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After Orlando...

June 23, 2016

 

I never imagined, that my very first blog post would be about my thoughts and feelings after a mass shooting, but in light of recent events in Orlando, that is exactly what I need to process. Why? Because, like so many other people within the LGBTQ community, I need to collect my thoughts and somehow try to make some sense of the immense sadness and anger that I have.

 

Having been a part of the LGBTQ community for a couple of decades, both as a lesbian, and now a trans guy, I’ve had the opportunity to “come out” twice. In my early twenties, I identified as female, so I came out with fervor, as a lesbian. I cut my hair, donned combat boots and a tie with my overalls (yes, that was a look back in the early 90’s), and had a wide array of rainbow stickers on my car, as if to announce to anyone watching, that I was out and proud. Pretty sure, no one cared.

 

Then, in my late thirties, I came out once again, as a transgender man. My second “outing”, was far more challenging for me, because I would be changing so many things about myself, like my physical appearance, name, birth certificate, etc., because that was how I chose to transition. And would be doing this, out loud. Even though my family was very supportive of my sexual orientation, would they be so quick to accept my gender identity? There was only way to know...live it.

 

Again, my family surpassed my wildest hopes, and has been by my side every step of the way. But the one major difference between these two life transitions was that my parents were only concerned people may say hurtful things and/or my life may be a bit harder as a lesbian, but the conversation was never about being fearful for my life. When I told my family I was a transgender man, however, both of my parents expressed that they were afraid that someone might hurt me.  To be honest, I thought they were being over-protective parents, wanting the best, and smoothest life for me. I assured them, that yes, there were hateful people in the world, but I was safe.

 

But everything changed on Sunday, June 12th. Not only was my parents’ worst fear a reality, but also I was now faced with the fact that, I wasn’t safe. Of course I knew that bad things happen to wonderful people, and that the Trans community has a much higher rate of violence against us, but I had this naïve notion that being cautious, and mindful of my surroundings at all times, was enough. Truth be told, I have always been nervous of using a public restroom (It’s Trans people who are harmed in the bathrooms, not the other way around), but the thought of violence, always felt like a distant “what-if” or something that “could” happen, but probably wouldn’t. I had been living in a bubble of denial and privilege. Being harmed or killed, just because my journey to becoming my true, authentic self may be different from others’, now it isn’t a “what-if”, it is a reality and a tragic fact.

 

When that mother-f’ing coward entered the Pulse nightclub, and began killing innocent people, who were there to dance, to love and to live, it was in those moments that an entire community, my community, was being robbed of our innocence, our sense of security, and left reeling to make sense of this hateful crime. Each one of those victims, had family and/or friends that loved them, and who also worried that because of who they were or who they loved, could one day be harmed. But I doubt if anyone ever imagined that such hatred and carnage would take place in our “home”. For many within the LGBTQ family, myself included, we have found a safe haven in nightclubs and bars, as a sanctuary to let our unique and authentic selves shine, even if it’s just for a night. That is all that those victims were doing...living and celebrating their truth, together.

 

So, I’m left with the question, “What do I do now?” Well, one thing’s for sure, I can no longer assure my parents, or more accurately, dismiss their fears, that living as my authentic self, especially since I am very out and visible, that they have nothing to worry about. My comfy “bubble” has been destroyed, and I too, can no longer pretend that I live in a world that affords me the same luxuries that others have, like making it through each day without discrimination, hate and violence. Yes, I am different after this tragedy, and I thought I would be more fearful and disheartened with humanity, but the exact opposite has happened.

 

My sadness, shock and anger, has lit a fire within me. I have made a conscious decision to stand up and openly claim my identity as a proud member of the LGBTQ family, and not allow anyone to make me feel that I am less than, or that I don’t deserve the right to live my life. I am making a renewed commitment to embrace every aspect of my identity, and not compartmentalize, or diminish any part of myself, especially that which I may not have fully accepted before transitioning. I want to honor myself completely and show the world that, who we are, is made up of every single moment and experience we have lived. Yes, I identify as a transgender man, and prior to transition, identified as a lesbian, but more importantly, who I am as a person today, has and always will remain the same, I’m just me. It does not matter whether I identify as male or female, lesbian or straight, or any combination in between, it only matters that I love others, myself, and will continue to speak up and demand more understanding and compassion in this world.

 

And because I am fortunate enough to have another day on this earth, I owe it to my brothers and sisters that we lost, to get up, clean up, and show up for my life, every single day. I refuse to allow anyone to push me down or hold me back from living a wonderful, happy existence. I have every right to be the best version of myself, and I never have to justify or apologize for my journey, nor does anyone else.

 

I also realized that I have been sitting back, waiting for opportunities where I can lend my voice and share my personal story. What I need to be doing is creating those opportunities myself. Waiting idly by, isn’t action. It comes down to taking personal responsibility and choosing to be a part of the solution. What is the solution? That, I am still figuring out, and sometimes, I feel like I don’t have any answers at all, but that can’t stop me from getting involved. Now is not the time for me to bury myself under the covers and hope that someone else will fix the problems. Fear is continually trying to steal my voice, my sense of safety, and my community, but fear doesn’t live here anymore.

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© 2020 Jeremy L. Wallace      Photos: Fatima Hurd
 

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