This week is adoption week for Kassandra. Yes, we’ve changed the spelling of her name. We’re rehearsing for the questions the judge might ask her. She confidently announces that, “I’m Kassa” or “I’m three years old,” all while holding up five fingers. Our adoption ritual is simple. We go before the judge, listen while he or she talks about how wondrous adoption is, take pictures, and then take the crowd to lunch. This is our 17th adoption and we’ve done it with every one.
But, the biggest part of our adoption ritual is celebrating the adoptee. Less than half of our kids have been preschool age when their adoptions were finalized. Most were teens. We get them a gift, usually jewelry or a watch, and celebrate all the uniqueness of each one.
When they’re little, their interests are easy to identify. Kassandra’s favorite things are Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig. She loves playing with cars and trucks. She loves new clothes that sparkle, but is not overly fond of skirts. And, above all else, she loves animals. Plastic animals, stuffed toys, our household pets, and the animals in the fields are all her favorites. Her adoption outfit would make a drag queen proud with lots of gold fabric and pizazz. She, of course, loves it. All I have to do is convince her to leave off the kitty whiskers she asks me to draw on her face on a regular basis.
But, every time we go to our adoption finalization hearings, I think about the parents who did not celebrate the uniqueness of their children. I think about the kids whose lives are made more traumatic because their parents couldn’t see how wonderful they are. Unfortunately, kids in the LGBTQI community are often in that group. For all the forward motion we’ve made over the years, there are still places where LGBTQI kids have to hide. They can’t be comfortable in their own skin. No one celebrates them.
If you’re like me, you’re seeing more opportunities for LGBTQI kids to be accepted. Hagerstown Hopes is hosting a LGBTQ Prom over Easter weekend. Allies are welcome. It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to bring the date of their choice to a LGBTQ friendly teen event.
What’s interesting is when I brought it up to some of my adult kids. They couldn’t understand why such an event was needed. They’d never been to an event that wasn’t gay friendly. So, we ended up having a long conversation about why these events are still needed and how many kids feel ostracized even if events are technically open to everyone.
And then, I read an article about a young bisexual woman who went to a dance with her boyfriend. It was at a religiously-based school and the kids were encouraged to dance with other people. They started the night with a slow dance and this young woman danced with her boyfriend. When they began the next dance, one of the administrators told them that they needed to dance with other people. The young woman returned to her table.
Then, after looking around a bit, she saw another young woman sitting alone. She walked over and, after talking a minute, the two young women headed to the dance floor. They thoroughly enjoyed dancing together and it wasn’t long before they realized there was more than a little bit of attraction. When the next slow song came on, the young women began to slow-dance. The same administrator approached them and said that they were acting inappropriately.
How do you win? These particular young women protested and said they were told to dance with other people. By dancing together, they fulfilled that requirement. They soon left the dance but felt that their point was made.
In this day and time, why do we need to continue to make points? Why can’t young people celebrate being who they are and who they’re meant to be? That’s why I celebrate groups, like Hagerstown Hopes, that are finding new ways to celebrate the reality that is our community. But being supportive of our kids has to start at home. Celebrate your kids, their uniqueness, their interests, and their passions. Enjoy getting to know who they are and what they enjoy in their lives. I think it will change you for the better.
- Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, 2 biological kids, Guardian of one adorable toddler, and has been the foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She has worked with kids in the foster care system for over two decades, actively advocating for all kids, but especially those in the LGBT community. And, in her spare time, she can be found preaching in some of our area’s most LGBT-friendly churches. Feel free to send your parenting questions to her at Pastor.Kelly@comcast.net.