Recognizing Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration

fence, macro, barbed wire

In light of the many events in the past few years that have brought police brutality and mass incarceration to the attention of the American public, I’d like to share my experiences with coming to the realization that these are indeed problems, and add my voice to the many that are discussing how we can address this. Too many people in my country are still denying these issues, saying black people are provoking the police, claiming that it’s just a few bad apples, or that black people are breaking the law more than white people. As with many things in life, there’s way more to this issue than meets the eye.

I’m a short white girl, so unsurprisingly, I have never experienced police brutality in my own life. I have, however, seen the results of police brutality and mass incarceration on a community I lived in, where I served as a volunteer throughout college.

I went to college in a city with a majority black population. A poor city where a good education is nearly impossible to attain. The city used to thrive, until the day came when its many factory jobs were outsourced to places where labor is cheap. As the jobs dried up, the people who could afford to leave packed their bags and moved somewhere better. Everyone else would stay on, getting jobs as janitors. As food service people. As cashiers at Walmart. Legitimate jobs to be sure, but jobs that usually cannot support a family, or even a single individual, without some other source of income. When those jobs failed to provide the people in that city with what they needed, they turned to other means.

I can’t fault someone as much for selling drugs when that’s the only valuable thing in their city. Yes, there are cruel people in the world, but crime isn’t always as simple as the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up watching. Sometimes people join gangs to have a family. To have support, or protection from violence. To feel like they belong somewhere, when nothing in their life feels like a home should. People die that way. People go to prison. But no one stops to address the route causes of these crimes.

When I was in college, I volunteered as a tutor at an after-school program near campus, helping local kids with their homework. While I was there, I watched a girl in second grade deal with the fact that her mother had just been arrested. She came in with tears in her eyes several weeks in a row, and the adults there had to take her aside to help her cope. She was a very bright child, with a reading level well above her grade level–so much so that even in her poor school district, she was being given more challenging reading assignments from 3rd and even 4th grade. I sometimes wonder where she is now. If all’s well with her, she’ll have finished 6th grade by now. Was she doing work for 7th or 8th that whole time last school year, or have the traumas of life in her city ripped the love of learning out of her? Her younger sister by a year or two had no idea what was happening at the time. Why mommy was gone. That was perhaps the saddest thing for the older sister, because in many ways I think she felt very alone through all this. Her sister was too young to understand what had happened.

Another day, when I was tutoring at the same place, a police siren went off in the distance, and one of the other children–not one of the aforementioned sisters, but yet another child–immediately started to cry. That was when the reality hit me. For some people, especially in cities like that one, the police aren’t the good guys who protect us. They take mommy and daddy away. And, as I would later learn, they beat or even kill parents in front of their children. A four year old was in the car when Philando Castile was shot and killed. Imagine the life that child may have going forward. It’s hard to focus on your school work when you’ve seen someone get killed right in front of your eyes in close quarters. Especially someone you know. A four year old shouldn’t be dealing with death, much less murder.

This is the reality for some people at a very early age, but if you’re white, and you’re growing up in a wealthy school district, this is not your reality. I didn’t attend public school, but my homeschooling community set up a field trip where we visited our local police station. The police joked with us, told us stories, and talked about crime fighting in a positive way. I looked up to the officers who spoke with us. It was one of my favorite “homeschool field trip” experiences. They showed us my town’s jail cells and jokingly let us walk in and pretend to be arrested. They showed us the restraint they use for unruly, dangerous arrests, and I didn’t imagine someone getting abused in it. I imagined the police using it to restrain someone who was a genuine danger to others. I had full and complete trust in the men in blue who protected my town, because they’d never given me a reason to think otherwise. But in the next state over, in the city where I went to college, there was probably a child walking into one such jail with a parent in tow, coming to bail out mom or dad after a routine traffic stop. The jail cells in my affluent town were empty the day we visited. I promise you, in some places, they are always full.

We need to indict the officers responsible for these shootings. They need to be tried, and steps need to be taken to stop this from happening again. I have some ideas. I’m not the first person to say this, but I think it bears repeating:

  1. TRAINING. So many of these terrible scenarios could have been avoided if the police officers had been able to take control of the situation in a way that works on calming people down, not riling people up. It’s human nature to amp up your volume and increase your forcefulness in a stressful situation when you’re an authority figure, but people in a job like theirs need to realize this, and to know how to calm themselves and others. They also need to assess the situation realistically. Training should include teaching them to be sensitive to the different experiences of people of different backgrounds. Also, and this is a big one for me, they need training regarding how to handle mentally unstable people. When the police are called to help the mentally ill, it often doesn’t end well.
  2. Police should look like the communities they’re policing. A mostly black neighborhood with a mostly white police force is doing something wrong. The police should be invested in the communities they’re serving. They shouldn’t feel like the people they’re interacting with on a daily basis are part of an “other” outside group.
  3. We need to make it easier, not harder, for people to film the police. Police officers should wear body cameras, and there should never be any question of legality when it comes to filming the police. It’s beginning to seem like that’s the only way they’re being held accountable: the court of public opinion. That shouldn’t be the case though. We also need to take the next step once footage of a police officer misbehaving surfaces. They need to face reasonable consequences for the severity of the misdeed. I’m not saying every mistake they could make is worthy of termination or charges, but if you’re killing people on the job then yeah, I’d like to see both.
  4. We need to address mass incarceration, and the way in which the United States criminal justice system is being used to oppress minorities. I only wish I were imagining this, but unfortunately investigations of police forces known to be involved in cases of police brutality have turned up a widespread pattern of abuse and racial profiling. In other words, contrary to what we’d all like to believe, it’s not just a few bad apple cops. It’s often an entire police force. The roots of mass incarceration are three fold: the behavior of the people enforcing the law, the laws that are being written without regard for minorities, and the situations that lead people to choose crime in the first place. Poverty is a massive factor. With poverty comes a major deficit in opportunity. We need to address all of this, not just one part of it, if we want this issue to go away completely.
  5. We need to talk about race, but in a more nuanced way. Racism isn’t always overt. It’s not just people knowingly making judgments based on race. It’s not just about hiring discrimination, housing discrimination, wage discrimination, and dropping the N word around. It’s not just about lynchings, and people having a problem with biracial couples. It’s not just when people knowingly say or do cruel things because of someone’s race. Racism is in the assumptions we make unconsciously too, and those assumptions are some of the most pervasive ones because we tend to not notice them when they’re happening.

Even with all the things I just said, I am very aware that I HAVE RACIST TENDENCIES. I tense up when an unfamiliar black man walks by, far more so than with a large white man.  I shouldn’t be afraid of these people I’ve never met, but I am. I’m trying not to be this way. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard, but I do think that with time I can unlearn at least some of this negative conditioning. I think the first step to fixing a problem is realizing you have one. My hope is that others will come to the same realization and begin to take the steps to change.

If we want racism to end, we need to catch ourselves making that snide remark. We need to stop judging people who speak differently from us, whose hair is a little bit different, whose skin is a different color. We need to walk past the black man on the park bench calmly, comfortably, without clutching our purses in a panic. We need to recognize that unfortunately the police may not always handle an emergency involving diverse people very well, and if they fail to behave appropriately, we need to stand up for the people being abused. We need to find it in us to question authority when necessary, especially for those of us who are coming from a place of white privilege. It’s fucking tragic that I have to say it, but if they won’t listen to the black voices, the voices of the victims and their families, maybe they’ll listen to us.

If you have thoughts or experiences related to this issue, feel free to share them. Please be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking.

Nancy

Anti-Refugee Fear Mongering

The other day, my brother insisted that most Syrian refugees are young single males. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this claim, but it was my first time hearing it from a member of my family rather than an out-of-touch old man on conservative media. My father immediately agreed with my brother, insisting that he’d heard this too. So I went online and looked it up, because the internet is an incredible thing. Here’s what I found.

It’s barely true as of right this second that there are slightly more male refugees than female ones, at least registered in the countries for which we have statistics. Marital status is not indicated in the demographics I found, just age and sex, but I’m pretty confident that this is a solid source for this information.

This is a graph from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) website, with statistics on Syrian refugees. Bear in mind, this source is 1) not affiliated with any American political party and 2) an orginazation that deals directly with the refugee crisis. You can see in the picture below that as of when I got this screenshot, they had updated the information here on July 20th.

Syrian Refugee stats

I will admit that this data doesn’t seem to contain every country refugees are going to, and that it’s possible the demographics in one country are very different from the demographics here, however all in all I think this is a large enough record to conclude that it isn’t “mostly single young males” fleeing Syria, as some have been led to believe. As you can see, men do slightly outnumber women  in these demographics-by about 1% as of July 20th. But 1% is not really that statistically significant. If we’re going to make big claims based on a 1% difference, then I could just as easily say that because women in the 18-59 age range outnumber men in that age group by nearly 1%, the refugees have more mothers among than than single men. Neither statement is a reasonable conclusion to draw from these statistics though. It’s a conclusion someone’s jumped to using barely relevant statistics.

Additionally, there’s something off about the way conservatives are using the phrase “single  young men” in this context. The people putting out this idea keep using the phrase as a reason to be hostile towards refugees and ban them from western nations, so I get the feeling that they think young single males are just horrible human beings, or at least more likely to be horrible human beings. If that’s not a highly gendered sexist idea, I don’t know what is. It sounds like an extension of one of my least favorite gendered sayings: “boys will be boys,” which is often used to excuse men for being mischievous, lazy, or clueless because it’s “just how they are.” (Meanwhile, women are expected to whip some sense into them and teach them to have some manners and a work ethic.) If conservatives are basically stretching the statistics to suit them by attaching “single” to the young men demographic, then they’re implying that married men are more tame, more responsible, less dangerous.

Sure, people mature with age, but getting married, while a big commitment, doesn’t make you more responsible. You make yourself more responsible through the decisions you make. I feel bad for the wife of any man who thinks it’s her job to keep him in line.

There’s a lot of fear mongering being done by conservatives lately, especially about large groups of disadvantaged people. As disappointing as that is to see, what I find even more disappointing is the realization that it’s being spread by well-meaning people like the members of my family who are grossly misinformed. They don’t WANT to discriminate or be cruel, but the fear of this “other” is a pretty powerful thing and can lead to some pretty intense confirmation bias. I wish I knew how to change minds and bring people together so that they can have healthy dialogue about it. For now I’ll just post this chart and hope someone reads it and gives it some consideration.

Do you have any thoughts to share on the ideas in this post? Feel free to leave a comment.

All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

What Does “Never Forget 9/11” Really Mean?

An example of one of these “Never Forget 9/11” campaigns. Most of the ones I’ve seen in my area are just handwritten signs.

I was driving down a suburban road the other day and saw that someone had put up a spray-painted sign stating, “Never Forget 9/11.”

Beneath it, also in spray paint, they had written, “Blue Lives Matter.” (Facepalm.)

Their lawn is covered with miniature American flags.

From the combination of the two signs, I can discern their political affiliation is republican, though I could have guessed it well enough from the first sign, and from the bizarrely numerous American flags. Excessive patriotism is the realm of conservatives in my country. What I can’t guess, though, is what message they’re trying to send with the “Never Forget 9/11” sign.

9/11 will be in every comprehensive US history book. The children who are too young to remember it will be taught about it. There is no conspiracy to hide the event and its significance, at least that I’ve seen. True, eventually the people old enough to remember the actual day it happened will die, but that can’t be helped. It will live on in our schools. In our history classes. Our political science lectures. People will remember that terrifying moment in our nation’s history when our comfortable lives were interrupted by a terrible act of violence. But here’s the thing: it was a terrorist attack.

The goal of a terrorist attack is to make people afraid. To make people dwell on that fear. That’s why it’s called terrorism. I’m not saying we should forget 9/11, but do we really need to put up signs about it everywhere? Dwelling on it is letting the terrorists win. Letting them impact our lives all these years later.

The only circumstance in which I think one of these signs makes sense is if you had a loved one who was lost in the attacks that day. In that case, sure. It has a personal meaning to you. I get that. But wouldn’t a memorial to that individual be more personal than just a blanket reminder about an event we all remember anyway?

My fiance brought these signs up in conversation yesterday, and they make him scratch his head too. Between the two of us, the only political message we could come up with for the signs was pretty dark: “Remember who did this.” That makes this whole thing even worse. Now it’s a call to action. A call to be against a whole group of people. With a certain orange hairball inching closer and closer to the white house, I can’t help but wonder whether or not this kind of sign is a symptom of his xenophobic disease.

Am I reading into this too much? Am I so deep in my liberal brain that I can’t just see a sign and take it at face value? What do you think these signs are trying to say?

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Fear Mongering, Race, and Immigration

diversity hands

Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the rise of Donald Trump’s popularity in the US Presidential race, we’ve seen and heard a great deal of fear mongering about immigrants and refugees. This fear mongering has long been part of the Republican dialogue in the US, but Trump has managed to unite bigots all over my country, giving them a more prominent voice in the political scene, and I’m sick of it.

I live in a very diverse area of the northern east coast. My neighbors are primarily south Asian, but there are also plenty of people from all different backgrounds–Latino, East Asian, black, white. You name it, there’s someone around here. Despite all this diversity in close proximity to where I lived, I didn’t interact with a very diverse crowd until late in my high school years. This was the result of my upbringing in a Catholic homeschooling community. The vast majority of the people in that community were not only Catholic, but of either Irish or Italian descent. Not a very diverse group of people. I don’t know what it’s like to be part of Trump’s overtly racist crowd, but I do unfortunately know what it’s like to be ignorant about the issues people of color face in this country, and to believe many of the frankly racist narratives spread by the Republican party and conservative media outlets like Fox news as a result of that ignorance.

The people who believe these things aren’t all bad people, and I think it’s important to remember that. If you are a white person who grows up in an all white or nearly all white community, your experience with race and ethnicity is likely very limited. Race is not something you think about in that situation because it’s simply not there to notice much–and when it is, it’s that one person from church who thinks a lot of the same things you do, not a large group of people with any chance of influencing the culture of your community in a major way. You are fortunate –yes, privileged–to not have race influence your life much. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way it is with everybody.

It was in a college class that I first learned racism is not over in this country. It was the same class in which I learned about mass incarceration, about how terrible the prisons in my country are, and about how law enforcement disproportionately targets minority populations, flooding our prisons with them when white people commit crimes at the same rate and are just left to it. College is way too late to learn about these things, but it’s much better than learning them at 55 or 60 when I’ve been voting for decades as if minorities never face any issues, when I’ve been siding with people who just don’t know any better for decades and as a result keeping the status quo.

One of the most pervasive lies that right wingers continue to push is the idea that racism is a thing of the past. Many conservatives claim that if black people would just follow the law, they wouldn’t experience police brutality, which is something I’ve blogged about before. They say this without comprehending that in order to believe that, they must first buy into one of the most racist stereotypes about black people:  that they are more likely to commit crime than people of other backgrounds. Meanwhile, a lot of the crime we see associated with minorities is the direct result of poverty. It’s not as straightforward as a Jean Valjean situation. These people aren’t stealing bread necessarily, but if someone reaches a point in their life when they realize college and a career is virtually unattainable, and that the easiest way for them to make money is to sell drugs on a street corner, what do you think they’re going to do? Maybe it’s time we started addressing the route causes of crime.

Then there’s the strange connection that has been drawn between crime and immigration. One of the biggest fears that Trump’s supporters seem to maintain is that immigrants will come to this country and ruin it. They won’t assimilate to our way of life. Muslims for instance, from places like Syria, who are currently fleeing violence as refugees, will bring radical Islam with them to this country. Mexican immigrants, likewise, will bring their “criminals,” as Trump says. “Rapists.”

This is largely based in a fear that the bad things happening in these countries are innate in the people from them. That their culture and ours can never intermingle peacefully. I hear a lot of these sentiments from members of my own immediate family, and it’s extremely depressing to listen to, to know that the ignorance has remained pervasive in my family.

The other day, I was in the bank, and a South Asian woman in her thirties was waiting for the teller to get something for her, and she started singing “Fight Song,” under her breath. Yep, the one by Rachel Platten that’s been on the radio a lot. That one. I don’t know where this woman grew up. Maybe she grew up here. Maybe she grew up in India, or Sri Lanka. But her family must have come to America relatively recently compared to when my family came, and here she is, participating in aspects of the same culture and livelihood that I participate in on a regular basis. She seemed happy. How can people want to take that away from future people like her, people who are just seeking a better life? How can they say to refugees “No. This country isn’t for you. You’ll ruin it. You’ll ruin our culture.”

They won’t ruin anything. They will participate in it, and also exist outside of it. They will bring their own cultures here, and we’ll probably gain some new restaurants, and our music will have new influences, and we’ll see different clothing on our streets, hear different languages spoken in diverse areas. That’s the America I’ve come to know and love. That’s the America I want for MY children, and for their children. We need to keep talking about race, about refugees, about immigration, so that the ignorant people out there can hear it. I don’t mean getting in people’s faces and pushing it on them, but the media should be talking about it. People should be sharing articles, and vlogging, and blogging, and educators should continue the good work they do of helping people understand the statistics that many of us are fortunate enough to ignore. Maybe it’ll get some people thinking, and that’s at least a start. I came from a family of immigrants if you go enough generations back, and if you live in the United States, you almost definitely did too.

In light of recent events, what are your experiences with diversity? How did you come to your current understanding of the various groups around you?

As always, feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

John Oliver on Sex Ed

John Oliver covers the sex ed situation in the US fantastically. Our youth deserve better.

“There is no way we’d allow any other academic program to consistently fail to prepare students for life after school. Human sexuality, unlike calculus, is something you actually need to know about for the rest of your life.”

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Ignorance and the Baltimore Riots

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week was a bit crazy for me. It was finals week, and I had to write multiple long assignments while packing and moving out of my dormitory. Everything went smoothly, but I had a brief moment of frustration when my roommate’s family came by to help her move out.

In the middle of the conversation my roommate was having with her family about buying some things she needed, her mother said, “Well, I need toilet paper. We should just go riot. Everybody’s doing it.” She was being sarcastic of course, but that comment got my blood boiling.

I managed to sit down and try to focus on my homework, and I’m proud of myself for staying out of the conversation. My roommate’s family has said many ignorant things in the past in my presence, and one has to pick one’s battles for the sake of getting along with a roommate.

Considering the widespread media coverage of the situation in Baltimore, I knew that was what she was referring to, and her comment showed zero understanding of the nuances of the situation. Yes, people have rioted. Yes, violence is a bad thing. Yes, stealing, vandalism, and other typical riot crimes are all wrong. But cops killing people for reasons other than self-defense? That’s really bad. The frequent racial profiling by police that’s only now coming to light, is absolutely wrong and harmful, and I’m glad the media’s finally catching on. It erodes the trust citizens have in their government, and believe me, my trust in the government had already worn dangerously low. Thanks to police brutality, not only do we currently distrust the policy makers, we’re now also afraid of the enforcers. The people we’re supposed to call in an emergency have shown themselves to be untrustworthy.

Luckily, the police involved in Baltimore did not escape being charged. Whether they will be convicted or not remains to be seen, but at least now we know they will have to face charges for what they have done. We can’t continue to have police offers operating with complete immunity from punishment. It’s tragic that it seems to have taken multiple murders for this issue to be picked up by the media.

But then people like my roommate’s mother come around, and try to turn a complicated situation into cops and robbers. A friend of mine shared this picture below on social media, attempting to do the same thing:

Found on facebook

Found on Facebook

If the situation were as simple as this meme suggests, there’d be no reason to protest. This meme and others like it assumes that the entire situation can be boiled down to the notion that “People broke the law and want to get away with it.” That simply is not the case. Yes, some of the people who’ve been on the receiving end of police brutality have committed crimes. However, the police response to those crimes is what’s in question. Frankly, the police response has often not been appropriate. Time and again, the police, not the criminals as the meme suggests, have been the ones to escalate the situation to the point where a death occurred.

The death of Eric Garner is a perfect example. I’m sure you probably know about him but just in case I’ll sum it up briefly. He was stopped for a minor crime: selling cigarettes illegally. The police involved choked him to death in an attempt to arrest him. The (disturbing) video of his death can be easily found online through a google search, and while he seems extremely upset, he clearly makes no violent movements towards the officers except in self-defense. The officer who was clearly shown choking him ON VIDEO was not indicted.

In addition to police brutality, we’re seeing that the American criminal justice system overall, the system whose job it is to hold people accountable for what they’ve done, seems to be more interested in punishing civilians, particularly black civilians, than anyone else. The system is broken. The people who hold power within it are more concerned about protecting each other than they are about protecting the general public. To simplify the events in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York, and beyond, to a clear-cut case of crime and punishment is to completely ignore the facts of the situation.

Regardless of whether this racism and brutality is widespread or “just a couple of bad apples,” as many Republicans are saying, the officers involved need to be held accountable. Otherwise, we’re looking at a country where for a specific group of people the law does not apply, and for another group, the law is enforced violently. That’s not freedom. That’s not what America is supposed to stand for. I hated sitting quietly and typing a paper about William Wordsworth instead of turning around and telling my roommate’s mother that black lives matter. But ignorant people dislike being informed of their ignorance, and unfortunately in that situation, it was the right thing to do.

As always, feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Confused, Abused, Mislead: When Children of LGBT Parents Don’t Get It

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it comes to political issues, it is common for each party to look for a spokesperson. This is often  someone with direct personal experience with the issue who happens to take the party’s side. No where has this been more true in recent weeks than for the LGBT community, and LGBT parenting. Sadly, I’m here to write about the spokespersons for the Republican party, who use their childhoods to argue that LGBT people can’t be good parents.  What are they thinking? How can they argue against their own parents?

The Young Turks did a video covering the story of a girl who did just that. It can be viewed here. It’s a very different situation from the one I’m about to discuss, so I’ll let The Young Turks handle it. Sadly, that girl’s not the only one doing this.

I recently stumbled upon an article in which someone else does the same thing. It comes from the extremely biased Witherspoon Institute. They are based in Princeton, NJ, but are not funded by the Ivy League University at all. They actively oppose gay marriage and stem cell research, among other things. One of the people affiliated with them performed a study (see the heading “Regnerus study”) on LGBT parenting which, if you read the page at the link above, appears to have been poorly structured, making its results unreliable.

Of course, my conservative friends think well, it’s in Princeton, a place known for its Ivy League institution. That must mean these articles are well thought out and provide useful information for a serious discussion of an issue like LGBT parenting! A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook, and it’s a bit painful to read. It is written by someone whose father was a transgender woman. In other words, her father was born a man, but felt that was not who she truly was.

The child is very harsh toward her father from the beginning, and says she experienced a great deal of abuse at the hands of her father. I’m not here to argue that that abuse did not happen. Being LGBT does not make a person immune from bad decisions or wrongful actions. As much as I support their rights, no one, of any gender or sexual orientation, should be allowed to abuse anyone.

With that being said, the feeling I get from reading this article is that the child has not been able to separate her father’s abuse from the fact that her father was trans. She has not figured out that it is possible that even if he had been a cisgender male, he might have abused her, though the abuse might have taken a different form. To her, she was abused because her father was trans. In reality, she was abused by her father who happened to be trans. There’s a difference.

In the article, she argues that being abused by her father in ways that related to gender made her disgusted with her body. For example, after describing the abuse, and her father’s tendency to steal her clothing and wear it when she was not around, she says,

I began to hate my body. It was a constant reminder of what my father wanted to become. When I began to wear makeup, I had to block out the images I had of him applying makeup or eye shadow or lipstick. He was destroying my desire to become a woman.

I can understand how this might happen, and I don’t think those feelings she experienced were not real. However, again, she is relating them to the fact that her father is trans, when in reality, I suspect they are the result of the abuse. (She says she experienced emotional and sexual abuse.) Had she had a strong relationship with her father in which there was plenty of trust and stability, I don’t think gender would have mattered, and I don’t think she would have written negatively about her childhood at all.

That’s not what she received from her father, though. She explains, for example, that her father followed the revelation of her gender with the announcement that she never wanted kids. That’s hurtful. My own father used to say something similar when he got mad at us. Before he met my mother, he wanted to be a priest. Instead, he fell in love and got married. When we misbehaved as children, he would say, “I should have been a priest!” and “I shouldn’t have had kids” was implied. (Catholic priests don’t marry or have children. It’s not allowed.) So I empathize with her on this point. That’s not something one should ever hear one’s parent say.

What really bothers me about this story is that this girl seems to assume that all trans people are incapable of raising children in a healthy way, simply because she personally was abused by a trans person. What if the gender identities in this story were reversed, and she argued that all straight people are incapable of raising children because she was abused by a straight person? No one in their right mind would find that plausible. The only reason this story makes sense to some conservative people as a valid argument is that trans people are the minority, so there aren’t as many of them raising children. In other words, most people reading the article were raised by straight people, and are more likely to think, “You know what, maybe this is true.”

That’s a huge assumption to make about a group of people, though. This is just one case. It could just be that that particular person was an abuser for a variety of reasons. For example, the daughter mentions that her father was abused as a child, and we know that can lead a person to become an abuser. Instead of making this connection, however, she hints that the abuse might be what led him to be trans–another version of the misconception that abuse leads to homosexuality.

I wanted to berate this girl for using the wrong pronouns for her transgender parent (I used father here because I think it helped keep track of who was who, though I realize mother might have been the parent’s preferred word.) I have to acknowledge that her upbringing by her (biological) mother may have been very conservative (she married young and seems very religious) so to her, this may not seem cruel or disrespectful even though it likely is to her father. Reading the article as a fairly liberal LGBT ally, I felt torn between feeling bad for the girl, angry with the father for abusing her, and also feeling somewhat sorry for the father as well. I can’t know whether or not a more accepting community would have made a difference, but I wonder whether or not the father would have been a better parent if she had been allowed to be herself. Who knows? This does not excuse her for what she did; it merely adds another level to what is already a very complex situation. It’s impossible to answer that kind of what-if question.

I hope society becomes more accepting. I also hope it can eradicate abuse of all kinds. I hope this girl will eventually get to know a kind, caring LGBT person, and change her mind on this issue. In the meantime, as LGBT people come out and become a visible part of everyday life, at least their rights are improving–and so is public opinion about them.

This is a pretty lousy situation, but it’s written from a very conservative perspective. What are your thoughts about it? All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy