Many of you are probably aware by now that Kelsey Waits, a mom who was running for re-election as chair of the Hasting’s school board – and her family – were attacked by opponents who wanted to win at any cost, in this case putting the safety of their youngest child at risk, by outing her as transgender. This CNN article can fill you in on more of the details.
Many of us are living in communities where school board positions have been the latest battleground by right wing extremists fighting mask mandates, against presenting our collective history accurately, and denying rights to many of our most vulnerable children. This was especially heinous and personal. Here is a link to Waits’ official statement.
When the news broke publicly, several groups and individuals came together, in a very short period of time to put together a rally to support the Waits family and to publicly say #IStandWithKit and to #ProtectTransLives
On a cold Saturday, close to a thousand people came out to show their support and to listen to a variety of powerful speakers. Please view the video of this rally in it’s entirety below.
What can we do now?
The rally was phenomenal, but our actions to protect trans and non-binary individuals cannot stop there. Bullies only feel emboldened when they know their actions will not be called out. The majority in our communities have hearts that are filled with love for ALL of their neighbors. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and to activate when anyone is under attack for having the audacity to be their true, authentic selves! As Cheryl Greene, Director at Welcoming Schools stated in her remarks- Kit is perfect and our collective responsibility is not just to have these kids feel safe, but to thrive. That means we have to call out hate in all of its forms, even when it’s uncomfortable, or when it’s in the face of someone you are close to. We only conquer hate by declaring loudly and proudly an abundance of love!
Fortunately to counteract this hate we have an abundance of agencies in our area that are doing just that, promoting love and equity. What follows is an ever-growing list that you can share with anyone who wants to learn, grow, donate, volunteer, or help connect someone to these resources when they find themselves in need. Note that many of these sites contain many more resources as well.
In Hastings Area: Learn about TransParent Alliance– a new organization that Kelsey Waits is organizing IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Alliance– at their website you can find an address where you can send cards of support to the family, as well as ways to get and stay involved. Thrive– Another group based in Hastings at the YMCA. Check out their website to learn about the equity work they have been doing since 2016
Serving Minnesota and Surrounding Communities: Transforming Families is a “community where transgender, gender non-conforming, and questioning youth and their families come together to support each other in a safe, welcoming space” A good resource for LGBTQ+ support, south of the river, is Dakota Child and Family Clinic, which provides for a wide range of mental and physical health needs in a safe, affirming environment. Gender Justice whose work is focused on creating gender equity through the law. Reclaim works to provide access to affordable, culturally competent mental health services for queer and trans youth, and their families. Rainbow Health– “Formed through the merging of the Minnesota AIDS Project and Rainbow Health Initiative—and, later, Training to Serve—we are a diverse team of professionals united by a passion for health equity.” Queer Space Collective– “QUEERSPACE works with LGBTQ+ youth, the broader LGBTQ+ community and local organizations to create a strengthened LGBTQ+ support network and reduce LGBTQ+ youth isolation, suicide and homelessness.”ACLU MN works to “promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender* individuals both in the text of the law and in practice.”
Specific to schools: Welcoming Schools is the “most comprehensive bias-based bullying prevention program in the nation to provide LGBTQ+ and gender inclusive professional development training, lesson plans, booklists and resources specifically designed for educators and youth-serving professionals.” Locally we have a practitioner at Gender Inclusive Schools who would be an invaluable resource!