I started this blog years ago because I believed that there were people in my community who did not know how hard the lives of children could be, and I wanted to raise awareness. I stopped keeping this blog when I realized that there were people who were reading it while taking some sort of voyeuristic interest in the gruesome details of my childhood. I stopped keeping it when I realized that this blog might be how people in the “writing industry” saw me and I worried it might affect my career. I stopped keeping it when I realized that me being open about my life and experiences makes some people, especially my extended family, uncomfortable.
But that was wrong. Sometimes we need to risk making people uncomfortable. And sometimes it doesn’t matter if it hurts us personally or professionally. It’s worth doing anyway.
I have spent my entire adult life fighting for kids who have shitty lives. And many of their lives just got shittier. Queer kids and Muslim kids and girls and racial minorities and more. I have a student who graduated a few years ago and based her choice of college on where her mother could come to visit her without having to pass through a security checkpoint.
What just happened is wrong and a lot of people are scared. But it happened because there are a lot of scared, angry, hurting people who we have been ignoring for too long. And we need to understand their fear and hurt as much as anyone else’s if we are going to fix this. And we MUST fix this. We can no longer believe that the system will just work out. We can no longer allow ourselves to be apathetic or lulled into a false sense of security. We can no longer allow ourselves to be uninformed. And we can no longer allow ourselves the luxury of doing what feels safe or easy.
So, in that light, this is where I come from: I was a foster child in what is known as “kinder care.” My grandmother raised me with the occasional help of her second husband who was a Puerto Rican man and a scary alcoholic. I called them “Mommy” and “Papi.” I did not have a relationship with my birth parents as a child. Mommy suffered from severe depression and my childhood was mostly characterized by neglect. My cousin moved in with us when I was a teen. He was strong and violent and he dealt drugs. Within five years of escaping to college, Mommy and Papi both died of cancer, and my cousin put a bullet in his head.
I have born the brunt of lifelong misogyny, especially because I am smart. I have been raped and beaten, and as a child I was molested by more than one man. I have been a member of the queer community since before I hit puberty and I have been attacked on the streets because of it. I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and dissociation throughout my life. I have been on the brink of homelessness more than once, and I know what it feels like to go hungry.
I air this dirty laundry not because I want anyone to feel sorry for me or to treat me any differently but to make it clear that when I say I stand for people who are scared and hurting right now, it is because I know what it feels like to be scared and hurting. But I also believe that God gave me this life and my many talents and skills so that I can use them to help those who come after me. And that is what I vow to do.
In church each week we say: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
I urge everyone who sees this to think of your neighbor today and every day. Think of your queer and female and black and brown neighbors. And think of your poor and scared and angry neighbors. In the shopping market. On the internet. In the wider community. Stand up for what is right, but do it with love and compassion. We are all so fragile.