The Mourning After
Moving On After ENDA - Today and tomorrow and beyond

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I cannot accept;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace....

            -- The Serenity Prayer


I remember waking up to headlines of Republican Presidential victories these past two elections and wasn't sure if I should get on with my day or start planning a future in Australia or Canada.  The promise of new leadership that would finally be empathetic to the needs of marginalized communities that had seemed so tantalizingly close in the weeks and months leading up to the election proved to be little more than a mirage, and the prospect of 4 more years of the same seemed almost too much to bear.

I attended four Super Bowls as a Buffalo Bills fan and know what it's like to dare to dream that perhaps this is the year, and ultimately trudging out of the stadium emotionally spent, with a heavy heart, and with shattered hopes - already looking forward to the the glimmer of hope that "maybe next year" affords. 

I remember seeing my niece, Kyrie, who was born without the ability to make a single noise - she cried silent tears, unable to swallow, to talk, to eat, as she struggle for life in the NICU shortly after she was born.  The effort of surviving each day simply led to questions about the kind of life she'd be able to live, and how could the fates have been so cruel to this innocent little girl.  It's important to keep things in perspective.

Today is like that.  I woke up after the battle of the last several weeks over ENDA and lay there for a few minutes wondering if it had all been a dream.  All the energy, the hope, the sadness, the anger, the frustration had formed itself into a tight emotional ball that had finally been thrown against a wall and hit the floor yesterday.  Now, it's done.  People somewhere are celebrating what they think they have gained.  People somewhere are as heavy-hearted as I am right now.  People somewhere are dealing with anger and despair over the betrayals of these past few weeks.  And the question pops into my head is, "What now?"

This entire thing has changed me.  It has changed me in ways perhaps too deep and profound to articulate in words.  To see the Machiavellian ruthlessness of "friends" in action has truly been a shocker to me.  The sadness of watching the bridges that have slowly been built, brick by brick, torn down is matched only by the helplessness of knowing that nothing you do or say can change what has happened.  The past is the past, it is done, it cannot be changed and the sooner any of us comes to peace with that the more productive we can be today and tomorrow.   But at the same time, learning from the past is simply part of approaching today and tomorrow in a smarter way.  That's life.

I feel victimized today.  I do.  For someone like me who has perhaps never felt that way it is certainly a new emotion and we're getting to know each other at the moment.  It's an uneasy relationship in that I suspect this emotion has always been here - I just haven't allowed myself to acknowledge her.  At the moment there's no denying her, so she's there with other familiar faces: disappointment, sadness, frustration.  Oh, and hope.  Hope is there too.  She's just sitting in a corner waiting for her turn to shine.

It is that single emotion - Hope - that needs to guide us.  To allow ourselves to be choked by the others would certainly be easy to do because so many of us are feeling like that but what good is that?  It's like barking at the moon.  Or spitting in the wind.  Or cutting your nose off to spite your face.  Each of us needs to get that out of our systems, but we need to do it in ways that are productive not ways that will ultimately spawn more hurt.  There has been more than enough of that to go around lately.

I feel betrayed.  Friends have put a knife between my shoulders that's very uncomfortable for me right now.  Maybe people get used to it.  I hope I never do.  My greatest fear in all of this is that many of my more naive notions about friendship, support, community, trust, and justice seemed vulnerable in light of what I was seeing and how I was feeling.  And as I take stock of my wide array of feelings and beliefs today I'm as relieved as I am happy to acknowledge that they're all still there - a bit bruised and tattered but still there.  I refuse to allow myself to lose that and become hardened to the realities of life.  I'll disappear before that ever happens - I assure you.

When I think about why I'm feeling this symphony of emotion right now I suppose it all comes down to the word Passion.  It's because I care.  Perhaps I care too much (if there is such a thing).  But it's because I DO care that it's imperative to derive the good from what has happened, to learn from the bad, and to move on.  That's what people have done for centuries, and it's the essence of that magical thing we call the "human spirit".  It endures.  It finds a way to continue.  It's resilient and creative and inspirational.  It's like coming back to a neighborhood that has been underwater from Katrina, or a home in San Diego that has been burned to the ground.  What options are there?  The human spirit will find a way to make it through today, and tomorrow, and the next day.  It will rebuild.  And so, too, will we.

This morning the people who love me still love me.  My mom, my brother and sister and their families.  My dear friends.  This morning I still have my health.  I'm still living a dream I never dared imagine.  I'm feeling emotions that help me feel alive.  I have hope for tomorrow.  So, all things considered, when you put things in perspective you can't really mourn or too long.  There's too much work to be done. 

So, back to my original question.  "What Now?"

I firmly believe that the transgender community has seized the moral high ground right now and needs to keep it.  It cannot allow itself to become spiteful, petulant, undignified, or shameful.  We are right, and others know it.  All that anger and frustration we're feeling needs to be focused in productive ways.  The need has never been greater for education, and doors are open today that have never been open to us before.  We need to walk through those doors with dignity, with our heads held high, and speak articulately and passionately.  We need to walk through them together with our friends and allies because, really, we're not alone.  We ARE a community now, not a baby community but an adult community that has matured to the point that it needs to act accordingly. 

Leaders need to lead.  People with passion need to focus their energy.  People with hope need to share their hope with others who have lost theirs.  People with anger and frustration need to get it out before getting back in the game.  And then, we need to move forward towards a common goal of full Equality for all.  LEAVING NOBODY BEHIND.

 Nobody said this would be easy.  I sometimes joke that if being transgender were easy everyone would do it.  But it's not.  Generations past never had the hope that we do, the promise we do, the opportunities that we do, and the obligations for future generations of us that we do.  There is huge responsibility sitting on our shoulders right now and what we do and how we behave will truly be a test of our character.  None of us can afford to let ourselves sink to the levels that others have sunk over these past few weeks.  Indeed, we need to rise above it as that's the only way to move forward. 

I have some dear friends and we often talk about faith and spirituality.  One thing they did, which I found to be very productive, was to sit down and compose something titled a "Statement of Faith".  It highlights what they really believe - not what they think they're supposed to believe or what others tell them to believe - but what they really believe deep down to their soul.  It's a very personal thing, and sharing it does not come easily because to share it is to expose some deeper parts of yourself.

I have developed my own Statement of Faith: 

"I believe that each of us is here for a purpose.  Each of us can choose to find and do that purpose; it will not happen by itself. 
I will do what I can, with what I have, with dignity and humanity, to make life better, for as long as I can." 


Short and sweet.  It's simple.  There aren't any extra words there.  It embodies how I feel. 

I can't speak for anyone else.  I can only speak for me. Those words give me comfort today.  So as I collect my bruised emotions and re-assess my priorities these things will guide me. 

What does that mean for today?  It means there will be a tomorrow.  It means we need to keep things in perspective and appreciate the fact that we have friends, and a future, and hope.  It means we need to dream of a world where all are treated equally and commit ourselves to making that happen in whatever way we can.  And, more than anything, it means that we need to have faith in ourselves and in others.  That's the definition of the word "community".

We have learned much about our friends, and about those who say they are our friends.  We have learned much about ourselves, as a community and as individuals.  We have learned much about the challenges we face so that next time we can face them being better prepared.  And, know this, there WILL be a next time.  And we will be there for as long as it takes.

What can each of us do?  Read the Serenity Prayer.  Live it.  Embody it. If we don't like the way things are - we need to change them.  I have said before that there are times that each of us needs to prove that we truly believe the things we say we believe.  This is one of those times.  That is the foundation of character. 

I have seen emails from people demonizing HRC and Democratic Leadership for what has happened.  I have seen emails calling for an all-out war, as though that was productive or even possible.  I understand all of these emotions and I appreciate the need to vent.  However, I think restraint is the order of the day right now.  I question whether that best serves our long-term needs.  There will always be tomorrow.

Time is on our side.  A day will come - hopefully in our lifetimes - when we'll wake up after a day like yesterday and we won't feel abandoned.  We won't feel disappointment, and hurt, and betrayal, and disillusioned.  Instead, we'll feel embraced and supported and appreciated.  It will be a true celebration where we're not forced to search for bright spots amid the debris of sadness.  For me, that's a day to work for knowing that how we get there is just as important as getting there.  

Until then, my mom and my family will continue to love me, my community will continue to be part of who and what I am, and faith will continue to light my way.  Today, tomorrow, and beyond. 


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