Monday, March 16, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Or in this case, Mr. Johnson-Long goes to the NC Legislature.

Kid (my son, Isaiah, age seven, picture to the right) went with me to see our press conference last Wednesday announcing the antibullying bill.

(There was a certain reluctance on his part, initially. When I told him I was taking him with me to work, his reaction was "Awww, man, you mean I'll miss school? I love school!")

It was a beautiful day, thankfully, warm and sunny, so the transit between locations was pleasant. While he waited at the ENC office for us to head over at noon, he entertained himself on the computer (playing Poptropica, a safe, kid-friendly, multiplayer online game recommended to us by his first-grade teacher).

He got to visit a bit with the ENC staff, as well as meet a bunch of ENC interns and volunteers. Stephen, our trans policy person, was particularly great with him.

We all walked over to the legislative building together, and Kid got to tour the capitol grounds. We even spoke to several legislators and lobbyists while we waited.

When it was time, we crowded into the glass-lined press room. I was worried about whether there'd be space for us, but there was just enough room. In addition to the speakers standing at the front, folks were also lining the walls, and the press stood in the back.

It was a great press conference, and from what I've been told it was remarkable in terms of the number of legislators who attended, as well as the number of people who spoke out in support of the issue.

Kid was enthralled. I'm sure a lot of stuff went over him, but he definitely understood the basic issue. In fact, afterwards when I was explaining the history of the School Violence Prevention Act and how it didn't pass last year, he wanted to know how anyone could be against stopping bullies in school.

Now, this was a tricky question. I always try to be honest with him, and I don't want to be overprotective. (I only try to insulate him from most of the ills of the world, not all!) Still, even as I told him that everyone wants to stop bullies and that people just disagree on the best way to do that, I realized that wasn't true. If the bill didn't provide specific protections for gay kids, it would sail through without any problems. Some legislators do, in fact, think it's OK for gay kids to be harassed. Sometimes the bullies in school grow up to become bullies in government.

I didn't tell him that, though, but then again, I didn't need to. He knows about bullies. He's told me he gets hassled sometimes (even by his friends) for having two dads and/or having no mom.

But at least now he also knows that there are people working to stop this, too.

The next day, I asked him what his favorite parts of the day were. He said he liked getting to eat a hot dog and chips for lunch, and he was happy he lost his loose tooth so he got money from the tooth fairy.

Nothing is more zen and in-the-moment than kids. It was an educational day for both of us.

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