Day 2: Making It Better Now

TW: Slurs, racism, prejudice against nonbinary people, mentions of suicide.

seven
is the age I was
in 2001
when the world trade center fell.

seven
is the age I was
in 2001
when my schoolmates learned the words
“terrorist”
“khadija bin laden”
and “sand nigger,”
prefaced often with
“dirty”
“filthy”
and “evil.”

seven
is the age I was
in 2001
when my parents
begged my older sister
to stop wearing hijab
because
they didn’t want to bury a child.

my parents said
“don’t worry khadija
nothing endures
it will get better
when you’re in high school
and
these kids have matured.”
my teachers
said the same
and I believed them.

someday
at some point
in the faraway future
the harassment
bullying
and racism
would end.
it would get better
and I would be happy
just
like
that.

I turned seventeen.

seventeen
is the age I was
in 2011
when I learned I was
nonbinary and pansexual.

seventeen
is the age I was
in 2011
when, in addition to
“terrorist”
“khadija bin laden”
and “sand nigger” –
which never ended,
despite my parents’ promises
it would –
my schoolmates learned the words
“dyke”
“queer”
and “special gender snowflake
with made-up pronouns –
what’s next?
duckself?”

seventeen
is the age I was
in 2011
when my close friend killed himself
after learning
as I did
it doesn’t get better.
people are
racist, sexist,
transphobic, homophobic,
Islamophobic bigots
at all ages –
seven,
seventeen,
thirty-seven,
eighty-seven.

it doesn’t get better
and frankly
the notion that certain kids have to
wait
and suffer
and hurt
in the present,
clinging to the hope
it may get better someday,
while certain other kids
with privilege
power
or money
are offered help right away
and told
“we will help you
make it better
now”
infuriates me.

I’ve got a message
for all those kids –
the LGB kids
the T kids
The non-binary kids
The kids whose identities
don’t fit
on the acronym
The black kids
The brown kids
The poor kids
The kids who hide their faith
and are ashamed of their cultures:
it doesn’t get better
but that doesn’t mean
there’s no hope.

it doesn’t get better
just
like
that.
people are
racist, sexist,
transphobic, homophobic,
Islamophobic bigots
at all ages;
that won’t change.
what will change
is you.
you will make it better –
find new paths to travel
or create them
where there are none
discover reasons to live
or invent your own
realize your own power
and courage
and strength
and capability
for happiness.
we aren’t born
with the same amount of
courage
strength
and happiness
we’ll ever have.
sometimes
we have to create some
for ourselves.

we can’t control
what others
think
say
or do
and sometimes
we can’t control
how it makes us feel.
what we can control
is where we go
from here.

it doesn’t get better
but please
don’t despair.
you have the power
to choose
your own future,
create your own happiness.
you will make it better.
you
will
make
it
better.

now a message
for all of the allies.
instead of saying
“it gets better”
try
“what can I do
to
help you
make it better now?”

Author: Khadija

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