Red State Rural Organizing: More Casseroles, Less Contempt. The title of the session spoke to me. I was at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive, and I was determined to dig myself out of the hole of fear, anxiety, and depression weighing down all parents of trans kids these days. The presenter, Sara Burlingame, was from Wyoming Equality; let me say, it was everything.
Genocide Begins with the Othering of a Person
I think you would be hard-pressed to find a parent of a transgender person who does not think their child is being erased; I know I do. And it is time that we come together and strategize how we will elect officials who see their value, humanity, and worth. The status of politics is that we match “their” contempt with our own, dehumanizing the opposition. We are caught in a culture war of rhetoric inside a culture of contempt and are on a slippery slope. Backlash is inevitable; it is time we take charge and create change.
In the Political Arena, we Match Their Contempt with our Contempt.
Sara brilliantly made the case for de-escalation as a path toward humanity. And here is where the casseroles come in. Casseroles are as big in Wyoming as crabs in Maryland, oranges in Florida, and chili in Texas. Casseroles bring people together and are an expression of community and welcome. It is time we extend a hand to the “small c conservatives” and try to discuss things we agree with freedom, liberty, manners, and the beauty of the place you call home. It is time to have a driveway party and gather in opposition with those who share our values and talk about it, even if they are not on our political “side.”
We Can All Agree on Freedom, Liberty, and Manners
Sara said plainly, “our children are seeing suicide, self-harm, and drug and alcohol abuse as a viable alternative to living in this world.” She is not wrong; data show that 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth (National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020, The Trevor Project). Over half of LGBTQ youth (56%) used alcohol in the last year, including 47% of LGBTQ youth under 21. Over one in three LGBTQ youth (34%) used marijuana in the last year, including 29% of LGBTQ youth under 21 (2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, The Trevor Project).
This means that it is vital that we reach across the aisle. Start focusing on our similarities rather than digging into our differences. “I want to apologize to you if you woke up one day and were called a bigot after being told gender is a construct, we didn’t do a good job educating you,” she said. I took a deep breath for this one, bile gurgling in my stomach. She shared, “I know people who wouldn’t let a gay person at their dinner table but would fight legislation that would limit their civil liberties.”
More Casseroles, Less Contempt
Does this mean we must invite those who treat our families or children with contempt into our home? That is a hard no. Boundaries are healthy. They are necessary to protect the mental health and well-being of our children. But I heard Sara, and I believe she is right. We need to have casserole parties. We need to break bread with our neighbors and be the change. Politics have ruined friendships and divided families. It is time to get back to seeing the humanity of each other. Time to sow the seeds of community to have a dialogue to push the needle. It is time to organize and be intentional. Now is the time for change.
Who’s down for a casserole party? My place, 5 pm.