It’s been a while since I posted. That can be partly blamed on the time of year. School has been wrapping up for both me and the kids. Banquets, parties and exams have dominated the landscape of our calendars. I can also look at the recent tone of social media as a cause of my absence. The conversations, memes, threats and ignorance levied at the transgender community has been frustrating. In truth it’s made me angry. For those of us who wrestle with anxiety and depression, anger is a difficult emotion to manage over a long period of time. So I took some time to take care of me (something else I’m having to get better at these days).
Then I woke up this morning to reminders of something I’ve never truly celebrated: Pride Month.
It was just a very few years ago that “Pride Month” only brought to my mind very tainted images of gay men is rainbow speedos, sporting rainbow afro wigs marching in parades to celebrate their sex lives. I had no other context for understanding the whole of the LGBT community.
Then in the process of affirming my identity, I stumbled head first into that community.
I wasn’t something I chased after. I can remember a month or two after coming forward as a transwoman realizing that I was, in fact, part of that larger community. I had no idea what that meant, but slowly began to understand the importance of celebrating pride as a community. So as we kick off this month, here are a few things that give me pride. I’m speaking for myself, not for the LGBT+ or even the Transgender community, but I’m guessing my many siblings in that extended family will resonate with most if not all of these.
- Pride is the opposite of shame. For way too many years I knew exactly who I was, but due to major cultural stigmas – specifically in the religious communities where I worked and socialized, that knowledge was outweighed by the shame and guilt that came with it. To be authentically me without all the baggage that used to come with it, is reason enough for a little pride.
- These are good people. One of the biggest challenges in affirming my identity and embracing my place in the LGBT community was overcoming my preconception that all gay men were predators and all lesbians were angry, rejected women. As I’ve come to know all aspects of the gender challenging alphabet, I’ve found amazing people. Pastor Mark Wingfield (best known as the baptist pastor who learned 7 things about transgender people) said in a follow up post this week that the trans community as a whole has been more receptive to him than “the Church” has ever been to the trans community. That’s a group of people I can call my own.
- These people have come a long way. Growing up in the Aids scare of the 80’s and the rise of the so called “moral-majority” in faith communities and political circles, I have seen the LGBT community weather some unthinkable storms. In more than a few cases I was on the front lines (the other front lines) of those storms. (Sorry about that – no seriously, sorry about that!) They have faced persecution that the church in America now fears and imagines it is facing, but has never really endured. That’s a legacy that is very American in so many ways. That’s a legacy I’m humbled to inherit, even at this mid-point of life.
- We have a long ways to go. Even as we launch into a month of celebrating, this year especially looking back to last years landmark ruling from the Supreme Court on marriage equality and riding on unprecedented public support from agencies in the current administration, we still have too many issues confronting us to simply sit idly by. We have youth homeless and dying because their families and faith communities feel like they don’t belong, that they have “chosen sin over God”. We have trans of all ages hesitating to do something as simple as use a public restroom out of fear some over zealous father might decide he needs to “protect the women” in his life. I could go on and on. This is an effort I can take pride in moving forward. People staying alive, feeling safe in their own homes and communities, living mentally and emotionally healthy lives is a worthwhile cause regardless of who you understand God to be.
Last night as I stepped out of a restaurant with some friends, there was a bright strong rainbow in the sky. I’m aware that it was there because of the moisture in our Texas air was being hit by a brief break of sunlight in our cloudy skies. But I accepted it as the symbol I’ve always known it to be: a promise of better things to come.
And so I tentatively step back in. Tentative, but with pride. The kind of pride that comes from being who God made me to be without apology or explanation. Whether you identity as a part of the LGBT+ community, as an ally, or simply someone who is starting to “get it” – you’re welcome to join in the festivities.
Start by reaching out to someone in your life who may need to know they are loved.
That would be something to be proud of.