Florida? Why I’m Not Surprised by Republicans Abusing Our Children

They’ve been abusing children since they were kids themselves

Photo Credit: NeverSkurred Imagery

Yes, Don’t Say Gay passed in Florida as expected. They really think if we don’t talk about Us, they win something. Their new (old) word is “Grooming” — they really do believe we have magical powers, even as they insinuate we are perverse. Disgusting behavior is their calling card, not ours.

WE did not come this far to only come this far, folks. Go play yourself You Can’t Stop the BeatLOUD and put your chin up. This too shall pass. We are made of far sturdier stock than our opponents, so long as we see ourselves for the glorious creatures we ARE.

I am 56 years old. I put that out there as a point of reference. That means I hit puberty around 1978, started driving in late 1982, would have graduated high school in 1984 had I not quit and opted for a GED, and I turned 21 at the end of 1986. So I came of age during the AIDS pandemic, with St. Reagan as president — crushing the American middle class for generations to come, upending mental health services, watching a generation of Us DIE in his silence and essentially letting religionists begin their takeover of the GOP.

I grew up less than 20 miles outside Philadelphia, PA but for all the world it felt then -to me- like red states must feel for trans kids today. I was clearly unwelcome, misunderstood, and a pariah by the time I was in junior high school. I hadn’t transitioned in any way, did everything I could to blend in and disappear, and kept my head down.

Disapproval of me hung in the air. Boys terrorized me now, openly bullying me — even in front of some of the obtuse teachers, and the girls who had been my friends stayed silent as death.

Those years -growing up without a thing to accurately call me, then frightened to death of what I figured out I was- were traumatic. Deeply traumatic. So much so I stopped talking about those early years for decades. I never told my own children about them. Being me, I figured, it all just “served me right.”

Once I’d lived away for my 9th grade year, I returned home to a private Christian school, and got a job at 15. I worked in a nursing home kitchen run by a friend of my mother’s who lied and said I was 16 and legal to work. My sister had worked her first job in the same facility years before.

I actually, eventually, made friends with the kids I worked with there and had known from grade school. They came to respect my work ethic and my sense of humor, and I took up smoking (again) to have smoke breaks with the “coolest” of the kids. Lisa, granddaughter to the head cook, best worker of all, took me under her wing, and taught me the jobs that were generally reserved for the girls so I could do “it all” and jump in as needed, adding hours to my paycheck. She also taught me how to hold my cigarette like a boy, because apparently, I did not. But she wasn’t mean about it. And that was new for me.

One of my coworkers was a tough girl named Denise. We hadn’t exactly been friends in grade school, but I knew her secret, and kept it until she was ready to share it. That fact became our bond. The secret? Her mother was a lesbian who lived with her partner and they raised Denise and her brother together. I’d learned this through a grade school friend who also had a partnered lesbian mother and was forced to go live with his father by the 5th or 6th grade. He befriended “weird” me because he knew what he saw when he saw it, and being a kid with 2 “moms” in the 70s put us more or less in the same category.

My world back then was cruel to misfits and folks who weren’t white. It is the world many of these current republicans grew up with and found comfort in. It was designed for them to thrive as I contemplated loopholes to the sin of suicide to escape their casual torture. They were abusive, and carefree, and laughed a lot — mostly, it felt, at everyone they deemed inferior. (Raises hand.)

I now comprehend that this idyllic little hamlet has always been somewhat tolerant, quite “live and let live” (for adults) and “safe” in ways I didn’t understand back then, because I rarely felt a sense of safety.

So much has changed in my lifetime. Too little to have known about or understood Stonewall, I was already alive then, just 3 years old. We have come a very long way, but we are far from done.

When I read (incessantly) about the machinations of the republicans across the country and wherever they have gerrymandered a lock on authority, I recognize them. Because they haven’t changed a lick since grade school. They were my bullies. They are the ones who shot chocolate milk out their noses laughing so hard at their own “retard” jokes, and tipping over my lunch tray in the cafeteria. Faggot. I heard it so often I almost answered to it.

They may have grown taller and fatter, but I see little maturation. Though they are adept at twisting words to suit themselves and their small minds. They are skillful at turning lunchroom terroristic tactics into “preserving a way of life” that never did serve anyone but them and those like them. They still major in cruelty all these years later.

While I have come to adore and celebrate the ways our world has moved forward for trans folk, the bullies look on in horror. Are they finally scared of something? Am I supposed to care about what they want when they’ve never cared about who I am?

I have borne the brunt of their indecency too many times to ever believe it has value.

BUT, lest I paint myself as better than I am — for a time as a young adult, I had an “in” at the “cool” kids table, and I confess, I sat down. It briefly felt good to be among the accepted. They were leaders. Lunchroom leaders, but still. They never “led” me anywhere especially good, I was less proud of myself among them, and by the mid 1990s I was fully extricated, never to return.

I had taken a respite into a far more organized family who had dinner on the table at 6 and actually sat together to eat it. They were truly kind to me, accepting in ways I cherished, and I worked especially hard to be of service to all of them. In the end, I was left on the outside rebuilding my life. Again.

I was raised by folks who cared too much about what others thought of them and not enough of what they thought of themselves. And I married into a slightly different configuration of the same. I knew all the while that I didn’t belong to any of them, or anywhere they were. Not really, so Other was I.

At any rate, the years since have been filled with meandering growth, discovery, grief, loss, and rebuilding my life again and again and again. And I grow stronger, and more aware of who I am, and more dedicated to authenticity than to anyone’s comfort level. I will rest as needed for my own comfort, but I’m long done letting a lunchroom dictate my worth.

Back to Florida. This behavior, gussied up and official as it may appear, is basic, ugly, bullying, very constricted behavior coming from folks I imagine did have their peak in the lunchroom.

The real heroes in this world as far as I am concerned are the folks younger than me who insist on being themselves from a young age. The queer folks who don’t mince words about their identity, were (more and more often) potentially raised by parents who supported them and loved them for who they are, who get to remain in their families authentically, and build beautiful families themselves if they are so inclined.

I glean much from my elders in the LGBTQ+ community, but I have also been able to find myself with the support and tenacity of those much younger than me.

No State, and no band of bullies can EVER take away the absolute Magic that is Us. But they keep trying it.

Just…Shine On, kids.

Turn your music UP, and please, find the beauty within.

This, too, SHALL pass.

This life — YOUR life — is far bigger than their lunchroom.

Peace, My Lovelies

-MM

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