When I came out as gay, I came out loudly, with all my heart and soul, with passion and vigilance and a swift angry dismissal of anyone who could not or would not immediately accept me.
For me, coming out was like going from 2-dimensional to 3-D. All the shapes and all the colors jumped out at me, and I wanted to know them ALL. Of course, I was just entering my twenties, too, which made everything feel vivid and big and shocking and deep.
[I’ll get to the point here in just a moment – I promise.]
I got involved right away with a group of LGBT people pushing for better policy – like employment protections, AIDS drugs and research accessibility, public accommodations and gender neutral bathrooms – and although 25 years later, I’ve lost sight of what the issue was, why we had gathered or where we were this one specific day, I do remember vividly having a conversation with another activist, a transwoman who had started her own organization. I remember standing next to her in a crowd, and we were talking about our lives in a warm and friendly way – not too surface, not too deep – when I asked: “When did you become a woman?”
She turned her head and looked me in the eye. She didn’t seem angry. I saw only compassion, warmth, a touch of fatigue, an undercurrent of sadness. She may have even touched my shoulder as she said, “Honey, I have always been a girl.”
That moment has stayed with me – her generosity, her simple statement with so many implications that my head nearly exploded, her compassion with me as a young activist whose question might have drawn daggers from someone else (from me, were our roles reversed), her poise, her uncomplicated response.
I understood then that her truth was simple. It is the rest of us (still) who need to catch-up, who need to listen – not only for her, not only as allies – but for ourselves.
Mind blown, I never asked anyone that question again.
Honey, I have always been a girl.
The truth is, I make plenty of mistakes as an ally, as a person, whatever, as a human being, and I’ll share more here another day, but for now, I’ll say that being an ally comes down to empathy: Making friends, listening, reading, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes … and then doing what must be done, with all the gifts we possess in the moment.
Two women I’ve met through Listen to Your Mother, Meggan and Pamela, asked for allies to join the chorus this year on Transgender Day of Visibility – Meggan and Pamela, whose vision, visibility, presence and activism is hearty and inspiring.
Let’s celebrate. Let’s agitate. Let’s listen. Let’s speak out. As much as we can. Let’s be.