Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant
Two years ago, just one week after Mother’s Day, I gave birth to a beautiful baby. As my little one enters her third year of life and I celebrate the culmination of my second year of motherhood, I’ve been thinking about the kind of world I want my precious child to live in. Becoming a mom has given my work with Welcoming Schools even greater significance. I know that what I do has the potential to positively impact the upcoming generation, one that now includes my daughter.
I never want my daughter to hear that she can’t do something because she’s a girl. I want her to live free of microaggressions regarding her mixed-race heritage. I want my child to be just as comfortable wearing pants as skirts, just as happy playing hockey as dancing ballet. Most of all, I hope she will know that no matter who she is, and regardless of her sexual orientation or gender identity, she will be accepted, respected, and loved by those around her.
I’m so grateful that I have the training and resources to make this dream a reality for my daughter, and I have Welcoming Schools to thank. My little one has her own copies of Welcoming Schools recommended books like The Great Big Book of Families and Red: A Crayon’s Story. My mother’s heart was full to the brim when my bilingual baby chose the Spanish edition of And Tango Makes Three at the library. She’s a little young right now, but when she starts to ask about differences, I feel prepared to respond to questions like “Can girls marry each other?” and “What does ‘gay’ mean?” I have access to lessons like “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal” that will help my daughter become an upstander.
But it has to be more than just me and my one child. That’s why Welcoming Schools advocates a schoolwide approach. If we all (parents, teachers, community members, and leaders) do our jobs right, future school-children like my daughter will grow up in home and school environments in which there are no barriers to their success. Safety comes first because kids who are worried about harassment and bullying don’t have the emotional and cognitive energy to learn. But we must do more than that. We must ensure that all our youth have the opportunity to thrive in school, community, and the world at large.
What’s it going to take? It will take programs like Welcoming Schools in every classroom across the country, teachers who interrupt but also actively work to prevent bias-based bullying, and schools committed to cultivating inclusion for all and appreciation for difference. It will require the continued efforts of trailblazing youth activists like Jazz Jennings and Gavin Grimm, brave and devoted mama and papa bear parents of transgender kids, and politicians willing to stand on the right side of history.
It’s a tall order, perhaps, but as a mom, I’m unwilling to accept anything less for my child. When I held her in my arms for the first time, I had no idea I could love someone so much. That’s why I’ll keep fighting for the right of all children to live authentic, happy, fulfilling lives and to make every school a Welcoming School — on Mother’s Day and every day.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.