I am because we are…

Have you ever been helped by your neighbor? And since we are called to love our neighbor, I consider my neighbor anyone who isn’t me (smile). In other words…doesn’t have to literally be my neighbor. One of my most embarrassing moments involved being helped by a neighbor.

It was several years ago on a hot summer day. I needed to go to the grocery store in the afternoon to get some ingredients for our dinner that night. It was bright and sunny when I left my house…and very hot. I knew that they were calling for afternoon thunderstorms, but that’s usually the case in Maryland on those hot, humid days. I didn’t think anything of it as I headed out because it looked perfectly fine outside.

I got to the store and as I was walking around collecting what I needed I heard one heck of a noise. It took me a minute to realize that noise was rain hitting the store roof. I knew it must really be coming down out there if I could hear it inside. It was loud! I finished up, ran my items through the self-checkout, and draped my four bags evenly onto my arms and headed for the door. When I stepped out of the sliding doors, I saw what looked like the end of the world. The sky was black. There was lightening, thunder, and buckets of rain coming down. The parking lot was already partially flooded. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get quite soaked getting to my car. But there was one problem…

I am not one to get pedicures. I don’t like people messing with my feet. But in the summer time you want to have cute feet for your flip flops and sandals, so I do my own work on my tootsies. This includes a dose of some thick lotion on occasion to keep my heels soft and callus free. This particular day was one of those occasions. Well when water hits said lotion…ones feet become quite slippery. I was wearing flip flops.

I stood on the edge of the curb waiting for traffic to pass so that I could make the dash to my car. I kind gentlemen stopped to let me cross. I tried my best with the heavy bags weighing down my arms to give him a little wave of thanks. I took a step off the curb into a stream of water and started to shuffle my way through the crosswalk. It became immediately apparent to me that the lotion was an issue. I felt like I was on ice and my feet were just slipping and sliding all over my flip flops. Then I made a grave error. I knew from past experience that the paint on the crosswalk itself was slippery when wet. I didn’t want to have double slippage so I did a little leap to try and land in-between lines.

This landed me in a very wide someone split-ish stance. As I tried to lift my back foot to close the gap in my legs, it was clear that I was not going to get enough of a grip on my flip flop to propel it forward. Remember that it is raining buckets. Not only are my grocery bags heavy with food, but they are now also filling with water. So there I am in front of this truck…in somewhat of a split, arms out to my side with grocery bags, and I am stuck. I have no traction on my feet with my flip flops. I turn my head and look at the gentleman who stopped and said, “I’m stuck!” with a big, cheesy grin on my face with my hair practically totally covering my face at this point because it is so saturated.

This poor man opened the door to his truck, sprinted over to me, put his hands on my elbows and hoisted me up until I could get my legs together enough to get some traction in my flip flops. I yelled thanks over the thunderous claps above us, and he ran back and jumped into his truck. I then carefully shuffled my way to my car. I was very grateful for that kind gentleman. It is now a running joke with my friends that I had better not ever leave the house in my flip flops if rain is in the forecast.

That man saw that I needed help. Instead of driving around me (because there was space to do so), he decided to help me out. I once saw a story on Facebook that has stuck with me. It’s related to the African tradition called UBUNTU. Ubuntu, in the Xhosa culture means: ‘I am because we are’. The story that I saw was told by anthropologist who was in Africa studying a tribe. He spent a lot of time with the children in the tribe and wanted to do something special when his time was coming to a close with them. He went into the city and bought lots of candy and fruit. He put everything in a big basket and placed it on the ground. He then drew a line in the sand and explained to the kids that it was the starting line. The finish line was the basket. He told them that whoever got to the basket first got to have the treats that were inside. He lined them up and when he yelled “go” he was surprised that all of the children held hands and ran to the basket together. When they made it to the finish line, they took the treats that were in the basket and distributed them evenly between themselves and sat to enjoy them. When the anthropologist asked why they had done that when one of them could have had all of the treats to themselves, one of the children answered, “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

Wow! The story brought me to tears. How different could the world be if we all adopted this philosophy? It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? I wish everything I saw on social media was as uplifting and positive as this story. On one hand, I love platforms like Facebook because I get to keep in touch with friends and family that live far away. But on the other hand, I feel like social media is becoming the demise of our society. It could be a place that builds community, and in some ways it does, but I fear that the ugliness of it might outweigh the positive.

There are many marginalized groups, but of course because of what I do there is rarely a day that I’m not disgusted by something I see on social media directed at the LGBTQ+ community. It is especially disheartening when it comes from our leaders. There is so much misinformation and downright lies being broadcasted daily. Much of it comes from not being educated. If you are going to speak publicly about something, I find it repugnant to do so without knowing facts about the subject matter. Back in July, a former leader spoke at a summit where he said a lot about the LGBTQ+ community. One of the things he spoke about was puberty blockers regarding transgender kids. He admitted that he didn’t know what a puberty blocker was, but went on to say that they were bad. He had a lot to say about it actually…even though he admitted he knew nothing about it. That is incredibly dangerous.

Trigger warning…the next paragraph includes comments made against transgender people…

When these types of statements are made, like the one by this former leader, the comment section online is atrocious. I have seen people tell transgender people that they should kill themselves. I’ve seen them say that their mothers should have aborted them (and when you look at their profile they show that they are prolife). Really?? They are called “its.” It’s bad enough that adults see these comments, but I know kids that have seen them too. And sadly some have taken the writers advice and taken their lives. The sad thing is that I would say that most of these folks have never sat down and talked to a transgender person or a parent of a transgender child. Their message says…I know better who you are and that’s just not the case. And the statements made by this leader are then repeated over and over again creating more and more sickening comments.

Author Mitch Albom was on a podcast I was listening to during one of my morning walks. He talked about his writings and his family. He shared the story of adopting his daughter. She had a form of terminal cancer and at one point needed to be carried from place to place because she could no longer walk. He spoke about how he didn’t mind at all and that it was a reflection of his love for her. He said what we carry defines us. That is powerful.

There’s a great meme on social media with a line of skeletons standing next to each other. Each skeleton has a “title” under it.

The only time I appear tall (smile)

I couldn’t find the meme, but I think my shadow says the same thing. We may look different on the outside…we may be different in what we believe…we may be different in who we love…but on the inside we are all human.

What if what we carried was love for our neighbor…love of community. What if we couldn’t be satisfied until everyone had what they needed (UBUNTU)? Instead of having the Us vs. Them mentality that some of our leaders would like us to have, let’s remember the story of the African children. Let’s be more careful about who we hate…because it could be someone we love. Let’s be more mindful of what we say or share online. Let’s keep an eye out for one another so that when we see someone slipping and sliding trying to hold on we can be the person that picks them up.

I am because we are…

Let’s look out for and love our neighbor because…

Love matters…

Be a Charlotte…

One of the morning shows I watch had a guest on talking about good summer reads. It peaked my interest because I love to read and am always looking for a good book. I grabbed my phone and jotted down some titles that sounded interesting. When the guest got to the recommendations for younger readers, she mentioned Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Oh my goodness I loved that book. I can still remember how I was simultaneously heartbroken and happy at the end of the story.

What an unlikely pair. Charlotte who was seen as a bloodthirsty spider and Wilbur the pig whose life was reduced to some ham and bacon. Their paths crossed in the barn where they both lived. They got to know each other and became fast friends. Although they were different, they took the time to get to know one another. When Charlotte realized that Wilbur’s fate was not looking good, she decided to take things into her own hands…or web. Through her talents of web design, she meticulously crafted her web to say “Some Pig.” As you can imagine, it created quite a stir in the barn. When she knew her friend was facing a terrible fate, she couldn’t be silent about it. She went on to write other words of admiration for Wilbur and ultimately saved his life.

June is over now and Pride month has come to an end. It wasn’t as busy for me since I stepped down as the state leader for Free Mom Hugs Maryland. In 2019, I traveled all over attending the different Pride events from one end of my state to the other. Now I am the regional leader where I live and our Pride festival isn’t until October. I have a few events coming up before then one of which is something called First Fridays in a town north of me. The first Friday of every month during the summer and early fall they have some food trucks, local bands, and different businesses and non-profits that set up tables to sell things or offer information. I participated in my first one for Free Mom Hugs on July 1st right after Pride month.

It’s always interesting when I am at an event that isn’t just LGBTQ+ related. Let’s just say not everyone is happy to see me. Luckily that is balanced with the people who are happy to see me (smile). I don’t give as many hugs at these events since it’s not based just on the LGBTQ+ community. I can tell you on that particular evening I gave out a lot of hugs to scared kids. You see when Roe v Wade was overturned there were some statements made…first from Justice Thomas and later from some politicians. These folks are calling on the Supreme Court to revisit other past decisions. One being Lawrence v Texas (if overturned homosexual relationships are made illegal again) and Obergefell v Hodges (taking away the right for LGBTQ+ people to marry).

What can I say to these kids? I wish I could tell them there was nothing to worry about…it will never happen. It takes me back to the advice my dad would give me when I was a kid. “Don’t borrow trouble,” he would say if I was fretting over something. Don’t worry about something that may not happen. I have to say that this advice has carried me through innumerable situations over my lifetime. But hard as I try, I just can’t seem to apply it to this. I see so much rhetoric against this community.

Back in 2019, I drove down to DC to the National LGBTQ Task Force. Free Mom Hugs Maryland was invited to offer support to their interns. They are all part of the LGBTQ community and their task is to deal with the different bills being voted on to take away their rights in different ways (jobs, health care, housing, etc). There was a lunch for them along with some suggestions on doing some self-care (which is why we were invited). We took them cards and notes of support, some goodies, dessert, and of course hugs. These young adults were impressive. It was an honor to be with these budding lawyers. Imagine needing a task force to fight for YOU. Imagine needing that for simple things like loving who you want to, marrying who you want to, being able to have a job, health care, housing…the list goes on. Many people aren’t aware of all the laws that are presented against this community.

“I wondered what it felt like to see yourself reflected in every movie, to have friends and family constantly dropping fun little hints about your love life, to have the world open up to you in all its magnificence. What did it feel like to not have to think about your every move, to not be scrutinized for everything you did, to not have to lie every day?” – Boy Erased by Garrard Conley. This quote by Garrard is about being in the closet. I would hate for this to be the reality of my son if we go back in time and it becomes illegal to be gay.

Picture I took in my crepe myrtle

So what DO I say to these kids as I hug them. I let them know that they aren’t alone. I listen to their story. I tell them that I will fight for them with my vote and with my voice. I will let the world know that they are “terrific” and “radiant” like our friend Charlotte the spider did for Wilbur. I hope you will get to know this community. It’s really hard to be against them once you do. Then maybe you too will let the world know that they are precious.

Love matters…be a Charlotte.

Houston we have a problem…

Love Matters

Being an empathic person has made things difficult lately. After the news of the shooting at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, my body has literally felt like it’s been vibrating. It breaks my heart because I just can’t imagine what the survivors go through afterwards. I know how hard it was getting over what happened in this blog post that I wrote 3 years ago. I didn’t have to see injured people bleeding on the street. I didn’t have to run past dead bodies. The trauma these people go through in all of these mass shootings has to be monumental. I just want to shake our leaders and ask, “Are you paying attention?!” I feel like my insides are screaming. It just keeps happening again and again and again. I’m sharing this again because my state’s primary is coming up. I have been researching the candidates until…

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How have we come to this…Part 2

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

I was 28 years old when I lost my mom suddenly. She wasn’t sick so it was totally out of the blue and to say it was a shock is an understatement. At the time, I only knew one other person who had lost their mom, but we weren’t close. My friends tried to be there for me, but they just didn’t understand what I was going through. I wouldn’t wish losing a parent on anyone, but oh how I wish I could have heard a “me too” back then.

Having someone that has gone through something that you are going through is like having a life preserver tossed your way. You cling to them for survival. It’s like you have a secret language that no one else understands. Sometimes words aren’t even needed…they just know. Sharing who you are or what you are going through and hearing a “me too” is like a huge weight being lifted off of your shoulders. You exhale and the burden you’ve been carrying gets a little lighter. Sometimes a lot lighter.

There are many things we carry that we might be afraid to say out loud…some might be…

I’ve had a miscarriage…me too.
I’ve been abused…me too.
I have depression and anxiety…me too.
I lost my job…me too.
I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore…me too.
I am LGBTQ+…me too.

I remember the very first mom I met that also had a gay child. I met her online in a private FB group for moms of LGBTQ+ kids. She lived in Pennsylvania and also came from a faith background. We met at a restaurant half way between our two houses. We met at 11am for an early lunch. During our time together her phone rang, and when she looked she saw it was her husband. She answered. “Where are you?” he asked her. She then proceeded to remind him that she was meeting a mom for lunch. “Do you realize it’s 5pm?” he asked. We “me too’d” for 6 hours and didn’t even realize that much time had gone by. I felt like my soul had been rescued.

There is another “me too” moment that really saddens me. I was friends with a woman from church who was a bit older than me. We would meet for breakfast and lunch over the span of about 8 years. Her kids were older so I had never met them. Shortly after my son came out, she and I got together for breakfast. I knew I wanted to tell her, but I was so scared. As we were finishing up and I knew that our time together was coming to an end, I told her I had something to tell her. The tears immediately came as I told her my son was gay. To my surprise, she said, “Me too.” For 8 years she held that secret because she didn’t think I was a safe person to tell. Why? Not because of anything I said…but because I went to church…the same reason I was afraid to tell her.

These “me too” moments are why visibility is so important to the LGBTQ+ community…especially the youth. It is why it’s so important for us to talk about it. There is so much controversy about doing just that right now. I can’t tell you how many people I have come across who have ranted and complained about the “gay agenda” being shoved down their throats and how they don’t want their kids to learn about it.

In every one of these conversations that I’ve had with people…every single one…they are unable to tell me what is happening that they are so upset about…or they have total misinformation. I can totally get where they are coming from given some of the misinformation they are receiving. If I wasn’t doing this for 15 years, I too would be wondering what in the heck was going on. I would also be alarmed. I guess the difference is that I am a curious person and if I heard what they were hearing I would be doing some research to find out what it was all about.

Many of the conversations revolve around transgender people. They are very flippant in their tone and words.
“Johnny is pretending to be a girl today.”
“Julie has decided that she wants to identify as a boy today.”
“Sharon really wanted a girl so she is making her son be a girl.”
“I can’t believe these parents are giving their 6 year olds hormones and chopping off their body parts.”

When I challenge these statements, it is clear that the person does not know what it means to be transgender. There is medical information that describes what this is and how it happens. This is not something that someone chooses. It is not something that any parent would force on their child. I have sat with parents who are devastated when their child comes out as transgender. It’s a process of grieving the child you thought you had and then embracing who the child becomes. It’s a painful process. They are also terrified for their child because people like those who make the above statements discriminate and judge without knowing what they are talking about. Young children are not given hormones nor are their body parts chopped off.

In Part 1, I mentioned the accusations of the LGBTQ+ agenda “grooming” children. When I’ve challenged people who have made these claims, they give me some interesting examples.

“Ben’s teacher told the class that she has a wife.” I ask if that was the topic of conversation or did she casually mention it. No it wasn’t the topic. Was your son confused? No he didn’t seem to be. How do you know she mentioned she had a wife? She told the class that she and her wife were going to Hawaii over summer break. So what’s the problem? They are only in second grade. I think that is too young to learn about sex. Wait what? They are too young to be learning about THAT. Growing up did you ever have a female teacher mention that she had a husband? Well yeah. Did you picture them having sex after she mentioned it? Of course not! I didn’t even know what sex was at that time. So your teacher mentioning she had a husband was not teaching about sex, but Ben’s teacher mentioning she has a wife somehow was?

Another mom was beside herself that her daughter’s teacher read them a book about a dog with two dads. Again when pressed, she was upset that they were being taught about sex. But somehow if the dog had a mom and a dad, this was not teaching the children about sex.

I’m thinking maybe it’s adults that are obsessed with making these things about sex. The kids have no clue. When I was leading a PFLAG group, there would be questions about what to tell kids. “My cousin Mark is marrying a man and I don’t know what to tell my kids.” Tell them that when two people love each other they sometimes get married. They always came back to report that it was no big deal for the kids. They basically were like, “Ok.” We tend to make it so difficult. We are the ones uncomfortable with it.

Talking about these things gives some kids “me too” moments. My teacher has a wife…I like girls too. The dog in the story had two dads…me too. It not only lets them know that they aren’t alone, but it also removes the shame that is forced upon them when it’s kept hush hush. As much as some would like you to believe, being LGBTQ+ is not contagious. And the LGBTQ+ adults are not “grooming” young children. They have lived with the discrimination, name calling, etc. They would never want that for kids.

Something that we heard from the older kids in my PFLAG group over and over again was the wish that they had the language to put to how they were feeling. They were tortured because they knew they were different, but didn’t know how to articulate it to their parents. Now that it is talked about the younger generations are able to see themselves in the terms and they are given “me too” moments so they don’t feel so alone. They are also able to get help when needed instead of suffering in silence.

There is a county in my state that banned displaying Pride flags on school property. In the past, teachers have asked me how they can let their students know that they are safe to come out to and the first thing I tell them is to have a flag or something rainbow in their classrooms. We need to get past our misconceptions and be willing to have dialogue about how best to help the kids that are LGBTQ+ in schools and beyond instead of trying to shut everything down. Their lives depend on it.

Research from The Trevor Project shows that LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support. LGBTQ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. LGBTQ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than those who don’t.

When I write, I do something that some people might find weird. I don’t write in silence…I actually listen to music. And most of the music on my playlist is from the 80’s (because it was the best decade ever!) (smile). I do that because it brings back memories of what it was like to be a teenager. I feel like it puts me in touch with those feelings and it gives me empathy for what I see LGBTQ+ youth going through.

As I wrap up this post, Drive by the Cars is playing. This song was popular the summer I turned 16. I can very clearly see the park in Baltimore where I hung out with my friends. Someone always had a boom box and we would blare our jams. The song Drive is playing and I’m on the swings. My boyfriend Brian is playing basketball with the guys. It’s a warm summer night.

Two months after my son turned 16, we were sitting in the ER waiting for a bed at a psychiatric hospital because he wanted to die. I don’t want any other child or parent to go through that. Because of the groups I’m involved in I literally see it every day. Every.Single.Day.

Love is a powerful thing. If you are one of the people that are outraged or think the world is going to hell in a handbasket because of the things you hear, maybe the most loving thing you can do is go to good ole’ google and do some research. Or better yet, find someone who has actually been through these things you are upset about and listen to their story. It may not be LGBTQ+ related, but maybe you might just find a “me too” common ground.

Get out there and love…because it matters.

How have we come to this…Part 1

I’m going to start this post with a statistic…
The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S. I will come back to this later.

I’m pretty sure I’ve shared with you before that I have the craziest dreams. I mean there are some real doozies. Like the time Robert Downey Jr dipped his head in a bowl of chocolate and then a bowl of cheerios and ran around showing everyone his cheerio “wig.” What made me dream that? I have no idea. Sometimes, though, I can pinpoint where some of the themes originate. Because of this I am very careful about what I watch on television. I never watched the show The Walking Dead, but just seeing the commercials made me dream about zombies. I was so mad! And just the other day Bradley Cooper was on one of the morning shows talking about his road to overcoming addiction. That night I dreamed my friends were trying to get me to watch a horror movie. I never watch horror movies…simply because I don’t want to dream about it. I knew it was going to be awful, but Bradley Cooper. who happened to be in the movie, tried to trick me into watching it. Weird right?! Just seeing him on a morning program made me dream about him.

Recently I’ve been trying to catch up on some podcasts. I stumbled upon a compelling topic in doing so. It is interesting because this particular topic was on two different podcasts. They each had a different expert and they were recorded at different times during the year (as I am very far behind in listening). Maybe this was something I was supposed to hear? They both talked about trauma and how it can affect our DNA and be passed down through generations. So you can have symptoms of a trauma that you personally didn’t experience. It was fascinating. I actually downloaded a book that one of the guests wrote about the research that they did because I want to learn more about that.

So if I’m careful about what I watch because of the way my brain processes information at night you can better believe that I am mindful about the real stuff that happens out in the world and how that might affect me. I came across something this weekend that was so horrifying I thought for sure that it was not true. It has been plaguing me ever since. And yes…unfortunately I have dreamed about it.

I am not going to say who said these things because quite frankly I don’t want his name to get any more publicity than it already has, but I feel that what he said should be addressed. This was the headline that I saw: Pro-Trump Candidate Calls for Executing Parents of LGBTQ+ Kids

My first reaction was surely this can’t be true. They are using an outrageous title to get people to click on the article. I’ve seen that time and time again. Then as I read the article I thought maybe they are just using his words out of context to make it more sensationalized. But then I saw a video of him, and the words were coming directly from his mouth.

This person is a pastor in South Carolina running for Congress. He believes that parents and teachers that discuss LGBTQ+ issues with children are a national security threat to the U.S. He said that if he is elected he wants to hold people who do this accountable for treason to the Constitution. He will push to reenact HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). He believes that people should be tried for treason, and then executed when they are found guilty. He says a lot more, but I will stop there.

My reaction was, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!” In fairness, he was asked if he would do something about the “grooming” of our children by the LGBTQ+ agenda when he said these things. But all I could think of was when given time on television to say what he might do to benefit our country if he is elected, this pastor didn’t talk about helping the poor, or healthcare, or housing…or how we might stop an18 year old from buying an assault weapon and murdering babies in their classrooms. He chose instead to talk about killing people who support the LGBTQ+ community. Well if he gets elected and gets his way…it’s been nice knowing you. This blog alone could be used against me.

Now I can hear you saying…Lesa one crazy person does not make for many crazy people. I thought the same thing until at the end of his tirade the news anchor clapped and said, “South Carolina this is your man!” He’s not the only hateful pastor that I’ve seen regarding the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve shared before about the pastor that wants to round up all the gay people and put them in cages. He said he would feed them (thank goodness right?), but eventually they would get old and die off. Then there was the pastor that applauded the massacre at Pulse from his pulpit and said that it should happen more often. But to see someone on television…someone running for office…have such outlandish ideas is downright scary. It’s not just pastors of course. Just last week in Baltimore a Pride flag was set on fire at someone’s house. The list goes on about the dangers of being LGBTQ+ in this world.

This person running for congress seemed to especially have an issue with parents of transgender children calling it child abuse. I think it’s safe to say that this congressional candidate has never sat down and had a conversation with a parent of a transgender child or a transgender person themselves. Thinking that a parent would want this for their child or is forcing their child to be transgender is ludicrous. And this whole “grooming” idea. What do these people really think the LGBTQ+ community is going to do with all these “groomed” children…take over the world? Again any person that thinks any parent would wish this for their child has NO CLUE what it is like…for themselves and for their child.

Is there any wonder why the suicide rate is so high among this community? They aren’t prone to suicide because they are LGBTQ+…they are at higher risk because of how they are treated in our society. LGBTQ+ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide then their peers. 1.8 million LGBTQ+ ages 13-24 seriously consider suicide each year. If trauma can be passed down in DNA, how many generations will be affected by the damage done.

It seems as if the people who share ideas like this candidate wish for the LGBTQ+ community to be erased. They have been here since the beginning of time and aren’t going anywhere. In Part 2, I will discuss why it’s important for there to be visibility for this community.

Going with the statistic I started with…160 LGBTQ+ youth attempted suicide while I wrote this blog post. I would like to remind this pastor/candidate that he will never look into the eyes of someone that is not loved by God.

Folks…we need to do better. This is not loving.

And love matters…