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Fight for Abortion Rights, Queer Kids, and History in Virginia
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I spent almost my whole childhood in Virginia, in the same school district, mere blocks away from the same park. When I was ten they built a new branch of the Alexandria Library system just a few minutes away, a huge new main branch with vaulted ceilings and a teen corner and huge arm chairs for reading. My friends and I started a Library Club and every Friday we’d walk there after school and wander the shelves, giggling too much and never once getting shushed.
I learned to play the flute in Virginia, in marching band and jazz band and symphonic band. I rode bikes with my family out to Jones Point where we’d watch the planes coming into National Airport. I walked around Old Town with my friends, eating ice cream and keeping our eyes out for boys. I went to college in Virginia, much to my chagrin, but I met some of my best friends there. I had my first grown up job in Virginia, my first apartment - got drunk for the first time in Virginia, voted for the first time in Virginia, wrestled with queerness in Virginia.
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It wasn’t perfect - there’s no such thing. It’s a place like any other, with its systemic injustices and contradictory politics, and unique challenges. But it also made me - anxieties and overly long sentences and weird tan lines and all. And so even though I haven’t lived in Virginia in about ten years, and even though my parents don’t live there anymore either, I can’t help but obsess about Virginia elections every time an odd year rolls around.
In the exhaustion and euphoria that followed the 2020 election, we slipped up a little bit and let Glenn Youngkin slide into office under the radar in 2021. Youngkin likes to present the image of a reasonable conservative, just a neighbor in a sweater vest who believes in tax cuts. Meanwhile, he’s used as much of his executive power as possible to roll back Virginia’s commitments to addressing the climate crisis, undo progress in voting rights, reverse protections for trans kids in schools, undermine public education and ban books, and is more than willing to pass an abortion ban as soon as the Virginia legislature sends it to his desk.
We’ve seen the damage Republican trifectas have done in other states. The next stage of anti-abortion laws in Texas would ban people from using certain roads to drive out of state for abortion procedures. In Florida DeSantis’s government has rejected whole curriculums like AP Psychology and AP African American studies. The so-called party of freedom wants to control what you read, who you love, and what kind of health care you can get.
With the chaos of the Republican presidential primary and Trump’s many indictments, much of the country’s attention is elsewhere. But state elections have an enormous impact on people’s lives. In 2023 we have the chance to show Republicans that it doesn’t matter how genially they dress up their bigotry, their power grabs, or their corruption. We have the chance to help Virginians take back their state legislature, block Youngkin’s harmful agenda, and set the stage for a return a Democratic trifecta in 2025. And we can give Democrats some much needed momentum heading into 2024, which will once again, be the most important election of our lives.
I want kids in Virginia to keep playing outside, to learn new things about themselves and each other and the world around them. I want them to know their history so they can make the world better. I want all of them to have the kindness and support and resources they need to thrive. And I know I’m not alone.
The school district I grew up in, where I started the library club and learned to play the flute and stumbled on the playground, is standing up to Youngkin and refusing to implement his policies to discriminate against trans kids. Here’s my pitch to you: let’s go get their backs. Here’s how you can help:
Donate! Youngkin and the VA GOP are in the midst of a fundraising blitz, riding the coattails of Youngkin’s will-he, won’t-he presidential ambitions. You can help by donating to VA Democrats, or by candidates in key districts. New Virginia Majority has a good list here.
Write letters or postcards to voters! If you want to talk to voters, but you don’t necessarily want them to talk back, you can write letters with Vote Forward or postcards with Postcards to Swing States.
Phone bank! I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. I do it all the time and it has never once killed me. Sister District runs great phone banks especially for newbies. They have great training and great support. New Virginia Majority and Swing Left also run phone banks where you can get training and make a huge impact.
Remember that everything you do matters - five dollars, five letters, five phone calls. Every single one of us has the power to drive real change and make life better for ourselves, our friends and family, and our community. So, my loves, let’s get to work.