyoko, known to her fans as the "queen of lesbians" - and she was phenomenal. But again, out and proud, and representing. It means something.
When Urie took the stage to kick off a 30 song night that felt like one big party, the sense of inclusion was palpable. Brendon gives not fuck one what some bigot has to say about his sexuality, about the lives of others. He lives to embrace, include, represent. Yes, fame and wealth are great insulators in this world, but he never misses an opportunity to recognize that we are all different, and that the spectrum is a big, beautiful place.
At the point in the concert when he comes down from the stage to walk the crowd (with security of course), Toby raced to the aisle, still draped in his pan flag. I watched. I saw the exact second Urie saw the flag, locked eyes with Toby, and went straight in for an embrace. That Toby managed to capture it in a Snapchat video is simply testament to a young person's tech ability.
As he made his way back to me, tears in his eyes, mine were wet, too. And the hug was everything. (Yes, the one from Brendon, but the one between us as well.) Seeing yourself represented is one thing. But being SEEN is a whole other level of acceptance, recognition, LIFE.
That concert brought together young and old, the purple haired to the gray haired, and every amazing place represented on the spectrum. There was love. There was joy. There was acceptance. There was REPRESENTATION.
I cannot thank people like Christine Hallquist and Brendon Urie enough. Your bravery, your talent, your passion, your voice - it matters. It matters to the Maddies of this world, being persecuted and struggling to find their way; It matters to the teen in the nosebleeds who knows their truth but is still scared to reach out. It matters to the Tobys who have found their way, but who need reminders on their journey that they, too, matter, are valid, are SEEN.
As for the vile examples of parenting being seen in Oklahoma right now? They can drown in their hate, their ignorance, their arrogance. We are moving forward without them. To borrow from Urie, we gotta have "high, high hopes for a living," so I'll "pray for the wicked on the weekend..."
Mama, can I get another amen?