When Sandy Hook happened I spent the day crying in front of the TV. My daughter knew I was really upset but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her why. When we went to the Museum of American History I didn’t take her to the African American history section because I didn’t know how to start explaining slavery and segregation to her. I have not told her that 50 men were slain this week because they were gay.
My daughter is six years old. She doesn’t like movies that have bad guys. I don’t have the heart to tell her that bad guys are real.
At the same time I know I have to prepare her for reality. I have to break that childhood trust in the good in the world. Not everyone feels the way we feel, not everyone loves. Some people choose hate. Some people express that hate in the worst ways. Some people decide they have the right to be judge, jury and executioner because they don’t like the way someone lives.
How do I tell her what her own ancestors have done to people who were different?
How do I tell her what risks she faces just growing up female? The laws men will make about her body, the things they’ll think they have a right to say, or worse do to her? The questions they’ll ask her if and when something happens. How will I give her the confidence to fight back and the knowledge that it is not her fault? How to I empower her to fight back when it comes? Unapologetically fight back.
What if she’s gay? What if she’s trans? How will I explain that people will hate her without ever knowing her? That will assume the worst of her because of who she fundamentally is. No, no, I’ll have trouble even explaining that to a little girl who would never understand why some of her friends are afraid, unsure of where they’re allowed to fully be themselves and where they’re not.
How do I tell her that if and when something happens to her it will not be her fault and she cannot ever believe that it was her fault despite all the people sending her that message.
I cannot change history, but for my child I will work to change the world. I will believe survivors. I will stand with the LGBTQ community because love is love and human beings are human beings. I will not stand silently when someone is wrong. I will not allow bigots to go unchallenged.
I will stand and listen to all those people who are fighting to be just as important as those of us who were born privileged – western, white, middle class, cisgendered.
I will cry over the senseless loss of life, but my tears will not be the end of my actions.