Big-Hearted Julia and the Viral Canadian Gay Pride Coin

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about how my friend Jim and his family had their basement flooded with sewage and had to evacuate their home, suffering a very frustrating loss, and living on fast food and hotel TV for the last little while. Well, the good news is, they’ve been able to return to their home — which means a lot to Jim and his wife Hailea, but more importantly, to two wonderful little girls who I’ve pretty much adopted as nieces — Big-Hearted Julia and Emily the Wonderfully Strange. Wonderfully strange because she loves to tease me about my various whims and projects — “Look, Mommy, Helena’s sewing her book.ย I’m sewing my book, I’m sewing my book.ย Doesn’t she know you can just buy books at the store?”

“Yes, honey, but your Aunt Helena is….ย special.”

I chose to take that as a compliment, darlings.

When I say that these are great kids, I say it without a hint of irony or insincerity. For the most part, I don’t like kids. I realize that they are a necessary evil to keep the planet populated, but 99 kids out of a hundred often make me rethink my stance on justifiable homicide. Maybe it’s because they have amazing parents, or maybe it’s because they have an amazing Aunt — who knows — I think no one will ever be able to say precisely, so let’s just assume that having an amazing Aunt is part of it, okay?

When I visited them while they were, well, homeless, Julia and Emily were feeling pretty restless and it was obvious that they were homesick. When you think about the strain that an adult goes through when something like that happens, your heart goes out to them. You ask them what you can do to help, you offer your time, your money, your advice, a shoulder to cry on. Children often get treated with the attitude of “well, they’ll be okay if their parents are okay.” They often don’t get asked how they’re feeling, or if there’s anything they need. I don’t know why that is, but it is, nonetheless.

What I saw when I visited was two little girls who loved each other very much, and while they fight just as much as any other sisters ever did (I’m sure Jim and Hailea often consider their own stances on justifiable homicide from time to time) they were comforting each other. Emily, the younger of the two, was just tired and worn out and done. And she was getting whiny and upset. Rather than get annoyed with her little sister, Julia put her arm around her and told her it would be okay, that everything would be okay. That the problem in question was that Emily hadn’t gotten her ice cream yet didn’t detract from how much that touched me. Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most, and sometimes it’s as easy as giving a kid a bowl of ice cream to make the world feel safer.

Speaking of a safer, better world, Julia dreams of one. I do, too, darlings, and I wanted to share something with you about an amazing thing that happened this week, all because of Big-Hearted Julia and her dream of a better, more tolerant and accepting world. I don’t know if you’ve happened upon THIS STORY yet, or perhaps the coverage over at HUFFINGTON POST, but Julia was given a school assignment to design a new Canadian coin — by, I think it important to mention — a Catholic school.

o-CANADIAN-GAY-PRIDE-COIN-570What she came up with on her own was a coin depicting tolerance for same-sex couples, and after her dad posted it on Reddit (he hadn’t even seen the assignment until she brought the finished product home to show him) it started getting all kinds of attention and ended up making news on both Yahoo and the Huffington Post. The story has now gone viral, and chances are you may have already seen this. Well, now you know — that’s my amazing little niece Julia, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

This is a bright little girl — at nine, she’s likely more socially aware than most, because her parents do talk about social issues. That people think that this is odd or a bad thing boggles my mind, darlings, it truly does. I’m reminded of my favourite novel, Fahrenheit 451 (I’m reminded of this a lot, darlings — it has shaped my life). In it, Clarisse, seventeen and crazy, lives in a future where people spend more time watching banal TV or watching car races than actually talking or thinking. When she does overhear people talk, she says that they don’t say anything; not really. Sure, they mention some cars they like, or how so-and-so’s got a new swimming pool, and they say ‘how swell’, but they don’t actually say anything. Her family is a rarity – they stay up to all hours talking about ideas, about opinions, about what’s going on in the world. This isn’t strange or unusual to them — it’s just the way they are. But most of society has been dumbed down, and books have been outlawed. Society has done it to itself, because thinking leads to opinions, and opinions are offensive and dangerous. (Incidentally — I think this is an interesting point to make — Clarisse, and her family, “disappear” suddenly at a certain point in the book.)

This is just the way I am, too, and how Jim and Hailea are. I’ve been at their house dozens of times, and we never have banal conversation. We don’t always talk about solving all the world’s problems, either — don’t get me wrong — we engage in the silliest of banter imaginable — one time I thought I was going to choke to death I was laughing so hard. But it just seems natural to us to talk about our thoughts — be they on music, politics, religion, the existence of god and/or extraterrestrials, our likes and dislikes in comedy, in movies, and why we disagree on the topic of using samples in music. (Oh, don’t get me started, darlings!) But I know this family well, and I’ll tell you this — they do not spoon-feed her at all. About anything. They let her be her, even if the things she likes or dislikes are not what they necessarily like. I actually admire that about them — they’ve taken that girl to see music shows that you couldn’t drag me to tied to the back of a bus. But it was what she liked, and so they supported her. She’s not some brainwashed victim of the “gay agenda”, she’s just a sweet little girl who’s been taught that people deserve respect, and she hasn’t grown up in an atmosphere of hating those who are different than her.

When I spoke to her on the phone this morning, and asked her if she’d mind if I shared this, she excitedly consented, but as I showered praise on her and told her how proud I was, she was just speechless. I think this says a lot about the girl. Of course she’s excited (though I don’t think she grasps the fact that her coin is now globally famous) but in her mind, she didn’t do or say anything extraordinary. In her mind, this just makes sense. In Canada, we celebrate diversity.

Now for the ugly part.

Okay, Helena, take a deep breath, don’t let them see you angry

Reading the comments on the posts where this story ran, it’s obvious why what Julia has said and suggested is actually extraordinary. It also demonstrates the ignorance and cruelty of people who feel free to attack strangers on the Internet. If you don’t want to feel sick to your stomach, you might want to, as I advised Julia, not read the comments.

They run the gamut from crying gay agenda propaganda and brainwashing to claiming that the whole thing is fake, or that her parents wrote/coached her and handed this in — one couche tard even calls homosexuality a health hazard, saying that we want to ban cigarettes, etc. but promote homosexuals, who he then calls (and I quote) “…walking diseases. Totally depraved, totally perverted, just disgusting wretched unconscionable sc(um)bags. Why not have coins that feature a kweer on his deathbed after a lifetime of a(s)s ramming?”

And of course, there are the “God hates fags” people, some talking about them being possessed by evil spirits as if we are living in a bad Exorcist sequel.

I was shocked at the disproportionate amount of hateful and negative and/or discrediting comments as opposed to supportive and encouraging ones. Perhaps that’s just the Internet, but it made me really sad.

It would appear that we have a long way to go, but if Julia’s generation shares an attitude of acceptance, and can grow up not learning to hate, then maybe — maybe this dream of a nicer world can come true.

Some may say that I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.

Thank you, Julia.

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27 responses to “Big-Hearted Julia and the Viral Canadian Gay Pride Coin

  1. Fantastic!, Way to go Julia!
    On the bright side, it seems like there’s a lot more acceptance for non-traditional lifestyles, with more people approving (or even better, not thinking that it’s relevant) than ever before.

    What did her school say about the coin?

    • They loved it — don’t know if you can see on the picture, but her teacher praised the hell out of it! Oh, and if there’s anything anyone can do to get this Freshly Pressed, I think it should be. This is an amazing story — I’m just writing it.

  2. It never fails to amaze me how accepting and understanding children are. There are no boundaries. No prejudice. No hate. If only we could all be a little more “childish”.

      • Because lovely children are raised in a world with assholes. Input, output. And once those around them charged with the HUGE responsibility of seeing them to adulthood safely start to share THEIR opinions and feelings, children’s impressionable little opinions change. It’s quite sad.

  3. Reblogged this on The D/A Dialogues and commented:
    This. This needs eyes. Julia is an inspiration, and Helena is lucky to have an honorary niece like her. Personally, I think Helena’s post is a candidate to be Freshly Pressed – not for Helena; she’s had that honor – but for Julia. So Julia knows that small actions and words have an impact. So, tweet, reblog and make the blog-a-verse bear witness to an awesome little girl!

  4. Kind of proves that people aren’t born to hate or dislike those that are different. Your niece is definitely a smart and kind girl. Ignore those Internet Tough Guys in the comments. They’re everywhere and tend to hurt their own credibility. Did you know that there’s a belief that Disney’s Frozen is all about pushing the ‘gay agenda’? As I said, these people tend to hurt their own platform.

    • Funny you should mention that — we were just talking about that the other day. I believe that you can read anything through any filter — in University I remember dissecting things through a feminist viewpoint, or through a Marxist viewpoint or through etc.. etc… so of course you can view Frozen through a queer viewpoint. Of course you can. You could read X-Men that way if you like. Artistic interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. But you’re right — to call Frozen some sort of propaganda piece pushing some “gay agenda” just makes you look like a bigoted Archie Bunker type.

      • X-Men gets that a lot even today. Makes sense since it deals with a group of people who are hated for being different and there being mutants that make the others look bad. So it’s a difficult battle, which can be related to any fight for equality.

        I’m still lost on how Frozen got called gay propaganda. I saw it and it never crossed my mind. Maybe bestiality between Kristoff and his reindeer, but that’s really it.

  5. It is not acceptable to be merely tolerant, but to be accepting in a loving way. Your niece is learning that her beliefs are okay but won’t be shared by all. When I hear the religious card being played, I often go back to that WWJD question. Here in Orlando I have more gay friends than straight ones, and my ex husband in GA was gay. I always felt that the greatest gift I could give him was the freedom to pursue his own happiness. I still love him in my own way. He gave me a beautiful family. At the same time, I could tell no people in my old community why I was divorcing because my children had to live in that back ass community (with their father) full of rednecks and haters. He still lives in the closet. I told no one the truth and my own family disowned me because they thought I was destroying my marriage for personal gain…without knowing the whole truth. For many, until it touches you personally, there is no decent comprehension. Your niece, through her loving and accepting parents, has already been touched. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. It’s the Julias of the world who save us from the worst of ourselves. Not that I’d ever put that kind of pressure on a child – on anyone – but she is on the right, light side of the balance. I’m glad she and her family exist, and glad you have them in your life.

  7. It’s sad how many ignorant, bigoted people there are in the world. I’m glad there are young people like Julia who get it.

  8. Yay, Julia!

    The anonymity of the internet really does bring out the worst in people. It’s always hard for me to believe the things people are willing to put out there. I used to tell clients not to put anything online they wouldn’t say to a person’s face. I try to follow my own advice, because those words live on forever, even if I erase them. I wish more people thought about it like that and were more circumspect before they fired off hurtful missives into cyberspace.

  9. For Julia: You go, girl! Be yourself, believe in your own heart, and don’t mind the bullies. Unfortunately there are bullies everywhere but they are sad little people who lead miserable lives because they are not as smart and generous and loveable as you are. They don’t even try, but that is their choice. You just go ahead and continue as you are and you will never be at a loss for love and friendship and admiration.
    For Helena: Thank you for sharing Julia’s story. She and Emily are going to do very well in this world thanks to her parents and to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. That’s absolutely amazing… Horrible how it highlights the bigots out there – but anything good will always be badmouthed. What an epic kid – going where so many adults fear to tread.

  11. I’m glad there are people in the world like your friends (I don’t want to read the comments either, but I can imagine some are pretty ignorant and abusive.) What a great family.

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