We’ve Been Here for 40 Years. They Were Here for 4 Days.

We’ve Been Here for 40 Years. They Were Here for 4 Days.

Last weekend, Philadelphia was the site, and for many (and I would venture to say most) Philadelphians the unwilling host, to the annual summit of Moms for Liberty – one of the organizations behind modern-day books bans, efforts to prohibit LGBTQ inclusivity in schools, and fights against accurate and complete school curricula regarding the Black experience in America - an organization that has been designated as an “extremist” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Just a few weeks ago, while visiting the State Capitol in Harrisburg, I encountered a Moms for Liberty table that had been set up in the rotunda. I couldn’t help myself. I needed to engage with them. I asked if they were afraid to have Pride celebrations, discussions of same-sex parents in classrooms, and recognition of children by their chosen pronouns because of fear that it might turn their own children gay. I explained how growing up as a white Jewish kid in Harrisburg, my public school had a Christmas tree, we sang Christmas carols in chorus, and we learned about Black history. And, amazingly, I am still a white Jewish kid from Harrisburg, albeit a more empathetic and understanding one because of being exposed to a broad range of traditions and an honest understanding of our sometimes shameful history.

I explained how I helped to raise two transgender stepchildren. One of the “Moms” asked, fairly aggressively, “Are they still alive?” When I answered that they were, she said “Well, you’re lucky. Most transgender children die due to hormone therapy.” She purported to be a scientific expert. She was no doctor. I tried to explain to her completely unreceptive ears that, having a family and community that was affirming in every way of my stepchildren was, in fact, as it is for so many trans and non-binary children, a significant part of what kept them alive.

Those Moms for Liberty that I encountered in the rotunda were, I imagine, representative of the hundreds that came to Philadelphia last weekend, conference attendees who were greeted by trans-colored Philadelphia flags hung by the City right outside their hotel, community activists carrying signs, yelling chants, and dancing in the streets, and a loud and proud message that, in a city built on values of independence, representation, and the pursuit of happiness, Moms for Liberty is the antithesis of the spirit of Philadelphia.

In their short time in our city, Moms for Liberty succeeded.

They succeeded in bringing together Mazzoni Center with new and allied partners to build what promise to be long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships to support our LGBTQ community. They succeeded in raising the profile of Mazzoni Center’s work in gender-affirming care to a much larger audience. They succeeded in adding to the City’s coffers of lodging tax and sales tax, some portion of which I hope will be invested directly in the City’s ongoing support of our LGBTQ community.

As our President and Executive Officer, Sultan Shakir, said during his remarks at the “Grandparents for Truth” rally this past Friday morning, “We’ve been here for 40 years. They are here for four days.”

And forty years from now, when Moms for Liberty is nothing but a marginal footnote in the Wikipedia listing of long-forgotten hate groups, the latest cheap float in an ongoing parade of ignorance and intolerance, Mazzoni Center will still be standing, supporting our LGBTQ community’s health and well-being, empowering every Philadelphian to live lives as their full selves, just as we’ve done for the past four decades.

Isn’t that what liberty is all about?