- Casey Bradley Gent
- Shane Armstrong's family just wants a comfortable place to be themselves.
After recent developments, the government has sent a clear message that it's no friend to LGBTQ people. Though we had a feeling that would be the case when Trump chose conversion therapy apologist Mike Pence as his VP, now we see their agenda in action.
Public discussion suggests that prejudice touted by the loudest and most visible members of our government has given hateful people permission to act on their own toxic beliefs. Though the most current hate-crime statistics from the FBI are from 2015, anecdotal evidence suggests there's merit to that discussion.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that, within 10 days of the election, "People in Michigan, Colorado, Indiana, Texas, Washington, Tennessee, North Carolina and Massachusetts all reported finding homophobic slurs spray-painted or carved onto their front doors, windows, mailboxes and porches."
But that's not our backyard, right? Colorado's a big state, and its inclusion on that list doesn't mean anything more than it means — one lone weirdo with a grudge.
Well, that's not the case. It's never the case, and the pervading narrative needs to change.
Because it does happen in our backyard.
Shane Armstrong, who identifies as transgender, lives with his five children — some of whom also spend time with their other parent — and his partner on the Westside. His partner is also transgender, as are his 6-year-old twins, who have been working with a team of therapists and advocates throughout the process.
"I guess [our neighbors] have assumed that my partner and I were in some flavor of queer relationship," he says, "so we've heard nothing but transphobic and homophobic comments from square one." And these comments have only gotten worse as the twins have socially transitioned.
Square one began about a year ago, when Armstrong moved in with his partner to a three-bedroom in a duplex on the Westside. It's never been the best fit for seven, but they could manage it. Especially if all they received were hurtful, but relatively standard hateful remarks.
Now, they feel they have no choice but to move. In recent months, they say their dogs have been poisoned and stolen, their home stalked and their car window broken in. The only motivation Armstrong can imagine is that the people responsible for these acts take issue with their identities. Based on a few verbal altercations, they strongly suspect who among their neighbors is behind the worst of it, but they cannot seem to gather the evidence law enforcement requires to take action.
While they have attempted to file a restraining order, they were told that, due to sheer proximity, there's only so much a restraining order can do.
"It's been really bad," Armstrong says, "and it's gotten to the point where we don't feel OK having our kids outside for any length of time."
Instead, they take the children out of the neighborhood regularly for community art projects or events, but home is no longer the comfortable place it should be.
Armstrong says he just wants what's best for his kids. The oldest (10) sits on student council and he describes her as "10 going on, maybe, 17?" His 8-year-old he describes as very politically aware for her age. The twins (6), whom he adopted in 2014, have developmental delays due to early-childhood abuse, but now that they have socially transitioned, Armstrong says: "They're always smiling and proud of themselves and proud of their accomplishments." His youngest (3) is "very creative. Very sensitive."
When asked if the kids understand what's happening, Armstrong says, "They understand probably more than I give them credit for ... and I'm sure that they've noticed that things have changed pretty drastically. I don't even let them take the trash outside anymore."
So what can be done? Well, the family was already looking for a new home, but now they have redoubled their efforts. Unfortunately, they don't yet have the funds for a house to fit everyone. As of this writing, they've only raised about one third of their $3000 GoFundMe goal (tinyurl.com/FamilyMovingFund). With that money, they hope to pay first and last month's rent for an appropriately sized home in their school district.
But Armstrong's family isn't the only one that needs help. "I don't have a real solution for it," he says, "but it seems like a lot of people are going through similar things right now. And it's hard to look at. It's hard to see."
The evidence, he says, is all over his Facebook feed. So what can you do if one of these people lives in your neighborhood?
"Look out for your neighbors," Armstrong says, "and be aware of what's going on around you.
"Don't be silent when things are happening because that's how it continues to happen ... when the opportunity arises it's important to help out and take action, even if it's not just for yourself."