Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TDOR 2017 Reflection

I was a speaker at our local LGBTQIA+ community center's vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance this year. Below are some of the reflections I shared as an introduction and welcome. 


I’ve been out in an affirming way as a genderqueer person since 2007. And I love it, I love myself, and I love this beautiful community of trans and gender-nonconforming folks. I love how being genderqueer has shaped how I experience and understand the world, and the way it helps me connect and care for people. It is a wonderful gift, and I am grateful every day for it. 

But there is also this grief that goes with it, a persistent awareness of the suffering that makes it necessary to have a Transgender Day of Remembrance every year. Those of us who are here already know it; we know it painfully well. This is the day when we put into words and actions the silent grief that follows us every day. We name the names of those who have been murdered because someone hated them for simply being themselves. Each year, the list takes us around the world. This year, two of those names are of people who lived and died here in Missouri, Kiwi Herring and Ally Steinfeld. 

Our grief is also for those in our family whose names are not on the list. Too many of us suffer from suicide, domestic violence, violence not considered hate crimes, and deaths that also come out of the suffering of being hated and rejected by the world: drug overdoses, dangerous decisions of desperation, and the intersections of oppression with race, gender, and class. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that trans women of color are especially at risk in a world overflowing with patriarchal, racist, classist violence. There are too many of their names on this list, and we have failed them the most. We must ask, what beautiful and powerful actions can be born of our grief and our rage? 

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Fragile Whole: One Year Later

I offered this reflection year ago, November 13, 2016, in response to the election results. It replaced a presentation I was asked to make on simplicity and ecological justice. Some of the information reflects circumstances of that particular week, such as cabinet candidates, but the points still feel relevant to me. I've only lightly edited it here for brevity and clarity.


This was meant to be a presentation on simplicity, on contentment and joy in the face of a consumer society fueled by injustice and greed and sustained by a culture that values permanent dissatisfaction over gratitude and care. It was meant to grieve how this precious earth, this fragile whole made up of human and natural communities, has been looted and crushed, poisoned and neglected. It was meant to celebrate the ways, little and large, in which we could bring about healing our own fragmented lives and communities. And it was meant to celebrate how the earth itself, this beautiful and terrible hum of living and dying, is worth celebrating and grieving and loving and exploring and protecting. I was going to talk about gardening with my grandparents and parents, and hiking with Holly. There was even a sentimental childhood memory about buying seed potatoes and onion sets with my father.

I really hoped I did not have a compelling reason to put that presentation aside last Tuesday.

Although I was not expecting a Trump victory, I was also not surprised. I have spent a good deal of my life around people that helped carry him to success. Although we can’t generalize to individuals, we can notice the trends. Despite the rhetoric around economic issues, Trump’s victory was not a blow against neoliberalism, evidenced by his willingness to cut taxes, deregulate industry, and bust unions. Instead, Trump’s vision appealed to those who have felt the symptoms and impacts of neoliberalism, such as job loss, and did not like it. Trump offered a message built around the assurance that the spoils of neoliberalism would include the middle class, mainly white folk who have felt their privilege threatened both by an uncertain economic future but also by movements for equality and justice among traditionally marginalized people who are growing in number, visibility, and power. The economic world we have inherited and sustained has always required the suffering and oppression of marginalized people, especially black and brown people and women, as well as the pillaging and destruction of the earth. So even if it carried mainly sentimental, a-historical meanings to most followers, the slogan “Make America Great Again” was a startling reminder of just who has born the cost of that so-called greatness, and who will likely bear it again. If you don’t recognize this as white supremacy at work, then we need to have a conversation.