HASTINGS, Minn. — The story of the Waits family in Hastings, Minnesota first aired over the weekend on CNN, and hundreds of thousands of people — if not millions — saw it.
In short, the story is of Kelsey Waits, a Hastings school board member, and how a group of parents who didn't like her politics, outed her 8-year-old transgender child during her bid for re-election to the board last month.
The group's decision to out them crushed that child and their family, leading them to ultimately make the decision to move away from their home in Hastings — but not before they had their story told, their way.
When Chris and Kelsey Waits spoke with KARE 11, it had been four days since CNN first aired their story.
"We made the right decision 100%; we talked about it for months," said Chris.
And when they say we, they mean the two of them — and Kit.
"Just to clarify, before we came forward with our story, we asked Kit for permission. Because, yes, this is a story of parents raising a transgender child, but this is also the story of a transgender child," Kelsey said. "But Kit was willing to let us share the story."
Kit trusted their parents to tell the story, but in order for them to do it, they had to tell Kit why as parents, they felt like they had to.
"We felt like we had a responsibility to use our voice to help those who can't, so that's a big discussion to have with an 8-year-old, but it's also a big discussion to have with an 8-year-old to tell them that they have been the target of hate speech," Kelsey said.
That speech came to Kelsey and Chris uninvited by a group of parents in Hastings, who outed Kit as transgender repeatedly on Facebook, saying their name — calling them names.
"When they were frustrated and angry and said, 'Why do people have to hate me just for existing?' and to hear that, again, from an 8-year-old, is….crushing," Chris said.
Where they are now, under this national spotlight, is oddly in two very real spaces.
"The other day, after this — the story — broke, they apologized to me and they said, 'I am sorry I am broken,'" Kelsey said. "And to see this child, who for four-and-a-half years has been so confident in their identity and themselves, and to know that a group of hateful parents and their comments about my child has made an 8-year-old feel like they are broken, is disgusting," Kelsey said.
But there is also a second, safer space.
"The support that we've seen has been so beautiful," Chris said.
If you looked outside in Hastings Wednesday night, maybe you saw the porch lights illuminated.
"That's the first time that Kit has been willing to look at any of this stuff, and know that people love them. I think it was the hashtag 'I stand with Kit' that made me start crying," Chris said.
And it wasn't just Hastings.
"The majority of them here in Hastings. Then we started looking and there was Florida, California, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Kansas, Nebraska," Chris said.
The Waits family found there was a whole world out there who chose to say to a stranger kid named Kit: We turned the light on for you. You are welcome here.