Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Transgender Warrior

Self portrait of Leslie Feinberg.
As most everyone in the community knows by now, one of our elders has moved on from this plane of existence. This past Saturday, Leslie Feinberg passed away. The Advocate published the obituary that was written by Leslie's wife, Minnie Bruce Pratt, while at Leslie's bedside. (I will use the pronouns they used in the obituary.) Please take a moment to read it if you aren't familiar with Leslie and her work.

I'm a bit taken aback by just how much this loss has affected me and am still reeling from the news. In a state of denial, almost. Rationally, I know she has been battling Lyme disease and the co-infections that came with that battle, I know she's been suffering and that this would be the inevitable end but my brain is having such a difficult time wrapping itself around the news.

I hadn't ever met her, yet, I feel as though I've lost a family member. Yesterday morning, as I watched a video of her speaking at Sonoma State University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaRF0Ohb1mg), the tears welled up and poured down my cheeks. As I let the grief out, my rational side was having a difficult time understanding why I felt so sad by this loss. I think I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it but I know it's partly about the passing of someone who paved the way for me to live in this world. To live in this world as my authentic, butch self.

Reading her book, Stone Butch Blues, for the first time in 2010 was the beginning of a turning point for me. It was then that I began to find where I fit in this community, in this world. It was the beginning of finding me, of launching a photo project and feeling less alone in the world. That book, her words, made a huge impact on my life.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

I will always remember how her words made me feel. Valid. Brave. Strong. Seen.

Rest in peace, Transgender Warrior.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Choosing Love & Authenticity


A few days ago I had a very surprising conversation with my step-Father. He was telling me about how little he hears from my son and how he'd like to hear more from him because he feels he doesn't really know him when suddenly he's telling me how he doesn't have a problem with the gay thing but that he had wished my son and I would have chosen to be straight.

I wish I could remember, word for word, some of the things he said so I could quote him here but I was too shocked and a bit stunned to be having that conversation with him. I get where he was going with it, or trying to at least. I believe he was trying to say, in a very awkward and uncomfortable way, that he does love us and wants to hear from us.

But, the way he was trying to explain it was hurtful. His perspective comes from a very conservative, right winged kind of life. According to him, my son and I and everyone else who is gay chose to be gay. According to him we could have chosen to live a straight life, which, also according to him, would have been an easier life to live.

The major problem with this “thinking” is that it isn't thinking at all. I didn't chose to be gay anymore than he chose to be straight. Being gay is who I am, it's my authentic self. Imagine if I chose to deny who I am and lived a straight life. It would not only affect me on a deep, soul scaring level but it would also affect the person I was living that straight life with, his family, my family and anyone who I may have created from that straight life. I would be living a lie every single moment of every single day and that lie would rip me to shreds on the inside, finding ugly ways to manifest on the outside and harming everyone around me in some way on a very deep psychological level.

The denial would turn into self hatred and that hatred would eventually kill me. I've seen it happen over and over again to those who chose to live a life that isn't authentic to their true selves.

This isn't a perspective he totally understands. I'm not even sure he hears me when I try to explain it to him and having this conversation with him makes me feel like he believes something is wrong with me and my son.

There is nothing wrong with me or my son. He is gay. I am gay. It's just a part of who we are. The rest of our lives are just like everyone else's. We get up, we go to work, we pay our bills and our taxes, we are contributing members of this society, we have dreams and goals, we love and we are loved. Our lives don't look any different then his. We don't live a secret life that heterosexual people don't know about. Our relationships have the same highs and lows.

Yes, there are lots of people in this world who hate us simply because we're gay. But, honestly, their hatred is not my problem. It's their problem and it's something they have to live with and carry around with them. I choose to live my life authentically, to be true to who I am and to love.

I choose love and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.