Years ago, as a gay dad, my kids’ elementary school had PTA meetings, and events and lots of chores for needing parental support. I showed up and joined a bunch of, usually, moms to pitch in.
Many of the women would gush “Oh, you are SUCH a great dad!” I heard it a lot.
NO I AM NOT, I would think, well — OK, maybe I was striving to be that, but not for the reason they were saying I was one. I was, as they were, doing what my children needed me to do. I was a decent dad in those moments. I was doing what, to me, was the bare minimum, nothing outstanding, nothing heroic.
I was just showing up.
I do not personally know the national treasure known as Jamie Lee Curtis, but her reaction to praise of her parenting is similar to mine, “People have said ‘you are so great to accept her,’ and I am ‘WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?’ This is my daughter. This human being has come to me and said, ‘This is who I am ‘ and my job is to say ‘welcome home’ and defend her right to exist to anyone who claims that she doesn’t, and there are those people.”
Jamie Lee is an actress, author, sober advocate and more. Her role with her daughter takes priority however. She has said, “Being a parent … that is the real reason we are here.”
Jamie Lee Curtis is about showing up, not just for kids, but for all human beings. Her recent Oscar win was for putting depth to a character she describes as “a forgotten woman.” In her children’s book “Is There Really a Human Race”, she writes. “Take what’s inside you and make big, bold choices. And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use BOLD voices.”
Jamie Lee uses a bold voice. She showed up visibly at Disneyland dressed in Pride. She wrote to the world, “Love is love. A mother’s love knows no judgment. As a mother, I stand in total solidarity with my children as they move forward in the universe as their authentic selves with their own minds and bodies and ideas. On this trans visibility day my daughter and I are visible.”
Her voice has inspired her daughter not just to be herself but to pass it on and stand for others as well, “My mom has supported me ever since I came out as trans. I love her so much. There are allies everywhere for the trans community. You just need to look for them, and we will stand by your side for the long run,” Ruby has declared.
Jamie Lee also exemplifies the struggle of parents of trans kids. While she does not point this out, parents, such as her, are under as much attack as their kids. They are being villainized, derided and in some cases, legally harassed. Many are fleeing unfriendly states, just so they can continue showing up for their kids.
“The most important thing is that I don’t know everything, and I wake up everyday sober saying, I don’t know everything. I’ve gone to teachers, I ‘ve gone to people and said please teach me,” Jamie Lee confesses.
Jamie Lee Curtis knows a lot more than she thinks she does. Somewhere in her, she knew she would not get a second chance at this. Eight years ago, another mother did not recognize a crucial moment when it came.
That mother was the parent of Leelah Alcorn, who had come out to her as trans. “We don’t support that, religiously,” Alcorn’s mother told CNN later. “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”
Leelah left a note before walking in front of a truck, not long after that talk with her mother.
Her note said, “After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.”
Leelah’s mother had not even listened enough to know her child’s name was now “Leelah.” The first she heard of her daughter’s chosen name was on the note left behind. She had wanted to be a good mother, but she failed to show up when her child needed her the most. The Alcorn story is not a rare one, and parents of trans kids have learned that their reaction, their support, their willingness to advocate for their kids, is a matter of life or death. (A study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 41 percent of 6.450 trans respondents had attempted suicide.)
So, yes, Jamie Lee Curtis had the instinct, and the guts, to show up. She lays it out simply, in a way that any parent, mom or dad, can follow: “They have demonized trans people. It’s awful. It’s terrifying. Every day, it is getting worse. Bottom line, life is about love. Being a parent is about love. I love Ruby. Love her … There is no handbook, there are people who can be helpful guides, but I get it wrong, I’m learning, I’m trying, I’m human.
But the bottom line is — I am a mom.”
Be a mom. Fight for your kids. Their lives depend on it.