Those who stand UP

Recently I read this article about parents of trans kids that resonated so hard it nearly shook me out of my chair. Why parents of trans kids are a special kind of tired. It talks about how exhausting it is to fight, day after day. It is exhausting when your child is different. Not because your child is different. But because the world is seriously messed up when it comes to understanding and including difference. And for a while after I read it, I slumped in my chair feeling very seen, and very, very tired.

Well it’s a jungle out there,
the year 2018 I didn’t think
we’d still be sorting babies into blue and pink
and all our progress, well I wonder what it means
when the only girls’ clothes that work for me turn out to be boyfriend jeans
well that’s fine, ‘cos I decline
your narrow set of rules that just don’t work
‘Cos these red lines? they’re not mine.
And if you need me, you can find me ironing my shirt
‘Cos I’m in black tie tonight
Send a postcard to my year 11 self
in her year 11 hell
darling everything’s gonna be alright
no you won’t grow out of it
you will find the clothes that fit
Grace Petrie, Black Tie.

But as people ask me how my kids are doing I’m starting to realise how phenomenal our support network is. Because when you ask me what’s going on for us I will tell you about the friend my child has who supports them at school and won’t hesitate to take on the other kids who make transphobic and homophobic comments. This friend squares up to the other kids and tells them to pull their heads in. Which means that my child isn’t always defending themselves. Sometimes they are defended. And that is a beautiful thing.

And I’ll tell you about three of the friends I know through work, who had probably never heard the term non-binary in a context outside computing until I started talking to them about my child. Those friends are now having conversations with their friends and family about what it means to be non-binary. Those friends and family are largely interstate and many of them will likely never meet my child, but when they next meet a non-binary person they will have a clue. Maybe use the right pronouns, and not make assumptions about bathrooms. And that is a beautiful thing.

And I’ll tell you about the non-binary adults we know who have adopted my child with their whole hearts. Who fight for them. Support them. Love them unconditionally.

And what all of these beautiful, beloved people have in common is that they don’t choose to hide in their own burrows and fight only their own battles. They certainly could! They all have a lot going on in their own lives. Their own trauma to manage. Their own stresses to deal with. They have no immediate need to speak up, to stand up, and to make a difference.

None of us really has any immediate need to stand up for anyone else. It’s much easier, goodness knows, to avert our eyes and walk on by. Some days there’s no spare energy for anyone else.

But the people who do stand up… they really change the world. When you’ve not been in a position to need someone to stand up for you, perhaps it’s difficult to understand the impact. But when you’re exhausted, and battling all the time just for your right to be well then someone else taking up the metaphorical cudgels on your behalf, even just for a moment, is a truly extraordinary thing.

People who see someone being harassed and go stand beside them. People who speak up to defend others. People who see problems that don’t directly affect them, and yet work to fix them. These people are my heroes.

It’s time

I’m not sure anyone in the world can claim ignorance of the Australian fires anymore, though our government seems keen to try.

It’s easy, under these circumstances, to get despondent. To curl up under the doona and cry, believing there is nothing we can do. That climate change is a done deal. That the fires are unstoppable. That the government are unspeakably callous, greedy, and incompetent, but that it’s out of our control.

Some of that may be true, but if we succumb to despair, then all is lost. We need goals. We need action. Above all, we need change.

So here are things we can do:

  1. You can donate directly to the Victorian Country Fire Authority or to the bushfire relief fund here: and to Wildlife Victoria, who are helping wounded animals, here:
  2. Protest. Protest online. Protest in person. Write to newspapers, especially newspapers that typically publish a lot of climate change denial. Overwhelm them with the truth. It will be harder to get published, but may make more difference if you do. Write to your local MP. Write to environment ministers, senators, government enquiries, committees. Make videos, write blogs, write opinion pieces. You can’t complain that no-one’s listening if you won’t raise your voice. There are protests happening around Australia on January 10th. Find your closest one and make your voice heard.
  3. Think about what really matters to you when you vote. Actually go and read the policies of all of the political parties and decide which ones most closely match your values. This is how I came to be a member of The Greens. If you find a party that really reflects your values (NOT the party your family has always voted for, or the party with the least objectionable local MP), join them, hand out how to vote cards for them, support them with money and time as best you can.
  4. Don’t share stuff if you can’t be sure it’s true. And share fact checking from reputable sites like the ABC and The Conversation when you see people sharing stuff that isn’t true (like, for example, that the fires are all the fault of the Greens because we stopped hazard reduction burns – this is the exact opposite of Greens policy and is pure propaganda). Think, and research, before you share.
  5. Demand that Governments base their policies on science. Call them on it when they ignore or ridicule experts. If we despair and give up, we give them exactly what they want – a docile population who will allow their country to burn. Demand evidence. Demand data. Demand proof. And demand that the government acts in line with it.
  6. Organise. Find groups that share your values and your goals and join them. We are stronger together. We can have actual impact if we band together. Extinction Rebellion is giving me hope right now, but there are plenty of other organisations working for change. Get involved. Get your friends and family involved. You’re more likely to stick with an organisation if you join with friends.

It’s time. We can’t afford to despair. We can’t afford to give up. And we can’t afford to wait for the government to act. We need to stand up, make noise, and make change.

If you have more ideas for things we can do, please add them in the comments!


PS The bushfire relief fund is coordinated by Bendigo Bank, who do a whole bunch of ethical, community based work. What does your bank do for the community? If it doesn’t do much, switch to one that does. For Aussies, Bendigo would make a great start. For those overseas, research your local banks. Search for Community banks. Shifting your money to an organisation with values that match yours is a great way to start changing the world. The same goes for superannuation. Australian Ethical is a good start here.