I first remember becoming aware of the Transgender Day of Remembrance four year ago. I was very active as a volunteer with Equality Ohio and some friends were going to attend a Transgender Day of Remembrance Service. My work schedule didn’t permit me to be able to go as I usually work in the evenings. At that time, the notion of someone being transgender was something that I was still becoming comfortable with. I feel like I almost want to yell at my former self as I write that because it isn’t for me to have to, or not have to, become comfortable with someone else’s journey, but, at the same time, that is as honestly as I can express where I was at that time, and I want to share that here because, somewhere, someone might read this is who struggling to accept someone as transgender. That someone might even be themselves, and I want them to know that it is okay to honestly wrestle with where they are in an effort to find a place of greater acceptance and understanding.
I met up with the friends who went to the service four years ago afterwards to get dinner. They tried to explain to me what transpired during the service. Despite their best attempts, I couldn’t fully visualize it, but I did get a grasp of the fact that it was a very weighty service.
As time has gone on, and I have continued to do work in the LGBTQIA community, I have gained more and more trans friends. As I have done so, despite the fact that I have still yet to be able to attend an actual service due to work commitments, this day has increased in weight for me tremendously. Now, when I think about this day, I see the faces of the trans folks who populate my life. I see their faces. I hear their voices. I think about the things that they contribute to my life and to the lives of others. Then, I try to imagine the world without them. Even now, as I write this and intentionally put myself in that space, the thought of their voices being suddenly silenced is enough to bring tears to my eyes.
As I think back over my own journey, as I reflect on the struggle to accept myself as a gay man, it took me a long time to work through the internal questions of my sexual orientation, and it took an even longer time to be able to articulate that to others. I cannot imagine that additional layer of complexity that comes into play by adding factoring in one’s gender identity being out of alignment with what everyone else sees and working to accept that and then to work through it. That isn’t my struggle to have though. It isn’t my journey to take. That journey belongs to my trans brothers and sisters. My commitment is simply to journey alongside them and to be an ally in any way that I can.
No one could have taken my journey for me, and I am thankful that no one has taken from me the ability to continue on this journey. My trans brothers and sisters deserve the same opportunity. We all deserve the right to work through our own questions of identity, and, once we have found our own truth, to live it out.