Since the Impossible Happened

I never expected this to happen. I never thought it COULD happen. And yet on November 8, 2016, my world imploded. Instead of my lifelong dream14721549_1344021028943931_237385660179562321_n.jpg of seeing the first female president, and my dream since I was 11 of having President Hillary Clinton, I watched helplessly as a man who represented everything I hated, feared, and loathed because president of the United States of America. It has been almost a year and a half since that fateful night, and I am no closer to comprehending it now than I was then. I have not yet truly mourned what has been lost, because I have not yet been able to integrate this external reality into my personal truth.


History had a path to follow. Hillary was supposed to win. She would give her victory speech in a white pantsuit, and Bill would beam with pride. She would appoint Merrick Garland or someone equally qualified and intelligent to the Supreme Court. Tim Kaine would be a less inappropriate version of Joe Biden. Foreign relations would flourish under Hillary’s experienced hand. Common-sense gun control laws, universal healthcare, student loan relief, strong climate action, equal rights and equal pay for all, paid family leave, poverty, sexual harassment, and racial justice would all be subjects of debate in Congress. We would still have the Blue Wave and flood of new women candidates, but driven by hope, not fear.


But… that’s not what happened. Fear fueled by ignorance turned into hate, and a man who did not even want to win, despite running a brutal campaign, is now the so-called leader of the free world. I cannot comprehend how it is possible that such an atrocious man is our president – and yet I also cannot fathom how the situation could be improved, because impeachment would give us President Pence; even if both were impeached, we would have President Ryan; and I do not believe either would be an improvement, for despite their more stable temperaments, they have the same goals as Trump, and they have far more political cunning with which to achieve them.

I used to read the news every day, scrolling through headlines and diving into commentary, reports, and analyses. The further into the Trump presidency we get, the less I am able to stomach; these days I barely open Facebook or Twitter for fear of what I will see. Knowledge is the key to resistance, but what can I do? My senators have been among the leaders of the resistance to Trump, and I have too much anxiety to make daily (or even monthly!) phone calls. I can’t travel, protests have thus far been entirely ineffective, and I don’t have money or energy to donate to a campaign. I am disabled in ways that render me powerless. All I have is my writing and my teaching.

Meanwhile, people I know are being targeted for deportation, victimized by racial profiling, terrorized for going to school, sexually harassed at work, and forced to delay or forfeit school, parenthood, travel, moving, and job changes. I am queer, female, disabled, and Jewish; attacks on these identities are on the rise. I am white, college-educated, and from a middle-class family; the privileges afforded to me by these aspects of my life are hard to perceive from within, yet ensure that I am not targeted by racism (anti-Semitism is another story) or left without a roof over my head and food in my belly.

How do we improve the lives of ourselves, our families and friends and neighbors? Will we all perish in nuclear warfare? Can we foster empathy and compassion in a society that is fueled by fear and hate? Is there hope for a better tomorrow?

What can I do?

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Climate Reality Corps: Send me to Denver!

The Climate Reality Project, founded by former Vice President Al Gore, works to promote action on climate change worldwide through a variety of initiatives to crlclogopressure world leaders, help communities organize, and train leaders. Through the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, activists receive training in climate science, communication, and organizing. Attendees are added to a crlgrouplist of speakers from which other organizations can request presentations for events, and are given support to help bring about change at a local level. The next training is in Denver, Colorado, March 2-4… and I’ve been accepted for it!12019775_10154419935943475_4106408606014142449_n

I have earned a B.Sc. in biology and environmental studies and a Masters of Environmental Studies, and I’ve been a vocal climate change activist since I was 15. Attending this training will give me specialized credentials that will help me spread actual (not alternative) facts about climate change. At this time, in this political climate, these presentations are more important than ever.

Travel isn’t cheap, and while I’m not a spendthrift, I do have extra expenses: accommodations for severe food allergies on flights and while dining, and autism-friendly lodging. Can you help send me to Denver?

I’m trying to raise $1000: $200 for airfare, $450 for lodging (3 nights), $150 for food, $100 for miscellaneous expenses (transportation, baggage fees, etc).

If you want to contribute, you can donate here!

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Student Success Means Supporting Girls

I’ve had two different encounters with sexism in the past 24 hours, and together they represent my professional raison d’etre.

Credit: Unknown

The first was last night. I was at a meeting, the monthly meeting of a local climate change group. There were three presenters, two men and one woman, and a room with about the same gender ratio. Everyone there was white. After the presentation, there was time for Q&A, which was dominated by the male presenters. I had a question, so I raised my hand. When a related question was asked, I said mine was a good follow-up, so I got called on. Meantime, I had watched the same woman put her hand up… over, and over, and over, without being called on. Several men had been called on despite putting their hands up more recently. So, standing in the back, I called out, “This woman has had her hand up for a while. Do you want to call on her next?” She was called on then and there.

The second was just a few hours ago. One of my tutoring students is an African-American middle-schooler, whom I’ve been working with since October. She had been having trouble with math, so I was helping her with Algebra I. Her improvement has been significant – from failing to acing three tests in a row and making Student of the Month in December. When the improvements first started to show, her confidence soared and it showed in her willingness to answer questions in class. With the start of the new year, though, her confidence has waned. Today at the end of our session, she told me that her math teacher had assigned her specific homework: to participate more in class. So, starting next week, we’ll be working on ways for her to raise her own voice. In the meantime, I told her the story of the meeting last night. I also told her this:

“It doesn’t seem like a lot. So you don’t like to participate in class, so what? But if you practice speaking up with your thoughts now, you’ll be more comfortable doing so later in life. You’ll be willing to take credit for your own ideas in meetings. You’ll be more able to speak out if you are sexually or physically assaulted. You’ll even have more confidence to say no to boys in high school who harass you for a date. I know it feels scary, even to have a wrong answer. I don’t know what your school is like; maybe you’ll be teased for being a know-it-all, maybe you’ll get made fun of for having a wrong answer. But here’s the thing. Society isn’t going to give you a voice. I don’t get called on during Q&As unless I speak up first – I’m a young girl, what can I know? It’s going to be even harder for you, because you’re a woman of color. So you have to raise your own voice. Start by participating in class.”


Confronting sexism requires a two-pronged approach. Women have to be willing to amplify each other’s voices, NOW – at school, in meetings, at presentations. And we need to teach our girls, ALL our girls, to raise their own femalefuturevoices, and not let anyone silence them. Those two things are what I aim to do, with my professional life, and as a tutor and mentor for predominantly female students.

Remember: The future is female. Let’s make the future bright by helping women and girls shine.

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A New Era

The general consensus seems to be that 2016 was not a good year. For me as an individual, it was pretty good: I finished my Master’s degree, I’m doing more teaching and tutoring, and my partner and I celebrated our first anniversary together on New Year’s Eve. For my rights as a neurodiverse lesbian millennial of Jewish heritage, however, I agree with the consensus view. 2016 marks the start of a new era: a time of backlash against progressive values; a time of hate, fear, and anger; a time of protests, outcries, and violence.

My emotions on November 9th are familiar to 66 million other people. Fear. Anger. Disbelief. Despair. I still haven’t quite processed the results. Hillary’s defeat broke my heart.

Even more devastating than Hillary’s loss, though, is who won. I will not speak his name, for he does not deserve that respect. You all know who I’m talking about when I refer to Mr Cheeto, right?

The victory of Mr Cheeto was a victory for those who believe that white, straight, cisgender, rich, Christian men are superior to everyone else. It was a victory for those who see people of color as animals; who see women as second-class citizens; who see LGBTQ+ people as abominations of nature; who see poor people as a disease; who see non-Christians (especially Muslims) as terrorists. It was a victory for bigotry, discrimination, fear, and hate.

As a lesbian, I do not know if my partner and I will be able to get married someday. As a Jew, I do not know if I am safe from the same persecution that my family faced just a few generations ago. As a woman, I do not know if I am safe when I leave my house. As a disabled person, I do not know what will happen to my right to reasonable accommodations. As a millennial, I do not know if my future involves a job, a healthy economy, or a livable environment.

As a survivor of domestic violence, I DO know that the next four years are going to be one long PTSD flashback – only this time, the abuser is the President.

So those are the consequences. We can expect 2017 to bring more fear and hate – as, indeed, we already have seen. We can look for the GOP to have a field day with majority control of Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. We can prepare for the fight of our time: the fight for a future, not a return to the early 1800s.

We face a new era. An era in which the Constitution is no longer respected, our civil rights and personal liberties are under fire, and our environment marches towards the point at which our planet can no longer sustain human life. We cannot turn back and we cannot back down.

So we must educate ourselves, we must unite to work for a common cause, and we must be ready.

Arm yourself with critical thinking, fact-checking skills, and an understanding of lobbying and the policy process.

Coming January 21st, 2017: A New Era: The fight for the future.


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Teaching for the Future

Teaching is the only social interaction that comes naturally to me. Sharing information, explaining things to other people – it is not only easy, but it gives me joy. That is why I teach for GHF Online, and why I started Master MImage result for ghf onlineinds.

Last Wednesday marked the end of my second year with GHF Online. As always, the end of the semester was bitter-sweet: I am so proud of how far my students have come, but I will miss “my” kids. Some of them will be coming back to my classes next term, when I teach Meet the Biosphere and Citizen Science Adventures. Others will be moving on.

This term has been harder than previous semesters, for a few reasons. I had two classes, not just one; I had a bigger class than I was used to. Mostly, though, what made it difficult was the election.

I teach environmental sciences, and climate change features prominently in my classes. My students know what climatograms are, and how they’re changing; and they know that humans are causing environmental damage to all the Earth’s ecosystems, and climate change threatens us all. Normally, I am able to help them cope reasonably well: I offer examples of policies being proposed or implemented, we discuss ways that they can make a difference, and they find things to be positive about. In other words, I practice what I preached in my last blog post.

But this term was different. This term, on November 9th, my students showed up to class and asked me what we were going to do now that the President-elect believes climate change is a hoax. And I did not have an answer, because I did not know myself.

I have an answer now. I know what I am going to do, and I know what they can do.

sciencevolunteerI’m going to teach. I’m going to educate the current generations about what we can do now, and I’m going to prepare the next generations for what is coming and what they will need to do.

In this new “post-truth” world, teaching science feels like an act of rebellion. In a time when climate scientists’ names are demanded and researchers fear the destruction of climate change data, defending solar and wind and protesting fossil fuels is a show of defiance. Sharing facts, and data, and evidence, searching for the truth – that is a display of resistance.

Join me. Teach your friends and family about climate change, about the importance of research and evidence. Share facts. The damage possible now is immense, but so too is our power as citizens. socanmeeting

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead

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Talking Climate Change with Kids

As an environmental science instructor, there kidsclimateartcomes a time each term where I have to talk about climate change with my students. The reaction is predictable: they start saying how awful it is, they get scared about the consequences, and they ask why it is still happening if we know what is going on and how we are causing it. Over the years, I have found a few techniques and resources to be particularly useful.

Don’t show despair

If you have lost hope, don’t let it show. The kids will pick up on it, and it is far better to communicate to them that the best and brightest minds are working on the problem.

Give them ways to engage with the problem

Provide examples of how their everyday behaviors contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and then show ways that they can change to reduce their carbon footprint. Offer action items like letter-writing, community outreach, fundraising for an organization, and joining groups working on the problem in your community. Help them come up with their own ideas for solutions, and support development of their innovative ideas.

Make it a science lesson, not an existential crisis

There is a lot more to climate change than “we’re all going to die.” How do we measure carbon in the atmosphere? What are carbon sinks? How much carbon can one tree absorb? How does the ocean absorb carbon dioxide? Where can the carbon go besides the atmosphere? What are other technologies we can use? How do solar panels turn sunlight into electricity? Answering these questions helps children to understand the scope of the problem, while also providing them with an understanding of the solutions. I have written posts about the importance of science and the basic science of climate change.

Help them understand how we got here

Older children and teenagers will be asking how we got to this point, and they deserve answers. Explain the political battles, the denial and its roots, and scientific conservatism when it comes to raising concerns. Include the progress we have made, too – the growth of renewable energy, the international agreements, the local actions, and the grassroots organizing.


NASA’s Climate Kids provides a multitude of learning opportunities, along with innovation opportunities and teaching resources.

Global Warming Timeline shows the progression of climate change through science and the public mind.

What You Can Do About Climate Change offers dozens of ways that both children and adults can take to reduce their individual footprint and take larger actions to fight climate change.

Our Children’s Trust is a group of kids and lawyers who are currently suing state and federal governments in the United States, with the goal of forcing climate action by arguing that climate change violates their constitutional right to life and liberty.

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An Insider’s Guide to Lobbying: Advice for New Lobbyists

Author’s note: I wrote this after my internship with the League of Women Voters of WA this Spring (see Internship on Capitol Hill). With the election over and a new legislative session around the corner, I hope my words of experience can help others enter the world of lobbying.

As a new lobbyist, you may have a picture of yourself going to meetings with legislators, making back-room bargains and wearing power like a cloak. Indeed, the picture the media paints of lobbyists is of a cloak-and-dagger approach, with money from questionable sources exchanging hands and no one really knowing what others are saying. For most lobbyists, this is not the case.

First of all, though, what is lobbying? What does a lobbyist do?


According to Chapter 42.17A of the Revised Code of Washington, the Public Disclosure Law, a lobbyist is “anyone who attempts to influence state legislation or the legislative action of a state agency.” This is a bit broad – most citizens do not consider themselves lobbyists, even if they have signed petitions or written letters to their public officials. To narrow it down, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a lobby is “an organized group of people who work together to influence government decisions that relate to a particular industry, issue, etc.” Lobbying, then, is participating in efforts to influence government decisions. This is done in a number of ways, but the overarching principle is communication. A lobbyist is therefore first and foremost responsible for communicating about their issues and group positions with lawmakers and with others involved in the policy process.

There are five key aspects of lobbying: keystolobbyingListening, strategizing, inter-group communication, testifying, and meeting with legislators. Each of these parts plays a key role in forming the relationships needed to be an effective lobbyist. As unglamourous as it may seem, listening truly is the most important aspect of any relationship, and that is where I will begin.

  1. Listening

There are always conversations going on in the hallways, or whispered during committee hearings. When members of multiple groups are part of the “huddle,” finding ways to include yourself in these conversations – anything from simple eavesdropping to inserting yourself into and participating in the discussion – can yield significant amounts of information about inter-group dynamics without raising eyebrows. It can also be helpful in maintaining inter-group communication.

Listen in committee meetings and in hearings. Listen for four things: agenda, message, tone, and questions from the committee. Over time, you will learn to recognize the players and get an idea of what their agenda is, but it is important to stay on top of the current message. The same stakeholder may express completely different opinions in a work session and a hearing, and those discrepancies can be problematic. Their tone will indicate what sort of reception they expect to get from the committee, and the questions the committee members ask can help you to anticipate the future of the bill with remarkable accuracy.

Questions from committee members are typically one of two types: information-seeking or aggressive. The former are open-ended or asking for a specific data point, and indicate that the member is taking what the speaker said seriously, and wants to get a clearer picture of the testimony. The latter are readily identified by the single-mindedness with which the questioner pursues their train of thought, not stopping to listen to the answer, or when the questioner makes claims that border on the absurd.

Finally, listen to the answers to your questions. You likely have plenty, and finding someone who can answer them is important. When you do, their answers merit your attention. If their explanation goes over your head, say so. At the Capitol, everyone is busy; if someone takes time from their day to answer your questions, they probably care that you understand their answers.

  1. Strategy

This may seem obvious: Go in knowing what you want and push it as hard as you can, whenever you can. However, it gets nuanced fast. First of all, don’t testify too often. Testifying on everything you find interesting will make you an overly familiar face, and when an issue comes up where you really want to throw your weight around, your voice will carry less meaning. Second, there will be bills that you have conflicted feelings about. Perhaps the bill will cost money in a revenue-strapped state, but is good for the environment; maybe it helps one disenfranchised group in a way you find morally unappealing. Whatever it is, know your priorities and where you are and are not willing to be flexible. Most of all, recognize when your position is too nuanced to come across in testimony, and consider writing a letter or arranging a meeting with the sponsor about the bill instead.

If you are part of a lobbying group, this gains a second layer of complexity: you may be clear on your position on an issue, but a given bill may conflict with another lobbyist’s position, potentially forcing the group to take no position. Communicating with your group about the different bills that have come up, especially if you hope to take a stance on the bill, is vital in this case to prevent your group from appearing to have two different views on the issue. You may also be tempted to take a stand on your own, but be careful, as it may be difficult for others to distinguish your personal and professional positions, thereby creating confusion or even inflicting damage on the organization you represent.

  1. Inter-group Communication

One of the most important parts of being a lobbyist is communicating with other lobbyists to provide a united front on your issue or issues. By coordinating with other stakeholders, legislators are presented with a strong coalition. They get a single, consistent message on the topic, which makes it easier for them to lean your way – after all, from a political perspective, what legislator wants to sort through numerous similar but not aligned messages on a topic and then choose which to bestow favor upon? Inter-group coordination also prevents opponents from playing allies off against each other. Infighting among groups weakens the collective voice, making your lobbying less effective.

  1. Testifying

The main rule for testifying is to know yourself and your presentation style. If you are most comfortable having a scripted testimony, then absolutely do so; if you do better with talking points and improvising on the spot, then that is also a valid approach. It is more important to come across as confident in both yourself and your facts than to have a perfectly-worded testimony. Speak with emphasis, make eye contact with your audience when possible, and don’t worry too much about minor mistakes; a little passion about an issue will get more attention from legislators than testimony that puts your audience to sleep. If you are with an organization, keep in mind that your organization’s reputation and positions will likely precede you in the minds of the committee members giving context to anything that you say. You’ll also need to ensure that your testimony is in line with the positions of your organization.

You also want to keep in mind how often you testify in front of a committee. On the one hand, being known to the the legislators can be positive: they know your expertise and may come to value your opinion. However, if you gain a reputation for ineffective or inaccurate testimony, being a familiar face can work against you.

  1. Meeting with Legislators

Be brief. Legislators do not have a lot of time; if you get a meeting with them, make the most of every second, especially during session. Know what questions you want to ask ahead of time, and have your talking points and requests ready. If you are asked a question that you do not know the answer to, offer to provide resources to their legislative aide (if you don’t know which of their aides is best for a subject, don’t be afraid to ask). When you do literature drops, label it clearly so it reaches the designated recipient and keep your materials to a minimum: only include the information they absolutely must know. Be prepared to talk to the legislative aide rather than the legislator, since that is the aide’s job, and be confident that your core message will make it to legislator – whether they take it into consideration is, of course, another story.

Welcome aboard!

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#NoDAPL and the U.S. in 2016

Some of you may have seen the hashtag #NoDAPLImage result for dapl in recent weeks (or months). The acronym DAPL refers to the Dakota Access PipeLine, a 1,168-mile pipeline proposed to transport crude oil from North Dakota’s bakken oil fields to pre-existing Illinois refineries. It was initially supposed to go north of Bismarck, ND, but this plan was rejected due to concerns regarding the water supply. Instead, the pipeline route was redrawn so the water quality issues would affect Standing Rock Sioux Reservation instead of the (mostly white) population of Bismarck.

29630855746_29c5520830_bWhile largely ignored by mainstream media, a movement has grown to support the people of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal reservation on the ND/SD border who are standing up to this pipeline. Objections to this project include threats to local water supply and sensitive environments; violation of indigenous rights; and the environmental impacts of the pipeline construction itself, the carbon emissions from the burning of the oil, and the potential for the pipeline to explode.

(The environmental impacts are, in fact, not entirely certain, due to the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement as required under NEPA; but the Environmental Assessment yielded a Finding of No Significant Impact, which is currently being contested.)

So here we have a few things going on. First, the route was redrawn because concerns for 2008-09-20_dirty_water_spilling_from_a_bottlewhite people’s water outweighed concerns for indigenous people’s water. Second, mainstream media has overlooked the issue almost entirely, in contrast to the water pollution issues facing Flint, MI. Third, we see environmental considerations being overlooked in favor of fossil fuel production. Fourth, peaceful protesters interceptdapl-e1477690746297at Standing Rock are being shot with rubber bullets, pepper-sprayed, and arrested by police outfitted in riot gear with armored vehicles (photos). Fifth, this protest has begun to reach major news outlets at nearly the same time as the 7 (white) leaders of the Bundy militia group that occupied Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were acquitted.

This pipeline and protest perfectly encapsulate the state of affairs in the United States in 2016: If you’re not white, the government gives no appearance of caring about you. If you’re an indigenous community, the media pays no attention to you. If it is about the environment, neither the government nor the media cares. If you are being peaceful, force will be used against you. If you are white and heavily armed, you can basically do whatever you want.

So what should happen now?

I argue that three things should happen:

  1. The Dakota Access Pipeline should be shut down.
  2. Surplus military equipment should not be available to U.S. police forces, and training in de-escalation and racial sensitivity should be made available to all U.S. police.
  3. U.S. citizens should all take a good, long look at their priorities… on their way to the ballot box.
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Seeing Success, Feeling Failure

I have never been good at failing. As a child, if I was dissatisfied with my handwriting, I would spend hours and hours practicing, using up page after page of paper. When I began to struggle during my figure skating lessons, I simply quit. Any time I thought I might fail,
I avoided the task entirely.

Then I went to college. At 13, that took some doing: some of the administration didn’t want me there, and my biological father tried to convince the family courts that I didn’t Image result for successbelong there. I learned that I couldn’t run away from failure, I just had to try my best. If I felt I couldn’t get an A on an assignment even if I gave it my best, then I would procrastinate, and then cry because I knew if I had started sooner, it would be better. If I am so smart, why can’t I __________?

Starting college so young was a mixed blessing, because I believed that if I could do that, then I could do anything. I could get a job; I could live on my own; I could remember to put my laundry in the washing machine. When my room was a mess and my mom wanted for me to scoop the kitty litter, I cried because I had failed to have a clean room and I had failed to provide a clean toilet for the cats. If I am so smart, why can’t I __________?

Almost seven years later, I have just finished my Master’s degree, thesis included. I have a job teaching online in my field (environmental sciences), and I’m working towards a career in politics. People tell me I am successful and an inspiration.

Yet I still cannot remember to do laundry, and I beg my dad to clean up cat puke for me. I have a job that I love, teaching a series of classes that my students love and that fill up with returning students every semester, but surely I only received it because my mom is my boss’ boss? I’m good for the organization’s bottom line, but would anyone else hire me? If I am so smart, why can’t I __________?

I’m not a real adult, I still live with my parents. I don’t have a full-time job. I fear I will never live on my own, because I cannot maintain a liveable environment for myself. I feel I will never be pretty, because I will never be a size 6.

Imposter syndromeIt’s called Imposter Syndrome, and it makes me feel like a failure.

But what is failure, but an inability to meet an expectation? Is it still failure if the expectations were set by someone else, or by society? Is it still failure if the expectations are unrealistic? Who decides what is and is not realistic?

I’ve learned to set realistic expectations for myself. I don’t fail my own goals very often anymore; but when I do, I curl up in a ball and have a panic attack. Some days society’s expectations weigh more heavily on me than other days, though; and on those days I have failed, I will never be good enough, I cannot meet those expectations.

And so I move forward, I keep readjusting my self-expectations, and I keep crying on the days that I fail; and as I cry, I do my best to learn, so I don’t make the same mistakes next time. But ultimately, I will never be perfect, and so I will keep failing. So maybe the mistake I’m really making is thinking of failure as an ultimate end, rather than a learning opportunity.

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Psychology and the Human Family

I had a new experience recently. I met a trans woman, and heard her story. I have met many young people who are trans or gender-nonconforming, but never heard from someone of an older generation.

Before hearing her speak, I had preconceptions. I PrideFlagheld my cisgender privilege close, speaking up for what is right but not feeling it in my heart. Perhaps this is part of my relationship to the queer community as a whole: I have never felt welcome, because I am gender-conforming and feminine. Perhaps it is because I often perceive a victim complex in the struggles of trans people, and so I roll my eyes and think, “Oh come on, it’s not THAT bad.” In this woman’s talk, however, I felt gender walls being broken down. We are not male and female and non-binary. We are all simply Homo sapiens, part of the human family.

This led me to think about the news recently, and to put together the pieces of the puzzle. In Orlando, FL, where 50 people were killed and at least as many were injured in an attack at a gay club. In the Netherlands, where new graduates chanted “Burn the Jews. They burn the best.” In the United States, where a racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-intellectual, U.S.-exceptionalist, white supremacist is a major party’s candidate for President. Across Europe, where similar figures are rising in their politics. In the Middle East, where religious extremists are using force to spread uniformity through subjugation. Everywhere, people trying to force everyone else to be like them.

It is a natural human instinct to fear those who are different. It is the product of millennia of evolutionary forces telling us that different is dangerous. Similarly, fear lends itself to hate, especially when fear stems from a perception of being threatened or oppressed. It is the basis of the “fight or flight” instinct. 

Yet we are human, and we pride ourselves on being civilized. We claim to be above our evolutionary instincts. Why, then, do we still face hate from so many directions?

In order for us to truly claim to be a civilized society, we must act in a civil manner towards all citizens. I am not telling you to love everyone; heaven knows I dislike enough people. I am simply telling you to behave civilly – politely, respectfully – to those around you. Acknowledge that everyone has a right to exist, to be treated respectfully, and to move freely through our society without fear. So, too, should everyone be offered the opportunity to learn and to do better. Acknowledge your feelings. Confront them. Then go out and help build a better society.

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