An Evening of Hope…

It was Spirit Day and, in our city, also An Evening of Hope; a yearly event centered around the LGBTQ community. Every year it rains, as if the earth itself is remembering the lives lost. And every year there’s laughter, as we remember the ones still here.

crowds

Soggy yet bright and cheerful

metis-drum-circle

The evening opened with a Metis drumming circle

cupcakes

And plenty of baked goods 🙂

liberated-washrooms

The bathrooms were liberated for the evening

remembering-orlando

And Orlando was remembered with a great deal of ceremony (and some shuffling)

colin-making-pinsJeremy was in their glory at our UU congregation’s button making machine. They cracked jokes and hammered down buttons for almost two hours… until the baked goods were gone and the pouring rain made everyone cold and tired. Then we headed home to warm blankets, hot drinks and, in my case, Pride Kitty…

pride-smudge

I’m sure she’d be a real party animal.

Until next year… *hugs* and stay safe!

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It’s been eighteen years…

CN: murder, suicide

Eighteen years ago I sat on my couch and cried inconsolably, newspaper on my lap, while Colin and their sister played. A young college student, Matthew Shepard, had just been brutally murdered by his peers, solely for being gay. They considered him a threat over who he loved.

I looked at my sweet toddler and wondered about their future. They were so loving, affectionate, and feminine and I worried for them. Were they going to end up gay? What would their future be like?

jeremy-in-1998

Jeremy ~ February 1998

Tears poured down my face while I hoped Matthew had woken up a little near the end, just enough to know he’d been rescued… that people had cared. Enough that he hadn’t died alone. I couldn’t bear the thought that he’d died alone. I could barely bear that he’d died at all. In that moment he wasn’t a stranger’s son but my own child’s future.

Colin cynically commented that they were surprised his murderers got charged way back then and I assured them that of course they did. They were charged and convicted. But I had to admit that their cynicism wasn’t out of place. I poured through the papers over those next few months, reading all the articles and hoping for charges… hoping the plea of “gay panic” wouldn’t be accepted. That love wouldn’t be used as an excuse to kill. And it wasn’t… but only barely.

Today my news feed seems to alternate between pictures of Matthew and a story by a young man who survived conversion therapy, despite several suicide attempts. He’d been told 50% of his class would kill themselves and admits that number ended up being correct. The youngest was 13 years old. Those children were placed in that camp by parents who couldn’t accept their children for who they are and were willing to accept a 50% survival rate as long as their child came home straight. They seem to feel it’s better to bury a dead queer than love a live one.

jeremy-in-2010

Colin ~ February 2010

A young trans friend of mine attempted suicide a couple of days ago. Another is contemplating it over top surgery. There were the Orlando shootings in June and, in Canada, the young artist Sophie Labelle gets death threats daily for daring to draw queer issues (mostly regarding the T in LGBTQIA). And if I hadn’t been a bit on the delusional side on how high you can jump and live, I wouldn’t be here either. I didn’t want to risk living through a seven storey drop (eight considering we live over the basement drop off) so, ironically, I’m still here too.

Eighteen years ago I’d hoped that our society would have changed dramatically for the better. It’s changed but not enough, not nearly enough. Today is beautiful, warm, and sunny but in my heart it’s raining. I am so tired of the deaths. Please help make it stop.

Words kill…

It could have been me.

I’ve seen these words written so many times this week. And it’s true, it could have been me. Not at the Pulse; the chances of me being in a club are nil, especially at 2am. I’m more of the ‘cuddle and read at the library’ type (seriously, someone needs to make a cuddle and read club). But the LA pride parade was a target as well and, beyond that, where else? Is it safe to attend pride days at amusement parks? PFLAG meetings? The Trans Night of Remembrance services?

Jeremy and I were on the bus to our local Orlando vigil on Monday when zie turned to me and said, “I bet someone’s going to shoot up one of the vigils.”

“It won’t be ours,” I assured zir. “Our city’s too small.”

Not the best reassurance but it was all I had. Then we got there and zie saw the crowds. Instantly Jeremy became agitated, snapping at me for not knowing exactly what was going on and terrified I was going disappear and leave zir alone in the crowd.

“I can’t do this,” Jeremy admitted a few minutes later. “I’m scared I’m going to be too loud and stand out too much and look different. I’m too anxious. I really need to go home now. Please can I go home?”

I tried to get zir to watch videos on zir phone until zie calmed down and offered a breathing app but Jeremy was too scared. Zie blamed zir high school teachers for picking at zir every time zie stood out in some way and I agree that didn’t help. But I also blame every single person who blatantly stared at zir at the store and on the sidewalk. Every rude comment yelled from cars. Every conversation and discussion that treated zir rights as different and a bit less. Each month my peacock of a teen fades a bit more. And in this space, where Jeremy should have felt zir safest, zie was scared.

Words kill in a myriad of ways.

I have spent my whole life being labelled as different, weird, strange, odd, quirky, freak, a loner. I sat in a therapist’s office yesterday and detailed the bullying I remembered from school, from the little I actually remember about school. I’ve blocked so much of it. She’s been a therapist for years. I figured she’d heard just about everything. Besides, what I went through wasn’t that bad. I’m struggling because I’m weak. I’m sure people have been through a lot worse. Then I watched as her face registered shock and horror. At the end, she went through all the paperwork I’d filled out and tallied the results. Severe depression. Severe anxiety. Extreme risk of suicide.

“Mom, there’s only two times you’re allowed to jump off our balcony.” Jeremy told me. Zir voice was serious. “If you learn how to fly or if there’s a zombie right behind you.”

I stay because there’s family who love me and friends who care and three snuggly cats I’d confuse and upset. Maybe someday I’ll stay because I matter, maybe someday those words will mean something. But that’s not today. I’m tired right down in my soul… in the deepest part of myself. I’m tired of always being a few steps off. Even in the LGBTQ community, I don’t exactly fit. I’m ace. I got married long before I’d ever heard the word asexual and long before I’d ever fallen in love.

If you’ve never been in love, how do you know what it is? How much stronger is it than friendship? What if you’re friends and he loves you? I figured it must be love and tried my hardest… but it wasn’t. And then I fell in love with my best friend, who was non-binary at the time and then male. I always figured I was straight because I look at pictures of men and think they’re cute and cuddly but don’t feel the same urge to snuggle with women. But I also think androgynous people are cute… and friends. I’m sexually adverse to the thought of a vulva but sexually indifferent to the thought of a penis and in both cases would much rather snuggle. And how do you sort out sexual orientation when you’ve only been in love once? That’s about when I figure, fuck it, I’ll just get another cat instead of dating.

They were offering free pins for LGBTQ people and allies at the vigil on Monday. I searched through but nothing really fit me. What I needed was a “confused as hell but still here” pin. Which pretty much sums up my whole life.

Words kill in another way. Sometimes the hatred blows outwards instead of in.

People are baffled by how or why the shooter could have shot up the bar he frequented. Who knows why? Well, maybe it’s because he lived in a culture that considers LGBTQ people to be lesser and regularly talks about shooting them. I’ve lost count of the number of quotes I’ve seen this month alone that read along the lines of “If I see some freak in the washroom with my wife/daughter, I’ll shoot them!”

Maybe he felt trapped. Trapped by a society that sees gay people as different and by a state that fights for less protections… less rights. Trapped by a family who based his worth on the wife he needed to produce the son who’d carry his name. Maybe he felt worthless because of everything he read, saw and observed over the years. Countless school yard slurs, jokes, and manly put downs. Maybe he was angry because he went to the bar and saw everyone else having a good time… and how dare they be allowed to be open and themselves while he couldn’t. He couldn’t know their stories… their families… their pasts… but he could see their happiness. I have yet to see an article which talks about him being happy. He couldn’t change society or his family but he could buy a gun. And the society that taught him to hate handed him one. I don’t have much sympathy for someone who destroyed so many lives but I do want society to stop producing more of him.

Words kill. We need to stop telling people… telling children… that they need to be tougher, stronger, and braver. That they’re hurting until their souls bleed because they’re too weak. We need to fix society, just like Leelah asked a year and a half ago. How many more will die before we succeed?

vigil bags

Tears…

Jeremy loves to discuss American politics. Zie’s obsessed with the upcoming elections, watching the Young Turks every night and fervently explaining to me all the reasons why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be elected. I’ve heard it all… voter fraud… possible indictment… media bias… I think the only thing zie’s missed is her defending a rapist back in the 70’s. Please, no one tell zir about that. I don’t need hours more of explanations.

What zie’s not understanding is it doesn’t matter who gets elected. Okay, it matters but the election will not change the fact that the United States is a dynamite warehouse covered in tar paper, situated beside a lighter factory run by pyromaniacs. It’s not a matter of if there’ll be an explosion, it’s when and how wide will the wreckage scatter.

It didn’t start with Obama being elected, the hatred of anyone deemed “different” was already there. But having a black man leading the country gave racists a focal point and a target. Those of you who want to argue that people simply dislike his politics might want to take a wander over to Malia’s 15th birthday page where people are hoping she gets raped to death.

It didn’t start with Trump either. He didn’t fabricate a culture of racist, homophobic, transphobic bigots out of nothing. They were already there, sporting their one man/one woman marriage pins and kicking their trans kids to the curb. He gave them a voice and a chance to congregate outside of KKK meetings.

Today is Jeremy’s 19th birthday. We celebrated yesterday with a 7am wake up to open zir presents, a sunny afternoon spent with family, and a gooey chocolate cake for dessert. I woke up this morning to news of the Orlando shooting. Twenty, then fifty dead. Fifty-three injured. All because one man saw two men kissing a few months ago and didn’t like it. A short while later came the news about another man being apprehended with explosives in his car… on his way to the LA Pride Parade. Half my friends are in shock and crying “there’s nowhere we can be safe”. And, once again, my arms aren’t anywhere near big enough for them all.

One fall evening, I sat in my living room and quietly cried while I watched one year old Jeremy toddling around with zir baby doll. I’d just seen the news about Matthew Shepard and couldn’t fathom how people could hate that much. Were they going to hate my child too? And I sit here today and realize that, yes, they can and they will… without even giving themselves a chance to know zir.

Jeremy doesn’t see a point in naming zir sexual orientation. Zie’ll fall in love with who zie falls in love and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else. Jeremy also uses three pronouns for zirself; he, zie, and she… while not seeing the point in gender either. Zie’d much rather discuss politics, computers, or video games. In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter. Sadly we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where Jeremy has to add “if it’s safe for me there” to zir dreams of “someday I’d like to travel to…” And, honestly, the United States is scratched off zir list and has been for a while.

Today I’m going to split the last wedge of chocolate cake with Jeremy and give zir a huge hug. We’ll face tomorrow when it gets here.

Colin and zir phone attachment