I’m A Trans Person. My Cousin Is a Trump Supporter. Let Me Tell You Why I Declined Their Wedding Invitation
I know a lot of people will read the headline of this missive and roll their eyes so hard that they’ll see the backs of their heads. It’s okay. I probably would have done the same thing two years ago.
I used to find it preposterous that people would allow petty differences of opinion to influence their desire to share momentous occasions with family members. We’re here for one go-round on this journey called life, and certainly we have some duty to lift each other up when it comes to achieving happiness and harmony in the small windows of chaos and heartbreak that life, itself, is composed of.
Sure, people have different world views. We have different cultures, different traditions, different belief systems and we are a spectrum so wide that boundaries are impossible to see. We are the universe, ever expanding, and those differences make us beautiful. That we are all of us, at once, sharing space and time here on this pale blue dot for such a short period, I see us as, if you will, a crew on the great rock hurdling through space. We’re here together, and time will inevitably claim us- claim you, me… and the next crew will be your children and grandchildren, people we will never meet. To them, we’ll be history. We’ll be markers in a graveyard. Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth, they shared an era, but to us, they are history. We read about them in books. There are millions of others we never knew were here, but like you and I, they existed, struggled through social tyranny. Slavery, the holocaust, the Native American genocide, it all happened in leaflets of a bound text, thus we can acknowledge, but we can never truly appreciate the horrific experiences. The losses. The trembling fear. The nightmarish reality of families struggling through plague or famine. We are so far departed from the reality of those who shared life as they knew it that we cannot look at it without influence from life, today, as we know it. And we are comfortable. History is a dark, ugly monster relegated to black and white print.
I often think of the gay, lesbian and transgender men and women who existed long before I did. They didn’t have an identity. They didn’t have a word to describe them. They thought- as they were told- that they were corrupt. They were sick people who deviated from normal binary roles and that was unacceptable. They endured chemical castrations, lobotomies, inhumane shock treatments and incarceration in prisons and asylums for the criminally “Insane.” In their chapter of life history, they didn’t thrive, but merely existed in shame and humiliation.
I often wonder if any of them imagined a day where someone like me could be sitting here writing words like this. If there would be a reality show about a young transgender girl, Jazz Jennings, as she shares her story with the world as her passenger. I wonder if they could have even conceived of something like Pride marches. They never had that opportunity. Women lived and died who could never vote. Black folks lived and died who were never free. Gay and Trans individuals died believing they were rejects… mistakes.
I think of these words by Martin Luther King often because it represents so much. As he rose up to become an inspirational leader which leaders do not do in our era, he was faced with an onslaught of death threats for telling people of color that they had a place. They had a value of life and deserved a quality of peace and equality unhindered by those who ignorantly believed the color of their skin measured the quality of their character. To them, in his final speech before his assassination, he said this;
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live — a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
“I may not get there with you.” I can’t help but be overwhelmed by emotion as I consider how this man was such an instrument of change for so many people, and for the future he would not live to see. While he wouldn’t witness the powerful results of his existence, I am consoled by that fact that because of him, the world was made better. He did not fight in vain. He was a world- shaper. The words he spoke in the chapter of history in which he existed, did not end when he did. They echoed. Even still.
Many people walk through life with an arrogance of belief that the world only began turning on the instance they took their first breath. LGBT Pride is a day to have a parade, get drunk and party. Martin Luther King day is just a day off work or school. People are untethered from reality only because it was not theirs. They did not suffer the consequences of- not a different world- but a different leadership that enabled the oppression, hatred, incarceration, mutilation, torment and murder of people just like them.
And now we’re rolling back the hands of the clock at a pace so frightening that these people who never thought that history could repeat itself, that the privileges, no matter how minute or progress so slow, could somehow find themselves living in the past, in the future. All this, not because our efforts of shouting “Love Is Love” and the #BlackLiveMatter and #MeToo and our Marches in the streets, but in retaliation to it. In spite of it. For eight years, in my lifetime, I witnessed a beloved back President, the first ever. The next eight years I fear I will witness an unbridled revenge for having had that.
And to my ultimate point of why I turned declined an invitation to a family members wedding- My cousin, a cherub faced red head with bright blue eyes and pale freckled skin and her soon-to-be husband, who only once addressed me on social media as “Bro.” Avid Trump supporters who voted, without conscience or concern for any other individual sharing this journey and the unfolding results we’re witnessing in headlines every single day;
You have betrayed me.
You have betrayed every person not sharing this chapter of time, those who suffered the trials and tragedies and died during regimes like the one you support today. You betrayed every gay person, every trans person, every woman, every person of color, every single human being who never got to thrive due to ignorance, bigotry and state sanctioned political abuse and subsequent erasure.
You chose to thrust us back in time, to preserve your supremacy and enjoy a walk-through life because you’re straight, catholic, white and cisgender, and only you mattered. Meanwhile, I, and people like me, have to sit here every single day and witness the gut-wrenching increase of violence against black men and women, the LGBT+ community and immigrants. I have to wake up every day with the sense of dread, wondering what bullet I’ll have to dodge next- another military ban? A reversal of marriage equality? Rolling back protections for vulnerable transgender people in public spaces like schools? A never ending feed of bored white people calling the police on black Americans for simply existing in their domain? More photos of the N-word spray painted by racist vandals or, more White Nationalist Trump fanatics marching in the State Capitol? More laws that protect bigots who refuse to medically treat or even provide menial services to people like me- not because I’m bad, but because we live in a world where now they can… again.
You resurrected the past.
Now, so am I. The voices who you’ve never heard, who lived through times much worse than this, but we’re spiraling dangerously close to, I am speaking out for. No one had to die for you to get married. No one had to die for your freedom as a white person. No government ever banned you for being straight, or cisgender. No Judge ever extolled a harsher sentence on you for how you presented or imprisoned you for your religion. But millions of us, both here, and long departed- that was our every day lives.
The state of my life today, my ability to thrive in a hostile climate growing more volatile with each passing hour is a result of your choice. But, my life is not yours, thus irrelevant to you, or your future. The very same can be said for the millions who, in 2016, voted to force people like me to have to posture themselves to fight for the right to thrive against a raging tide of hate that you didn’t just empower, but collectively paved a passage for. You unified yourself with a vile, archaic, narcissistic world view that has claimed so many victims that I cannot see you as anything but complicit. I’ll say it again… the consequences of your choices are not victimless. I am proof of that.
So, maybe it is petty to some who will write me off as a left-wing radical weeping liberal tears. That is, after all, the go-to argument for those who are writing this chapter of what will be tomorrow’s history in an effort to dismiss them; To thumb their nose at them for being “Too sensitive,” or “A Snowflake.” We’ve heard it all before. We heard it when women wanted to vote- they were “Too emotional.” We heard it when Black folks wanted to attend white schools and received access to a higher education, they were “Too insubordinate.” When gay people wanted to get marred and they took to the streets in great numbers to protest inequality, they were “Too entitled.”
For me, this isn’t taking a low road. Sure, I could go and watch you trade the nuptials others in our country didn’t even right to do until just 3 years ago. I could smile warmly knowing that when all is said and done, I’ll leave just to go back to the frontlines of a domestic war that you have created for me and people like me.
The truth is this; I’m not declining your invitation in protest. I wish you the best- in fact, a lifetime of happiness and the continued, unobscured freedoms and privileges you’ve always been granted. I want that for you.
But, I want that for me too. I want that for all people like me. I’d be a hypocrite to protest your right to enjoy your life and unify with a life partner to share it with, because we all deserve that. All of us. Clearly, you don’t share that sentiment. You’ve demonstrated that.
So, while I don’t protest your rights, dear cousin, my time, unfortunately, must be spent fighting for mine, not in protest, but as a duty to myself, and my responsibility to the people being further marginalized thanks to those like you. It is a torch that was passed to us by those who lost their lives fighting and dying so I might write these words. The gift given to be, so that I might enjoy a better time they would never see in their lifetime… and as I won’t likely make it to the top of the mountain to see that promised land of fairness and everyday equality, use my time to create footholds for the people who come after me.
If that’s petty, so be it.