This is the post excerpt.
Today would have been my friend Jonathan’s 48th birthday. He was born, like me, in 1969, the year of The Rooster. I have always felt a strong affinity to Jonathan. In recent years because he was a father of two boys, of whom he was very proud, and I am the mother to two girls who mean the entire world to me. We shared similar beliefs about love and people and kindness and speaking out for what is right, and we always seemed to pop up in the same places at the same times, even when we would go years between seeing eachother.
My affinity with Jonathan goes back to the mid late nineties. We were both leading similar sorts of double lives at the time. By day we both worked in youth programs; he for Miller Community Center and I worked for Ravenna-Eckstein. But at night we usually ran into eachother out in the clubs. Maybe sometimes he was performing or I was working the door for Tasty Shows, but other times we were both just out enjoying live music and art and people.
So one night we were out and we were talking all about the youth we served. Jonathan was telling me about how he would take the community center van around to the schools the kids, his kids, as he referred to them, attended. He would pick them up from school, take them back to the community center, help them complete their homework, prepare and share a group dinner with them and drive them all home. I was floored with admiration. My program was bigger, whiter, I had staff, we played kickball, ate snack, that sort of thing. Different programs, different ends of town, but the same love and respect for the kids we served.
So we decided we should do something to get all of our after school group kids together. We would say that every time we ran into eachother for months, and then in the spring of 1997 it all sort of fell together. Chris Ballew, from The President’s of the United States wanted a kid audience to try out some of his new work. We hosted him in the cafetorium of what is now Thornton Creek, in NE Seattle. I had a big group of maybe 50 K-6th graders, and Jonathan arrived just as the show started with his 10 that he could fit in the van.
When the music started, my kids went crazy. I can remember the way the sun came streaming onto their happy dancing bodies and looking up over my shoulder and seeing Jonathan walking in with 10 kids behind him. I can still see it. He sort of turned to them and nodded and they all ran to cut loose in the fray.
And it was LOUD. Really loud. It was like 4:00, so the teachers were still in the school building recovering from their hectic day. But one by one they all started wandering in. Standing in a group at the back. Smiling and nodding their heads in time with the music. One of the older teachers recalled having taught one of the guys from the band in 4th grade back when University Heights on the Ave was still a school.
When it was over, Jonathan and his kids had to quickly get back out into traffic so he could make them a quick dinner before taking them home. He had the kids do their homework in the van that night. You know he always made sure they finished their homework.
My favorite kind of people are always the ones that are more than what they might seem upon first meeting them. So if I had only known Jonathan as a talented hip hop performer, I would’ve thought he was special. And if I had only known Jonathan as an after school teacher who made sure ten kids had a caring African American male role model to pick them up every day from school, help them complete their homework and feed them a healthy delicious dinner before making sure they returned safely home each night, I would’ve thought he was special. And even if I had only known Jonathan as the person who every single time he saw me, no matter when or where, would cross the street, would stand up, would cross the club, to say a warm and friendly hello, I would’ve thought he was special. And if I had only known Jonathan as the loving father of Upendu and Miles, I would’ve thought he was special. All of this in one person, though, so mighty, so loving, what a gift.
Rest in Power Jonathan Moore. I am so grateful that I had the honor to share some of this journey in your time here on earth. You made us all better for having known you.
Dear Mayor Murray,
I recently learned that you are considering a one time gift of $2.3 million to the Seattle Public Schools to cover the cost of changing to a two tiered arrival and dismissal time system. Please support this expenditure on behalf of the working families of your city.
My daughters attend Louisa Boren STEM K-8 which currently runs from 9:35-4:05. This is has been challenging for my family because my daughters are often up and ready to learn for hours before the school bell rings. They arrive home on the bus completely exhausted and ready for dinner. In the winter, they were arriving home in the dark.
Other families at our school experienced higher child care costs because with the late start time, many now must purchase before school care, in addition to after school care. Many families also have difficulty making it to work on time because of the late start, and describe tensions with their employers. Some families have children in multiple tiers and some kids are missing out on community after school activities that start two hours before our school is dismissed.
My school’s PTA Advocacy Committee took our community’s concerns to SPS Operations Director, Pegi McEvoy in late fall. She let us know that families all over the city had been contacting her sharing the difficulties they were experiencing from the new three tiered system. The following month the school board announced they would offer more reasonable start and end times if their budget allowed. Unfortunately due largely to the inaction of the Washington State Legislature, our school district is $50 million behind for next year.
Please support this expenditure for the working families of your city. The extremes of a three tiered system have been very difficult for family life and finances for many families in Seattle.
Mother of two SPS students
Thankfully, I have not had the experience of losing a child to suicide. Hopefully I never will. We all, however, have beentouched in suicide some way. I hear kids talking about it more now mostly as a joke- if such a thing can be a joke. I hear about it happening more, especially to children. My own child has struggled with thoughts of worthlessness and depression. I have struggled with those thoughts. They pull you down deep, so deep till you feel not existing is the only option. Many people say how selfish suicide is- that there is nothing more selfish. I disagree. Maybe those people have never felt that pain or can understand its grip – where it feels so painful to exist- emotionally and physically uncomfortable in your own skin- that you feel everyone you love would be better off without you. It is not rational. It is not about those left behind. It is about the lies the voices in your head tell you and how you start to believe them. It is a darkness so dark it is nothingness. Those left behind deal with the loss, pain, sadness, confusion, wishing they had done more. This is a song I wrote from the perspective of a mother losing her child to suicide.
Where did the time go?
Thought I was listening
Grasping at air now
What was I missing?
I wrapped you up in my love so tight
I wasn’t gonna let you go without a fight
I shared my scars down to the bone
I thought I made you see that you weren’t alone
I looked for more to lift you up
With all my strength, I wasn’t strong enough.
I wasn’t strong enough…I wasn’t strong enough…
Wasn’t strong enough…Wasn’t strong enough
Where did the time go?
Thought I was listening
Grasping at air now
What was I missing?
The well inside you dark and deep
Pulled you so fast away from me
Dragging you down in the deep blue sea
Like an anchor to the bottom of the deep dark sea
Room frozen in time my ears start to ring
I’d stop time and live forever there
To hold you close and smell your hair
Where did the time go?
Thought I was listening
Grasping at air now
What was I missing?
I breathe your name and nobody answers
I call your name and nobody answers
I cry your name and nobody answers
I scream your name and nobody answers
Scared to move, forget a single thing
I pick up the pieces and I drop them again
Fall to the earth, drop to my knees
I throw up the pieces and they cover me
Where did the time go?
Thought I was listening
Grasping at air now
What was I missing?
By Beezus Bee
Big Weight Small Shoulders
It kind of feels like a really big weight on my shoulders. I mean I’m just a regular twelve year old girl. Who likes girls. A lot. When I first came out last year, I felt really safe and supported at my school. My principal was practically doing backflips over the news. Apparently he had always wanted to start a gay student alliance. Most of my classmates were really supportive. Even the school’s resident “mean girl” took me aside in the library to tell she was an ally.
When Turd in Pants, my special nickname for the dastardly duo of Trump & Pence, were first running, I thought it was a joke. But then my mom had me read their party’s platform on LGBTQ rights. Frankly I was completely horrified. My mom had always told me that I was living in the best time, the best city and the best family to grow up gay. It was like everything changed, for me, in an instant. I felt like there was nothing I could do about it.
I decided right then and there not to be afraid. I choose to live, as myself, right out in the open, and my friends do too. A few days after the election my little sister, my best friend and I walked out of class with signs declaring our school to be a safe place. I don’t even know what my generation is called, but I know what we are capable of. Don’t worry, we can lead the way.
Photo by Bethany Vargas
Last spring I got myself embroiled in a 72 hour Facebook group standoff with some far right Washingtonian parents. We happen to all be on a FB group that is anti common core and standardized testing-funny sometimes where the far right and the far left cohabitate, but on this occasion we were talking about a new health and human sexuality curriculum to be implemented in our public schools, and where each of the candidates for state superintendent stood on this new mandate.
Most of the candidates opposed the new curriculum, but for different reasons. Some because they disagreed with the content of the curriculum and others because they opposed any new unfunded mandates for our already overworked teachers. I came on to share how I agreed strongly with the content of the curriculum, especially teaching about gender identity and orientation in the primary grades.
I shared the powerful story of my then 5 year old coming home from kindergarten a few weeks earlier telling me how she was born a girl, and identifies as a girl so she is cisgender. Cisgender, a word that I had only learned recently and a word I’m sure plenty of other adults still don’t know. One of my daughter’s classmates told the children how her sister had been born a boy but identifies as a girl, so she is transgender. My daughter was not confused in any way by the day’s lesson. To her it was rather straightforward and common sense really. But, I was so proud. Proud of my daughter, her classmates, her teacher, the principal, the school and our district. I messaged her teacher immediately thanking her for providing my student with this wonderful learning opportunity and for creating a safe learning environment for all of our students, including those who are LGBTQ and non gender conforming.
When I shared our beautiful story on this particular anti common core FB group, I didn’t really realize what I was stepping into. I thought I was sharing an example of how powerful teaching about gender identity can be in the primary grades. For three straight days, and nights, I was attacked and belittled in every which way possible. These strangers said the most vile things to me and made such hateful personal remarks, that it was almost enough to make me feel unsafe. It was utterly exhausting.
After the first 24 hours I had to call in reinforcements, and an old friend, and my husband joined in to rebut the attacks coming my way. The old friend happens to be a very sharp tongued university professor and the bigoted posters really didn’t stand a chance arguing with her. She tirelessly cut them down in every which way possible with her educated retorts. My loving husband posted several very compassionate videos about real life trans people, and oddly, didn’t get much feedback. After 72 hours the moderator turned off commenting and the onslaught ceased.
What I learned from the experience, though, was that many people are very misinformed about what being transgender means. I also learned that because of this they are extremely fearful. And their fear turns them ugly, in action and spirit. If only they’d had the chance, at an early age, to have been exposed to gender identity information like my daughter was. The best way to transform hate is clearly through education and real life experiences; meeting and getting to know transgender people.
Many of the parents who attacked me were terrified that if their children were taught about gender identity, they would “turn” transgender or at the very least want to “try it out”. As an early childhood educator of over 25 years this thought seemed utterly laughable to me, preposterous even. The idea that anyone, and a child especially, could actively CHOOSE and commit to live a life in a gender that wasn’t authentic for them is simply not a reality. It’s hard enough for our brothers and sisters who were born in the wrong bodies, I know of none who would wish this upon themselves. I tried to explain how ludicrous this was in the kindest of ways, imploring people to read about, reach out to, and meet families with transgender children.
They also seemed overly preoccupied about bathrooms. Not just who uses bathrooms but how they are used. They had such deep fears of their children being sexually assaulted in bathrooms. I tried to explain that their children could be assaulted any where but have the highest likelihood of being abused by people they know and trust, even in their own churches. This argument didn’t go over well, but my point is that the vast majority of transgender people just go into the bathroom to pee and that predators can lurk anywhere.
I came away from the experience feeling grateful that I do not live with such intense fear, especially of the unknown. I also emerged with a renewed commitment to educating our young people about gender identity and orientation. I have a few mom friends who have trans and non gender conforming children and I love it when they feel safe to share their stories with me. It is truly an honor.
The day after Trump was elected, one of these mom friends texted me and asked, “how are we going to keep our kids safe,” referring to her own child and my oldest who is LGBTQ. I feel very fortunate that my children go to a very safe school but in the bigger picture, I believe the answer is teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in our schools. The only way to transform fear is through education.
My thoughts on Donald Trump becoming president
Dear reader my name is Beezus Murphy I am twelve years old and I am a lesbian. I go to Louisa Boren K-8 STEM where I am the only openly gay kid in my grade and everyone is pretty okay with it. I think I speak for many LGBT people when I say that I’m not like everybody else but I just want to be accepted. But if Trump is elected we won’t be and even if you’re not gay, don’t you want your best friend from high school or your kid or your sister to get married or become who they are inside. Trump thinks that children who grow up with two moms will be unstable because they don’t have a father figure, sure the kids on The Fosters (tv show) are pretty messed up but that’s not because they have two moms. Does it really matter whether a family has two moms or two dads or if they’re a nuclear straight family or if they just have one parent, all a kid really needs is to be raised by someone who loves them.
Turd er I mean Trump, also supports ‘conversion therapy’ to change someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity which frankly a load of b.c (bull crap) you can’t make someone straight; all that damn therapy does is force people deeper into the closet, and/or make them feel so bad about themselves they commit suicide. Even if you don’t want your kid to be gay I’m sure you don’t want them to be dead.
Not to mention his vice presidential candidate, Pence wants to cut the funding for HIV and redirect it to the b.c that is conversion therapy. And another thing turd in pants oops I mean Trump and Pence are looking to outlaw trans people using the bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Are they gonna outlaw drag queens too because RainBowGore Cake is effing amazing and Hedwig is a really good movie.
Now ask yourself do you really wanna vote for someone who wants to do all that b.c?
An Open Letter to my Mother
When you announced your plans, at your 70th birthday last summer, to vote for him, I patiently explained why a vote for Trump was a direct vote against the safety and well being of your only two grandchildren. You didn’t listen. You spouted rhetoric about how much you hated Hillary and didn’t trust the government. As we drove away from your house that day I knew in my heart that it would be the last time I would bring my children there. Something in the way your husband blurted out, during lunch, about his gun not being secured while Beezus was alone in your house made me realize that this was no place for my most beloved humans, my children, your only grandchildren.
Over the next few months I tried to appeal to your rational side. I don’t believe you are racist and I know you’re not homophobic. I’ve also always known you to be a feminist, maybe you’ve changed and I just didn’t notice. Maybe I assumed you were still the mother I had in 1969, 1974, 1980. I kept sending articles your way and sharing the writings of your very astute LGBTQ 12 year old granddaughter. You did not budge.
And then the morning after, when the rest of the nation was mourning our loss, when my 6 year old was too sad to go to school-trying to grasp why grown ups would elect a bully for their president, you went on Facebook to gloat in his victory. You told us that he would fix everything that was wrong with our country. When I reminded you that you had chosen to vote against your own granddaughters’ well being, you chose to ignore me.
And now it has begun. First he and his cronies, white men who have never known a day without extreme privilege, have made plans to dismantle my children’s health care coverage. We are income eligible for Apple Health and since enrolling after the ACA was enacted my children have received free medical and dental coverage. In the past, when my daughters, your granddaughters, were uninsured we didn’t take them to the doctor except in the most extreme of circumstances. It has been such a relief to know that they have finally been receiving the medical and dental care that all people deserve. Beezus is worried about how we will be able to afford to continue with their now regular dental visits. I’m worried too.
I’d like to take a brief aside to mention why it is that my children are eligible for free health care coverage through the state. Am I unemployed? No. I work full time, more than full time usually, about 50-55 hours a week. I am also a college graduate, Dean’s list UW 1996. But I happen to do “women’s work”. I am a child care provider, one of the most feminist and necessary occupations in our country. I am here every day making sure that six other American families can go to work. I make about $11 per hour.
But I digress, back to health care. We should be ok, we’ve gone without healthcare before, but I worry a lot about my friends’ children with asthma and life threatening allergies, and of course all of our friends with Type 1 Diabetes. What about you and your other friends with MS? You use Medicare, didn’t you think to worry about all of your friends with pre existing conditions and how a lifetime spending cap would affect them? My elderly neighbor feels lucky he had his heart attack early in November. His 11 day ICU visit to Harborview came in at just over $200,000-his portion will be about $1,500. But what will it be for my neighbors who have their heart attacks after Paul Ryan has his way with Medicare?
But maybe you’re like your president and think my neighbors don’t matter? After all many of them are black and brown and certainly some of them don’t pray to your Christian God. My next door neighbors are Muslim, recent immigrants from Iraq. The next house down, Muslim also, from Somalia. In fact of the twenty children who live on my block, only 2 of them are white, your granddaughters. Maybe you were counting on their whiteness to save them from this new administration and it’s devastating policies?
But it won’t. Because you made me a liar. And this is what pains me most of all. When your granddaughter came out at age 9, I told her this was the best time, best city and best family to grow up gay. Your granddaughter already knows Mike Pence thinks she should be electrocuted. And now Donald is sponsoring the anti LGBTQ “First Amendment Defense Act” that would legalize discrimination against your granddaughter in all aspects of her life.
Your vote made my daughter unsafe. Your vote made my friends’ trans kids unsafe. Your vote made my friends’ gay sons unsafe. You know who made me an ally though? You did. You worked at the phone company in the seventies when it was one of the only safe work places for the LGBTQ community. They were relegated to working as phone operators on the night shift with all of the others who were seen as weirdos and freaks. And you being a night owl, and something of a freak yourself, loved that shift and loved going out dancing at Shelly’s Leg after work with all your wonderful Gay and Lesbian friends. You were the one who taught me about the struggles of trans people when our friend Kelly, who had once been our big beautiful black friend Eric, was going through his transition and surgeries. You were the one who introduced me to Gay marriage when I was 4, in 1974, when we went to your friends’ house and they showed me the photo album of their recent nuptials and I mistakenly asked, “but where’s the bride mommy?” I’ll never forget how those two lovely men took my hand and explained to me that THEY had gotten married. I have carried that moment and their pure joy, with me always.
And what about your granddaughters’ education? That’s something that has always been important to you. They’re both Special Education students, you know that, so maybe you know that your president’s pick for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, didn’t know about the federal protections my children are afforded through IDEA. She would prefer I be given some vouchers so that my children might attend a parochial school or one of the full day online, screen time charter schools. Betsy DeVos doesn’t care about my children and their right to an amply funded high quality education at a public school by highly trained union teachers. But I know you did. You and my father made sure that I attended the finest public schools in our city. In fact, you were so discouraged with the lack of racial diversity at my neighborhood school that you enrolled me as a “voluntary racial transfer student” in 1978. I rode the bus all the way from Lake City to John Muir Elementary because you believed it was important for children to grow and learn in diverse schools.
I believe that too. That’s why my children go to a very diverse public school. A science school, by the way. Up until recently science didn’t seem very revolutionary but it is now that our Forrest Service is on the forefront of the resistance movement simply by speaking their truth and the daily evidence they see of climate change. Our science school is breeding its own resistance movement. Twice already the middle school students have held classroom walk outs in opposition to your president and his position on our Civil Rights. Both of your granddaughters were out on the sidewalk in front of school chanting, “This is a Safe Place!”
And they are right. Our city, Seattle and our friends in nearby Burien, have declared our cities, Sanctuary Cities. Your president has said that he will withhold funding to penalize us for this but our city’s Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference yesterday in direct defiance of that threat. We shall not be moved.
And then there is the earth. But if you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for the safety of the children, and your own friends, I’m guessing you don’t care about the earth either. Your granddaughters do though. They wept when I showed them the photos of the brave people who have camped out all winter to protect all of us, and our Mother, from the pipeline. Water is life.
But your president is only concerned about protecting the life of the unborn. Smugly signing away funding for Women’s access to reproductive health care services by global organizations, simply because some of those providers might also provide, or just mention abortion services? That photo of he, and the other white men in their suits signing away women’s health care was so vile, so unsettling-their hatred for women so palpable.
I still feel powerful though. I can thank you for that too I suppose. You didn’t know how to drive so we walked and bussed all over this city when I was a little girl. Often just the two of us, after dark. You were never afraid. If anyone tried to bother us you always said, “Move along now, move along,” quietly but firm. I took that quality from you and I’ve passed it to my girls. But I am loud. Our girls are so powerful, too, marching through the streets with 150,000 of our friends who believe that your president is wrong. We had signs from their Uncle Derek and the girls had pussy hats from my old friend Sara in Jersey and DIY buttons. They looked like mighty Power Puff versions of young revolutionaries as they chanted and marched for miles and miles.
I believe that me and my people will make it through this time, but I also believe that you and the people you have chosen to lead us are going to do a lot of damage that will not be easily repaired. Irreparable. What you’ve done is irreparable. I will work to clean the mess. I will march and post. I will display signs of commitment, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Matter, Muslim Rights Matter, Immigrants Rights Matter, LGBTQ Rights Matter, Worker’s Rights Matter. And most important, I will do my job as a Citizen and a Mother to raise 2 voters who always think of the greater good of ALL people and our earth, first. When that time comes, we will truly be able to say it was WE not he, who made America great again.
By Shawna Murphy