With her tattoos, piercings and short crop haircut, she didn’t look like the other moms at the JCC pool. Over the course of that first summer, we repeatedly found ourselves standing together, water up to our waists, as my two- and her three boys circled around us in the water; each one of them, at any given moment, needing to be reminded to stop splashing or stop jumping or stop staying under the water too long or stop swimming toward the deep end or leave your brother alone. At first we just exchanged glances of empathy at just how exhausting (these particular) kids were, but soon we were pinch hitting for one another in watching, disciplining and allowing the other to have a quick break, even if only to use the ladies’ room. It wasn’t long before we were actual friends.
As our friendship developed I was 100% certain that Beth was the coolest person I had ever known. A self described “big ol’ lesbo” she was unflappable in the face of kids being kids. Her story gaga-ed me: three sons, all of whom she had birthed, being raised by her and two coupled gay men, all living together in one (totally cool) house. There was not a single question I posed to her that she wasn’t willing to answer…and I asked plenty. (Shut up, like you don’t want to know the mechanics of her getting pregnant!)
That was the summer that my 5 year old son had fashioned a mermaid tail out of shirts or towels or Lord knows what, and was elated to be traversing the pool, tail attached, enjoying a happiness that often eluded him. He freakin’ loved that tail. The lifeguards and other parents, however, felt differently. Before I knew it, this benign mermaid tale was an official issue which, as I am sure you can imagine, I was not going to cave to. Despite it not being her battle, Beth was right there alongside me voicing her ardent displeasure that a (supposedly) family friendly place was trying like hell to thwart a kid being a kid because it made them uncomfortable. It was then that I determined that, not only was Beth the coolest person I know, but she was now my idol. I credit her with teaching me how to vehemently advocate for my kid without appearing all together rabid or unglued. And, not for nothing; we won that battle.
When she isn’t in the pool with the kids (or cooking, or Soul Cycling or mentoring or getting a new tattoo or saving someone from themselves or being a kick ass mom or cracking me up) Beth is a therapist. She works for this organization protecting, embracing and celebrating people who are, by big world definition, “on the fringe”, yet, by compassionate human being standards, no less worthy of love, support, joy and acceptance than anyone else. Right?!
Last year, as her birthday was approaching, Beth was acutely aware of the many blessing in her life and knew that she neither wanted nor needed any gifts. So, in her never-ending marvelousness, she went on social media and requested that anyone who was able or inclined to, please purchase gift cards to be distributed to her client base, most of who find every day a struggle. In keeping with it being her 51st birthday, she set a goal of receiving and then distributing 51 cards. Because she is so badass, she was sent, wait for it… 120 cards! Seriously, how much of da bomb can one person be?!?
Fast forward to this week when our (what’s the opposite of esteemed?) POTUS flexed his “muscles” and proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he is decidedly not everybody’s President by rescinding President Obama’s rule to protect transgender students’ bathroom use. Aside from the strong and reasonable arguments that no one checks for penises or vaginas in the stalls of bathrooms, that this is no more about bathrooms than it was about water fountains and, really, who cares who is peeing next to you, his placing his signature (more on that here, just the first of 21,000,000 results when Googled) on the executive orders changed everything.
Under the best of circumstances, transgender kids do not have it easy. They face ridicule and prejudice and hate and danger every single day. They have an inordinately high rate of suicide. Many have parents and families who find the transition so intolerable that they throw their child, part of them, out of their homes. It ain’t good, folks.
As I way lying in bed the other night, having chatted a bit with Jess about how this will change her world – she is fortunate to live in a state and town that is very accepting of her – I noted that she felt angry but not afraid. With a healthy embrace of the arrogance of youth, any true fears she has about going to the bathroom in public are minor and, given where we live, easily remedied, but not so for many others around the country. And that really pisses me off.
What does this all have to do with Beth you ask? Fair question.
My birthday is about a month away. I need nothing. I want nothing. I am fortunate that I’ve got the people, love and things that I need and I have them every hour of every day. Too damn many trans kids do not. So, I texted Beth and asked her, “if I were to collect gift cards for transgender kids who are on the street or in trouble or struggling…could you get them in the right hands?” Her immediate response:
I love you.
So now I ask you, dear reader: Can you help me reach my goal of collecting 104 cards (that’s 52×2) for these kids who only want to live authentically, freely and, most important, safely?
Getting the cards to me: Please send me a note in the comments section and I will give you my address.
Note: I still need to ensure that my child and my family are safe because, as crushing as it is to admit, there are so many assholes out there who have nothing better to do than to worry about what is between someone else’s legs and what they are doing with it. (Ewwww). That being said, if there are more than a few people that I do not know who want to participate, I will look into securing a PO box somewhere which, I realize, would be a good problem to have.
Stay strong mamas and papas. Love your kids, no matter if they sit or stand, love the same or opposite sex or scare you with their bravery. We’ve got this.
Oh, and Beth; I love you, too!