I am ignorant. I’ll start there. I don’t understand all of the struggles that LGBT youths live with. I am ignorant. I don’t understand the pronouns, the labels, the pain, the complexities, that the LGBT community lives with. I am ignorant, and something has to change.
I am an ignorant, straight, white, middle-aged, resolutely gun-control-supporting woman who watches the news–– or avoids it, because my heart bleeds. I read; I try to understand, but I still feel helpless to turn the tides that seem to be sweeping us away. I am straight; I grew up in a strongly Irish Catholic community, where the word “faggot” was used regularly. I met gay men and women for the first time, in college. I considered myself “progressive” because I had gay friends, but admittedly, I saw their differences first. Naively, I thought I got it… until a close friend was thrown out of his fraternity–– all of his belongings tossed out the window, because he trusted his “brothers” and told them he was gay. I was shocked that guys I thought I knew, could treat another friend so horribly. When it comes to the transgender community, I am more informed than some, but still ignorant.
Black Lives Matter, and that does not imply that other lives do not. It’s a necessary statement because Black lives have not mattered enough; that needs to change. But I’m White, and I’ll never fully understand what it’s like to experience the daily challenges, heart breaks and inequities of being a Black American. I’m 52 years old. I see myself struggling to catch up with the “times they are a changin’,” as my kids educate me on their generation, and the things they do understand. Admittedly, sometimes I feel lost. In the wake today, of yet another mass killing–– in a country where there is an average of one per day, most of which never make mass media, 90 Americans a day killed by guns–– I stand resolutely in favor of wide-spread gun control. Call me old, but on this, I can not be swayed. These are a lot of issues and I feel at a loss most days, to know how to help or what to do. I feel ignorant when I realize just how much I don’t know about each of these issues, that suck the life from our society.
Today, I learned that another young person has taken their life. M was a transgender young man in my small community. I did not know him, but I was familiar with him. M was a 19-year-old boy; 19 is not an adult. He was the same age as my beloved boy. My heart breaks, when I think of the times my own boy has felt bullied and hurt, and recognize that this boy’s pain felt that much more insurmountable, to him. My heart breaks knowing that another mother will not see her child again. M was in the process of transitioning from female to male, and was struggling with depression. Particularly disturbing: he had posted his struggle on Facebook, including a very troubling post, just three days before his suicide, of trying desperately, for weeks and weeks, to get help for his depression. The daunting waits for appointments (weeks); the ignorance of others who did not understand his struggles as a trans person; the long wait to be seen and approved for medication, when he was able to eloquently express his needs and advocate for himself. His sense of hopelessness was palpable, in these poignant posts.
My heart breaks for his mother. It breaks for his loved ones and all the friends who cared about him, who could not ease his pain, and who have lost a friend. My heart breaks because I am a mother; this was a child, and I am ignorant. I believe that it does in fact take a village, and I failed this child too. Each time we look at a story and silently say: that doesn’t apply to me, consciously or unconsciously, we are a part of the problem. Being ignorant is not a valid excuse anymore. M was not alone, but he felt alone. When he went to a local ER, two days before his suicide, he was told that his gender identity was a “personality disorder.” This, by trained professionals! I am intimately aware of the health care providers at that hospital, and believe that it was purely ignorance, not mal-intent, that would lead to such a statement, but again: ignorance is not an excuse anymore. A young boy is dead. Too many of us are ignorant. I am ignorant.
But I plan to change that. My ignorance can not be an excuse to turn off the news. My ignorance shouldn’t allow me to go about my day and compartmentalize the death of a 19-year-old transgender youth, who felt misunderstood and hopeless enough, to end his life. My ignorance can’t be an excuse to simply feel sad for the unethical shooting of one more Black person. It’s not enough to simply not own a gun, and say that I am against those who do. We do not have to be IN somebody’s shoes to get it. Nor do we need to be swallowed up by all of the pain around us. I will start by doing more to understand what needs to be done. I will do more to understand the issues that overwhelm me. I will not be ignorant.
It starts with each of us. How many LGBT young people need to kill themselves before we truly teach our own children to not to bully. How many before we reach out and show some compassion, throw a possible life line to a drowning child? Do we need to be Black to know that being killed for a routine traffic stop is absolutely wrong? Do we need to be Black to stand up and say that? Do we need to lose a child, a lover, a spouse, friend or family member, to gun violence to stand up and say this needs to change? Or is it enough to know that 90 other Americans die each day? If all those children at Sandy Hook were not enough, what will be? Prayers for the victims are not enough. We can all step up and do more. Ignorance is not an excuse, and education is so much easier than healing broken heart after broken heart after broken heart…
If you want to be less ignorant about LGBT issues, check out my blogging friend Julie Tarney’s blog: My Son Wears Heels. She is a bold and informed mother, educating others on the life of her transgender child. Check out her writing; it’s deeply moving and very informative. Read more, use that computer to be informed and help young people who are hurting. Try to understand what Black Lives Matter is really about, and take a stand. We must all stand together when it comes to changing America’s reputation as a hot bed of gun violence. Ironically, when people hear that my daughter lives in Israel, they frequently say, “Oh, aren’t you so worried?” Well, it is a much safer place than the US, when it comes to violent crime. Ignorance can no longer be an excuse. We can change things.
Share your thoughts in the comment section. I want to know what you think, and welcome honest, constructive feedback.
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