Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

Why I am so Thankful

I am Thankful for two loving daughters who remain in my life, for many transgenders are alienated or prohibited from contact with their children.

I am Thankful for a wonderful spouse who has seen the best and the worst of me, for many transgenders lose their partners and face difficult challenges finding new ones.

I am Thankful for my church which has given me such amazing strength and support, for many transgenders are cast out of their churches or feel unwanted in new ones.

I am Thankful for the many friends who offered continued friendship during my transition, for many transgenders are quickly abandoned by those who profess to be their friends.

I am Thankful for the many new friends I have encountered whose smiles have nurtured my growth, for many transgenders are quickly dismissed, diminished or debased by strangers.

I am Thankful for a solid house over my head, when so many transgenders - especially our youth - have no such shelter.

I am Thankful for my economic security, since many transgenders are terminated from employment and have immense hurdles to leap to obtain adequate, new employment.

I am Thankful for my safety, as this year we added 31 names of transgender souls to those who have been murdered.

I am Thankful for my special sisters with whom there is our unique bond, for many transgenders are in isolation, without support.

I am Thankful for the many caring therapists who helped guide my journey and who helped pick me up when I fell so drastically, for many transgenders have no such counseling or encounter those who believe they can "cure" us.

I am Thankful for the allies who are steadfast in their support and advocacy, for there are those willing to exclude transgender people from full participation in the American experience.

I am Thankful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guide Us to a Place

"The Prayer"

I have been actively involved in the preparation and organization for our local Transgender Day of Remembrance gathering this coming Thursday evening. It is a deeply emotional and solemn task to undertake. As I write, there are now 30 names to remember for this past year. Most murdered simply because that they were different.

This past Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy the fellowship of a Unitarian/Universalist church and had the privilege of addressing the congregation about the violence that transgender people experience - murder only being the at the top of those who trangress against us.

At the service, they read the List of Names and for each I could recall the stories of their tragedies. Angie Zapata - killed for being an "it". Kellie Tellesford - her murder was acquitted using the trans-panic defense. Patrick Murphy and Stacy Brown - two transwomen in two different cities both shot in the head on the same night of violence. Sanesha Stewart - repeatedly stabbed by an attacker who gave police a "trans-panic" excuse. And for all the names, tears for each.

I began to recall a very lovely song, the music composed by Carol Bayer Sager and David Foster with lyrics in English and Italian by Guido Morra. Several versions have been performed, one notably by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, but my favorite is done by Charlotte Church and Josh Groban.

I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we'll be Safe.

I pray we'll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we'll be Safe.

We ask that Life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Just like every child

Needs to find a place
Guide us with your Grace
Give us Faith so we'll be Safe.

I find this song to be incredibly appropriate to the purpose of Transgender Day of Remembrance, especially as it engages my faith journey. Yes, we seek your grace to find a place that's Safe. For these 30 lost souls, there was no Safe.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do I Dare Hope?

What lies ahead?

I will admit listening to President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech and getting a little tearful. It was moving, powerful and optimistic. He stayed true to his overarching message of Hope, and a hope that for many in the transgender community had all but flickered out. I will also admit that I did not vote for him - or any presidential candidate this year - as I have adopted the philosophy that I will not support "promise" only "deed". To that end, I did not find where he had acted on our behalf - with the only exception of the inclusive Matthew Shepard Act.

His stated belief of one man/one woman for marriage - while supporting a "separate but equal" process for gays and lesbians - gave me pause. Just as his reasoning behind that position citing his Faith. This is not a commentary about his former paster, Rev. Jeremiah Wright as I understood and appreciated the fiery minister's declaration of "God Damn America". But his church was not Open and Affirming - the United Church of Christ's formal declaration of embracing LGB and T souls in the congregation. Indeed, Rev. Wright held some views that could be termed homophobic. I've yet to encounter the homophobe who miraculously embraced transgenders.

So I offer up this message to the pending President. You said "Yes We Can". Will you? Yes, we do have Hopes. Our hope is for passage of the Matthew Shepard Act so that we may be safer in our lives. Our hope is for passage of an inclusive ENDA so that we may provide for ourselves and our families. Our hope is for abandonment of the Read I.D. Act so that we may maintain full citizenship rights in this Land of the Free. Our hope is for proper medical insurance coverage and mental health reform so that we may obtain affordable, appropriate physical and emotional care. Our hope is for a leader and a government that honors our dignity, respects our authenticity and desires our talents.

Sorry to say, I won't be holding my breath. First, there are many Democrats still around from the early, heady days of the Clinton presidency. Shortly after assuming office, the Clinton administration, with a Democratically controlled House and Senate, obligingly embarked on a number of liberally minded intiatives - some with some success and some with utter disastrous results. Remember "Hillary's Health Care Plan"? In two short years, the GOP overwhelmed the balance in Congress and we have been paying for that ever since. Until today. It would be politically appropriate for President Obama and the new Congress to adopt a "go slow" approach for some issues. But one of those issues is likely to be Our Hopes.

Second, election results in California, Colorado, Florida, Arizona and some local fights, show that LGB and T issues may still be a bit politically toxic to touch. Thus, there is an additional reason to, perhaps push Our Hopes to the back burner for awhile. And I fully expect the bulk of LGB issues to predominate whatever efforts that are undertaken - specifically the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (thank you Mr. Clinton!) and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (again, thanks Bill). After the ENDA betrayal in 2007, you think Our Hopes will even remain on the back burner - or, once again, get shoved under the bus?

I will remain hopeful, for a loss of hope leads to despair. But I will be realistic in my expectations as well, for hope that is betrayed is even worse. The next step will be action, not the offer of more "hope". Yes you Do.