The statues weren’t hurting anyone, and neither was I

Everyone else wore jeans and t-shirts. I wore jumpers, plaid skirts, cardigans, Mary Janes.

Everyone else got their hair highlighted and wore makeup. I wore hair ribbons and pigtails.

Everyone else spoke in the latest slang in order to sound “cool.” I used big words and spoke formally.

Everyone else IM’d with their friends after school. I went online to read about historical figures. I made drawings and paper dolls of them.

Everyone played the same computer games, listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows and movies. Everyone except for me.

I collected dolls, toy soldiers, Beanie Babies, and model horses. Everyone called me babyish and weird.

I picked my nose, and the other kids whispered to each other about how gross I was. I picked at my face and scalp instead, but the other kids still whispered to each other about me, and how weird I was. So instead I went through my hair and took out the strands that had become detached, tidying and cleaning up my hair, but the other kids commented on how gross and weird that was as well. So I forced myself to sit, uncomfortable and bored out of my mind, with nothing to occupy my hands.

I was not hurting anyone. I was not hurting anyone by dressing the way that looked good to me, moving and organizing my body in the way that felt good to me, spending my time and energy pursuing the things that I was interested in. I was not hurting anyone by existing in the world as my authentic self, in a way that was different from other people.

The statues are the same as me. They dressed differently from people today, looked differently, spoke differently, thought differently.

Therefore, the statues weren’t hurting anyone either.

The statues symbolized people like me, people who are different. The statues symbolized the idea that people like me have a right to be included in society. When people tore down the statues, that is what they attacked.

Seeing those statues standing, in public parks and city squares, told me that I had the right to exist, even though I am different from others. Because those statues were different from other people, and they had the right to exist.

When people tore down the statues, they took that away from me.

When mayors and city councils ordered the statues removed, they were literally redesigning public spaces in order to communicate that people like me do not have the right to exist there, in order to ensure that people like me would feel excluded.

This is not being inclusive, or ensuring that everyone feels welcome. It is the exact opposite.

When people tore down the statues, they did so because they believe that a person who dresses differently, looks differently, moves differently, speaks differently, and thinks differently should not be allowed to exist.

When people tore down the statues, they did so because they believe, through some perverse logic that is incomprehensible to me, that their right to be surrounded entirely and exclusively by people who dress like them, look like them, move like them, speak like them, and think like them, outweighs my right to exist.

This is not diversity. It is the exact opposite.

This is why Confederate statues and Christopher Columbus statues are so important.

This is why the issue of statues is personal to me.

This is why I will never forget what people did to the statues, why I will never move on, why I will never stop writing and posting about the statues, why I will never focus on other, more important issues.

Because there are no issues more important than this.

I wasn’t hurting anyone by existing, and neither were the statues.