First off, I should apologize for the misleading title. It has click-bait written all over it. I should also caution you that there will be no big revelation here today. I have never doubted my gender. I was born in 1983 as a 7 lb. healthy baby boy. I like my body and I am totally comfortable with what I see in the mirror, though I could stand to run a little more often. Rather, today I am attempting to discuss a topic that has been in the news a lot this year; the transgender community.
Like many of you, if I am being honest, I have struggled to understand the transgender community. As a kid, I thought it odd someone could and would change their gender or dress in clothes opposite of what society expects. As an adult in therapy wrestling with issues of sexuality, I often would make the case for the T not belonging in LGBT. My main argument was that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is about sexual attraction. To me, being transgender was about gender assignment and being comfortable in your own skin. To be completely honest, I was worried about being lumped together. As I tried to find my place in the alphabet soup of human sexuality, I found myself not wanting to be labeled as the other. I did this with little regard to the sexual attractions of those in the transgender community or how my actions might have been creating a certain level of exclusion; the same exclusion I was seeking to overcome in every therapy session.
Since those sessions, I’ve tried to rise above my ignorance. I’ve tried to read, research, watch videos and meet with those belonging to the community. For me, it was the only way to absolve myself of my ignorance. What I’ve learned and what I continue to learn astounds me. Like any community of people, the transgender community is multi-faceted and dynamic. It is vibrant and filled with caring and loving people. People who are filled with the same concerns as you and me. They worry about bills and money. They are trying to save for vacations and retirement. They are trying to raise respectful and intelligent children. They are trying to be comfortable in their skin and with themselves as individuals; something which we can all relate. Just like all human beings, they laugh, cry, struggle and succeed. In every single way, but one we are one in the same. That single difference is the reason for the debates and public dialogue. When you work to learn more about the community, you can’t help but think someone’s preferred gender is such a small thing to worry about when so many hardships face our families and world on daily basis.
As the walls began to fall and I learned more, I began to see what we share in common. When you’re lesbian, gay or bisexual, everyday life can be a challenge. This challenge is particularly difficult as you wrestle with your attractions, personal beliefs, religion, societal expectations and a fear of disappointing those around you. If you are straight and have never fought these feelings, you should know they are hell. They are heavy and consuming. Every step of discovery is taken with caution and takes an insane amount of bravery. Rarely, is the decision to free yourself from the expected and to be your most true self taken lightly. It took me 14 years to become comfortable with who I am. For some, the moments of bravery can come quickly or last even longer. Here, we share something in common though; something I have tried to build upon and that is the struggle with identity. This struggle is why I am now proud to say LGBT without excluding anyone. Each of us is struggling to figure out who we are, who we love and what makes us happy. Other than these simple, but profound journeys, not much else matters in this world.
Progress is like rolling a boulder down a hill. It may take some time and considerable force to get it moving, but once it begins rolling it only collects strength. I wasn’t there to move the boulder on lesbian, gay and bisexual recognition, pride and equality. I wasn’t there as the transgender community began to make their voices heard and to tell their stories. Somewhere down the hill, the boulder’s progress confronted me and I was forced to make a decision. Part of my decision hinged on acceptance. The other part was concerned with compassion and empathy. The stories emerging from the transgender community are heartbreaking. I can’t imagine the confusion, pain, suffering and inner-turmoil. I am only one human being who is willing to listen and keep an open mind. After hearing their stories, I have made a decision to display compassion, provide space to have my mind changed and accept the transgender community at their most basic level, as fellow human beings. To me, anything else doesn’t matter and I view it as inconsequential.
While there are real differences in the world over religion, politics and culture, I firmly believe our greatest challenges can be addressed by first operating some compassion and delivering on empathy. When we allow ourselves to walk in the shoes of others, I am convinced we can be changed. I also firmly believe that this change can occur without sacrificing our beliefs and moral convictions. To some, this may sound immature and ignorant of the deep divides in the world. I hear you, but it doesn’t change my mind. I want every person in this world to be treated as an equal and judged by the content of their character and nothing else. It worked when Dr. Martin Luther King said it and it works for me.
Be good to each other,