So, let it be known that I am a proud mama when it comes to all aspects of my child. She identifies out and proud as queer at the moment because she is still figuring herself out. I know that my job as her parent and ally is to allow her the space to figure out what this means for her, provide education where I can when needed and accept, love and celebrate her for the magical person she is. This is the easy part of allyship for me. She is a flower that I nourish to allow her to bloom and show me what she looks like.
My ally test this week came from the aspect of being an ally who actively challenges othering and isms in a way that is respectful, educating and productive. This is the one where, as a parent, it can be hard. It is my role to protect her in life, right? But, what happens when she is faced with prejudice?
In school this week, my daughter was confronted by ignorant teenagers who were trying to convince her that there are only 2 genders. As is usual when it comes to cowardly bullies, they came in a group of 3. Now, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to advocacy here. My sweet, proud daughter tried to use this as an opportunity for education. The conversation developed with this bully and ended them using hate speak and extremely offensive language regarding her queer identity. At 14, she had never experienced overt prejudice against her before. She was shocked. She froze. The bell rang and she left class full of hurt and shame and confusion over what had just happened.
Now, I am sure that you have all heard of the mama bear reaction to someone hurting your child. This was compounded even further by my own core value of standing as an ally and calling out hate (I mean, I talk about allyship in organisations for a living). As I comforted my daughter and remained calm on the outside, the rage began to build on the inside. How dare they hurt my child! How dare they spread hate and ignorance! The reactive vigilante thoughts that were racing through my head towards three teenagers are probably best left unshared. But, the anger was real. I wanted those who hurt my brilliant girl to pay!
Then, my wonderful and kind spirited daughter said something to me to pull me from the red haze in my mind. She said, “Mom, why are people so uneducated? It’s pride month! I know they wouldn’t have used those words if they knew they were just as bad as racial slurs.” Out of the mouths of babes came my wake up call.
This was not about me or my rage or my need to stand up for my daughter. This is about allyship. This was about her. This was and is and will always be about bringing awareness and education in a way that makes the most impact.
These children lacked education. Where the ignorance came from was irrelevant. What would make the biggest impact? Excluding these children from school? Shaming them? Punishing them? Allowing resentment to build? Or would it be better to educate them so that they can make informed choices in the future for which they are accountable?
For the record, the school was great. They followed my daughter’s lead. They educated the teens and provided opportunity and requirement for them to self educate based on available resources as well. Those children know that they are now responsible for the information they have and that should they intentionally use hate speech again, the consequences will be swift and severe.
There is learning in this for me as a parent and ally of a queer child. This is her journey. It is not about calming my inner mama bear. It is not even about me protecting her from future hate and abuse that may come her way. Being a parent ally means standing beside her and listening to her and being guided by her, especially when it’s hard for me.
by Gwen Jones
Gwen delivers a number of talks on topics related to this post, such as: