Commentary: Vote with kindness
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at one of our area school’s GSA clubs. For those who may not know GSA is an abbreviation for “Gay Straight Alliance”. The point of a gay-straight alliance is to create a safe space for youth who are LGBTQIA+ Identifying to be their true authentic selves and the allies who support them to share space. These groups help create a sense of camaraderie. For me what was so special about this specific appearance as a title holder was not only being able to speak to these students about my platform called “Saving Lives and Empowering LGBTQIA+ Youth through Mentorship” but also sharing stories about being a trans woman of color in today's society. All of this while also having time after the meeting to speak to smaller groups and give advice.
You see, I was once just like them, a student trying to find myself in this crazy thing called life. I come from a southern conservative home where my purpose in life was to follow a set plan laid out for me. But you see, that wasn’t my truth.
Some of these students opened up to me about their home lives and asked for advice. Once they all left the teacher and I spoke and she shared with me how moved she was by the whole experience. You could see the tears in her eyes as she explained to me that some of these students who she has known for years she never even heard speak before. She said it was so moving to see them open up to me and to feel so comfortable speaking to me.
For many of these students, this was one of the first times they have met a woman whose identity was similar to their own but, who also used to be in a similar situation to theirs. This is why representation is so critical especially when we look at children of diverse backgrounds. One of my mentees has a saying that is so fitting: “you can’t be what you can’t see.” If our youth don't see themselves in media, leadership, among other trailblazing roles in our society it is difficult for them to truly envision themselves in their fullest potential.
Like so many people, I was raised with a well-known tenet being instilled into me from as far back as I can remember. Love your neighbor as yourself. While I am sure this isn’t the first time you have heard this. How often, especially recently have we seen this in practice? In a world riddled with hate, injustice, and strife we must ask ourselves how we can be better.
I feel the last few years have taught us many lessons. Many times we have taken the stance that “Well, so and so will put a stop to this,” or “We have checks and balances for a reason.” Unfortunately, we have seen that the stop gaps and boundaries we once relied on and trusted have far too often been violated. A prime example of this was the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, where a select subset of our citizens led by a political figure chose to violate our capital. This isn't the only instance of this happening; many people have become too comfortable with people’s lives and their basic rights being legislatively taken from them. Things like a person with a uterus not having the right to decide what is best for them and their family. To telling people like myself what bathroom they can and can’t use even if it doesn’t match their identity and external expression and would often be unsafe for them.
We as a nation have a lot to decide on, not only this upcoming election but in the next few years. We must start seeing the humanity in all people, especially those who are most vulnerable to such alienating policies. If you have not already done so please make sure you get out to vote. Make a plan to not only vote, but also remember you are not only voting for your conscience, vote for those who can’t, and think about those who will be affected by the politicians we elect. I ask that you vote with kindness.
I leave you with this final statistic. According to the Trevor Project LGBTQIA+ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in 2019.
So with that, I challenge all of you to practice kindness and caring towards all.
Remember, you could just save someone's life.
Christina King is an activist and mentor living in Galesburg. She serves on the Galesburg Community Relations Commission and the Knox County Board of Health. She was crowned Miss Trans Illinois in 2020 and Miss Nationwide in 2022. She speaks at rallies throughout the Midwest on women’s rights, trans rights, and Black Lives Matter.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of WIU or Tri States Public Radio.
Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.