Texas, Can You Hear Me?

Texas, Can You Hear Me?

We Must Fight Legislative Bullying. Join Me in Doing These 4 Things.

 

My heart broke open when I saw this image in my newsfeed and read the corresponding blog:

As someone in the LGBTQ community, my home state is sending a message to my community, and it hurts.

 

I’ll tell you a bit more about me in a minute, but as an educator, a racial equity coach/facilitator, and someone with expertise in diversity and inclusion, I want to start by saying this: I share this perspective through my lens of experience.

 

Now, for the topic at hand…

 

“If signed into law, this bill would most harm the children in Texas’ child welfare system — kids who need a loving, stable home. Discrimination under law is unacceptable. The Senate must recognize this bill for what it is: an attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans, this time targeting some of Texas’ most vulnerable residents: children in the child welfare system.” (Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, and an adoptive and foster parent)

 

When I use terminology, I want to make sure we’re on the same page. Here’s one definition of a bully:

Children in the welfare system are vulnerable. Heterosexual politicians (most of whom are straight white men) in Texas have power, and they’re using their influence to discriminate against potential foster parents. Reducing possible foster parents hurts those most vulnerablechildren in the welfare system.

 

Typically people talk about the three positions in bullying: the victim, the perpetrator, and the bystander. But what I (and many educators in my circle) tell my students is a little more nuanced.

 

Here’s a visual that helps us understand the different roles in bullying situations:

Now, through that lens, take a look at some of the comments below the article mentioned above. Here’s a snapshot:

What did you notice? Who were the bullies, perpetrators, witnesses, confronters, and allies?  

 

Before I get into why I’m so disturbed about this, let me share a little about me:

 

I’m a white woman from Texas (called it home for 20 years) who’s been in education for 10+ years. I identified as straight for a long time and dated men most of my adult life. In fact, I got married and divorced in my twenties. Then, something happened four years ago. My marriage ended. Soon thereafter, I fell in love with Lia. You see, Lia’s not just any woman, she’s the love of my life. Here’s a photo of us:

I’ll spare you the details about the journey of my sexual identity exploration, but I will share one big insight I learned about myself and others: unconsciously I/we internalize messages about who and what stories are accepted in dominant culture, and that impacts our ability to feel and love fully.

 

Back to when I met Lia. I stayed quiet about our relationship for months. On top of the post-divorce pain, the learning curve of being in a new relationship was steep after being with the same man for seven years. Needless to say, making sense of the chemistry I was having with a crush, who happened to be an African-American woman, took time.

 

Months passed, and our inner circles learned of our love, and it was beautiful. Slowly I got more comfortable talking about my love with friends and family.

 

Fast-forward 2 years (to June of 2016), everything came to a head with these two events: 1) The Orlando tragedy, and 2) Alton Sterling’s murder and the rise in social-media commentary on police brutality.

 

Suddenly every headline became deeply personal. I could no longer scroll past the visceral feelings that surfaced for me when reading the news.

 

When I said “enough is enough” I knew things were going to change.

 

So, I made a decision. I decided to be more vocal. More public. More out.

 

I changed my profile photo to one of Lia and me. I posted more personal stories and shared more vocal frustrations about the inherent racism in our criminal justice system (and the fabric of our country). I even created an instagram page called @loveislove.thereisnobox.

 

Little did I know that, in many ways, I was writing my “coming out” story. I felt in my soul that it was time to be more vulnerable, so I acted upon that feeling.

 

It was time to step out of my comfort zone of privilege as a white woman living in the silent space of luxury.

 

The more I publicly shared my story and perspective, the more I heard back from people, and I realized these things:

 

  • A lot of people want to have conversations about sexuality being on a spectrum. Many feel society boxes us into labels and identities that are insensitive and unnecessary, but they just haven’t had a platform to engage in meaningful dialogue.   

 

  • A lot of people lack the facility to engage in conversations about sexual identity, race, privilege, and difference and really want to get better at navigating complex topics.

 

  • A lot of parents struggle to know how to talk to their children about sexual identity, race, privilege, and difference and feel afraid of saying the wrong thing or not having a clean, clear solution.

 

  • Same-sex couples are amazing parents and provide loving homes to their children, and the family planning process is intense and complex.

So, back to this legislation and why it’s so disturbing.

 

I know a good portion of our country is racist, sexist, and homophobic. I’m not naive or colorblind.

 

I’m also very aware that discrimination is going at full force in Texas. The thing that we’ve seen with legislation, however, is that it empowers and validates bullies and almost gives them permission to be more vocal, which is very problematic.  It contradicts the very thing that we’re teaching our children not to do.

 

Here are some not-so-fun facts from the ACLU:

If you want to see more about this source and the troubling state of the LGBTQ community in Texas, click here.

 

Do you notice the conflicting statistics there? Studies suggest that 2/3 of Texans would actually support LGBTQ protection. MORE people in Texas actually do not condone discrimination. This suggests that we actually have made progress and that this legislation is taking Texas backward.

 

That legislators are ignoring all the progress in rights for LGBT folks with supreme court ruling on marriage, change in public opinion, etc.  

 

I’m aware of the facts. And yet, when I saw the image of the flag show up in my newsfeed my heart hurt. When I read the words on the screen, my mind thought about my future family. My partner and I felt angry at Texas and uncertain about whether it would be a place we could raise a family.

 

After reading the blog, with my eyes swollen with tears, I stood up and called my partner. I said “I’m angry. I’m sad. And I have to fight these homophobic assholes.” (pardon my French)

 

So what do we do? How do we stand up for what’s right to ensure this bill doesn’t get passed?

 

Before we jump to action-steps, it’s important that I say this: this is going to be a long journey.

 

We must take time for self-reflection. We must model maturity in our interactions because the children are listening.

 

We are paving the way. How we, as parents and teachers, talk to one another directly impacts how our children experience us.

 

By not talking about this (because it doesn’t impact you directly), you’re sending a message. A very strong message.  

 

By respectfully and maturely, you’re sending a strong message.

 

Silence is a weapon when it comes to civil rights.

 

Witnesses and bystanders do not stop bullying. Defenders and Allies do.

 

So, the first thing we must do is this:

 

  1. REFLECT.

We must truly think about why this matters before we go out and respond/react to others.

 

I encourage us all to reflect on or write about these questions:

  • What does fairness really mean to me?
  • Why do I believe people should be able to love their partner without being judged, ridiculed, and bullied?
  • Is justice and fairness for my family/neighbors/colleagues important enough for me to take a stand?
  • Am I really willing to do what it takes to stand up for what’s right?

 

It’s important to pause and check in with ourselves before reacting and jumping to the defensive.

 

It’s important that we demonstrate what my mentor calls patient urgency.

 

When I say patient urgency, I mean that we must balance these two things: 1) the urgent belief that change is necessary, with steadfast determination to fight for justice no matter what, and 2) accept that we cannot do this alone. We must be patient, empathetic, and understanding if we want to bring people with us on this fight.

 

We must embrace paradoxes of what it means to lead with love during these times.

 

That looks and means something different to all of us, but we have to balance the pain and perseverance. In order to do that we must take care of ourselves, otherwise, we will burn out.  

 

Make sense?

 

Okay. Now that we’ve covered the importance of self-reflection, let’s talk about coming together:  

 

Here are four more things we can do to organize and mobilize:

 

  1. STAY INFORMED.

 

  1. CONNECT.

 

  1. Last, and Most important: ACT. You can literally do all of these today.

      **First thing: (please do these 2 things that will take literally 2 minutes)

  • Please do these things immediately:  (this is moving fast)

    • Call the Senate Chair of Health and Human Services, Charles Schwertner, and ask that he vote against this bill. He LEADS the committee and he chose to hear the bill yesterday, (which is bad) and he has a lot of influence. I talked to his staffer yesterday and he listened. They have to document all the calls they receive, so call away.  (here’s more about him). The number to his office is (512) 463-0105
    • Here are the people http://www.senate.texas.gov/cmte.php?c=610 on the committee that you can also call.
    • If you’re a Texan, call the Senator for your district and tell them you’re opposed to the bill.  Find your senator/rep here:
    • Here’s a script you can use as a starting place. It helps to make any connections with their background that you can. If they went to UT and you have a connection, reference that. The more they can see themselves in us, the more likely they’ll listen.
    • Sign up to phone-bank with NEAT: http://volunteer.theneat.org/events?tags=2017_tx

 

 

  • Whether you’re a big tweeter or not, the truth is twitter is a platform and tool to show solidarity. Take 2 minutes to follow:

Pro-LGBTQ Groups:

Progressive Texas Organizations:

Anti-bullying Organizations

     Then, if you’re really on fire: 

 

At the end of the day, remember these four things: we must be aware and awake–always, we must come together, we must share with one another, and we must move forward–one step and one conversation at a time.

 

I’ll close by saying this: I’m using the language of bullying because it’s an accessible comparison. I don’t–by any means–mean to oversimplify something as complex as oppression or generalize bullying experiences. Bullying experiences are excruciatingly painful, and I would never make light of that. I see a direct comparison though, (on a systemic level) and want us to easily see our roles and responsibilities in this fight.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. PLEASE respond below with reactions, reflections, and ideas for forward mobilization…AND PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY.

 

I can’t do this alone. We need each other’s strength, resilience, conviction, and alliance right now.

Together, we can IGNITE positive shifts for the next generation.

Rachel

—–

Rachel Rosen is a seasoned facilitator, racial equity leadership coach, LGBTQ advocate, and the Founder of S.P.A.R.K. She is on a mission to bring more empathy to the world, one conversation at a time. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, Rachel brings a perspective that’s grounded in theory and practice.

S.P.A.R.K. offers experiences (both a product, SPARK! For Humanity—the game where everyone belongs–and a service). Purchase your own deck or learn more about it.

 

S.P.A.R.K. products and services are here to deeply and meaningfully connect communities, strengthen team dynamics, and develop leadership capacity. Each offering aims to cultivate communities where all people feel empowered, valued, connected, and a sense of belonging. In so doing, we support leaders and teams to unleash their potential to collaborate and build trust, in service of making a positive impact on the world.

 

REFERENCES/MORE RESOURCES:

1. Read THE FULL BILL here

2. STUDY ON IMPACT OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LGBTQ TEXANS:

“Texas is home to over 770,000 LGBT adults and 158,500 LGBT youth. LGBT people in Texas lack important legal protections and face a less supportive social climate than LGBT people in many other states. For example, statewide laws in Texas offer no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. Texas also has an anti-LGB curriculum law, requiring that teachers provide anti-LGB instruction during sex education lessons, and state law fails to adequately protect LGBT students from bullying.”  

3. Another article on LGBTQ Discrimination in Texas
4. Lastly, I’ll leave you with this video, in case you need a reminder of how smart young people are and how we as adults unnecessarily complicate the process of loving and accepting one another.

5. Photo credits

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