On the day you become a mother, everything changes. Ask any mom and she will agree with this fact. In addition to the huge lifestyle changes and hormonal shifts that happen, a new woman emerges. She is both you, and not you. She is the most loving and caring creature on the planet. But her love is so fierce she would not think twice about fighting 10 men 10 times her size to save her child. She would give her own life, and sacrifice all for the child’s well being and happiness. Her strength knows no bounds. Ask any mother what the worst part of motherhood is and she will tell you. It isn’t the excruciating pains of birth or postpartum depression. It isn’t the sacrifice of the old, carefree life or fulfilling career. It isn’t the sleep deprivation or the toll childbearing and rearing takes on a woman’s body and mind. It is, hands down, without a doubt, one singular thing: seeing your child in pain.
As a parent, you know this is an unavoidable part of life. All children get sick, some worse than others, all children suffer heartbreak and rejection and are at times confused about who they are. Some children are bullied. And though we wish this weren’t true, many of us are dreading this day, when our child comes home with shame-filled eyes from being picked on and made to feel less than or different. But for many of us, we know this will be a phase, and that come middle school, or high school, or college, this bullying will have passed, and a strong adult will emerge from where our child once faltered. But if your child is born “different” in a system that makes them feel less than, how do you deal?
What if your child's bully isn't another child, but the school administrator, your state's governor, your nation's president? What if the elected, governing bodies of your country are telling your child they aren't allowed the same basic rights as other Americans? Yesterday Donald Trump announced that 15,000 active duty service men and women would no longer be ALLOWED to serve. It was a disgusting display of abuse of power, not unlike other ways this man has chosen to cause controversy by openly discriminating against groups of Americans. When I heard the news, I was seething and sad. The first person I thought of was Amber Briggle.
I've been following Amber recently, as she invaded my hometown of Austin. She's taken her voice to the capitol to speak out against SB3, the ridiculous "bathroom bill" that many prominent republican lawmakers are fighting for. It's an embarrassing time to be a Texan. It's hard to not give up the good fight. But not for Amber Briggle. Recently, an image of her and son, Max, went viral. It’s after a long day of testimony. Max appears sad and tired. I don't know what he is feeling is this picture, but I do feel Amber. I see a mother touching her son lovingly on the face, demanding his eyes meet her own. She's trying to remind him of how loved he is, and she knows that fact is found in her stern gaze. She's intent on telling him the message of hope and letting him know that he is strong, as she kneels in heels and a skirt on the cold floor of the state capitol. She's stopping everything for that child. Her love surrounds them both like a force field. I feel sad looking at this picture, and I also feel rage. Rage for my fellow mother in the trenches, doing her best to see that her child feels accepted and safe. And rage that the people trying to take away this child's rights are the exact people who purport to be for "family values" and children's safety.
As Amber points out in her Tedx Talk, 41% of transgender people attempt suicide in their lifetime. Imagine if someone told you your child had a 59% chance of surviving the teenage years into adulthood, and not because of an illness, but because the system in place isolated, judged, and mistreated them. Would this not make you enraged? Would this not make you want to change the system? For Amber, who is a brilliant writer and public speaker, it seems to bring out the best in her. She speaks with clarity and has a genius way of being able to convert anger into civil discourse and timely statistics. Not unlike many female leaders who’ve been trained to not seem irrational at the risk of losing credibility, she leads with patience. But behind the patience, with great force, like a giant pushing from behind, is her strength. The strength she has from wanting to protect her child, and make sure her baby feels accepted, safe, and loved. What mother, liberal or conservative, would not want the same for her child?
The current climate in our nation's politics has hit home for many. It seems this president has no boundaries when it comes to people he seeks to marginalize. He's threatened by strong women and has said slanderous and derogatory things about immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, Jews, the physically disabled, the black community, AND still has managed to become president. For many mothers and maternal figures in this country, an identity crisis is taking place. How are we supposed to teach our children about basic morality and decency when our highest elected leader exemplifies nothing but the opposite? We, as mothers are up against systemic racism that goes unrecognized, systemic sexism that is labeled false, and a systemic love of the availability of weapons that kill children everyday. Not to mention that mothers of children with special needs stand to lose healthcare and access to valuable therapies and resources under this administration. Even the future of our planet is seemingly perilous. How, then, are we to save this country for the safety of our children?
The strongest part of the resistance will be lead by mothers like Amber Briggle. And we can count on women like her whose stories aren't just personal or familial, but straight up maternal. With the lion rage within each of us to make this country what we know it MUST be, and for our children to be afforded the best life we can provide, we must all do our part, as she is doing. She isn't in this fight because she wants to be, she's in it because she has to be, for her son. And so must we all follow her example. It's our job now to write, call, testify and rally for the rights of our kids and their future. As Amber says in her most recent article on Refinery29, "I will fight with everything I’ve got until the threat is gone, and my son is safe." You go, mama. We'll be right there with you.