You Cheered for a Transgender Athlete Today.

We sat on the sideline of a soccer field in a small southern town not far from our own as 16 tween girls played some objectively good soccer just feet from us. My daughter, one of the Captains for that game, was in at Striker, her favorite position to play, and she’d been playing the entire half. Her golden-brown hair was matted with sweat and her white jersey had grass stains from when she tripped over a defender’s left foot, but not before passing the ball to her teammate.

“She’s aggressive!” you remarked, adding that you wish your daughter would pick up on a little of that.

I replied that my daughter is sassy because she’s so small for her age. It’s true. Standing barely over 4’ tall, and not quite tipping the scale to 60 pounds, she was easily the smallest girl on the field that day. Her coach nicknamed her “Firecracker” because she’s tiny and explosive. Nobody can believe this is her first season.

We talked a little more about how well the girls were doing on the field, how the passing drills coach puts them through every practice were paying off for them, and we were thrilled when they shut out the rival team on their own field, 6-0.

You and the other parents all yelled my daughter’s conveniently unisex name, which blends in fine with the other nonconventional names on the team, and you loved when she assisted the first goal, and every time she drove down the field, or got into a scrum and inevitably came out with the ball because it took two to three opposing players just to attempt to contain her.

My daughter is a soccer player. There is no doubt about that.

My daughter is also transgender.

You didn’t know it, and you probably never will, but you cheered for a transgender athlete today. Then you got into your SUV with the “Trump” sticker on the bumper, and you went to the polling place to vote for people who want to take away her rights.

I talked about this with my partner that night, and he reminded me that people fear what they don’t know, and most people don’t think they know a transgender person. He’s right. I can’t argue with his point.

That made me think, though. I’ll bet a lot more people know a transgender person than are even aware of that fact. There were probably 100 people on the sidelines of every one of my daughter’s games, and only a few of her teammates (the ones who were her classmates when she socially transitioned in 3rd grade) know she’s transgender. Everyone else just knows she’s a soccer player.

I’m not going to out my kid at her extracurricular activities. I’m not going to confront parents about their politics. I don’t want to make her life any harder than it already is in some ways. She likes blending in when she’s able. On that field, she’s a soccer player, nothing more, nothing less, and that’s beautiful.

Yet, in this format, in which my child is anonymous, I want to remind everyone that you have interacted with transgender people. You’ve shared bathrooms with them. You’ve shared lunch tables with them. You’ve sat next to them in college lectures. Maybe you even played soccer with one. You have, almost definitely, interacted with transgender people in your daily life, and you might not have even known it.

Let’s change that. Let’s all assume that in any given crowd of people, there’s probably someone who doesn’t fit neatly within the gender binary. They’re not in your face trying to make you wave rainbow flags and denounce your pronouns. They’re just living their lives, blending in with everyone else wherever possible, and that’s really the point, isn’t it?

You cheered for a transgender athlete today. You were fine. She wants to be fine, too.

 

Advertisements

Kavanaugh, an Agent of Recalibration

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. Watching as much as I could of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s brave testimony before the Senate, overhearing insensitive comments from people at work, and making the cardinal mistake of the internet, reading the comments on literally anything controversial, had me feeling, well, triggered. I don’t talk about it much, but I have lived the same experience as many others all throughout society have.

The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was six years old, on the bus home from Kindergarten. The most recent time, I was wearing an Army uniform. I nearly lost count of how many times the exact sort of thing Brett Kavanaugh is accused of happened to me over the years between. I am not alone in this. I stand with millions of other people, of all genders, who were also experiencing huge emotions, and even reliving past trauma that many of us never fully processed, with yesterday’s testimony.

All day, I was glad for anything that distracted me from this. I’ve never been more grateful to work for the most demanding boss I’ve ever had. He kept my head in the game yesterday, and without knowing I was struggling, he did exactly what I needed him to do, and insisted that I practice engineering, which is one of the few things I’ve done in my life that’s consistently made me feel worthy. I’m glad my kids’ soccer schedule keeps me busy most nights of the week. I was able to be distracted for a while with passing drills and a really decent scrimmage in which my son played some of the best defense he’s ever played.

Then I came home, and I sat at my table with a glass of wine, and I felt the way I felt when Donald Trump won the election, and I had to truly accept for the first time that our country really, truly wasn’t doing well, and that we had a lot more work than I thought to fix that. Trump’s election is a story of its own, but I learned from it. The biggest lesson was that I actually had no idea how desperate a lot of people in my own country are, and that was surprising because I had considered myself aware. After all, I grew up pretty broke, in the Deep South no less! Yet, people are struggling a lot harder than I thought they were, and in much greater numbers. Since the election, there has been much greater focus on understanding what the poor and working class in our country are going through, not only by everyday people, but by non-governmental and governmental organizations alike, even the UN. We are learning from this. I have no doubt that the studies being conducted today will affect change in years to come.

The Kavanaugh hearings seem to shine a similar light on the country. I’m not even sure I’ve been able to fully process what the main lesson in this is, but I do think there’s something significant to be had here. Maybe it’s the fact that some really horrible behavior has been normalized in our culture for a long time, and we need to change that. Maybe it’s part of the general removal of straight, white, moneyed, Christian, man as the default setting of our government. Maybe it’s women standing up and demanding real equality rather than the theoretical “you can do anything” platitudes we’ve been given all our lives while old white men in the government debate which rights we should really have. Maybe it’s something I’ve completely missed.

All I know is that we are experiencing a recalibration. Trump is part of it. Kavanaugh is part of it. I don’t know who or what else will be, but I know it’s not over yet. Rome is not burning. We are not falling apart at the seams. We are a young country experiencing some nasty growing pains, and I am pretty confident that if we stick with it, we’re going to come out of all this better than we went in.

I say this as much for myself as for anyone else. As a person who spent yesterday reliving past trauma and feeling pretty terrified in general, keeping my head in the game is a constant battle. It’s not over. We’re fighting. We may just block Kavanaugh’s nomination. The American Bar Association is calling for a full FBI investigation, as Dr. Ford has. If the Senate complies with this, and the investigation finds questionable things, there is a very good chance this will set a significant precedent of people who do bad things to other people not being allowed to influence the laws of our country.

That’s been a long time coming. Our nation has a rich and lengthy history of being ruled by a long line of mostly academically brilliant and well-spoken scumbags. It’s not a partisan thing. I can name just as many Democrats as I can Republicans throughout history who fall into this category, and people of every party who don’t. I’m also not saying that the known philanderers, harassers, racists, and homophobes of our history never made any good leadership decisions. Sure they did. At the same time, I know we can do better, and maybe this epic battle over Kavanaugh is part and parcel of getting to that place where we demand our government consist of a diverse array of decent people who understand and honor the humanity of others.

These are difficult times we’re in, but I feel strongly that there’s a purpose for it all, that if we stick with it, and keep holding our government accountable, we’re going to rise from this place, and be better than we were before we went through these challenging times. People like Trump and Kavanaugh aren’t the problem. They’re symptoms of the problem, manifestations of what’s existed just below the surface for longer than any of us have been alive. They are showing us what’s wrong, and forcing us to fix it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, of course.

Hang in there. We’re going to get through this together. As my Drill Sergeant used to say, courage isn’t a lack of fear. It’s acknowledging that you’re afraid, and pushing through anyway. We’re all afraid, for numerous reasons, but the only way out of this is straight through, so we have to keep pushing. I believe we will be glad we did.

 

Arm the Teachers

sign

 

Picture it, senior Calculus Seminar, 2019, Any High School, USA. It’s April, the warm breeze is blowing through an open window, and your teacher is explaining a type of integral you know you’re going to use in real life because you just got accepted to the College of Engineering at the State U. As you fantasize about the labs you’ll be working in next year and how beautiful the people there with you will be, your teacher reaches up to write something on the Smart Board, and her blazer moves just slightly, revealing the handle of her Glock 19, lovingly carried in a purple shoulder holster that matches her blouse. Without a moment’s hesitation, you continue taking notes, and she continues teaching. It’s just another day in America. “I’m glad she’s armed. Nothing can happen to us like this.”, you think to yourself.

OK, enough. Apparently, there are a lot of people in this country who think like this. I know a bunch of them personally, and apparently, people elected quite a few to public office. I keep hearing these ideas discussed, and subsequently denied on Twitter by a certain 45th president, and I have no idea why people can’t see what an objectively horrible idea it would be to arm teachers. Leaving aside our ideals about schools being safe places, and any emotional reaction we may have to guns, there are multiple practical reasons we should take this idea off the table for good, and instead focus on legislation that will help in other ways.

First, let’s think about equipment and its capabilities. This is the one that really jumps out at me. Even if you love guns, this idea makes no sense. Actually, anyone who loves guns and knows anything about them, and still proposes this is being deliberately disingenuous because they know damned well that it won’t work. Mass shooters in recent years tend to use AR-15 rifles, as we have established. One reason they tend to prefer these is because they’re accurate from a long distance. In the Army, we qualified on targets up to 300 Meters with our M-4’s, which are a military grade AR-15 equivalent. If you have good vision, it’s not even difficult to hit those long targets. This rifle is fantastic for picking off targets at a distance. That’s exactly how mass shooters use them, and why they’re so deadly. Nobody can get close. The most recent shooter didn’t even get taken down. He stopped shooting when he decided he was done, and walked away. That’s the kind of prerogative a long range rifle buys a person in that situation. Every proposition I’ve seen has suggested that teachers be armed with handguns as concealed carry permit holders, and right there is where you should stop and declare this idea ineffective and tactically unsound.

In addition to other weapons, I had the opportunity to qualify a couple times with the 9 mm Beretta when I was in the Army, and the first thing I noticed was that the targets were much closer than what I was used to seeing on the M-4 and M-249 ranges! Instead of the closest target being 75 M away, it was more like 5 M, and part of qualifying was firing while walking toward the targets. The reason many staff officers carry 9 mm’s rather than M-4’s, is because they don’t do patrols, and if they need to shoot an enemy, it’s because the wire got breached, a lot of enlisted soldiers with M-4’s got taken out, and they’re going to be in close contact with those combatants. Handguns are for close range. That is what they’re designed for. They are extremely inaccurate at long distances. Arming a teacher with a concealed handgun against a shooter with a long range rifle would not achieve the desired results even if they were an expert marksman, which the majority of teachers are not. It is a gross imbalance in equipment capabilities.

Speaking of accuracy, I read a statistic yesterday that didn’t surprise me a bit. The NYPD has a hit rate of 18% of their targets in live fire situations (the streets, not the range). This doesn’t mean they’re bad shots. They aren’t. They’re well trained professionals who visit the range on a regular basis. As far as accuracy goes, they’re pretty much the best case scenario. They hit 18% of their real world targets because live fire situations are always messy. A suspect doesn’t stay still and wait for the police to shoot them. They run around erratically, seek cover, and you can bet they return fire, necessitating that the officer seek cover as well. The odds of getting a good shot are slim.

Let’s also acknowledge the obvious byproduct of the above situation. 18% of rounds fired by NYPD officers hit their mark. What do you think the other 82% do? They don’t just disappear into thin air. They hit something. With luck, that’s a building, or a tree, or something else inanimate, but in these situations, people are afraid and act unpredictably. If it’s a crowded area (as schools are), then you can just about guarantee that a certain percentage of those rounds are going to hit innocent people. Fortunately, a majority of people who get shot in error don’t die, but they do suffer injuries, sometimes severe, sometimes life limiting. This isn’t a small risk. It’s a reality of gun use in public.

The risks to bystanders drastically outweigh the slim chance an armed teacher could actually get close enough to the shooter to be in range with their sidearm, and get that 18 in 100 shot that takes them down. Chances are, the shooter would take them out before they could get close enough for those 18% odds to even come into play, and that’s assuming the teacher in question is as well trained as an NYPD officer. Since they probably would not be, because they’re teachers, not police officers, the odds are actually much worse.

Next, let’s look at the tactics of an active shooter situation. Anyone who’s ever had training in military or law enforcement knows what a combatant is. Basically, it’s someone with a weapon who looks like they might use it. When you are clearing a room, you take down all combatants you come into contact with. You don’t ask them a bunch of questions about whose side they’re on, and then deliberate on what you should do about it, because if they’re not on your side, they’re going to shoot you while you sit there trying to figure out if you should shoot them. You have to make a one second decision on whether that person is a combatant or not, and then act. In an active shooter situation, when law enforcement enters the building, they are looking for someone with a gun. If you have a gun in that situation, you are going to get shot because you look like a combatant. The only good guys with guns in this scenario are the police. Armed civilians just end up dead. This is a recipe for more dead teachers. Who would actually advocate for that?

There are numerous other reasons this is a bad idea, including cost, training, freak accidents, and it simply not being the job of teachers to take something like this on. We could talk about these aspects of the issue for a week given the chance, but at the end of the day, this is a practical and tactical disaster waiting to happen, and we need to put it out of our minds immediately. I’m disappointed that so many people in this country value guns over human life to such an extent that they would actually propose an idea that would cause more death, and not address the issue at hand in any respect, rather than taking the hard step and coming to the table to create common sense bipartisan legislation to keep our youngest citizens safe in school. We have to demand better than this.

The Kids are All Right, and the Revolution Will Be Televised.

th

 

It’s still a mess out there. Trump’s photo-op with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors went just as one would expect (I say photo-op because it can’t really be called a visit, can it? That would imply some meaningful interaction.) and the comments section on my previous post clearly shows that a lot of people in this country would rather cling to their guns than keep our citizens safer. My husband and I watched these things happening over the weekend, and shook our heads. He asked me, in his very British way, “Why are so many Americans like this?” I honestly didn’t know what to say, because even though I’ve been American all my life, and love a lot of things about this country, I don’t get it either. A lot of us don’t. It is so easy to feel like we’re just beating our heads against a wall trying to talk empathy and common sense into people who are set against understanding things like that. Amid all this, however, I have hope, and lots of it.

People, have you seen the Parkland students?! They are all over Twitter, calling out these politicians and pundits by name, replying to their tweets and platitudes, calling BS on their thoughts, prayers, and refusal to act. Conservative news anchors, they hear your comments about how this is not the time and we shouldn’t make this political (in other words, “please let us sweep this under the rug, keep our guns, and funnel the politicians NRA money”) and they are refusing to be silenced. They’re telling us that yes, this is the time, this is the place, and it absolutely is political. They are right, and their words matter.

I hope everybody saw Emma Gonzalez’s powerful speech at the rally for gun safety. If you haven’t, drop what you’re doing and watch it now. As a born and raised Floridian, as a citizen of the United States, and especially as the mom of a student just a couple years younger than she is, I was so proud of her. The world was watching, and she did a better job at delivering the message that needed to be delivered than any adult, and especially any politician. Nobody deserves to be in the situation these students are in, especially at a young age, but they aren’t accepting the role of victim. They are reframing themselves as change makers. As it turns out, the revolution will be televised.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas students aren’t alone in their efforts, as teens across the nation are staging protests, including one outside the White House over the weekend, and planning school walkouts to send a powerful message to politicians that they demand action. I strongly recommend all politicians of all parties shut up and listen. These aren’t kids. These are people who are going to vote you out of office very soon if you don’t do something. Probably ¼ of the students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting will be 18 in time for the upcoming midterm election, and probably half of them by the 2020 general election. Politicians, meet your constituents. Aren’t you lucky? They’re telling you exactly what you need to do to get the votes of their generation (and their generation is huge, so you really want their votes).

I know a lot of people are wondering what was different about this one, why these students are so much more vocal about fighting back than the survivors of previous school shootings. To be clear, I’m not criticizing the response of any survivor. Everyone copes in their own way, and it’s all valid. Even so, we have to admit, this time is different. This isn’t the first time school shooting survivors have had Twitter, or microphones, or intelligence, or anger. None of that is new. Maybe this was just a long time coming. Maybe we’re already so angry as a nation about the horrible (elected) situation in DC that we were sitting on a powder keg for action, and this was one hell of a catalyst. Whatever the reason, I think we are finally going to have the national conversation we’ve been needing, and hopefully affect change at the ballot box in a few months, and again in a couple years. These students and their courageous activism are going to be a game changer.

As I watch these students find their voices and their power, I remember Columbine as the event that changed everything. I was a student at a different Florida high school at that time, and I remember how it shook our community even though we were half a continent away. I remember my school receiving bomb threats in the days following, and how the deans tried to figure out security, which was nearly impossible since the school consisted of a large sprawl of small buildings with outdoor hallways, surrounded by large fields owned by the school’s Agriculture department. Since metal detectors would have been largely pointless, the goth kids all got questioned because they wore trench coats, we all had to buy clear backpacks, the Sheriff’s Department searched our cars and lockers a few times, and our Resource Deputy worked overtime, trying to keep his finger on the pulse of the school, and learn of any potential threats.

Consider now, that many of today’s high school students were born in the years immediately following Columbine. Some, if their parents were young, were born to people who remember this from the perspective of a student. (My oldest is the same age as the younger Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors. I was in high school during Columbine.) These students have never known a world where mass shootings in schools are not a thing. They have grown up in a nation that teaches Kindergarteners which alarm means vacate for fire drill and which one means hide in closets and bathroom stalls for a lockdown drill. The world they grew up in is so jaded that the “smaller” school shootings barely make the news, and the most dystopian headlines ever, things like, “There were only 8 school shootings in the past 6 weeks, not 18”, get shared widely as if they represent the voice of reason, as if we’re doing kind of ok despite the fact that we have school shootings on a regular basis, and the rest of the world is actually pretty horrified with us.

They live in this reality, but go home to parents who remember when it wasn’t like that. I don’t know anybody who’s not completely gutted by the fact that their kids, all the way back to Kindergarten, have rehearsed what to do in the event of a mass shooting. We tell our kids that it doesn’t have to be like this. We tell them that we can do better. Say what you will about millennial parents, but we are raising our kids to know they can make a difference. We grew up on girl power anthems by Gwen Stefani, TLC, and the Spice Girls. We were told we could do anything we wanted in life, and that the technology we were raised with would allow us to innovate more than any other generation. (The fact that a lot of us were hobbled to some degree by the economy has limited this, but our mentality is still influenced by the optimism we came up on.) We danced around the living rooms with our toddlers to Beyonce, and dressed them in shirts that said, “Strong like mom” and “Kind like dad”. We turned gender roles on their heads, with dads happily taking on more of the parenting duties than ever before, and moms contributing in the workforce and politically more than any previous generation. We took our kids to see every Marvel movie, where the good guys always win and diversity is celebrated. We send them to schools that have metal detectors and lockdown procedures, but we fill them with optimism even though we have had a lot of it sucked out of us by the world in recent years. Most of us, at our core, are pretty sure the only way we’re going to change the world is to raise better people. Whether the parents of these students are older millennials, Gen-X, or somewhere in between, they did exactly that, and I’m so proud of them.

We’re a young country. I have to wonder if all this upheaval is part of our growing pains. Maybe the combination of young people with empowered upbringings, Twitter accounts, and anger at the nation that elected the most inept, unhinged, and out of touch presidential administration in history, is what will finally push us in the progressive direction that we’ve been needing for a long time. I don’t think this would have happened if Obama were still in office. I like Obama just fine. Most people do. That’s kind of the point. Maybe because we don’t like our government’s face anymore, we’re finally able to get angry enough at them to affect change.

There’s always been corruption. There’s always been inaction. There have always been policies and decisions that every sensible person should disagree with. This stuff was true no matter who was in office. It was really hard to get mad at Obama, though, because he was a decent person. You can say the same, to some degree, of Bush, Clinton, and if you remember other presidents, probably them as well. The current regime is different. They are not decent people. They are very easy to get justifiably angry at. Maybe it wasn’t solely this massive shooting, but the combination of the vileness of our current political status, the number of victims, and of course the universal availability of Twitter, that created this tide of activism.

Whatever it is, I’m here for it, and you should be, too. Things may seem bleak, but election day is coming. Let’s join with the Parkland students, and give ‘em hell.