Saturday, October 20, 2018

From being hurt publicly to changing hearts bravely

In February 2018, after I indicated that Bill Finger's son Fred was gay while speaking at a Maryland elementary school, a few kids snickered or recoiled. I made clear that we treat all people with respect and the intolerant behavior immediately stopped. But of course that does not mean that the feelings involved immediately stopped...

This situation strongly affected one family consisting of same-sex parents (Joey and Chris) and their two children (Gabriela and Athena), both of whom attend the school.

It led to a series of events that serve as a study in courage and will restore faith in the human capacity for kindness. The most recent was a community diversity initiative in June 2018 called One Howard Live.

I'll let the family tell you what happened:


Since Marc came to speak at our school, the ripples of the reaction to what happened that day keeps expanding. 

Shortly after our girls read their letters to their classmates [in April 2018], our principal, vice principal, and school district asked us if we as a family would share the girls letters at a [Maryland community] event called One Howard Live. One Howard is an initiative created by high school students to celebrate diversity [via] the personal stories of those of us living here. And this past summer, our principal and vice principal were asked to share their experience and reflections at a gathering of Howard County teachers. 

What I have mostly felt in working through all of this is great! Some things take time to make happen and I can be impatient and concerned, but following the initial episode of homophobia, so many people [in our community have countered] that negativity with positivity.

When [we were] asked us to speak at the One Howard event, we were a little hesitant. The girls were into it, but [my husband] Chris and I were thinking maybe not. But in discussing it, we reminded each other that our principal and vice principal put themselves out there to do the right thing and support the girls and our family. The least we could do is show up for them.

Throughout this whole experience and while speaking at One Howard, I keep coming back to how it feels to remember being so young, in elementary school, and to already know you're different—maybe already beginning to understand what that difference is and what it means. To sit there in school and hear some of your classmates openly express negativity towards you. Even when homophobia wasn't directed directly at me as a kid, I always took it personally. At that young age, and for many years, to hear others degrade or make fun of LGBTQ people made me panicked, fearful, and ashamed.

I am so proud of my babies for positively responding to what happened. As their father, I really feel loved and supported by their letters and [how they shared] them at school and at One Howard. It is so cool to see them stand up for themselves and for us. I feel so happy for those young kids growing up now. What this whole experience brings home to me is how meaningful and heartening it is to witness those among us willing to step forward to help make our community better. To see the professionals at our school care for and protect my kids and the other students in their charge the way they did just feels so great, so hopeful. Our principal and vice principal and two of the girls' teachers showed up to cheer us on at One Howard.

Someday soon I can imagine people not understanding what the big deal was. But for me it is a big deal, and I am grateful for each person who did not let homophobia stand unchallenged. So thank you Marc, thank you to the teachers and our school leaders, thank you to my daughters, and thank you to those kids who started One Howard. I know my husband Chris feels the same. We celebrated 19 years together last week. 


I really feel good about our school's leadership and the girls' teachers. People showed courage in doing the right thing. I think it's great that the girls took ownership and stood up for themselves. I still worry about them. I hate that they went through this and that they might still feel wounded by it. 

My husband was wonderful. He went to the school and took care of the girls right away. In talking with the school, he was very clear that he didn't want them to be in an environment in which they were uncomfortable and not respected. He let the school know our expectations, encouraged them to be proactive, and gave them the space to figure out how to respond. His interventions led to the changes that took place. 

I can see the world changing and that's good.


I didn't like what happened, but afterwards I felt like our principal, vice principal, and school counselor really had our back.


Mr. Finnegan and Ms. Lebowitz both came to hear us speak at One Howard Live and gave me hugs and said they were very proud of me.

This and previous two photos from OHL 
courtesy of Tiffany Tressler.


I was surprised that they all came. Even though it was hard to stand that long and be in front of all those people, it made me happy to know that they came.


We really love our school and the people who lead it and work there. At the end of this year, I will find it sad to leave Triadelphia [MTN: the first time we've named the school].

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What an inspiring story! Cudos to all!