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Healing the Wounds of Spiritual Violence: A Community Discussion | #schoolsaftey



Director Daresha Kyi’s independent documentary, “Mama Bears”, debuted on PBS stations in June 2023. Illinois Public Media aired the program and hosted a screening event at The Virginia Theatre with Uniting Pride of Champaign County to discuss the growing movement in the United States of Christian mothers protecting and defending their LGBTQA+ children and to hear from local mama bears and LGBQTA+ community membersThe conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

I’m Kimberlie Kranich, director of engagement and educational outreach at Illinois Public Media. And I use she/her pronouns.  

Next to me is Dr. Dynesha Grissom, a licensed clinical psychologist in the community. She’s currently working to become a prescribing psychologist in the state of Illinois. She resides in the Champaign-Urbana community with her family and identifies as cisgender, heterosexual and Christian. Dr. Grissom uses she/her pronouns. Her roots are in the Midwest and Midwestern African American Missionary Baptist Church, where she was baptized at age seven. 

Next to her is State Representative Carol Ammons. She’s serving her fifth term representing the 103rd District of Illinois. Her pronouns are she/hers.  Representative Ammons is an activist turned lawmaker, who was laser focused on cultivating the crucial relationship between community organizers and the state legislature. Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons is her husband of more than 20 years. Carol is Mama Bear took a son Amir. 

Reverend Sally Fritsche is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist raised in mid Missouri and ordained in ministry in 2020. Sally’s pronouns are she/they. She is currently serving as Associate Minister to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign. And she’ll tell you what you Unitarian Universalists are in a minute.  Reverend Sally is happily married to her high school sweetheart, a woman, and credits her family and faith community for never giving her reason to doubt their love and acceptance. 

Martha Mills is the mother of a non-binary teenager. They’ve been a member of the Uniting Pride Board of Directors since 2020 and served as president of the board for two years. They are a queer, polyamorous gender queer community activist. Martha uses they/them pronouns. 

I’m going to start with Dr. Grissom. And we’re just going to go down the line. Can you briefly share the impact the film had on you? 

 Dr. Dynesha Grissom   

And I quickly found myself filled with emotion, filled with a depth of concern for our society, filled with a lot of shame. And then towards the end, of course, filled with hope. 

However, what struck me initially was how, as a society, we’ve decided that our values, and our morals, and our theological beliefs and understandings are more important than Esther, than Parker, and then Tammi. We have decided that instead of moving towards humanity, we’ll move away from humanity and move towards some vision of a society that is exclusive. It is demeaning and demoralizing. And as a Christian, not only was I brought up in that type of environment, but I struggle to not participate in that type of environment. And so that is, how I was impacted initially, from the film. Watching it today, I had an opportunity to kind of sit back and take some notes and reflect on some things. And so I will say this, and I’ll be very open and honest about my perspective here today.  My perspective today is to challenge Christians. A Christian is a follower of Christ. And I don’t understand how we can identify as one who follows Christ when what’s in front of us is hate. And so that’s what I’m here to do. To challenge people who may identify as myself (as cisgendered, heterosexual, a Christian), to challenge you to really consider what is Christ’s message to you?  

State Representative Carol Ammons   

The first time Aaron and I sat down to watch the film, I think we got halfway through and just through the sheer emotion of the film could not finish it. The film highlights, yes, the issue of the LGBTQ plus community, right, and the policies that are creating these kinds of hostile environments. But it also hit me differently, because I don’t say that I’m a Christian, first and foremost. And secondly, the idea of how African Americans engage with Christianity is usually oppressive and subjugated based on the historical sojourn of African Americans and the Christian church. Although I study religion and all religions, and I have respect for them, I don’t believe they all have respect for me as an African American. And certainly, my concern grows daily, as I see how religions are used to oppress, kill, murder, and main. And when me and my husband were sitting with our son, it’s not even that you’re gay, it’s that you’re Black and gay, and that you’re outspoken and that you are a Black Power advocate. That is what was concerning for me. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Thank you, Representative. Reverend Sally? 

Rev. Sally Fritsche   

So I admit I was cynical going into this film. I was worried that it was going to focus too much on the parents and not on the actual queer kids and their experience of being discriminated against, and the journey that they have to go on with their parents. It kind of felt like you know, another story about reformed bigots stepping into the spotlight and getting everyone’s pats on the back for changing their ways. It wasn’t that at all.  I was over there crying absolutely for the whole film. And I think particularly the scene of Esther’s mom, testifying in public and saying that she was sorry for every time that she had been on the wrong side and just saying, “I am sorry. I abused you. I abused scripture.” I think it’s so rare for marginalized people to receive sincere apologies. And obviously, it doesn’t undo the harm. But it is such an important step that is too often skipped over.  

Kimberlie Kranich   

Thank you, Reverend Sally. Martha Mills? 

Martha Mills   

It was kind of hard for me to watch having been on the side of someone growing up in the Christian church who wasn’t who wasn’t out and who wasn’t even out to myself because of the teachings that I heard.  Even though they are repentant, and they are trying to be on the right side, it’s still hard to hear a lot of the things they say about prayer and loving everyone. And I do agree that I love that it was very focused on the kids and on the queer community. But it’s definitely something that I have big feelings about and I’m gonna be probably processing it for a little while. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Thank you, Martha. Reverend Sally, first, briefly tell us what Unitarian Universalism is. 

Rev. Sally Fritsche   

So Unitarian Universalism very, very briefly, is a non-creedal faith tradition. So, we grew out of Protestant Christianity. And gradually evolved, changed and expanded to include a variety of sources of inspiration, a variety of different beliefs about God or no god or many gods, about the nature of the universe, about what happens after you die. And at our church, we like to say that we believe in deeds, not creeds. So, it’s very much about how you choose to live in this world and better it together and be in community together, and less about demanding lockstep theology. So, I was lucky enough to be raised in UU and I’m very happy to serve as a UU minister. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Yes. And I wanted to ask you about that. Growing up your LGBTQ elders in Unitarian Universalism created a welcoming space for you. What impact did the welcoming space have on you? And how did it shape your commitment to queer and young trans people today? 

Rev. Sally Fritsche   

I feel very lucky to have been raised in Unitarian Universalism because it’s a faith tradition that before I was born, was really doing the work of becoming truly welcoming and accepting to people of various sexualities and genders.  I know there’s some people in the room here who are doing that work within Unitarian Universalism and I’m very grateful. I think partly it’s about growing beyond the idea that churches, or faith communities of any kind, need to stop doing harm, which is true, but that there is a greater vision of what we could be doing. Churches and our faith communities are uniquely an intergenerational space. People raise their kids up in those spaces. And so many queer kids think that they’re the only person who feels the way they feel. And the opportunity to see elders who are out, who are married, who are living happy lives, gave me the ability to see my own future and envision my own happiness in a way that a lot of kids don’t get. And that’s something I think about a lot in the context of our communities now, is the power of visibility and the power of representation in that it allows young people to not have to go through that experience of thinking “I’m a freak, I’m the only one who feels this way,” because they have been seeing since they were babies, that this is a normal part of humanity. 

Kimberlie Kranich 

Martha, you hinted at the impact of the church that you grew up in when you were in junior high and high school. And one of them was the Fellowship of Christ Church in Charleston. And these churches taught their parishioners to love the sinner and hate the sin. How did this teaching impact the development of your sense of who you are? And how did you and your peers talk about sexuality in school?  

Martha Mills   

The “Love the sinner hate the sin” was what we heard a lot at youth group and church camp. And so it very much sent the message that being queer was absolutely unacceptable. And Tammi in the film, said, the part where she was like, 32 years that she waited. I’m 42 and it’s just been within the last few years that I’ve really started realizing and accepting and kind of thinking about and exploring who I am. And I absolutely attribute that to the fact that I grew up in such a religious community and environment. And in school my friends were my church friends. And so, even though we were largely involved in choir and theater and things like that, where there’s typically a high percentage of people in the queer community in those places as well. In Charleston, I think that there was maybe one out gay kid when I graduated in 1999. And my friends and I would talk about how sad it was, that we really liked this guy, but he was going to hell. It just really made it apparent that that was not an option and it was not a safe option to even explore those notions about myself at the time. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Dr. Grissom, your advocacy for and allyship with LGBTQIA plus communities has evolved and continues to evolve. You describe yourself as culturally responsive and affirming Christian. Your experiences with the Black church are and have been complicated. We’ve heard from Martha how the love the sinner and not the sin practices of the churches she attended harmed her development. What would you like to say to Christians who believe that love the sinner and hate the sin is required of them to be a follower of Christ? 

Dr. Dynesha Grissom   

When I was 16, I attended a Black Missionary Baptist Church that was very, very conservative. Each and every Sunday, the pastor would get up and he would share a scripture and within 10 to 15 minutes of beginning to preach, it would turn into this assault on the LGBT community. And every single Sunday this would happen. I was aware that our choir director was a gay man. I was also aware that the deacon who tithed the most was a gay man, both closeted. I later found out that my brother identifies as gay. 

But there was something in me at 16 that was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” There was something that was hurting my soul to be in a room in an environment where we were supposed to go in praise and worship. And it was supposed to be about love and caring for your fellow human. And it became an issue of condemnation and hell. And so I told my mother when I was 16, I’m leaving this church when I’m 18. And luckily, my birthday was on a Sunday of my 18th birthday. And while everybody else was getting up to go to the same church, I went to another church. Unfortunately, I found myself in a series of oppressive churches afterwards. But one of the things that I’ve always noticed is that comment: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I’m aware that there’s this self-righteous stance of “My sins are not as bad as those sins.”  So, it puts this juxtaposition of us and them. And so I’m going to hold on to my Christian values and my beliefs, and I’m going to say “love.” But then I’m also going to in the same sentence, say “hate.” Now, for those of you who are Christian, or who are not, that is not in the Bible. There is a commandment to love God, and to love thy neighbor as thyself. I’m a psychologist and I understand that some people don’t know how to love themselves. So quite frankly, I don’t want you loving me if you can’t love yourself, that’s a different story. However, there’s the stance that we have taken in the Christian community, that somehow putting love and hate in the same sentence excuses the ways that we behave, and the ways that we decide we are going to choose how Christ’s love was, and we give ourselves permission to demean, demoralize and to hate others. 

I also want to say that I find it interesting that that phrase is not used uniformly. So, I’m aware that when someone murders someone, we don’t go to the jailhouse and say, “I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.” No, it’s specifically used to attack the LGBTQ IQ A plus community. And so if we’re going to be honest about things as a Christian community, we need to be very, very careful that we are aware that we only use that phrase in certain circumstances. For those who identify as Christian, you’re told when you’re very young that we are all sinners, and we fall short of the glory of God. The church is full of sick sinful people. That’s why we’re there, right? That’s why Christ died on the cross. So if we’re all sinners, and we all fall short of the glory of God, then where do we find ourselves on a high horse, a self-righteous horse of deciding what is a sin and deciding who is condemned to hell, as a result of their sin. And so, I heard the message growing up. It was also ingrained in me, which is why I say that my experience is always evolving. It’s been evolving since my childhood. And I’m open to learning more and open to growing more. But my first concern is if we say that we’re Christians, and we say that that’s who we are and that’s who we purport to be, then love is how we should lead, and darkness cannot be in the same space as light. Hate cannot be in the same space as love. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Representative Ammons, you and Aaron are mama and papa bears, respectfully, for all of your children. Your gay son has been struggling a bit and thought he had to do so on his own. You said “No,” and invited him back to live with you and Aaron so he doesn’t have to go through what he’s going through alone. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently raising Amir around the belief systems that were absorbed by your family in this culture. 

State Rep Carol Ammons   

I say out loud that I love every bit of Amir. I mean, he is mine. He’s talented, brilliant, and smart. And as he was growing up, I think we were extraordinarily protective of him. And even though we attended religious services, and we still do, we allow him the space to decide what he wants to do. And he gets to make that decision. And our children, they always have that voice to make that decision for themselves. But we struggle often with other folks in our family who find it difficult to see his full humanity. And that has been a struggle and we will push back no matter who it comes from. And we will unequivocally tell them that he is absolutely the most brilliant person that we know. And we will defend at all costs. So, the mama bear thing is real for me.  I’m a defender, and people out there who know me, they know I’m a fighter. I am not going to allow my son to have any low self-esteem from other people’s hate.  

 We had a conversation in our kitchen about a month and a half ago. And we knew something intuitively was wrong. And I remember Aaron reached over and told Amir that it was okay. He just said it was okay. “Whatever it is that you are struggling with, it’s okay. And we are here for you.” I was hounding him “You need to move home because I worry so much.” So, I wanted him so desperately to come home, but he didn’t want to and so we took that moment to tell him that it was okay to come home. “Whatever is happening, it’s okay to come home.” We went away, came back and he had moved everything in the house. I’m so relieved in some sense that he feels that he can come home. That he is not running up against parents who deny or demean him in any way, shape, or form based on whatever decision he decides to make in his life. We want him to be a humanitarian, we don’t want them to be selfish, we want him to care about other people, right? We want him to care about a better world for other children coming up. And that’s the most important thing to me as mom to make sure that he’s not taking it as if it’s just a privilege for him. Other people don’t have that support base. And he does, and that’s important for him to share himself with others who may not have that support base. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Martha. Your child Max is gender diverse. Max uses Ze and Zir pronouns. When Max shared Max’s gender fluidity with you at age eight, how did you respond? 

Martha Mills   

Admittedly, I botched it. At first, I was concerned that Ze was kind of saying that Ze was non binary because he had a friend who was non binary. And I thought that maybe he was doing it in solidarity. And then Ze made it clear. This was really what Ze knew about Zirself. And that having the friend made it click.  And so at that point, I made it clear to Zir that that was absolutely great. And we talked to Zir’s teacher and school administration, and thankfully, they were pretty supportive. I mean, it’s always kind of a learning curve for everyone in those situations, but throughout Zir’s elementary school experience, it was, thankfully, a positive and affirming situation for the most part.  

Kimberlie Kranich   

Max is in middle school. What bathroom does Max use at school? 

Martha Mills   

Max does not use the bathroom at school. Because in spite of the millions of dollars in upgrades that Champaign schools have gone through, they neglected to include gender neutral bathrooms, except for one on the far side of school. So if Ze can at all avoid it, Ze does not use the bathroom at school. Luckily, he’s getting ready to go to a different school in the fall and they have more options. So I’m glad for that.  

I have long gotten the impression that the Champaign schools’ kind of hope that this batch of queer and gender diverse kids will move through the ranks and they won’t have to deal with it anymore. And so I’m glad that Ze is going to be going to a more affirming and accepting place in the fall. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Dr. Grissom, you have a son who attends a Christian religion school. Tell us why it’s important you send him there. And what do you do at home to counteract the school’s use of the Bible to teach that homosexuality is a sin. 

Dr. Dynesha Grissom   

So one of the biggest reasons why we sent our son there was for safety purposes. Safety and education purposes, and smaller classes. I have a Black child and I don’t want him to find himself in situations in public schools where he’s connected to the wrong groups of people, or he’s forced to be in groups of people that I don’t want him to be with and are not safe. So we chose to put him somewhere we felt was safe enough. We talked heavily about all types of issues, because this particular Christian school has very rigid beliefs and values. And we are often in situations where every day we are correcting, and educating and re-educating about what is truth, and encouraging him to be more curious, be more aware, and be an advocate. And so when we talk about same sex loving, or issues around sexuality, or issues around gender, we’re very careful in our commentary with our son to talk about context in our own growth and development. And we encourage him in particular, to consider “What would Christ do? So you know about the Bible. What does it say. How would Christ respond? Would Christ exclude? Would Christ harm, injure, hate? What would Christ do?” And we asked him that question. And he talks about, “That’s not something that Christ would say, that’s not something that Christ would do. Christ would love. Christ would embrace.” And so that’s the way that we talk about things with our son related to sexuality and gender. When he started going to the school, we said, “Look, you’re going to hear some things, you’re going to see some things that you don’t agree with, and that we don’t agree with. And we want you to be able to have conversations with us on a daily basis number one, about what you’re hearing about what you’re learning, and what you’re seeing. And we want to help correct those things. Because you’re gonna get one perspective, we want to offer you some different perspectives.” We’re also aware that if he would have gone to a public school, he’s going to get some perspectives, and he would have had to come home, and we would have had to correct those perspectives. So the issue for us was a matter of safety. Is my son going to be safe in this environment – physically safe? So that was our decision around that. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Reverend Sally, how does this all make sense to you? How can the intersection of the history of racism and heterosexism in the Christian Church and its impact on public policy and cultural norms, be reconciled? 

Rev. Sally Fritsche   

I think there’s a toxic thread interwoven into some of the most deeply held beliefs in a variety of traditions, I will say, in America and globally, and there is a thread of hierarchy of shame, shaming others and shaming ourselves. What you said earlier about “Don’t love me the way you love yourself if you can’t love yourself,” that’s really real in the faith community where pastors are preaching against the homosexuals. What are they saying about women? What are they saying about the body and sexuality as a whole? That self-hatred turned in on to our own beings is so toxic, and it is the responsibility of everyone, every faith community, every individual to unpick that thread.  

There were two things I wanted to make sure I said before I left today, and one is – the people who are doing the work on picking that thread have my absolute respect and admiration. But it can be really difficult to witness, like Martha was saying, it’s hard to hear these moms say the things that they say in this documentary. It can be hard to realize how much difficulty someone is having accepting you and loving you. So, the thing I wanted to say to all the LGBTQ people here is that “You are not difficult to love. And the thing that’s between you and the acceptance and love you deserve is not you. And it’s not God. It’s them, and it’s the stuff they’re bringing us – the lies they have believed and incorporated into themselves. And that’s difficult to work through. It’s not you that’s difficult to work through.” The other thing I wanted to say related to this is that I do think there are still persuadable people out there. I think the work of trying to persuade is really valuable. But I also think we don’t have to wait to persuade everyone. And those who are legislating, those who are making Supreme Court decisions today aren’t waiting to persuade everyone. And I think that there is real value in gathering your community around you, gathering the mama bears, gathering those who you know are on board and starting to do the work that needs to be done. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Representative Ammons, you got into elected office to bridge the gap between activism and lawmaking. In this regard, has the film and this discussion given you any new inspiration or ideas? 

State Representative Carol Ammons   

You know, it did. I was going back through the enormous amount of legislative work that we’ve done to affirm the LGBTQ community in Illinois. Certainly, Illinois is a leader in that space. You started seeing all of these anti-LGBTQ plus bills, 417 of them introduced in the last legislative session. It was introduced by someone who seems to be intelligent and that was really mind boggling for me. As I watched the film again today, I had this thought because I worked on removing the penalty for people who are living with HIV and may not know it and and unknowingly pass it. And that’s a criminal penalty. There were two intersections happening around this bill. One was that we criminalize people living with HIV. The second part is that the people who were harmed by that law that was on the books for probably 30 years, were largely African American. And so once again, I saw that intersectionality there. And so that’s what made us work so diligently. I had this idea today about expanding resources specifically to recruit organizations and advocate groups for the Black community, in particular, to remove the stigma in the Black community. A lot of work is being done. Certainly, we work with the ACE foundation of Chicago, the UP Center, and all of the groups, but none has been done to really reach into the Black community. That must be done because we have adopted a Christianity that is antithetical to our very being as Black people. And so, this conversation will never come up if we don’t actually start, on purpose, working in those communities, specifically talking to people in the community that you may just assume doesn’t want to talk to you. But you will be really shocked. As the doctor said earlier, “The pianist was already gay. We knew this a long time ago. I don’t understand why this is a secret.” But removing the stigma I think has a lot of work to be done around it. And certainly, as I work with Black LGBT activists at the state level, that is something they speak about on a regular basis. And so I hope to introduce some legislation to get us to have navigators in that community so that we will begin to remove that stigma in a open and official way. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

All right, I want to give time for the audience to ask questions. Who would like to ask the first question? Don’t be afraid. This is a loving space. This is a space to show who you are and be applauded for it. 

Audience member   

Hi, I’m Karissa. I live in Champaign. And thank you all for speaking tonight. It’s difficult to watch the film. At my daughter’s fifth grade graduation this year, I was so relieved that the trans children were recognized by the correct pronouns at a public-school graduation in 2023. But I was also struck that for my children, that’s not startling at all. It’s not a worry that they had that their classmates’ correct pronouns would be used. And I just have a lot of hope for our kids. And we are the problem. We’re working on it. We’re evolving, we’re learning, and I just think, Esther and the other kids in the film, that’s really something to hold on to and to celebrate, and to keep alive. So that message of hope, I guess, continues to shine for me.  

Audience member Robert Michael Doyle   

I will build on what Carol Ammons said about Illinois being the leader. The first gay organization in all of North America was in Chicago after World War One. The first state to decriminalize legalized sodomy was Illinois. The first city to have gay rights was Urbana. The second one was Champaign. It was the third or fourth city in the entire United States that have protections for gender identity. There are things that we as people here have a right to be proud of. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Robert Michael, thank you for being there for a lot of that history. Not World War One history, but recent history. Who else has a question or a comment? 

Audience member   

Hi, my name is Kirk. I’m trans. And I grew up around here and in Monticello, which is very close. And I wasn’t raised religious. So, some of this film wasn’t always applicable to me. But what struck me is that even though I didn’t necessarily go to church growing up, I sure had a lot of classmates who did, and all of those classmates carried their views with them. And so the work that you’re doing isn’t just gonna help people in the religious community. It’s gonna help all of us love each other more. So I just wanted to say thank you for that. And I thought you all had really wonderful things to say. 

Audience member   

Hi, I’m Trish, I’m a mama bear of two beautiful young men. One is heterosexual, one is homosexual. And I’m a wanna be mom of a wonderful young trans man. He had a crisis in January, and he’s currently in the hospital. And I’m having trouble because his parents reject him. And I had a hard time with religious spaces and what it does to these kids. I don’t know how you don’t get angry. I don’t know how I’m gonna not be angry about the messages, the stupidity and the ignorance. But it was a wonderful film. And I appreciate all of you.  

Martha Mills   

I get super angry. I’ve had to check myself multiple times tonight not to swear. I figured it’s probably inappropriate. But I get very, very angry. And we actually have a little joke. Anytime I’ve ever had to write any sort of public statement or make any sort of public statement, either on behalf of Uniting Pride or just on behalf of myself, I write the initial statement. And it starts as a Southern Baptist sermon, I give it to my friends, they edit it down to a Methodist sermon. And then I give it to my partners, and they get it down to a UU sermon. And that’s how I eventually give the statement. 

Dr. Dynesha Grissom   

I get angry, very angry. And one of the major reasons I get very angry as a Christian, is because I was taught that the first place that you learn about unconditional love of Christ is in your home. And my biggest concern with Christians is that when we teach our children that they are not loved that they are not cared for, and that love is conditional, that it’s based on whether you meet a certain standard or an expectation, then what we do is we set them up to have a relationship with God that God’s love is conditional. As a psychologist, I get real shitty because I see families come into my office, and they’re more concerned about how other people think about them, then this child that you gave birth to who you allegedly love and care about, who is telling them “I don’t want to live anymore.” And I have watched too many children die by suicide, because their parents and their family and the people who say that they love them, don’t accept them. And so my anger is self-righteous in some ways. I’m one of those psychologists who will say it in a very curious way. But I will ask you, “Are you more concerned about your theology, your beliefs, and how other people think about you, then this person who is your child, and whom you care about? What’s important to you? What are your values? What is priority?” And I challenge people in that way because we have too many children who are dying because they don’t meet a certain standard or an expectation. And yet we purport that we love the Lord. And we’re Christian and we’re followers of Christ, but I don’t see that. So yeah, I get angry. 

Audience Member Aaron Ammons   

So thank you, Kim, for being your authentic self, as you always are. To all the panelists, I want to say that the film brought out in me, the first time a lot of guilt, a lot of shame, because the culture in which I grew up in, in the United States, inside of the African American community in a very conservative religious way, it was just, this isn’t appropriate, this isn’t allowed. It’s a sin. Even though like you said we knew, we used to even talk about it and make little crazy inappropriate jokes about the person who we knew was the choir director. And when we said those inappropriate things, we knew what was going on. So there’s a hypocrisy that exists within the United States and within the subcultures within the United States. I hope others will see that what we perpetuate, what was putting into us in our formative years, forced me, I believe in many ways, to create a space in my home, where my son didn’t have the space where he could come and talk to me. He didn’t.  I’m not gonna lie about that. I know he didn’t. I know that he came out to someone else, maybe my daughter or my sister before he ever came and spoke to us. And then he even felt like he had to say “Maybe I’m bi” so that it will be softer for me. I can’t speak for Carol, but that’s what it is for me. And I think that the only way for me to help create the culture that I want to create is that I have to own the fact that I was saturated in sexism, I was saturated in homophobia or being willing to otherize people who were gay and lesbian in our community. And it’s really a hypocritical thing for me to do when I’m fighting like hell to make sure that as an African person, that I have humanity and I’m treated with humanity, as well. So for my African son who loves horse riding, and studies Islam and his gay, what a hell of experience that had to be. But I’m encouraged by Kai, because Kai walks this earth like, “I’m finna change this culture and that’s exactly what I want Amir to do, too.  Thank you all for everything that you are doing. 

Audience member   

I have a quick comment and then the question that I think is mostly for Representative Ammons. My comment is, “Martha I see you. I am bi I grew up in a Catholic household. I am atheist now, but I see you about having a whole lot of feelings about this film. I was extremely wary and ambivalent coming in, and there was a lot of it was really difficult. But, you know, you’re not alone here.” My question for Representative Ammons: I’m here as an ally at the moment for one of my daughter’s best friend’s. So my daughter has two best friends, they are twins, the three of them have been joined at the hip for more than half their lives. And one of the twins is trans. And she is going to hit puberty pretty soon. Her mom and her dad had been struggling and struggling and struggling to get care for their daughter that is here and local. And they’re at the point that they think and maybe they found something in Peoria.  What needs to happen on a legislative level on a community level to get more specialists here? There’s a lot of queer community here, we must have a number of trans kids who need this care, what do we need to do to get it for them.?  

State Representative Carol Ammons   

We passed in the insurance provisions to allow for gender affirming care in Illinois. So, we passed the legislation for that. And that was a huge deal for us to do. If people are running up against that, and they can’t find doctors, I think that that’s an important thing for us to know so that we can work with our networks, our insurance networks, as well as Medicaid in the state of Illinois, to find and identify and make available lists of doctors who can become providers for those who need gender affirming care. I’m glad that we already did the legislative part. The second part is always the community part, which is why the activism is so important, because if we pass it legislatively, and doctors are still denying care or denying people with Medicaid for gender affirming care, then we need to know that so that we can go back and strengthen whatever the legislative trigger would be to make them provide that service because they have a right to health care. And that gender affirming care is necessary in the community.  I’m hoping that you’ll start seeing this transition and this change, where we have more providers available, and that insurance companies are not playing that little game. I really dislike the insurance companies a whole bunch. But if they are doing things that are denying service after we’ve passed the legislation, we need to know that and that usually comes from the community. So, I encourage you to reach out to my office, let me know if that is happening so that we can go back and do whatever it takes to make it solid for folks who need the services. 

Kimberlie Kranich   

Thank you. I really am grateful to my panel for working with me as collaborators to get the message out that these conversations can happen in public. You have people here who are of different faiths, different sexualities, different genders talking together, trying to make things better. I want to thank Martha Mills, Reverend Sally, Representative Ammons, Dr. Grissom, I could talk with you for hours, but I want to give the audience a chance to come up and talk with you one on one. So, thank you so much.





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