Privilege, especially white, cis-male privilege, within the LGBTQIA+ community is a topic that needs ALL of the attention. We’ve lost at least 11 of our trans sisters of color in 2019 so far. The fact that I even have to say “so far…” my heart hurts. This kind of behavior at The Stonewall Inn is just beyond ignorant and disrespectful. Trans women of color are the reason you get to party at Stonewall – ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UPRISING, mind you – while doing whatever for the gram and social media. Some of us in the community need to do much better. MUCH, better. Shout-out to The Read for reading all of you on their show and for alerting me of this story.
On the 51st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., I want to remember one of my favorite quotes.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
Remember the love. We all have our faults, differences, and lessons to learn. Listen to each other. Love each other. Be kind to each other.
If you’ve ever been in an accident, you know about that moment pre-impact when your body naturally tenses up in response to the impending collision. That feeling, when everything is moving in slow motion, and your head is filled with alternative scenarios and “what have I done?” – THAT is the feeling within me that has slowly been building under pressure since the late hours of November 8th.
Today, the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, that same question is blasting repeatedly in my mind: “What have I done? What have WE done?” Last night, as I was lamenting my lack of participation in the Women’s March on Washington, my husband looked at me and said “Well, no worries. We voted. We tried.” It’s true. I voted. I voted for Hillary. What more could I have done? Where did we go wrong? And then the flood came…
I remembered being very young, sitting in the dressing room with my mother as she tried on dress after dress after dress. She was looking in the mirror, grabbing at bits of flesh, desperately trying to rearrange her post-partum body, half-heartedly “joking” (was it a joke?) that I was to blame for her stretch marks and her size 12 pants. She used words like “fat”, “ugly”, and “cellulite” over and over again. I’d thought she was beautiful. Was she not beautiful? Was I mistaken? Was I also fat and ugly?
I remembered my first interactions with bullies. A boy in 4th grade said I sounded like a boy. In the 7th, I was intentionally tripped during the mile-run in gym class because it took me too long. In 9th grade I was “too fat” for shorts and the line of sweat running down my back was pointed out in class after I’d raced to make it before the bell. The snickers in band class when someone whispered that the way my hair fell made me look like the head of a penis. Being dumped for another girl who would “look better naked while sprawled across the hood of a car.” Being called a “slut” for the first time.
I remembered my escape to college, where I’d hoped things would most certainly change for me. The sexual assault in my dorm room, being held face down on my college-issued dorm mattress, inhaling those who had slept soundly on it before me, silently paused for perhaps my one and only prayer, my roommate ignoring what was happening.
I remembered waking up in the middle of the night, next to my ex-boyfriend, who was trying to pull my panties down without waking me. Pretending to be asleep so I could see just how far he would go. Feeling the violation and realizing it was not going to end with just touching. “Waking up”. Being told I’d pulled them down myself. That same man later distributing a naked photo to his friends, MY friends, our mutual friends…strangers…for the purpose of shaming me. Only much later, being informed of the picture’s existence by an acquaintance.
I remembered, after giving birth to my son, and experiencing a very rare post-partum stroke, my life hanging by a thread, being asked if I’d “lost the weight”. Having to use the stroke as an explanation for why I still look like this.
I remembered that despite all of these things, I had managed to chug along. But most of all, I remembered not saying a word.
The harsh reality is, my plight is not unique. Many women have similar stories to share. It isn’t even unique to my race, sex or gender. But somehow, SOMEHOW, it’s over-looked and ignored. Those who commit such atrocities against us are glorified. In high school, they were popular. In the workplace, they are viewed as “go-getters”, “strong”…even presidential. I wanted desperately to believe that once the people heard about Trump’s disregard for women, the LGBTQ community and minorities, there would be some pause. On November 9th, I cried because again, I felt the burden of my biological form.
Throughout my life, I did not get to decide what happened to my body. Feeling good about myself was not an option. I was defined by my image.
When my husband told me I’d done what I could…that I’d tried because I voted, I became angry. Angry because I realized that by not saying anything, I’d contributed to the problem. I’d taken the blame, fully, and unequivocally. But nothing that happened was my fault, and the only person in control of my body is me.
Believe it or not, the collision has not yet come. We are losing our access to contraceptives, we are losing our reproductive rights, we are losing our right to breastfeed and the resources that are currently in place to protect it, we are still making less than our male counterparts, and there will be federal tax cuts to organizations focused on preventing violence against women. But we need not and should not simply brace for impact. The time for action is now. March! If you cannot march, donate! If you cannot donate, volunteer! If you cannot volunteer, share! And if you cannot share, at the very least, please listen.
And always remember, you are not alone.
One Nasty Woman
Flickr / Gage SkidmoreOne thing I’ve noticed since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States is that most people don’t understand how national marriage equality came to pass in the United States, nor do they have an understanding of how it could be threatened. On one hand, there is a large…
I feel gutted, completely heartbroken. Last night I quietly cried myself to attempted-sleep, but self-preservation readied me for flight or fright. I clenched my jaw, balled up my fists and tried, unsuccessfully, not to focus on the bile bubbling up. I tried to relax into my husband’s warm embrace, which usually makes me feel safe,…
And so it begins.
I remember when I came out to my dad in the fall of 2005. “Well, now you have two strikes against you. “You’re black, AND you’re gay.” At the time I didn’t quite know how to process those words. I knew exactly what my dad meant, but chose to live life not letting those two traits define my whole being. “Challenge accepted” was the tone of my internal promise to myself as I said goodbye to my dad for while, and welcomed my new life as an out gay man.
Race and sexuality were two areas of life I’ve always navigated well. After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, I’m feeling extremely heavy – weighed down by sadness, truths, and the pressure to persevere. As if the gravity of Black Lives Matter’s tragedies and struggles weren’t enough, I’m now faced with the task of processing my feelings as a gay man of color in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.
My father’s words seem to haunt me as I move through life. First the slew of wrongful deaths in the Black community by the hands of police, and now the senseless mass murder of fifty poor souls – most of which were Latino – at an LGBT safe haven.
Living as a double minority brings a natural awareness in day-to-day life. I sense my responsibility to face these ghosts, and to figure out how to move forward in learning and growth. What do we do with tragedy of this magnitude? Just when we as a community thought we could breathe a little, a massive undertaking at Pulse Nightclub shakes us back to reality.
“You’re black, and you’re gay.” I can’t let these words fade away only to resurface and taunt me later down the road…
The four of us sat in a group at the front of the funeral hall. It was visitation for my husband’s late grandmother, Mae, who’d passed peacefully at her nursing home a few days earlier. The mood was somber, tense, and was haunted by all the happy memories Grandma Mae had left behind. I’d only met her a couple of times, but those moments were enough. “…and this is my husband, Jamal.” There was a power in that introduction, and because of it, I’ll never forget those first few minutes of meeting Grandma Mae. My husband and I had been together almost four years, and I’d never heard anyone from his side of the family refer to me as “husband.”
Time and small talk took a moment, as my husband’s mother and father approached. “Come meet the kids! You remember David, and his wife Alice…” His mother continued with a smile. “…and our youngest, Stanley, and his friend from school, Jamal.” I smiled, gave a polite nod to the cheerful strangers, and felt phantom burning around my wedding band. I’d come to expect this introduction in any situation that involved meeting friends of my parent-in-laws. In the past I’d let it slide – chalking it up to their old school ways, and not really knowing how to introduce their son’s husband to familiar faces – but this time, the word “friend” really got me thinking.
I wondered why being referred to as “friend” was bothering me now. To villainize my in-laws is not my intention. The number of favors and help they’ve provided my husband and I, is beyond anything I could ever imagine for us in any time of need. Was I being introduced this way as some subtle form of protection? Is the term “husband” one that is uncomfortable for them in uncharted social territory? I still don’t have the answer to those questions, and they’ve haunted my curiosity ever since.
Looking into warm, honey-toasted eyes, I witness an endless scrolling of scenes from our relationship in movie montage form. I’m not sure if he notices when I drift away in my thoughts; stealing every little moment he presents at any given moment. I devour each morsel with subtle excitement. If only he could see himself, and enjoy his “isms” with me. “What?” He’s caught me looking and privately chuckling. “Oh, nothing…” I skip past the television, doing my best not to interrupt his round of whatever he’s playing on the Xbox One. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. He always finds a way to catch my attention, and keeps me on my toes; even when he is unaware or doesn’t mean to do so. It’s the rage he conjures when a video game isn’t going his way. It’s the look on his face when he’s paying attention to every word coming out of my mouth. It’s his curiosity when he asks me if the outfit he put together looks good, and if the shoes he selected will match. I’m often reminded of, or discover, the ingredients that make up S. Like a good gumbo, these ingredients may change or vary, and like a good gumbo, the recipe only gets better and better as the time passes.