When I was eight years old, I transferred from a public school to a private Catholic school. The public school wanted me to skip the third grade and go right to fourth. My parents didn’t want to do that. I’m very thankful for that because although I was ahead of my peers in the public school I was behind when I went to my new school. This school went up to the eighth grade, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to go to a new school for the sixth grade. This was also a private Catholic school so most of the kids had been together since kindergarten.
Being new as a third grader with kids that had been together for a few years was much different than starting at a new school as a sixth grader. Puberty is beginning to kick in and the last thing in the world you want to do is stand out in some way. I was so nervous my first day. Each class had an area to gather outside before the bell rang and most of us got there early so we had some time to socialize. What if I didn’t go to the right spot? How would I figure out where to go? I was shown where the sixth graders gathered in the morning when I was accepted and got a tour of the school, but did I remember correctly?
The big day came and my mom drove me to school that day instead of having me take the bus that first day. She dropped me off and I walked over to the sixth grade spot.
“You’re in the wrong place,” one of the kids said to me. My heart leaped into my throat and my stomach dropped to my feet.
“Yeah…third grade is on the parking lot over there,” someone else chimed in.
“I’m not in the third grade.”
“Oh sorry…fourth grade is also on the parking lot, but they are down by the fence,” another person offered.
By this time all eyes were on ME.
“I’m in the sixth grade. I thought this is where the sixth graders stood,” I replied.
That was met with a lot of “You are??” exclamations. “Man you are small.” I was mortified. Yes I was small for my age. And yes I probably looked like a third grader. I’m sure they were trying to be helpful, but all it did was make me feel like I had a big, giant sign on my head that said I don’t belong here. To this day, 44 years later, I still remember exactly where I was standing, what the kids looked like, and how it made me feel.
I was teased relentlessly because I was small. And for some reason boys thought they could just pick me up and spin me around whenever they wanted to because of my size. I hated that! So many times I yelled, “Put me down!” But as much as I was teased, I was never told I was wrong for being small. I was never told that I was lying about being small. I was never told that being small was a phase that I would grow out of (good thing because I didn’t…smile). My parents were never blamed for me being small. They weren’t told I was small because they wanted a small child. And they were never threatened for taking me to the doctor when I would get terrible growing pains in my legs.
I wish I could say the same thing for the LGBTQ+ people that I know and their families. They are under attack…especially given that it’s an election year. It seems that politicians these days can’t stand on what they have done or plan to do alone. They need to have a villain to get you to be against to gain your vote. That’s why this ballot is so important to me. I will be meticulously researching every candidate. Some of them make it easy as they don’t hide how they feel about the community. Others it’s not as obvious. It’s clear that they don’t do any research as what they spew is false information. It saddens me when people I know repeat the rhetoric they hear from these politicians. When I ask them questions, they are unable to tell me why they believe what they just said. It boggles my mind. And the kids are the ones that suffer from this verbal shrapnel.
I am the leader of a private FB group of moms of LGBTQ+ kids from the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas. Something new is happening in our group. We are having moms from other states asking to join. The reason being is that they are looking for refuge in states that are more accepting of their kids and they have heard that Maryland, DC, and Virginia are better than where they live. I let them in so they can ask questions to be sure that they are moving (sometimes clear across the country) to safer places for their kids. Imagine that. Moving is no small feat…especially in the real estate climate that we are in right now. Not to mention the parents having to look for new jobs in the area. But in some of these cases they have no choice. There have been death threats. There have been threats from child protective services because there is so much misinformation out there particularly about transgender kids. Parents are not taking their children to doctors to have their body parts cut off.
As hard as it was for me to adjust to a new school, I can’t imagine what it is like for these kids. I can’t imagine dealing with being different in a way that people think you have control over. That you choose to be different. Folks if that were the case families would not be fleeing from the states that they have lived in their whole lives. What scars will these kids have 44 years later? Will they survive that long?
I hope you will research what you believe to make sure you know the truth about what you believe. I hope you will think of these kids and their families when you vote. They deserve to live the same kind of life that you are privileged to live. I will be voting as if their lives depend on it because in many cases they do.
I will vote for love…because love matters.