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Kellen Squire: Youngkin Weaponizes the State to Attack My Kids – and Anyone Who Supports Them

Youngkin "wants to make it illegal for kids like mine to be who they are."

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by Kellen Squire

I’m going to briefly discuss something very tough, something I’ve avoided mentioning directly for the past few years, for reasons that will become apparent.

In autumn 2019, one of my kids had a mental health crisis.

They were struggling with their sense of identity; their sense of who they were. They were being bullied for it. And it led to them having a mental health crisis that needed acute intervention.

As an emergency clinician whose job it is specifically to identify and protect people in crisis, I was still caught completely unawares. I managed to identify things immediately before they became openly life threatening, but prior to that… nothing at all.

I don’t have the words to type here that can illustrate my feelings at the time. “Floored”, “devastated”, it doesn’t even hint at it. I mean, that’s my job. That’s my whole job. That’s what I do every day, I save and protect people in crisis. People count on my colleagues and I to protect them when nobody else can… and I couldn’t even see the signs for one of my own kids until it was almost too late.

No words I ever put down here will be able to convey the existential crisis I wrestled with, the depths of depression I slipped into. It’s something I haven’t fully reckoned with even now, because even though I understand logically the fault in this, I can’t shake the feeling that looking back at my own emotions when it was my child who was the one truly suffering is… contemptible at best.

Anyway. My kiddo is in a lot better place now. Thank God we had access to mental health care options, that we were able to access them before the pandemic began in earnest… things that so many other people didn’t have access to. Because it’s damn hard enough as it is. LGBTQ students already experience much higher self-harm and suicide rates because of the discrimination they face. Nobody should have to rely on the luck we had to keep their kids safe.

But it looks like if Glenn Youngkin has his way here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that’s the only thing that’ll be keeping thousands of kids like mine safe- luck. Because he wants to make it illegal for kids like mine to be who they are. He wants to weaponize the power of the state to go after them, to go after any K-12 educators who dare up for kids.

If you want a great explainer on exactly how extreme what Governor Youngkin is proposing is, you need to read my friend Rachel Levy’s explainer right here. But, briefly, according to this policy, LGBTQ kids- but particularly transgender kids- don’t actually exist; they’re simply ideologues. So parents’ rights ALWAYS supersede children’s & students’ rights. It’s never up to the child who they are; it is only up to the parent.

A child is only transgender if the parents say so in writing. If a transgender child is not accepted by their parents, then the school isn’t only forbidden to support that child in any way, it weaponizes the power of the state and the most extreme parents to go after educators who stand up for kids. Because Governor Youngkin has bought fully in to the Republican belief that instead of undermining them behind the scenes, they need to attack educators and public schools openly and aggressively.

This is a purposeful trend, and why the GOP is also going after nurses, firefighters, EMTs, social workers, mental health workers, and other critical parts of our social safety net. They know that’s the key to shattering our society, and that’s their only goal at this point. Destroy what they can, make peoples’ lives as unstable and unsafe as possible, and attempt to take as much power and control as they can in the ensuing chaos.

This is their new normal. They are committing literally billions of dollars to accomplish their goal. And they will never stop until they succeed.

And I can’t help but feel personally hit by the Governor once again. It wasn’t enough that my kids were already attacked by one of the Governor’s appointees, cyberbullied by someone who openly and brazenly admitted to targeting them, literally saying “they deserved it” by virtue of being my kids. Total coincidence, of course, as I run in the bluest district in Virginia still held by the Republican party, against an incumbent who is close personal friends with the Governor. Now Governor Youngkin has to go after my kids again, go after their friends, go after the public school educators standing up for them… openly suggesting that none of them deserve to exist.

There are simply no words I could write here that would do justice to the kind of evil that represents.

None.

Every time we think we’ve crossed the Rubicon, think we’ve seen where the extremists in the Republican party will peak, all we’ve actually done is exposed our own naiveity.

This isn’t an abstract fight for what legislation we want to see passed. We’re not “two sides of the same coin”. We’re not differing on the merits of the relative tax rates on properties in abutment to commercial zoning.

One side wants people to be able to live how they want, let other people live how they want, with the government interfering in their personal lives to the barest extent possible.

The other side thinks whole swaths of Americans simply don’t deserve to live. To exist.

And won’t stop until they don’t.

Those are the stakes here, folks.

Kellen Squire is an emergency room nurse from Barboursville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Donate today to help us fight Governor Youngkin and flip the bluest seat still held by the Virginia GOP.

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Dad, husband, Christian, outdoorsman, perpetually undercaffeinated ER Nurse. Common sense populist/progressive; heroes are Smarsh, Wellstone, Perriello, and Howell. A progressive in VA is anyone who believes in life after birth! Keep the Big Boys Honest! People Before Party!