I’m going to touch briefly on something very difficult, something I’ve avoided mentioning directly in recent years for reasons that will become clear.
In the fall of 2019, one of my children had a mental crisis.
They struggled with their sense of identity; their sense of who they were. They were bullied for it. And it led to a psychological crisis that required urgent intervention.
As an emergency medical professional whose job it is to identify and protect people in crisis situations, I was still completely taken by surprise. I managed to immediately identify things before they became overtly life threatening, but before that… nothing at all.
I don’t have the words to describe my feelings at the time. “Floored”, “devasted”, it doesn’t even suggest it. I mean that’s my job. This is my all Work. I do that every day, I save and protect people in crises. People rely on my colleagues and I to protect them when no one else can… and I couldn’t even see the signs of one of my own children until it was almost too late.
No words I have ever written here will be able to describe the existential crisis I have wrestled with, the depths of depression I have slipped into. I didn’t quite expect that even now, because while I understand the error logically, looking back at my own feelings when it was my child that was really suffering, I can’t help feeling it. .. despicable best.
However. My child is in a much better place now. Thank god we had access to mental health options that we could access before the pandemic started in earnest… things that so many other people didn’t have access to. Because it’s damn hard enough as it is. LGBTQ students already experience much higher rates of self-harm and suicide because of the discrimination they face. No one should have to rely on the luck we’ve had to protect their children.
But it looks like Glenn Youngkin has made his mark here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that’s who only a thing that will bring safety to thousands of children like me. Because he doesn’t want kids like mine to be who they are. He wants to weaponize the power of the state to take action against them, against any K-12 educators who dare advocate for children.
If you’re looking for a great explanation of how extreme what Governor Youngkin is proposing is, You must read my friend Rachel Levy’s explainer here. But in short, according to this policy, LGBTQ children – but especially transgender children – don’t really exist; they are simply ideologues. Parents’ rights ALWAYS take precedence over children’s and student rights. It is never down to the child who they are; it is only up to the parents.
A child is only transgender if the parents say so in writing. If a transgender child is not accepted by his or her parents, not only is the school forbidden from supporting that child in any way, it also arms the power of the state and the most extreme parents to seek educators who advocate for employ children. Because Governor Youngkin is fully committed to the Republican belief that they must openly and aggressively attack educators and public schools, rather than undermining them behind the scenes.
This is a purposeful trend and why the GOP is also tracking nurses, firefighters, paramedics, social workers, psychiatrists and other important parts of our social safety net. They know that this is the key to breaking up our society and that is their only goal at this point. Destroy what they can, make people’s lives as unstable and uncertain as possible, and try to take as much power and control as possible in the ensuing chaos.
This is their new normal. They are putting up literally billions of dollars to achieve their goal. And they will never stop until they succeed.
And I can’t help but feel personally struck by the governor once again. It wasn’t enough that my kids were already being attacked by one of the governor’s appointments, being bullied online by someone who openly and brazenly admitted to attacking them and literally saying “they deserve it” because they’re my kids are. Total coincidence, of course, because I’m running in Virginia’s bluestest district, which is still held by the Republican Party, against an incumbent who is a close friend of the governor’s personally. Now Governor Youngkin must go back to taking care of my children, their friends, the public school educators who stand up for them… and openly suggesting that none of them deserve to exist.
There simply aren’t any words I could write here that would do justice to the kind of evil she portrays.
Every time we think we’ve crossed the Rubicon, thinking we’ve seen where the extremists in the Republican Party will peak, we’ve actually only been exposing our own naivety.
This is not an abstract fight for the legislation we want to see passed. We are not “two sides of the same coin”. We do not differ on the merits of relative tax rates for properties adjacent to industrial estates.
One side wants people to be able to live as they want Miscellaneous people live like you want, with the state interfering as little as possible in their private lives.
The other side thinks scores of Americans just don’t deserve to live. Exist.
And won’t stop until you Not.
These are the stakes here, folks.
Kellen Squire is an emergency room nurse from Barboursville, Virginia and a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. Donate today to help us fight Governor Youngkin and turn over the bluest seat left by the Virginia GOP.