‘A spot of hope.’ Kentucky kids may lose the SB 150 battle but they will win the war | Opinion

·4 min read

Wednesday morning glowed into a perfect spring day, but as a resident of Kentucky and the world, it was hard to be cheerful. The last two days of the General Assembly were ahead — with certain overrides of terrible bills and the passage of several more — just as we continue to absorb the news of yet another school shooting in nearby Nashville.

I came to Frankfort gloomy and pessimistic to see a student-organized protest against a bill that goes against Republican orthodoxy and basic human rights but was sure to get through anyway. Nice, I thought to myself, but pointless and what’s left to say about the horrors of SB 150 anyway?

Then amid a sea of rainbow flags and rainbow signs and rainbow-painted faces, I talked to a trio of 16-year-old boys from Louisville.

James Miller, Gabriel Coffey and Will Carden came from Atherton High School in a big group, not because they themselves are transgender but because they care about people who are.

“We’re here to protest and to support and help this movement,” Miller said.

“Division is not a good thing to reach overall communal success,” Coffey noted. “It’s sad we have to be here but seeing this many people here is a spot of hope because there are people who want to make the world better.”

‘A spot of hope’

I’ve thought about hope quite a bit because this attack on transgender children encapsulated in SB 150 is opening the door to a wider attack on all LGBTQ people, some of whom are my dearest family and friends. What bill proponents can’t or won’t see is how similar this moment is to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It was a radical notion back then that Black people deserved civil rights, just as radical as the idea that gay people deserved them in the 1980s and transgender people deserve them now.

Protesters needed a lot of hope then, many of them students who descended on Southern diners and buses to be spit on, beat up and sometimes killed for their activism. The conservatives back then who fought so hard against integration are the ancestors of the conservatives today who hate gays and Mexicans and CRT and transgenderism.

These new conservatives swear they like Black people now, that they wouldn’t be the kind of people who jeered and screamed at tiny six-year-old Ruby Bridges as she integrated the New Orleans schools in 1960. They just don’t want books about her in school. As legal scholar Elie Mystal said after officials removed the Disney movie “Ruby Bridges” from Tampa, Fla. schools: “I’m not surprised that white parents in Florida don’t want their white children to know what their white grandparents were really like.”

Today, the separate bathrooms are for trans kids, and let’s see what comes next for everyone else in the rainbow coalition. If you think I’m overstating this, listen to Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington, who walked through the protest on his way to a Family Foundation rally in the Rotunda. Calloway fought hard to get an even more regressive bill passed.

When I asked Calloway about the parallels to the Civil Rights Movement, he said it wasn’t the same because he’s protecting children from “sexual notions,” not skin color, which is immovable. I asked if he thought being gay was also a notion.

“It’s a choice,” he said. “God created a man and a woman.”

If you think being gay and transgender is a choice, as Calloway does, then there’s no reason not to stamp it out. Ignorance, after all, is also a choice, too, as is targeting children as a political ploy to win a governor’s race.

More hope

That’s what bothers Alana Aphaivongs, a 10th grader at Male High School in Louisville — the lack of logic that government should somehow control kids and families and what they do.

“I lose brain cells listening to these people sometimes,” she said.

It’s depressing stuff, and it’s going to take a lot of hope to get through it. As Rep. Rachel Roberts told the screaming crowd, “We may not be victorious today, but we are on the right side.”

We got through those movements and we will get through this one. Lawmakers overrode Beshear’s veto of SB 150 with a lot of self-righteous rigmarole about protecting children. Very depressing. But As modern civil rights hero Bryan Stevenson says “hope is your superpower. Hope is the enemy of injustice. Hope is what will get you to stand up when people tell you to sit down.”

The kids are all right, yall. They know what bigotry is. They are loud and in charge and they can bring us some hope just when we need it most.

“I”m happy people are here to express themselves,” said Atherton’s Will Carden. “And I’m glad I’m here to witness it.”