In Honor of PRIDE
I recently watched Disclosure, a documentary about people who are transgender. In it, there’s a statistic that reads “80% of people (Americans? I can’t remember) do not know a transgender person. This took me by surprise, as I actually know quite a few. Upon reflection, I realized thought, that this statistic makes sense.
Remember 15 or so years ago, when gayness was the thing where nobody knew anybody? Where that was the new topic people were exploring? Back then, at least for me, once I met one person who was gay, I suddenly knew lots of gay people. I had the honor of working alongside 4 gay women in my first job out of college. It made being gay less weird or cliche or hard to understand, because I had face to face human interaction with real people who experienced problems just like I did. I learned from them. I saw their beauty. They became no longer “other” and just became a regular human like me. Like you. They became my friends and the people I confided in. They became the people I grew to love very deeply. My memories of working in that office are so clear, because I remember how transformative it was for me. How much it shaped my worldview. How it opened my eyes to see what I’d been missing, and opened my heart to more love.
My story with transgender folks is similar. I remember the first time I met a trans woman. I was at a yoga class in San Francisco. My friend Tara said, “You have to meet Michelle!” I remember meeting her and distinctly thinking, “I think this woman was once a man,” and looking a little too obviously to see if there was an Adam’s apple and probably starting a bit too long. Michelle was uber gracious with me, whether she noticed or not, though like it or not I’m sure she was used to being stared at at that point. (sorry Michelle- I had/still have- a lot to learn!)
I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember practicing next to her. Hearing her breath. Seeing her move in her body. Watching her smile. Feeling connected to her. I was so fascinated by this woman and the fact that she was in a yoga space! It opened this little sliver of light into a new doorway for me… the world of transgender. And then, very similar to my experience meeting and interacting with gay women, I began to know and see more transgender people come across my path and into my life. Our good friends got a divorce and became who she was always meant to be: Violet, who 5 (6?) years later is a thriving beautiful woman. My friend’s partner left her and owned her true identity as a woman. My friend found out she'd really had a sister all those years. It was no longer weird or abnormal for me to see or know transgender people.
With Michelle, especially, even after I left San Francisco, I began to follow her posts over Facebook. Her transparent writing about her transgender-ness, about the struggle she has been through (and continues to go through) tugged on my heart strings. I could feel her vulnerability and her heart in her writing. She opened up a whole new world to me and once again, my world view was expanded. Once again, my heart found more room to love.
I am so grateful for both of these life circumstances that provided me the opportunity to see people as people, no matter their gender, no matter who they loved or what they looked like. I’m thankful for the ways they shaped who I am and who I choose to advocate and fight for. I’m thankful for the ways they speak out about their issues with courage, boldness and tenacity. And so, to bring it full circle back to that statistic, I am saddened.
My life has been SO enhanced by knowing and being in relationship with people who are quote “different” from me. People who think differently, who challenge status quo thinking, who choose to live their truth even if it’s not pretty enough or good enough for some people. I would not be who I am without these women. It pains me to know that so many people in this country have no idea and still see so many gays and transgender people as “other.” How do we shift this paradigm? How do we change the story? How do we help people meet each other, so they can see just how much we all have in common, rather than such small differences? I don’t have an answer. All I know right now is, I’m thinking and listening and leaning in. I’m learning all I can possibly learn. I’m taking information in and I’m sitting with it. Reflecting. Taking time before I speak. Choosing to be less impulsive.
I’ve felt this stirring within me lately. It feels like love. Big, bold, outrageous love. For all people. And I’m seeing all the places I choose to withhold that love because I see someone as “other.” Not just gay or transgender, but the person who I judge as overweight at the grocery store. or the "asshole driver " who must be a tourist visiting our town. The high schooler in the gym whose voice annoys me. The person who posts views different than mine of Facebook. I'm starting to see just how connected I am to everybody. How connected we are to each other. My teacher Baron said it the other day. "We are all connected to each other, whether we like it or not!" We are WAY more alike than different, so why is it then, that we choose to only see the differences? When did it get this way? When did we choose to stop seeing each other as beautiful, broken human beings? When it did it all become so political?
My husband Tim and I were talking the other night about the importance of real. Human. Connection. Especially in a time right now, how there is just something about interacting with someone face to face that has the power to change anything. It’s like all this online dating- it’s easier to break up with someone over the internet and not think about it because you don’t have to stare the person in the eye- it’s easier to avoid the problem when it’s not looking at you. Just like it’s easy to avoid talking about gender issues and who loves who if we choose not to see or talk to or interact with those people.
I've since moved from San Francisco and Seattle, both mainly liberal places, to a small conservative town. I see how people are treated here. I see the abuse of Hispanics and people of color in the orchard setting. I hear comments about being “locked and loaded and ready with our guns.” I hear the things said about our being involved in a Black Lives Matter Protest. There’s a lot of “old politics” and “it’s always been done this way” thinking. And it’s time to upgrade that. It’s time to start disrupting business as usual. It’s time to start opening our hearts to more love. More human connection. More listening. I’m ready to start. I don’t know yet what it looks like, but I know something big is on the horizon. I know big change is coming. And I can’t wait to be a part of it.