I attended my first rally this past Sunday. I didn’t intend to. I drove to the Washington County Courthouse for the Transgender Day of Visibility, to attend what was billed as a parade and show my support as an ally. It wasn’t a parade.
Instead, it was a group of about twenty people gathered in front of the courthouse, holding signs for the cars passing by on College Avenue. I didn’t know a soul, but Brody and Anh greeted me and gave me a sign to hold. My sign promoted LGBT equality. I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, holding my sign and watching the cars go by, but it didn’t feel right. It wasn’t enough. So I started waving at the people in the cars going by, making eye contact the best I could. That changed everything. You see, people are naturally friendly. When you smile at them and wave, their instinct is to smile and wave back. Half of the riders in the hundreds of cars that passed by that hour smiled and waved, and half of the other half instinctively smiled, if only a slightly embarrassed smile that showed they weren’t sure how to respond. The remaining quarter seemed to be avoiding eye contact. I got only two middle fingers.
But the positive responses outnumbered the negatives 100:1. In addition to the waves, there were horns and thumbs up and vigorous head shakes. It was uplifting to see our community’s support for this vulnerable group.
- 41% of transgender persons have attempted suicide at least once.
- 19% of transgender persons have experienced violence or abuse by a family member.
- Transgender persons can still be fired or denied employment for their identity in 32 states; 26% of transgender persons have lost their job due to their identity.
Everyone deserves dignity and respect and safety. No one deserves to be bullied or rejected or abused. Not for any reason. It is never ok.
Eventually, I got my parade. After an hour in front of the courthouse, we walked as a group to the Fayetteville square. I held the hands of two strangers as we stood in a circle in the spring sun among the tulips. The person on my right was there as part of a couple, neither of whose birth genders was obvious. The person on my left was tall with the frame of a man, but with long hair, makeup, and perfectly-manicured, pale pink fingernails. As we stood there in a moment of silence, reflecting on the statistics and challenges of simple, day-to-day living that this group faces every single day, I cried. I cried because it is still too hard. I cried because there still isn’t complete acceptance. I cried for those who died too young, either as a result of the hate and fear of others, or as a result of a lack of love. Then I opened my eyes and saw…I saw a group of people who need to self-declare a day to be visible. And they were grand.
“Fear of something is at the root of hate of others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater.” –George Washington Carver