June 19, 2015

Charleston Strong, Indeed

The events at Emanuel AME Church on the night of June 17 are undeniably horrific. They are undeniably sad. Undeniably terrifying. Undeniably wrong.

Yesterday morning as I awoke and as the reality of the situation (which happened less than 12 miles from my home in the Charleston suburbs) set in, I changed my profile picture on Facebook to a photo of the Ravenel Bridge (a landmark here in the city) with the hashtag, #PrayForCharleston, etched across the bottom.

It seemed right.

Today, I wonder if maybe, I didn't get it wrong.

Today, I think, perhaps, I'd have done better to have chosen a photo inscribed with the hashtag, #CharlestonStrong.

Around the country, all across the media and the Facebooks and the everywheres, the news of the slaughter of nine innocent people in their sacred place of worship has been met with rage. With vitriol.

And with all the hateful rhetoric that is ripping this country apart.

I get it. I do. I shared Jon Stewart's poignant remarks because I believe they're spot-on, and I believe wholeheartedly that there is a gaping racial divide in this country that we have not yet begun to heal.


And this is a big BUT!!

Here in Charleston, in the posts from my local friends and acquaintances, and the reposts from local religious figures and random people I don't even know...do you know what I'm reading?

I'm not reading rage. I'm not seeing riots.

I'm reading love.

I'm reading support.

I'm reading posts about where to donate to help the families of the victims.

I'm reading posts about the long, dignified, inspiring history of Emanuel AME Church. 

And I'm seeing pictures of diverse groups of people, joined together in mourning, and joined together in love.

Look. I get it. There is so much wrong with what happened. There's so much wrong in a city where I have to run less than two miles to see a house flying a Confederate flag, or where streets are named for slave owners. I get it. There's much to rage against.

But the people of this city reject the rage. We reject the hate.

And while the rest of the country may see this rejection as a blind acceptance of "the way things are" and "the way they always will be," I think it's the opposite. 

As I read posts lauding the church, the victims, the peaceful, heartbroken gatherings of our city's people, I don't read acceptance. Instead, I read about a city standing up together, defiant. Defiant of the hate. Defiant of the rage. Defiant of everything that tears us down. For it was hate that drove the boy to become a terrorist on Wednesday night. It was hate that made him kill.

And we want to break the cycle of hate.

Perhaps our defiance is quiet. Perhaps it's not great for the 24-hour news cycle.

But dammit if it's not the best sort of defiance this is.

Listen. You. Those of you around the country turning as always to rage: we don't want it. Rage only feeds the flames of hate, and it's hate that's destroying the things we hold most dear. It was hate that ended those nine innocent lives.

And look. You. Here's the other thing. We don't even want you to pray for us. Because, you see, we're praying, too. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics...the people of this city are all praying. We're praying for love. For strength. For understanding. And we want you to pray with us. We want you to stand with us: in love, in memorial, and in the strong and steady defiance of the rage.

You, too, can be #CharlestonStrong.

That's what I'm going to try to be. 

Next week, when the media circus has hopefully lowered their tents and headed for home, I plan totake my daughter to the Emanuel AME Church to lay flowers at the memorial. I plan to tell her: Be brave, Zoe. Be loving. Be kind. Reject hate and anger and rage. And above all, be #CharlestonStrong.

June 2, 2015

Call her Caitlyn, but don't forget to help

It's no secret that I support the LGBT community. I believe in equal rights, equal marriage, all of it. I believe people are people, regardless of their gender, sexuality, color, religion, etc. For me, it truly is that simple.

But I've been surprised at myself this week. Amid the gorgeous public display of affection for the newly revealed Caitlyn Jenner, I've felt...quiet. Introverted. For once in my life I've not been shouting from the rooftops in support of this fabulous new transgender woman.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm aware that her transition has been so amazing because she has the money, the means, for all the surgeries and the hormones and the supportive care. Maybe it's because I know so many more transgender people don't have those things. Instead they set up GoFundMe campaigns, or save their pennies for decades. Many trans people remain locked in their bodies through thick and thin, simply for a lack of funding to make the necessary change. Maybe that's what has me quiet...thinking of them.

Or maybe it's the support Caitlyn's receiving from her family and friends that has me pausing. Maybe it's because I know so many other families don't support their transitioning parents or siblings or children. Maybe her support has made me remember other people's lack thereof. 

Or maybe I've been quiet because the transition of a single person affected my life in such a profoundly incredible way that sometimes....even all these years later...I still can't talk about it. (Only sometimes...other times I need to talk about it, to wrap my head around it, to play the pronoun game, if only for a little while...)

But maybe I really know, without even thinking about it, why I've been quiet this week. Maybe it's because, somehow, Caitlyn's very public transition makes me remember too much. It makes me remember that there was once a doctor who told a person I loved that, if they were to transition, they would need to cut ties with everyone who'd known them before.

Everyone including me.

Sometimes, the idea that this could have happened, that someone I love could have been taken away from me simply because one doctor had bad data....well, it makes me nauseous.



There's still too much ignorance out there. Too much misinformation. Too many people not getting the help they need, and too many families suffering.

I'm really thrilled Caitlyn came out and set such a beautiful and public example for transgender people. 

Now I hope we can piggyback on her success, and help others in need. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is an organization that does just that. Maybe, if you're one of Caitlyn Jenner's supporters, you might consider hopping over to the SRLP site and making a donation. Let's do something to help people like Caitlyn Jenner, albeit the ones without money and power and reality TV, to finally find comfort within their own skins. Everyone deserves at least that much. Don't you think?

I  know I do.

So please. Please help. If you don't like this organization, go find another one. There are plenty of people working to help the LGBT community. You can, too. 

And keep supporting Caitlyn. From everything I've seen, she's just now, for the first time in her life, stepping out of the darkness....and she'll need all the love she can get to learn how to walk in the sun. Good luck, Caitlyn, and best wishes to you and your family.