Before becoming a mother nearly a year ago, there was a lot I had prepared myself for. Sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, lots of spit up. These were all things that I inevitably knew would happen.
However, there is something that happens the moment you become a parent that you’ve perhaps been warned about, but you can’t truly grasp it until it actually happens. You are gripped with a feeling of complete and utter helplessness. As you hold your baby, you realize you would do anything to protect them from the world. And that there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to ensure your child grows up happy, safe, healthy, and protected.
Now, imagine living in a state where this no longer feels possible for your child. That’s how I feel as a parent living in Florida right now. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
What is Happening in Florida
In the past several months, Florida has passed several pieces of legislation that have targeted the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights, as well as making permitless carry legal. While Florida is hardly the only state passing controversial legislation right now, it is a state that seems to be making the news quite a bit for it.
Recently, former NBA star Dwyane Wade spoke out in an episode of Showtime’s Headliners about leaving Florida due to its recent legislation. Specifically, he shared that his “family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there.” The statement came in the wake of Florida banning gender-affirming care for minors, as well as passing legislation that makes it a misdemeanor offense to use certain bathrooms that don’t “align with your sex at birth.” In 2020, Wade’s teenage daughter, Zaya, came out as transgender.
Dwyane Wade on advocating for the trans community: “Let’s make sure our kids have an opportunity to live this life that we all get to live.” #MetGala https://t.co/OcPy5cjK1f pic.twitter.com/0ugVwVAs4l
— Variety (@Variety) May 1, 2023
This April, Equality Florida (a political group that advocates for the civil rights and protections of the LGBTQ+ community) even went so far as to issue a travel advisory against visiting or relocating to Florida. In their statement explaining the advisory, they wrote, “The move comes in response to a wave of safety inquiries Equality Florida has received following the passage of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws, foment racial prejudice, and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum.”
In the past several weeks alone, Florida has passed legislation that bans most abortions after 6-weeks, made permitless carry legal, banned gender-affirming care for minors, and expanded the scope of the often-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill to include students up to 12th grade. Additionally, over the past year, Florida has banned books and repeatedly tried to block African American studies in public schools.
Motivated to Act
It may seem easy to chalk this all up to a list of my personal political grievances. But instead, these are the overwhelming fears of a concerned parent. These are the laws that keep me up at night as I worry about my child’s safety in a state that has repeatedly made access to guns easier. Other laws cause me to worry about my daughter growing up without having rights to her own body or feeling loved and accepted no matter who she grows up to be. These are the laws that make me feel helpless and overwhelm me with guilt as I wonder if I’m raising my daughter in a place where she is not safe.
It may seem easy to chalk this all up to a list of my personal political grievances, but these are the overwhelming fears of a concerned parent.
My daughter came into the world on May 24th, 2022, the same day as the horrific shooting that took place at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Hours after giving birth, I remember holding my daughter in my arms and weeping as I read about what had happened in yet another senseless act of gun violence in our country. On every one of these issues, it’s easy to feel helpless, and I know I have spent a lot of time feeling this way. After all, what can I, one measly mom, do to change an entire state?
Where Moms Are Already Making a Difference
But, as all parents know, we can actually do quite a bit. For example, Shannon Watts is a mother of five who founded Moms Demand Action in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Her actions have turned into a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for common-sense gun laws.
Through work from groups like Moms Demand Action, we’ve seen major changes in gun laws in several states. Michigan just passed a law requiring universal background checks along with safe storage laws. Washington just passed a law banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons and requiring a waiting period and training for all gun purchases.
Moms Rising is another group of parents that have come together to fight for issues such as gun safety and reproductive rights. They help their organization stay informed of what is going on in their local state so that they can mobilize and get their voices heard.
In Florida, Floridians Protecting Freedom is launching a ballot initiative campaign to get abortion rights on the ballot. The group will soon begin collecting the required 891,523 signatures it needs to leave this decision up to the voters of the state.
In 2022, a record number of openly LGBTQ+ candidates won in the midterm election, which is so important because it cannot be overstated how much representation matters.
Resources for Change
It’s easy to feel like your voice doesn’t matter, but it really does. You aren’t alone in the way you’re feeling, and when we all work together, it really can make a change. I’m tired of feeling helpless. Here are some resources for change and ways to get involved.
Join or Donate to an Organization
There are numerous organizations doing incredibly hard work to make our voices heard on the issues. Many of these groups have local chapters you can join, or you can donate to help make sure they continue to be funded. You can find a few of these available organizations below.
- Everytown for Gun Safety | @everytown
- Moms Demand Action | @momsdemand
- Sandy Hook Promise | @sandyhookpromise
- Brady United Against Gun Violence | @bradybuzz
- March Fourth | @marchfourth
- Planned Parenthood | @plannedparenthood
- New Voices for Reproductive Justice | @newvoicesrj
- National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda | @blackwomensrj
- Center for Reproductive Rights | @reprorights
- The Human Rights Campaign | @humanrightscampaign
- The Trevor Project | @trevorproject
- National Center for Transgender Equality | @transequalitynow
- GLSEN | @glsen
Staying informed at the national and state/local levels is more important than ever. Read your local newspaper. Keep track of what is being voted on during your state’s legislative session.
Call Your Representative
While it may seem intimidating, it’s important to have your voice heard by your representative when you feel strongly about an issue. To find your representatives, you can use the House or Senate websites and search for your representative using your zip code. On a state level, you can also search for your representative through your state’s website.
5 Calls is a great resource if you aren’t sure what to say. Not only does it help find your representative, but it also will give you a script for your phone call based on the cause that you feel most strongly about.
It’s also important to know what your representative does and doesn’t support. You can see how representatives voted in the Senate and the House. You can also see what organizations have donated to your representatives at the nonpartisan site OpenSecrets.
It’s easy to feel hopeless and scared as a parent right now, and it’s all too easy to say you don’t get involved in politics, or that you don’t like to “get political.” However, I truly don’t believe it should be a partisan issue to want our children to be happy, safe, and loved. And that’s why I’m done feeling hopeless. My daughter deserves a better world, and I’m going to help change it.