I’m sitting at an outside table at a corner coffee shop in Tucson with Bennett and his dog Honey. We passed Trans Day of Remembrance driving Hwy 62, 72, 10, 86, 8, and 10 again from the Mojave to the Sonoran desert. We got the van stuck in a sandy wash, and on our third attempt to dig it out with a plate and a frying pan, two guys in a minivan stopped to help pull us out with a rope. Honey thought it was the funnest game there ever was.
We talked about our journeys through transition. We talked about our experiences in the context of trans* experience through history. We talked about how, even in the light of our relative privilege, we still feel like we barely made it through the fire. Both of us could have easily made it onto that long list of names that were read and acknowledged by communities all around the world. I thought about my pen pals from Iran and Venezuela who persevere in environments totally unimaginable to me. I think about my new friend who courageously steps out of her home each day, finally as herself. When the list of names is read and I can count the names of male-identified folks on one hand, my bravery seems to pale in comparison.
Gender is something so fundamental to human culture and biology. As our environmental pressures change and our survival tactics must adapt, we find that oftentimes culture lags behind. At least it feels that way to those of us who bear witness to such unnecessary violence and loss. The faster our environment changes, the faster we must change, and the more friction there is at the edges. The history of physical and social sex transition is a good example of the quickening nature of change, and the greater whole of us’s struggle to keep up. But it happens, glacially as it may seem. When I read articles about gay men fleeing from Syria to Lebanon and the torture and extortion they experience; workers paid pennies a day to make western clothes dying in crumbling buildings, and there’s no clear consensus on whether buying the clothes does more harm than not buying them; my beloved western spaces fracked beyond repair in my life time, because lighting faucet water on fire still isn’t proof enough that it’s dangerous; hundreds of thousands of people killed in a war while the governments of the world stand by and weigh their financial interests; poor countries taking the brunt of climate change caused by the excesses of wealthy countries – I am overwhelmed at the enormity of suffering that exists on this planet. Hope seems elusive when lost in that emotional storm. What tethers me pack to the hopeful present is just the plain impersonal nature of impermanence. Change. Evolution. It happens in its time, its force a confluence of so many energies so complex, all I can do is accept it and trust its nature. And do what I can to add my breath to the great wind of growth, awareness, and love.
My heros this time around are Ben and Rachael Hudson of the Gender Heath Center. Together, with very little means, they set out and created the services they wanted to see provided in the world, and now serve and inspire a community that stretches over all social lines. They provide services for youth that they did not have access to. They provide services to families that their families did not have access to. Services that my family and my young self did not have access to in the same town we lived in. Seeing that change has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. From all of us who’s lives you have changed, many thanks.
Tucson is mellow and overcast, many friends I knew here have moved on, and I am such a different person than I have been at many times through this town. The trains still holler through the city, and it is still one of the loveliest places to be in the winter. Bennett and I will play for Transgender Week of Awareness here and do our part, I get to play with my super homie Courtney Robbins a few times, and take another long beautiful drive through the desert with my buddy. All the names on the list stay with me, as well as those who remain unknown. Also, all people who lose their lives due to our inability to evolve fast enough. They are all ours.