Giving Thanks in a Time of Grief
This has been a very tough week for many in our community, just two days ago, we "celebrated" Transgender Day of Remembrance and honored the memories of all those who were murdered over the last 365 days just for doing the most honest thing they could do, living their lives as their authentic selves. There were an estimated 22 murders of Transgender individuals in the United States alone since our last TDOR, which is a disturbing number on its own, before adding in other countries, such as Brazil, where 167 trans voices were silenced this year alone. In fact, according to Transrespect.org, an estimated 369 transgender lives were taken in 2018, giving us a total of 2982 just in the 10 years since the Transgender Day of Remembrance was started. Sadly, this number does not include individuals who have committed suicide, not to mention those who have had their identities stripped from them in death, whose authentic lives were never known to those outside their immediate families.
On Monday, one day before the official TDOR date, I joined my amazing friends for a beautiful TDOR service that not only honored those lives lost, but also featured a few amazing performances, including a short play written by local college students about the pain of trying to come out at home. In addition, a spotlight was given for some local people in our community to share their stories of coming out and the battles they had to fight in order to be accepted by their friends, family and colleagues. One of these stories belonged to Sofia, an amazing woman who I am blessed to call one of my closest friends. She shared with us the lows, from the roadblocks she faced growing up and eventually being disowned by her family, to a horrific situation in which she feared she might become a TDOR statistic rather than a guest speaker; and then she also told us about the highs, including meeting her amazing fiancé, Erica.
> "HEARING THESE STORIES, ESPECIALLY THAT OF MY DEAR FRIEND, MOVED ME TO TEARS."
Hearing these stories, especially that of my dear friend, moved me to tears. Here are people who have faced some the same obstacles as I have, who grew up not knowing who they were, afraid to express their feelings or even share their deepest desires. Some have lost everyone who ever meant something to them in youth; and many of course, have lost their lives.
As I sat there, listening to my friends’ stories and learning about how 22 lives were brutally cut short this year; I couldn’t help but think ahead just three days to Thanksgiving. Two years ago, at this time, I was happily living my life 100% as a man. Many years ago, I had successfully buried all of my deepest feelings about my gender identity and I forced myself into believing that any dysphoric feelings that plagued me, were solely due to my obesity. I have shared many aspects of the nearly two years that followed since Crystal was reawakened within me; so, I will spare the gritty details here. But overall, I count myself as insanely lucky with how the world has treated me as a transgender individual. My wife, Kat, after a few months of struggles, embraces my identity almost more than I do myself. My parents are incredibly accepting, and my mother has even practically adopted Sofia and Erica into our family.
> "OVER THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF, THIS EVER-EXPANDING GROUP HAS BECOME THE FAMILY I NEVER KNEW I NEEDED."
Last week, I documented how outstanding my job is with their policies to protect Transgender employees, and I couldn’t be happier to work for such an employer. But most importantly, I can never thank the members of the Transgender Resource Center of Long Island enough. Over the last year and a half, this ever-expanding group has become the family I never knew I needed. All of a sudden, I have upward of thirty-forty siblings for whom I would fight for, and I know would fight for me in return. Without this group, I cannot imagine where I would be today; nor can I say for certain if my marriage would have survived those turbulent first few months.
So, I guess, in this time of sadness, following the 2018 Transgender Day of Remembrance, I have to be a tiny bit selfish and focus instead on my own happiness and think about how thankful I am, that I have the family, friends, and employment that so many of my transgender kin only dream about.