The internet has a new superhero; and her name is Jia Howard.
If you haven’t seen Jia’s viral post (click here to read it) I’ll fill you in. Jia was in her local coffee shop when a fellow patron called her a “Faggy Dyke.” Instead of responding to hate with more hate Jia decided to rise above, paying for the woman’s coffee, and reminding her to have a sparkly day.
Since the first moment I read her story I was infatuated with the strength that Jia expressed. I had the privilege to sit down and to talk to Jia (via the power of the internet), and interview her to gain further knowledge on the situation, what’s next for this warrior, and her take on some social issues.
Taylor Nicole: Jia, the response to your post has been incredible. Why do you think so many people are responding?
Jia: I’m still in shock. I have about 5 friends. So the fact that over a hundred thousand people have responded to this in one way or another is astounding! I’m not certain as to why. The only thing that comes to mind is that everyone is looking for that glimmer of hope right now. That glitter, if you will. A lot of us have been very cautious in the last couple of months due to politics. So I think, seeing someone stand up in a non threatening way, shows that we can still have a voice. Or maybe, I just got lucky! Who knows?
T: You were called a “Faggy Dyke” (which, on a personal note, I got pretty upset reading your original post as a member of the community, and an ally to fellow brothers, sisters, and everything in between). Why do you think people resort to such hateful language, and why do you think people are still using LGBTQ+ as an insult?
J: Some people just harbor a lot of hate in their heart. For whatever reason. Maybe they had a bad experience or were raised that way. I don’t even know if the lady actually knew I was a lesbian. Perhaps, she was just trying to be as offensive as possible. I’ve thought about it over and over again. She could have called me worse. Afterall, I’m African American, a woman, and to top it all off, a big “faggy dyke.” The LGBTQ+ community is still a touchy subject for a lot of people. It’s an easy target. Therefore it’s an easy insult. Unfortunately for this woman, I embrace who I am. I’m a wife to another incredible woman and a mother to two beautiful, unique children.
J: Usually, I’m not alone. Usually, I have my wife by my side. So if there has been another instance, she’s taken care of it. She has my back and won’t let anyone disrespect any of us. This is the first time on my own that something of this magnitude has happened.
T: Was this your first run in with someone using a piece of your identity to try and hurt you? What can you tell my readers about dealing with what seems to be a very personal attack?
I can say this, be ready. It could happen anytime, anywhere. Don’t let it ruin your day! After the incident occurred, I sat in my car shaking. I wanted to go back in and scream at her and tell her how much of a piece of you-know-what she is. How I hope her kids all turn out gay. How I hope that her coffee spilled down her stupid shirt. But then I thought “why?” My wife ALWAYS tells me to focus on the positive. Plus, we both are trying to teach the kids how to react in situations like that. Especially for my son. (He loves to paint his nails, wear “girl” shirts, dresses, etc.). So I took it as a moment to use as an example for both kids. That’s what we want. For them to know how to walk away with dignity and not stoop to their level.
T: Where did you come up with the concept of “when they go low, we go high?” Have you found this practice useful in other areas of your life?
J: Our (former) FLOTUS! She said it recently during one of her speeches regarding Hillary. It stuck with me. An easy mantra to remember and use daily.
I have. I work with people. A lot of them. Sometimes I have to just bite my tongue. I’ve been working on a lesson in my classroom. The latest fight with my 5 year Olds is “well, you can’t come to my party!” Devastating, right? So we actually have been working on always saying something nice back to our friends. If John tells Jane that he hates her shoes. I want Jane’s response to be “Well I really like the stripes on your shirt.” We don’t always have to fight negative with negative. I’ve also been working on these same things with my own children. My wife and I are constantly reminding the kids to be kind. Always be kind. Pick the child who is eating alone. Be their friend. They are the ones who need it most. So what if the “popular” kids don’t like it! Sitting with the one crying means so much more.
T: Have you run into the lady from the coffee shop again? How do you plan on dealing with her if you do?
J: I have not seen her again. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her before. I hope I do see her again. I WILL have glitter. I will also say good morning, like I normally do to everyone I see. It won’t be weird for me. I can’t speak for her though.
T: Not only are you a mother, but you’re a school teacher. In what ways do you hope you can teach your students your practice of handling with intolerance?
J: Well first, I need them to write their name legibly. Lucky for us, our society is changing. The kids in my classes are exposed to more and more cultural differences every year. 5 year olds don’t care if you have 2 moms. They care what color your dog is. So we talk about differences in society daily. To make it “normal”. My job is to mold these tiny humans into amazing people. My job is to show them that everyone is different and that’s ok. My goal is that when someone says or does something unkind that it doesn’t phase them because they know who they are. To always stand up for themselves AND others when something is wrong. Be kind. Be helpful. Be proud of who you are.
T: Recently I’ve seen a lot of posts about how to raise children, and seen opinions in regards to teaching about LGBTQ+ relationships (i.e. the people against gay Disney characters because they feel like their children would be confused watching). What advice do you have for parents who seem to be confused on how to teach the subject matter?
J: I’m going to answer this from two standpoints.
From a teacher’s perspective I think some parents just aren’t ready. It’s not that their kids can’t handle it. It’s that the parent can’t. Kids don’t care. They only make it a big deal if we make it a big deal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “This is Jane. She brought her family picture in. She has two moms.” Kids are shocked at first. Then I go on to explain how some families have two moms, two dads, one of each or even grandparents that raise them. That is really all I have to say before no one cares about it anymore. As a parent, I always want my kids to feel included. What if my child turns out to be gay. He’s had no positive, healthy relationships depicted in the media, ever. Why? Because it’s shoving it in everyone’s face. I don’t hear all of the LGBTQ community raising hell every time we see a straight couple in a movie. It’s normal. All of it is normal. People are so afraid that exposing their kids To these things is going to somehow turn them gay. Newsflash! It doesn’t work like that. I never saw a lesbian couple on t.v. or in the magazines. Didn’t keep me straight! That’s not how any of this works. It’s helping your child understand diversity. My wife always says that keeping them sheltered isn’t good. You know why? Because now they have to figure it out on their own. Through their peers or from some awful article that’s written by the president of the He-man woman haters club. Talk to them about it. Embrace it. Our world is changing. Guide your child in the right direction. Answer the uncomfortable questions. If you don’t know the answers, find out! Elsa having a girlfriend won’t kill anyone. It may give someone the courage to finally be who they really are though.
T: Jia, you have taken the Internet by storm and spread love when we seem to be in such hateful times. What’s next for you?
J: I’m continuing to live my life just the same. I don’t feel any different today than I did 2 weeks ago. If anyone asks, I have a hell of a story to tell them about that one time at the coffee shop. Otherwise, wife, mom, teacher and avid coffee drinker.
T: And finally, the question on everyone’s mind; are you going to start lining your pockets with glitter?
J: It started off as a joke between my wife and I. Now, it’s become this whole catch phrase. I think we all should keep a little glitter in our pockets. Let’s leave a trail. So whenever we are out and see a little sparkle on the ground, we will know that something amazing happened there!