To say it’s been quite a week is probably the understatement of the year. While I know I may have readers from many different backgrounds and points of view, I am going to be writing about my own experiences this week. I have grave concerns about what Donald Trump’s presidency will mean for the marginalized populations with whom I work and for whom I advocate. I have concerns about what his presidency will mean for me as a woman, a woman with a disability, and a woman with a mental illness. I am concerned about his financial policies and what they will mean for me as an independent contractor. The purpose of this blog entry, however, is not to be a list of the concerns that I know are shared across the nation and the world. Rather, I want to tell you about my weekend.
I take classes at a junior college. Most of my classes have been toward a certificate in American Sign Language, but I have also taken some classes for fun and for personal enrichment. I have taken a couple of art classes with a gentleman named Seth. Seth’s teaching style has pushed me both as an artist and a human being. I have grown from being his student. He has been working on a show to honor his mentor, Remy Charlip. Charlip was an artist, a dancer, a choreographer, and an author of children’s books. Charlip was a Jewish man raised in New York City. As a gay man who came of age in the 1940’s he struggled throughout his life to find acceptance from family, intimate relationships, professional relationships, and himself. His life and work ultimately brought him to the San Francisco Bay Area where he met Seth. Seth uses puppetry, light, visual art, theater, and dance to bring Remy Charlip to life in a show called, “Rainbow Logic: Arm in Arm with Remy Charlip.” I was absolutely blown away.
Seth’s work could not be any more relevant to what we are all experiencing as the short term and long term effects of this election start to sink in. Charlip’s struggle for acceptance started at a very young age with his father. While I absolutely know this is a common experience in the queer community, I think we are all experiencing this struggle right now. I don’t know anyone who feels safe in who they are in the current political climate. As I’ve written about before on IOI, I believe each of us is a sum of all the versions of ourselves we have ever been. Right now, our child selves are afraid. We need to feel the safety from those who are meant to protect us (social norms and government), and overnight, it’s just gone. So we set out. That’s where we are now. Charlip experienced temporary safety again and again as he moved through life and relationships, only to find rejection and disappointment. Reflecting on his life, it makes so much sense that he would strive to create safety, nurturing, and acceptance for those coming up after him.
Last night, I had the privilege to see the documentary “Real Boy,” and hear music from the gentlemen featured in the film. Real Boy shows a transgender man named Ben’s process of transitioning from a female body to a make one. Like Charlip, Ben was rejected by his family and had to make his own way. He was fortunate to meet up with another transgender man named Joe. Both are extremely talented musicians. Joe helped Ben to channel what he was going through into his music.
As frightened as many of us are, one of the most important things we can do right now is CREATE. Whatever our personal gifts are, we need to use them. For some, it will be music. Others will draw. Another way will be someone doing their part to create a safe space. But I find that when I am putting positive energy out, it’s very difficult for negative energy to find its way in. I feel like what Seth, Ben, and Joe are doing is what the conservative movement is most afraid of: Living. We all know the threats we are subject to just by existing right now. But instead of cowering, we are skipping down the street, arm in arm, just as Seth and Remy did in San Francisco. I’m excited. We don’t do the tough work when it’s too easy. We get complacent. We don’t have that luxury right now. It’s go time. We all have the opportunity to be part of something bigger, and it’s just getting started. If you’re not the one doing the creating, you can still support the ones who are. You won’t regret it. I can’t wait to get out there and see what’s next for each of us.
In the meantime, don’t let anyone tell you what you’re feeling and experiencing is invalid. People are sad, angry, and afraid, and with good reason. But we don’t have to stay there. In fact, we can’t. It’s no way to live. Do what you need to in order to be healthy and safe, friends. But please use what you have to tell your truth. Regardless of what anyone may tell you, everyone’s story deserves to be told. Your story needs to be told. Everyone deserves to make their own unique contribution. What will yours be?
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