The notorious megabigots at the Westboro Baptist Church have made a name for themselves as America's hate-filled religious extremists par excellence. Whether protesting military funerals with "God hates fags" signs, or re-writing hateful versions of classic rock standards, the church has demonstrated time and time again a near-limitless capacity to offend and enrage.
In other words, they're the sort of people you'd probably want to keep your kids away from. That is, unless your kid is Avery Jackson.
At just eight years old, Jackson is the trans girl spearheading the creation of a new "Transgender House" directly across the street from the WBC's Topeka, KS headquarters. She's being backed by Planting Peace, the organization behind Equality House, a rainbow-colored home which has sat across from the WBC since 2013.
Once a year, Equality House re-paints itself to commemorate Transgender Remembrance Day. It was during one such re-painting that Jackson was inspired to act.
"When [Avery] saw the house so proudly and visibly painted in the transgender flag colors, she was filled with a new sense of pride," Planting Peace explains on its website.
"I loved the rainbow house when it was painted like the transgender flag," Jackson told the organization. "I felt so happy and proud to be transgender."
Moved by her reaction, Planting Peace recruited Jackson to spearhead a new effort to purchase a second property—one dedicated specifically to the trans community year-round.
Earlier this spring they launched a crowdfunding campaign to purchase the home adjacent to Equality House. "The Equality House has always been a positive, iconic landmark for LGBT people to visit." Avery's mother Debi wrote on the campaign website. "I would love to see a Transgender House embraced the same way—with enthusiasm, love and pride."
It wasn't until developer Martin Dunn stepped up, however, that the Transgender House became a reality. Dunn, who owns his own development company, donated the nearly $70,000 necessary to buy the new property."I have three kids," Dunn told The Huffington Post. "And if one of my children were transgender I would want there to be places that accepted and celebrated them."
I happen to live in a progressive neighborhood and my children go to a school that is open-minded and welcoming of transgender students, but I know that is not the reality for many young people around the country. Like the Equality House before it, a transgender house that makes people feel proud and safe and confident and supported is badly needed. Every city should have one. If an eight-year-old girl can stand up against hate and prejudice, the least we can do is stand behind her.
Because of Dunn's generosity, Planting Peace was able to purchase the property next to their existing Equality House, and on June 26th volunteers painted the building pink, blue, and white—the colors of the Transgender Flag.
On its website, Planting Peace explains that the goal of the house is to "serve as a beacon of love and hope to our transgender family," and "show the world that members of the transgender community deserve to live freely and love freely without fear of discrimination or retribution."
The Westboro Baptist Church responded to its new neighbors on Vine, asking, "What's next, the Bestiality House?"
For people who made their name shoving their message in front of anyone within eyeshot, the WBC seem decidedly less comfortable when the same thing is done to them.
Here's hoping Equality House and Transgender House are just the beginning.