What: The Annual Jazz and Friends Day of Readings
Where: Mount Horeb Public Library
When: February 27th, 6:30 p.m.
Why: Because, my loves, this is what power looks like.
My darlings, an event coming soon is our first chance in 4 years to catch a hint of a moment that is changing America. And it all started in Mount Horeb, which bills itself as the Troll Capital of the World and is filled with charming statues and representations of Scandinavian trolls. Seriously, check out the Trollway! Or just go to The Grumpy Troll for a drink.
In December of 2015, a young girl stepped forward. She was transgender, born into a body that didn’t fit her truth. Her mother supported her and loved her. This is step one into power.
Her teachers and her school’s psychologist and her school’s leadership took steps to welcome her. They planned a reading of I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings (It’s a beautiful story about a transgender girl). But the anger-mopes of The Liberty Counsel came after her and pushed the school to back down.
And the story could have ended here. Anger-Trolls vs Troll Capital with a resounding loss for love. But a community rose up. A mom, and another mom, unrelated and prior to this, unaware. A high school Sexuality and Gender alliance (SAGA!), The Human Rights Council, an author, a library, a faith community, a town, a FAMILY!
What are the details of this uprising of joyous welcome? I’ll do my best to do it justice. I was not at that first reading (but I will be there for the reprise album on Feb 27!)
First: The mom, unrelated. Amy Lyle stepped up. She was not an activist, and she didn’t personally know the family or the girl. She didn’t know what to do, but she knew that she must show this family they were loved, that hate was not the all-power. She started contacting people. Friends. Family. She followed connections. She met the SAGA Six! She arranged for a reading of I Am Jazz in a community room at the Mount Horeb library. For the day of the reading, through a connection someone else made to the Human Rights Campaign, the co-author Jessica Herthel, was flown out to read I Am Jazz! (Both the local community and The Human Rights Campaign separately worked to fund that flight). This is step two into power.
Amy expected 25 people. Maybe. Wednesday night in December? In Wisconsin! Who really is going to go out to do anything. And here’s the thing to understand. 25 people would have been lovely. Fifteen. Fifty. Any number that is a number of people stepping out is power and we need every piece of power! But as it turned out, it wasn’t 25 people. It wasn’t eighty, which would have matched the total number of chairs available in the library, it was six hundred! SIX HUNDRED in this small town in south central Wisconsin, This is step three into power.
And what are the results of this moment? My darlings, please understand, It could have been just this, a reading. A moment of power, a blip in a world primed to hate. Instead, this moment worked forward for change. Amy, the mom changed. By her own account she has become more aware, better. She has come to know a world that is still hidden from far too many.The SAGA Six, the high school alliance of sexuality and gender, received awards for their activism. Mount Horeb has begun to change. Inclusion. Awareness. A PFLAG was formed. The local faith community’s outspoken leaders embrace and push for inclusion and welcome. The local PFLAG campaigns for awareness and change (like urging, pushing, and midwest nice-ing local businesses into bringing in all-gender bathrooms). Almost immediately after this first reading, the elementary school’s board met and approved policies to honor the gender identity of all their students across all of their spaces (and yes, we’re talking bathrooms and locker rooms here, because, PLEASE . . . just let us pee!). And nationally, this moment has spread. Hundreds and hundreds of readings dot our nation. Schools, libraries, communities are stepping forward. Has yours? If not, then please, make this happen! Connect. Contact. Begin.
In December of 2015 our troll capitol defeated the anger-trolls spreading their hate toward our young girls and boys. And the power of that moment is spreading across the nation, but most of us missed it. For most of us, it was at best a touching news story, forgotten in the daily press of our lives.
It is time we remember. And it is time we act. Come to Mount Horeb to share in this moment of love. Hold your own readings. Stand at your window, stand on your patio, stand on your main street or capitol lawn and read and honor this moment. Together, we will prevail.