As a writer and activist, as a transwoman, as a movement.
The three came together for me recently, and seem to be growing in tandem.
With the popularity of the Women’s March on Washington, a large number of people have been contacting our state chapter, wondering what to do next. It’s an excellent question, and exactly the one people should be asking. Our state chapter responded by hosting a series of forums by district, connecting newly active citizens with groups who have already been doing the work. I have had the honor to be a part of two of them. Yesterday was the first.
I had been planning and organizing this for weeks, finding a location, contacting groups, trying to promote, all the while, working with wonderful people I had never met before. Not bad for an avowed introvert. Turnout was great for the small scale we expected – 10-20 people present at most times (people came and went, looked at tables) for the two hours. I counted 36 for the ACLU People Power live-stream after. Groups got a lot of new volunteers, citizens found new opportunities to make a difference.
It was a big day for me. Since I transitioned, things have felt worse and worse. It was wonderful and a relief beyond compare to finally be myself, but more and more of a struggle dealing with the sideways bigotry and micro-aggressions. People react to you very differently when you are trans, and it ain’t easy. When HB2 hit last March, I collapsed into despair. It felt like the entire world hated my very existence. I’m still not quite confident it doesn’t. I lost all confidence in myself as an individual. It was a pretty difficult time. Still is.
Last November, when so many on the left fell into despair themselves, I pushed straight through to righteous anger. Despite having passing privilege – this means I get seen as the gender I inhabit under most circumstances – I decided to live out and proud. Despite having spent months hiding away from most people, I decided to get active. I still get scared. I still struggle with hopelessness. I still wonder, in my darker hours, if I will even survive the next year.
Nevertheless, she persisted. Nevertheless, many are resisting and persisting.
I have done the things I have set out to do, or I have started doing them, at least. I certainly intend to keep doing them, because, hope or not, fear or not, it feels really good to be doing something. Frankly, it feels like the only chance I have, the only chance we have. It may well be. I am finding my voice as an activist and writer, by laying it all on the line. By owning my full self, warts and all, and bringing it all to the table.
Yesterday was one of those moments. While we waited for set-up between events, I got up and spoke to the crowd. Nothing big, a short bit about the uselessness of online petitions, how to call congress, and other ways to get involved. Basics every activist knows, and which groups like Indivisible are promoting. I fielded a few questions and comments and filled some time while we got set up. I was used to this from my days working in elementary schools. I enjoy public speaking, or did once, and it was nice to get back to it, even in this small capacity.
Public speaking is a very different experience since transitioning. For many trans individuals such as myself, one of the most challenging aspects of our new presentation is our voice. We are so strongly habituated to our speaking patterns, we don’t even realize what they are without work and practice. I was fortunate enough that the School of Hearing and Speech at our local university offered inexpensive classes. Even as such, being able to feel comfortable and confident to speak freely to a group is no small thing. The experience made me feel empowered.
And that is what it is all about. The marches, the forums, the calls, the letters, the joining of town committees, the meeting new people, the joining organizations, the participation. It’s about empowering ourselves as individuals, it’s about empowering ourselves as a movement. In my small forum, a fair group of people committed, or re-committed themselves to action and participation, myself included. Around the state, many more have. Across the U.S., beyond count. This renewed level of civic engagement is what we need to improve society. This is how we find our voice as a movement.
Together, we are mighty, mighty.