Last week I found myself in the parking garage of our state capitol waiting on an elevator. I was carrying a sign I made earlier that morning with a fading kingsize sharpie and pastel crayons. It read "Love our trans kids," and had a heart with stripes of blue and pink to represent the trans flag. It had taken a long time to come up with a few simple words. All the words that initially came to mind weren't appropriate for political discourse.
The door to the elevator opened up. "Are you going up?" I asked.
The smiling folks inside saw my sign and said "You're with us! Come on in." I was welcomed by members of the Kentucky People's Union. These kind folks from Ashland, Kentucky were also there to protest House Bill 470, an act that would prohibit gender-affirming care for minors along with adding a slew of other dehumanizing policies, each carrying their own vague implications.
I asked my new friends if I could tag along with them. "Of course! You're one of us now," they said and handed me a sticker. I was glad to have some guidance as we made our way to the hearing. The hearing was already a day later than originally scheduled, and now there was confusion about the location—evidently the room for the hearing was being as overflow for another meeting. So we found ourselves in the hallway.
Beth, an organizer with the Kentucky People's Union told me about their work for racial equity in Eastern Kentucky and introduced me to other activists from around the state. As I met folks from Lexington, Louisville, and beyond I felt wholly welcomed into this impromptu hallway fellowship. An activist from Louisville looked at my Central Baptist Church tee shirt and with an amused smile asked, "Really?"
"Yes," I said. She told me how meaningful it was for persons of faith to be present and thanked me for being there. We chatted, and she told me about the little girl she and her partner had adopted as her eyes glistened with love.
I felt caught in a strange tide—waves of joy and heartache. A glorious rainbow of humanity filled these halls with joy and kindness and welcome. And yet there was the looming threat of powers hiding behind titles and gavels, shuffling times and places, making judgements from on high without ever looking any of the beautiful human beings who would be bullied by these laws in the eye.
As I fell in the trough of my emotional riptide, I overheard one of my new friends from Kentucky People's Union. "We're building something for the people that will outlast this power structure," he said. I met his gaze as he was saying this, and my eavesdropping was apparent.
"Thank you," I said. "My heart needed to hear that." His words reminded me of mustard seeds and yeast and all those little things that work slowly and diligently to make something beautiful and lasting.
There wasn't enough room for most of us to make it into the hearing, so we stayed in the hallway watching the live feed on our phones. Physicians testified to the need for gender-affirming care. They explained how this law would make it “nearly impossible” to practice pediatric medicine in Kentucky. A representative from the Kentucky Psychological Association testified that this legislation was "harmful" and effectively denied the existence of trans persons (source). At one point the bill even targeted therapists and counselors, preventing them from their ethical duty to offer supportive nonjudgmental care to persons of every gender expression and identity. The irony of folks so concerned about individual freedom exacting control over the physical and mental healthcare of our children was astounding.
Despite the many arguments against this bill, as the hearing came to a close we got word that the bill would pass and go to the house floor later in the day. More folks gathered in the hallway—gray-haired white guys like me, teenagers with pride flags, persons in drag, ministers in their collars, women in business suits, every color, every hue. And there, in that dingy hallway, every gender expression, every identity, every human soul was shining like the sun. I found myself in the kingdom of God. In the hallway. And I'm certain that's where Jesus was.
As a parent, my heart was breaking for what this law means for our family. My heart was breaking for what it means for folks in the hallway with me. My heart was breaking for all those kids afraid to come out to their parents, for the beautiful souls who know the truth within themselves and are being told they should not exist. But I could not despair because this glorious wave of glittering humanity welcomed me, told me "you're with us," and gave me hope. Thanks be to God who celebrates every gender expression and identity, who cherishes every soul and calls us each beloved.
If you'd like to take action, the best place I've found for information is the Fairness Campaign. Their diligent work for LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice is a bright light in our State. If you have other resources or information, let me know (email@example.com).
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I’ve read this blog a few times now & it’s the most uplifting words I’ve read in weeks. These words keep bringing tears: “. . .And there, in that dingy hallway, every gender expression, every identity, every human soul was shining like the sun. I found myself in the kingdom of God. In the hallway. And I'm certain that's where Jesus was.”
This legislative session in Frankfort has been appalling in its lack of mercy & respect. So crushing. For so many reasons but yes! There is this opportunity to stand as a witness for love, to link arms & join together with so many brothers & sisters across Kentucky.
Aaron, I am so proud & grateful that you were there. For all of us.
On March 10, 2023, Nancy Keefe Rhodes said:
How completely inspiring! Thank you from Syracuse, NY.