So, I’ve been blogging for the Upper Delaware GLBT Center as part of my internship and unfortunately today I had to blog about something very disconcerting regarding one of our trans-members. I strongly urge all my followers to read the article in the link provided and commit to holding Daniel Tosh accountable for this transphobic episode.
I’ve always believed in magic. The kind of magic that allowed a little Spanish woman from Honduras, my grandmother, to divorce her ogre of a husband and single-handedly raise two daughters on a seamstress’ income in the United States of the 1970’s, despite only knowing limited conversational English.
I believe in the magic of making something from nothing, just as my grandmother did when she stretched each dollar to ensure that her two princesses were always well-educated, impeccably groomed and treated to those mainstays of American culture…ice cream, movie outings and hamburgers, every once in awhile.
I believe in the magic of supplication. Of asking for help and summoning assistance…be it from God…or one’s family…or one’s own inner reservoirs of untapped fortitude in order to endure the otherwise unendurable. I believe in the magic of family that supports one another in those times of great need, like my grand-uncle helped his sister those many years ago.
I believe in the magic of time travel, for when my grandmother tells me of those days, the past comes alive and through the windows of her eyes I can see every tear, every fear…every unyielding hope that brought her from there to here. I make that journey with her and know that magic exists.
I believe in the magic of filling a grandchild’s Paterson-poor holidays with a treasure trove of toys bought through scrimping, saving and layaway plans. In the magic of multicolored lights, popcorn tins, a glazed ham in the oven and the symphonic strains of friends and family swirling throughout the living room of a tiny third story apartment, stretching it beyond its limits and, for that day, transforming it into the grandest of palaces.
I believe in the magic of inheritance. For that same woman’s magical strength of will has been passed down from mother to daughter to me. I believe in the magic of the undying dream, which resulted in a much sought-after home for my mother and a much sought-after son for my aunt. I believe in the magic of the seemingly impossible and the magic of transmutation, for I became what I ought to have been through the same magic that’s swelled through the veins of three generations of my family’s women.
I believe in the magic of recording this for posterity’s sake, so that this magic never disappears from the world. I believe in the magic of sharing and the way that sharing can make ideas flourish and spread like ivy…so I share this fable, born of magic but grounded in truth with any and all who will listen. I share this magic with you.
Family is a wonderful thing. And I don’t mean exclusively blood-related family, but that sense of community and “you can count on me” that you get from a group you consider yourself to be a part of, be it comprised of relatives, friends or any other type of person.
But, as transpeople, can we always count on our families to be there? The harsh reality is that we can’t. Many of us live in fear of our families. Still others, like myself, have faced disappointing attitudes despite being from tightly-knit families that otherwise have had no significant problems.
When I first began my transition, my grandmother wanted to have me visited by a pastor because she thought I was insane and her antiquated solution was to drive that insanity from me through spiritual warfare, which to me, seemed much crazier than anything I was doing. The real obstacle was a lack of understanding and dialogue. But sometimes, despite numerous attempts at fostering that kind of open dialogue, there will be people who are unwilling to or are not yet ready to listen. That kind of stone-cold silence can breed a resentment in both parties that ofttimes isn’t easy to shake. People don’t remember words or actions, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. Still, it’s important to let go of resentment eventually. It’s fine to be angry, and in our situations we need to allow ourselves the benefit of being mad, but it’s equally important to not stay angry the rest of our lives. For me, my anger was channelled through isolation and self-improvement. I’d read, do exercise, watch old films, study how-to videos. My only ally in those days was my mother. As is so often the case, family can be a double-edged sword. Some members will protect you through thick and thin, while others can’t wait to cut you down.
I am blessed to say that I had the benefit of a truly loving mother, whose compassion and empathy saw me through those days of isolation. Some might say that isolation was self-imposed, and in a sense, it was, though it’s also true that I was driven to it. From my own experiences, I can say that isolating yourself is one of the best things you can do in these situations. Walking away gives both parties time to reflect and examine their own biases. It always helps to have friends who understand, but not everyone has that luxury. And during a transition one really needs to rediscover oneself as one’s own BEST friend. Whatever you do, don’t let your anger drive you to self-destruction. So often in our community, we resort to drugs and alcohol and other vices that will only hinder our chances at a successful transition and mar us forever.
During my transition I recall another family member’s attitude. How she told me she didn’t want me to come over her house dressed as a female because I ran the risk of confusing her two year old regarding gender identity. So I stopped going to her house, there was no compromise. And I think it’s important, that we as transfolk, establish not only a firm identity as our true selves, but also a firm sense of what we are and are not willing to compromise. Understanding is great, but only when it’s reciprocal. Sometimes, this will entail conflict and accusations of being selfish. Guess what? That’s okay. It’s alright to be selfish. This is something that’s taken me years to realize, sacrificing yourself doesn’t gain you anything, it doesn’t make you noble, it makes you a puppet, controlled by the whims of others. As a transperson, you’re your own ally and advocate. Fight for your right to exist, without apology and without excuse. The people who truly love you just may come around eventually. But they may not. And learning to live without them is a harsh reality that one just may have to accept.
In my own case, they did luckily “come around,” but I realize it’s not so simple for other transpeople and my heart goes out to you. It’s never easy, but know that you are worth it. There’s only one life and its yours! Whether family ties are meant to be double-knotted or unravel themselves completely, depends not upon you, but on them and the place they’re in emotionally. The inherent urge for freedom is never an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such…but hatred, bigotry, fear…those are very real illnesses and we shouldn’t let them infect, control or hold us back from achieving our own dreams and strengthening the most important tie we have…to our souls and to our selves.
A sea of primaries
Swells the city-streets
Narrow canals – blazing blue, roaring red, yelping yellow
Streamers and floats
Too proud not to gloat
And today at least, that’s okay
Flaunting and flouncing
Bouncing higher than sky-bound balloons
I march and I step
Pound the black pavement
On three-inch heels
Fanning myself in fawning frenzy
Dainty as a Chinese maid
As the road we traverse
Simmers and the sunbeams burst
My fanning picks up steam
I’m a monsoon now,
Riding a wave under the pyramidal slopes
Of my scarlet paper parasol
United under this umbrella
Vivid with verve,
Livid with nerve
Shielded from the reverb
Of those who don’t quite ‘get’
Folk who bleed rainbows
Folk who weep wonder
Bear becomes brethren,
Trans becomes trooper,
Nudist becomes neighbor,
Pride becomes all…
Together we walk, over and under,
The brightest umbrella
On a day without rain