Add. The. Words.

I’m from a small town in North Idaho. A forgettable town, or at least that’s what I’ve turned it into. Not a vicious town or even an unremarkable town. It’s a town  comprised mostly of hard working people filled with big hearts, crushed dreams and good intentions. I think in many ways it’s symbolic of most of Idaho.

We aren’t known for much up in those parts and the things we are known for, well, I wish we weren’t. I also wish I could say the things we are recognized for are unwarranted. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you’re unfamiliar with the area I’ll give you a few clues as to what I’m describing. We’re as famous for our diversity and cultural awareness as we are for growing pineapple and coconuts.

I was a sophomore in high school when a memorable figure in my life transferred to our school. My high school was small both in numbers and physical space so a new student never remained a secret for long. This student in particular drew immense attention because of his unusual (by our standards) dress and demeanor.  In a sea of cowboy boots and baseball caps he parted the water with bell bottoms and raised platform shoes. He was exquisite. I immediately wanted to be his friend. Nobody else seemed to echo my sentiments. On his very first day of school he was chased out of the building by a swarm of students pelting him with water balloons. He ran out of that building fueled by other people’s ignorance, cruelty and hate and he never came back.  I never even learned his name.

Add. The. Words.

I say he was a memorable figure in my life because I still think about him often. Usually with tears streaming down my face that feel almost as hot as the ones that poured from me on that day. What I remember more than those tear drops, more than the look of terror and humiliation on his face, and more than the lack of horror from a static schoolyard, is the silence of my own voice. How little I said. How quietly I objected. How complacent in his nightmare I became.

Add. The. Words.

Every ounce of my half-built self knew at the time that it was wrong. To target a person because they aren’t like us, to tear them down for their differences, to want to destroy their light because it scares us… That is the type of stuff we fight wars over.

Add. The. Words.  

I hope that young boy grew up with parents who embraced him when he came sprinting through that front door. I hope he had a friend who he could call that would tell him “you don’t deserve this, nobody deserves this”. I hope he didn’t endure this cruelty at every other pit stop along the way of his journey. I sincerely hope that the buildings he is being chased out of  haven’t just morphed from schools into dorms, into apartments, into office buildings. Chances are, if he stuck around Idaho they very well could be. Because in this state that I continue to love and live in, people can still openly be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identification.

Add. The. Words. 

As angry as I am thinking about that unforgettable day, I can’t blame the students who treated him so poorly. I can’t blame students for doing what they see their parents, their teachers, their mentors, and their legislators doing. They have internalized that this type of discrimination is okay to the point that they can act like horrendous creatures that I know they really aren’t. I know they aren’t, because I’ve lived in Idaho for the majority of my life. I’ve seen this state do incredible things. I’ve seen the people in this state to even more remarkable things.

Add. The. Words.

Add the Words Idaho. Today, for the first time in this beautiful state’s history, the Senate State Affairs Committee will vote on adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the existing human rights act.  Please make sure your voice is heard. I promise you will regret it if you sit in silence. http://addthewords.org/events/index.html

And Idaho, it’s time.

4 comments

  • Growing up any variety of “different” in Idaho is painful. Even with supportive parents and family and friends. And you’re right. Can I really blame the kids who – every day – called me “butch”, “dyke”, “freak”? I’d like to say I was above it all, but it killed me a little bit every day. And it didn’t matter if I was dating a boy, or a girl, or nobody at all – they still threw the words at me regardless. Every day. With perspective, I can see that the kids that tormented me the most were scared to death of me. I was just as big as they were, had a mind of my own, was more outspoken than they were comfortable with, and stuck out like a sore thumb. Their fear of “different” was inherited from their parents. And their grandparents. And so on. Do right, Idaho. Nobody deserves that.

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  • I know, sis. Hard stuff. And I’m sad to say, Idaho disappointed once again. Those cowards didn’t even let the bill out of committee. 😦

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  • Thanks for bringing this up, Megan. I heard about this on NPR this morning and I felt sick. It doesn’t feel right to live in and pay taxes to a state that doesn’t recognize all people as equal.

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  • Pingback: Please don’t forget | Hipmombrarian's Blog

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