It’s a lazy morning around the house.
My children have strategically placed pillows all over the floor, down the hall, throughout the house. They pounce from pillow to pillow shrieking “don’t fall in the lava!” They inform me all our flooring has been engulfed in lava and the only way to stay safe is to make sure you touch only the pillows as you make your way to a bed for safe landing. The beds are base, the safe zone. (Later, I learned that there was also an option to quickly put on lava shoes when the doorbell rings when we accidentally ran through the carpet lava to go see who was there.) Raise your hand if your family has also been watching Netflix’s Floor is Lava!
I’m glad it’s just a game, but on this National Coming Out Day, I am concerned about kids and families in Kansas City for whom this feels like real life. There are children and young adults who have the burden of constantly looking for a safe zone, a home base where they can land safely, tiptoeing around danger because of their sexual identity or orientation. They hope for landing points that are secure and protected. I write today as someone who has not personally experienced this, but as a mom who is searching for ways of making the Kansas City metro area safer, more accepting, and more loving. I am disturbed hearing that the Human Rights Campaign reports that 67% of LGBTQ+ youth hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ+ people.
The Conscious Discipline parenting strategy teaches that a parent is a “Safekeeper” in charge of creating a physically and emotionally safe environment for children. Moms are called to create havens and oases of safety where our children can crash and land without worry or fear of rejection. In a world full of lava, we are their base. Children also have a role in the Conscious Discipline way — they are charged with being the helpers, ensuring safety for themselves and other children. Everyone is responsible. Everyone has a role. That’s the kind of Kansas City moms community I want to be a part of.
In his 2013 piece, “On National Coming Out Day, Don’t Disparage the Closet,” Preston Mitchum points out that coming out isn’t always a safe thing to do.
“Ultimately, coming out is important because it makes the LGBT community more visible, particularly for black LGBT individuals. But focusing so intensely on coming out places the burden on the individual to brave society rather than on society to secure the safety of the individual…If there is one thing the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign unintentionally taught me it is that if our society does not actively work to make things better, the lives of LGBT people will not get better.”
I’m not in a position to decide when or if it is healthy for someone to come out of the closet, but what I do know is I want my family and me to be a part of the solution.
Some other critics of National Coming Out Day teach us that coming out is a misguided, unhelpful concept in the first place, as it reinforces a heteronormative culture and that a LGBTQ+ person is strange. I appreciate reading that perspective because it challenges me to think deeper about how to be helpful. I grieve that anyone who comes out would feel labeled different.
To those who come out today, I pray it is an experience of healing, freedom, acceptance, and celebration.
I have been thinking about what is mine to do. What influence do I have? I have that influence over the children I birthed, but I will also play a role in the lives of my neighbors, my children’s friends from school and church, my god-children, my nieces and nephews, and more.
I will teach them from an early age they can share hard things with me.
I will point out beauty when I see it in things that aren’t heteronormative.
I will loosen my grip on my preconceived notion of my children’s futures.
I will take them to Kansas City Pride Fest.
I will raise my children in a faith where all people are unconditionally loved and accepted.
I will seek out LGBTQ+ persons of authority (doctors, teachers) for my children.
I will explain the rainbow flag that flies in my yard.
I will consider the LGBTQ+ community’s needs when I vote.
What will you do to be a “safekeeper” for the children of Kansas City?