Although I find the origins of this holiday as utterly disgusting as the next girl (colonization, genocide, lest we forget, against the many and diverse tribes of what we grouped together under the generalizing and problematic term “Native Americans”), I nevertheless find the annual opportunity to step back and recognize the good to be a good and healing one.
For me, and I suspect for many of you, the daily doldrums (the stresses, repetitions, world-shattering problems we forget about once they’ve passed) too often enrapture me in their seductive embrace, such that anything outside of this moment, hour, day, even week or month, maybe even year but definitely not beyond—anything bigger, anything more important—flies skyward into the unseen ether, becoming invisible.
And lately, the big things I have actually remembered haven’t been good ones: following first the Trans Day of Remembrance and then the Ferguson decision (more on that soon), there has been this overwhelming sense of the vast majority (or at least those in power) not caring remotely about the rest of us, minorities, those of us closer to the ground. Which terrifies me and saps the fight right out of me: I could write the best blog ever, I could perform poetry in the most prestigious of competitions, I could produce my plays and thus change people’s lives, but what would it matter? If even after all of that I go walking down the street one night and pass someone who instead of what makes me sees something less than human, and kills it, what good have I done? Which I guess is a call to do as much as I can while I am here, to leave behind the best legacy possible, but it isn’t a thought that gives me much hope.
Which is how last night, en route to a gathering of old friends, I began making a list as I drove: Things They Can’t Take Away From Me. It is not a long list, but a good one. It goes like this.
- Relationships. Fortunately for me, embodying my transgender identity did not necessitate a forgoing of my blood family, when for many transgender people it does. But I have other families too: my friends, my transgender and queer siblings, my lovers (past and future).
- Knowledge. As I have written about before, whenever it is not possible to disclose a queer and/or trans identity to someone—usually for safety’s sake—it is frequently a demeaning experience: denying an integral part of ourselves that has already taken a long enough time to materialize in our thoughts and in our bodies. However, the most important person who can know already does, that person being each of us in such situations. So despite the erasures and impossibilities, we are still here, and we know who we are, and there is a dignity in that.
- Dignity. Look at a transwoman of color—easily one of the hardest lives to lead on this planet—who makes her living in sex work, as many must, and do you not see her dignity? Do you not see that regardless of the hardships her identity has brought upon her, she knows who she is and has made that knowing real?
I got to my friend’s house, feeling a little more hopeful but still pretty down. And as the night wore on, with memories of things that have already grown distant and laughter at what has not changed and conversation over what has, it made all the doldrummy shit seem so stupid and small, and I was glad to be there, and happy, with friends, and thankful for what I still had.