Here’s where I start to get a little bit into backstory.
I grew up in a very small town in Virginia, as part of a very big family. I felt loved and accepted for who I was, and it was always stressed to me that I could do or be anything I wanted when I grew up. Virginia history is, largely, the history of the origin of this country, and I loved learning about it. I loved the idealism of the founding fathers and the documents they wrote. In particular, I took to heart the phrase “all men [which I interpreted as mankind] are created equal” and I believed that. Still do. So naturally the first time I stepped up on a soapbox, it was down to my outrage about slavery. I had such a hard time believing anyone felt they had the right to treat other human beings so cruelly and heartlessly.
My next cause, following closely on the heels of the first, was the treatment of the Native Americans. Again, settlers who had come here from Europe simply took what they wanted. It was so disillusioning to me, as I grew up, to have the stories I loved of the birth of our nation tarnished by the facts of how much suffering was caused to others…all due to the sense of entitlement and superiority the colonists brought with them. Truly, the U.S. has a shameful history in that regard. These were the beginnings, I suppose, of my tendency to side with the “underdog.”
In recent years I’ve become increasingly incensed over the fact that government wants to regulate what does and doesn’t constitute a legal marriage. It seems very simple and straightforward to me: Either we are all equal, or we aren’t. If we all have the right to marry whomever we choose, then we ALL have that right. Whether you marry a person of the opposite sex or the same sex, what does that matter? And for those who oppose, I ask, why do you care? How is this hurting you, or, for that matter, affecting you in any way? I don’t understand what those who oppose stand to gain by keeping same-sex couples from marrying. How does this help them? It doesn’t, it doesn’t affect them–not at all–and therefore is none of their business, so why is this even an issue? I’d like to see these same folks react to being given restrictions on who they can or can’t marry…or associate with…or do business with…or whatever. They would not stand for this behaviour directed at themselves, yet they wish to oppress others. Shameful.
I believe my interest in Equality is what made it possible for my daughter to finally talk to me and inform me that she is transgender. She heard me talking about the injustice of it, and saw me donating to the HRC (Human Rights Campaign–HRC.org if you’re interested, they’re a good organisation and you should check them out) and wondering if there was more I could do beyond donations. She realised, I think, she would be safe with me, that I wouldn’t disown her or throw her out or be repulsed. In fact, my first act on hearing the news was to google “financial aid for transgender surgery” and to immediately begin educating myself on the subject. I will do whatever it takes to get my daughter to the point where she is able to be the person on the outside she is on the inside. My only goal for her is that she will be able to participate, happily and successfully, in life. Right now, she is hiding from it, afraid to venture out of the house, and this breaks my heart. We have a long road ahead.
I’m not sure what causes me to care so deeply for those who are oppressed. But I’m grateful to have that trait, because it gave me the compassion to be as patient and understanding with my daughter as I am able to be. Some days it seems hopeless, because how can we “little people” stand up to so many, who have money and power behind them? For now, I’m fighting my own small-scale battles here at home, and through my words and actions, trying to model a life of compassion and acceptance.