Chacos column: A belief so strong it’s worth the sacrifice
November 12, 2018
Championing a cause is rarely easy, popular and certainly never welcome with friends or family that don't agree with your ideology. The fastest way to alienate someone is to spew your thoughts about issues the current administration pontificates about weekly.
Let's face it, staying quiet just feels like the better choice at times. Certainly, staying mum will eliminate awkward family encounters over the impending holiday season.
When someone's equity comes into question, however, I become filled with a blinding sense of fury that needs a healthy outlet. I am moved to find a way to advocate for the rights of a marginalized group in society that needs more of us to actively care about it.
Usually, I begin by stating my catch phrase to anyone who will listen. Equity does not mean the same. This is a concept we all championed in kindergarten but don't agree with as adults.
However, a real leader can take an individual, or group of individuals, and give them the tools they need just to get to the starting line with everyone else. He or she will teach that real equality is individualized and should look different for everyone. A master teacher's toolbox looks like a mix between Inspector Gadget's and your grandfather's garage. Kids the world over learned at an early age that equal does not equal same.
When my own child needed something different, I just mistakenly assumed we'd all give her what she needed. This is an obvious tenet to me, but I was forced to hear other ideologies when I started paying attention. People stood behind their religion or social conservatism using it as a shield to disagree with my child's body.
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Yet, when your child speaks to you with clarity, patience, determination and with an innate understanding of her own needs at just 12 years old, you really want to listen to what she has to say. She never even lobbied for birthday presents this articulately, so I knew to take her seriously.
My daughter was born into a body that does not fit into her gender identity. More specifically, her birth sex does not correspond to how she sees herself. She was trapped in a body that doesn't fit.
Our family swallowed the magnitude of what she told us while she gracefully waited until we fully digested. My daughter will endure a struggle in society that puts her at an increased risk of hurt, humiliation, depression, addiction and death. Transphobia will deprive her of employment, housing, health care and other barriers that most of us take for granted. She humbly accepts this reality.
I waded through science and research, read anecdotal stories, watched documentaries, and eventually asked myself if I would be a more responsible parent if I told my daughter that since she was born a boy, she must stay a boy. Period. End of story.
But that's not actually what happened. Instead, I trusted my child.
Then I somewhat retreated from the bigger conversation. I relied heavily on the quiet but unwavering support from my child's school community, my neighborhood of friends, and some family members.
Our family found tokens of empathy and compassion everywhere. Sometimes it was in a smile, a conversation, an email, text, invite, or small gift. Then the tide of rising rhetoric became a pledge of action, in the most unlikely of places, with my synagogue and within the company where I work. We've cherished each token because it's given our daughter an abundance of confidence and, as an extension, it gave heaps of strength and security to me.
Now, when equity inevitably comes into question in the news or with people I know, I am way past just being moved by the issue. I am compelled to vocalize, mobilize and finally call out the naysayers and the ones who comfortably hide behind a false consciousness. We are better than using race, gender, sexuality or religion as a barricade for someone's rightful place in society. Passivity is not an option for our family, because staying silent shows my daughter that I accept this terrible narrative.
I have to stand up and rally for marginalized voices to be heard, not silenced, because I need to help pave the way for my daughter. As much as I'd like to feign ignorance, I know that segregation, discrimination, institutionalization, violence, abuse and hate are real. Deeply held prejudices are quickly gaining momentum and becoming the norm. If you don't believe this is happening, then you aren't paying attention.
These days, my daughter is busy mobilizing with some classmates for a presentation on the history of revolution, how to build a cause for change and developing the grit required to see it through. Her school is paying attention.
The synagogue we belong to is getting ready for my daughter's upcoming Bat Mitzvah. Her rabbi is paying attention.
The company I work for recently spearheaded a campaign that gives individuals a platform to take action on various issues affecting all of us, called Give a Flake. Companies pay attention.
Our family and friends are almost seamless with our daughter's she/her/hers pronouns; a small gesture letting my daughter know we really see her and love her just the way she wants to be seen. People are paying attention.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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