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Red State Rural Organizing: More Casseroles, Less Contempt

Top left, casserole in wicker basked, right heart shaped american flag, bottom stripe is red, Jan Moore logo top right

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.

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Transgender People in the United States Seeking Asylum

I went to the screening of Las Abogadas film at Filmfest DC. What does this have in common with transgender people in the United States seeking asylum? Read on to find out.

This crucial independent film has won various awards as it travels across the United States and beyond. In the movie, three immigration lawyers are documented on the front lines of migrant camps across the Mexican border. Footage of caravans of refugees from Central America travel with nothing but a backpack, many pushing strollers or carrying babies. In short, the film is essential, the stories are devastating, and the problem is real.

Transgender People in the United States Seeking Asylum

I was stunned by the words printed on the screen, “refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” Please reread that passage and let that sink in. There was the actual definition of refugee and asylum from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. I grabbed the arm of my companion and took a deep breath. Transgender people in the United States are forced to seek asylum in their own country. They are refugees.

Governments Seeking to Erase Segments of Society

The courageous documentary shared interviews and footage of people accused of being separatists because they refused to march in parades or participate in activities that support governments seeking to erase segments of society. It provided footage of people leaving their homes to protect their children. The film traced the lives of people in danger because they do not agree with the government in their country or are fleeing violence. Some people were running to seek medical attention or reunification with family. All of the refugees were seeking liberty and freedom. They left behind everything they knew, their families, community, and belongings, to flee from oppressive governments and violence.

Civil Liberties and Freedom Under Attack

I met three families in Denver for the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive in April; this is just the tip of the iceberg. Two fled Texas, and one is leaving Montana to escape legislation that strips their civil liberties. In addition, our dear friends are fleeing Florida in June; they, too, seek freedom, liberty, and the right to raise their children in safety and peace.

For the many families I have encountered who have moved or are planning to move, I hope it is their last. However, I grapple with the gravity of the 2024 elections knowing that even in our safe state, a federal ban on transgender healthcare, sports participation, bathroom usage, ability to self-identify, and access to diverse literature is on the line. Let me repeat it: this country’s fundamental values of civil liberties and freedom are under attack. The desperate refugees outside of the United States have no idea that the ideals upon which our country was founded are being decimated one piece of legislation at a time.

You Don’t Have to Look Outside the US for Refugees

In the quiet moments in my brain, I strategize to ensure we stay one step ahead. My husband and I discuss what we could be forced to do to protect her. I have heard mumblings in parent groups that Canada is making a move to grant refugee status to transgender people and families. Yet, I also recognize the enormous privilege of having those choices; so many are left to find a path forward while living with bathroom bans, the inability to access lifesaving healthcare, and classroom banned from acknowledging their existence.

Friends, you don’t have to look outside the United States to see that families are being ripped apart and civil liberties stripped away. To track bills nationwide, visit the Trans Legislation Tracker or sign up for Issue Voter to follow legislation in your area.


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Equality and Non discrimination Statements

Most companies and organizations have one important thing in common. If you visit their websites or look at a job posting, you will likely find the equality and nondiscrimination statement. Most of us just gloss over it. After all, it is just legal jargon and really doesn’t mean anything, right? 

Today, we are digging a little deeper and looking at what that means. Let’s look specifically at educators. The gist of a non-discrimination statement is that it is a guarantee that human rights are given no matter the sexual orientation, race, color, language, disability, etc. Can we chat for a minute about what that “should” mean for transgender children in schools?

  1. Educational institutions adhere to Title IV. If you reach out to your school about your child’s gender identity they might give you a copy of this document. It is good to review this document prior to meeting with or approaching the school.
  2. Educators will respect and use the preferred pronoun for transgender children. In fact, welcoming schools will lead with pronouns on emails, badges, and in the classroom to normalize respecting pronouns and model affirming behavior. In my son’s high school English class, his teacher gave out a questionnaire on the first day of class asking several questions. Specifically, they asked for preferred pronouns. My son came home so excited to see an affirming teacher.
  3. There will be alternate ways to line up students for games, activities, field trips, or concerts. Meaning: no more exclusive girl or boy lines. 
  4. Speaking of concerts: educators should do away with “girls in skirts and boys in slacks” for band and chorus. It is fine to have clothing choices as long as children get to dress in the clothing they feel comfortable in.
  5. Gender diverse children will be able to use the bathroom of their affirmed gender. Even better: single stall, gender neutral bathrooms. This means that the person has a private bathroom so people cannot peek under to out a person. Above all, bathrooms are frequently a source of fear and harm for transgender people. Privacy and protection should be on the minds of educators who are in charge.
  6. Transgender children should be able to play on the sports team of their affirmed gender. 
  7. Health education: dividing students according to the binary stigmatizes sex, puberty, and relationships. In addition, children who are not hetero, cis-normative can feel uncomfortable or even fearful of being outed in traditional health education. An incredible resource for inclusive health and puberty education was created by Gender Spectrum. Find their Principles of Gender-Inclusive Puberty and Health Education here.
  8. Children will be able to access literature, history and information that reflects their lived experience. 
  9. Historically, virtual classrooms have been incredibly problematic for transgender children. Ensuring that children are not dead-named or misgendered by electronic systems is imperative for metal health and safety.
  10. The Human Rights Campaign has created a Welcoming School program. To sign up for their newsletter or read more about how your child’s school can be welcoming please visit their website. 

In conclusion, look closely at your employer’s non-discrimination statement. Moreover, think about what that really means for you as an employee of that company. Do your everyday actions align with those statements? Are there areas where you could improve? For, what to you might be some legal jargon at the end of a website, is actually a life-saving statement for a transgender child.