A Letter to the Transgender Community

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you weren’t really on my radar growing up — which maybe isn’t too surprising, given that I was raised in the South, where non-cishet people are still legislated against and regularly shunned, shamed, and even attacked. Many of my family didn’t want to acknowledge that the LGBT community existed at all, and if they did speak of “those people,” it was in angry “Can you believe that disgustingness?” vitriolic tones.

I don’t know why they were angry…my guess is because they were afraid. We fear what we don’t understand, and rather than trying to understand, they resented the people they saw as the cause of their discomfort.

I never really understood that attitude (and caught hell for not sharing their views at times), but I didn’t take pains to further educate myself, either, for many years. Instead, I learned to be quiet — to sit down and shut up.

I’m sorry I have been too passive an ally. No longer.

I apologize, too, if I have inadvertently used the wrong gendered term to refer to you, any of you, at any time. I didn’t know about preferred pronouns until a couple of years ago, and while that may seem like a minor detail to many cisgender folks (because people get it right with them, so they don’t have to think about it), it’s a significant one to me now. People — ALL people — deserve to be spoken to and about in respectful and accurate terms.

I know some of you don’t openly express that you are transgender, and I can definitely see, with all of the misinformation and hostility, why it would be safer not to speak out, to maybe just pass and to not discuss these things or make yourself an example. I’m not sure I would want to speak up about it either if it might mean I’d be attacked, or fired, or denied a place to live because of it. Because of who I was.

Hell, I don’t even reveal that I’m Pagan to most people I know, because they don’t understand (and where I live, being non-Christian can actually be dangerous too — I worry about my beliefs affecting how people treat my children). It’s easier and safer to let them assume I’m Christian, though it hurts to not consistently live this aspect of myself out loud. And gender identity is so much more central to our lives, so inescapable. (I’m not trying to say that my experiences are in any way equivalent here! I chose my beliefs.)

I also know some people who are very vocal about being transgender, who advocate for the community using their own stories and experiences, and I deeply admire them for the depth of courage that must take…to put oneself out there, in a world that is quick to mock, twist, silence, or injure whatever (and whomever) is not generally well-understood or embraced in our societies.

I wanted to thank these vocal people for their courage, for refusing to be silent. And then I became disgusted all over again that courage is necessary for them to be who they are, out loud.

It should not require courage to be one’s true self.

Nobody should be forced to choose between authenticity and safety — not for matters of gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or anything else.

I’m so sorry that, at least currently, this is the choice every transgender person has to make every day. I am resolved to be a better friend and ally to this community, to discuss these things with people who don’t understand and to be a firm voice for change. I will do whatever is in my power to promote your safety and well-being, even if it’s just going with you to a public restroom because you don’t feel safe going alone.

I’ll go with you. I stand with you. And it is my fervent hope that someday we will have a society that embraces all aspects of identity and individuality — that it won’t take courage for my children and their children to be who they truly are, publicly and all the time, no matter who they happen to be.

Thanks for reading.


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