Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Witness to history: A stroke of the pen changes a child's world

Editor's Note: You'll love this post by a former GLAD client who attended Gov. Deval Patrick's ceremonial signing of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill last week with her granddaughter, who is transgender.

I still remember the morning my dad woke me up in the dark to see the first man walk on the moon. My siblings and I sat in a line across the foot of my parents’ bed watching the only color TV in the house. In hopeful silence, we bore witness to an event that would, quite literally, change our world. Although I was too young to appreciate the full significance, I felt the weight of importance as we all held our breath watching, and the incredulous joy of that first step. I still remember every moment of that morning and the powerful pride we carried with us afterward.

When I heard there would be a Ceremonial Signing of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill at the State House on Jan. 19, I knew immediately that it was my 7-year-old granddaughter Susan’s moment to witness the historic event that would change her world.

As with any parent or caregiver of a young child, I have been dedicated to giving Susan a happy and peaceful childhood (The name Susan is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.) Because the future will likely present some uniquely challenging, and possibly harmful situations, I have vowed to keep Susan protected for as long as possible. I have worked hard with GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi to ensure that Susan is always respected and treated as the girl she is. Basically, I patrol the perimeters of Susan’s life so she does not experience any type of harm or discrimination. In fact, I have felt so protective, I hadn't yet broached the topic of discrimination with her.

When I realized that taking Susan to the signing would require me to talk to her about transgender rights and the discrimination that had created a need to protect those rights, I called Jennifer. I asked how she talked to her children about transgender discrimination and she shared some thoughts that helped me realize it was time. Apparently the stars were aligned in our favor for that very day, Susan arrived home from school sharing what she had learned about Martin Luther King Day. She spoke in detail about how Dr. King had helped create a law that protected black people from discrimination. From there, it was an easy segue to discuss discrimination against various groups of people.

When we began to talk about discrimination against transgender people and the new protections in the bill, Susan became very excited to attend the signing. She saw the Transgender Equal Rights Bill as a continuation of Dr. King’s work and felt incredibly proud to be a part of that.

Yes, the event was a bit long for a young child and the room was very warm, causing Susan to feel a bit cranky at times. But at the very moment Governor Patrick sat at his desk and lifted his pen, I watched Susan become attentive and focused and could see that she, too, felt the weight of importance. I watched her face light up as she witnessed the Governor signing the bill. She laughed and clapped, feeling the incredulous joy that flooded the room as Governor Patrick handed his pen to Gunner Scott, the executive director of the Mass. Transgender Political Coalition.

I hope Susan will remember. I hope she will come to understand that the signing represents years of hard work and dedication to a dream. I hope she will carry with her the power of pride. I hope that, over time, she will come to know that the signing symbolizes a giant leap for the transgender community, for her community. Finally, we have hope for the future.


@KurtzLR said...

Beautiful story, congratulations to Susan, she's a part of history.

Robin Piccini said...

What a great post. Susan will remember this the rest of her life.
It is very difficult when we have to bring up the subject of discrimination with our child but it is much better to talk about it than to leave so much unsaid.

I've always told my daughter that if she doesn't speak up when something is said or done that she doesn't agree with then her silence will speak for her and she will appear to agree with the others.

Susan will learn how to speak for herself but for now, it's wonderful that she has you to help speak for her and to her.