Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Give Us Our Roses While We're Still Here"

A couple weeks ago I marched in BreakOUT's trans march. BreakOUT! is a local trans youth organization, primarily trans youth of color. You can see the original "Give Us Our Roses" poster on their website.

As I was walking along, listening to the chants, I suddenly remembered when people used to say "Silence = Death" and I realized that the same thing is happening now. When people's lives are in danger, they take to the streets. It's a chance to find out whether or not the majority cares when gay men die of AIDS or trans women of color are murdered.

In fact, after the march was over I did see someone wearing a "Silence = Death" T-shirt. I thought about going over to talk to him but then realized I couldn't do it. By which I mean, I had been crying before and I felt myself getting choked up again. So I just went home.

Apparently only one trans person, Penny Proud, was murdered in New Orleans this year. There were other deaths though. One white trans woman killed herself in November -- someone I didn't know personally, although many of my friends did. I don't know how many others. What I do know is that I hear black people say "I've been to so many funerals." The only time I hear white people say that is when they're talking about AIDS.

Is it only death that gets people to feel sympathy? (I'm thinking of all the tragic deaths we see in movies, from Waterloo Bridge to The Dallas Buyers Club.) That is what kills us: so often our lives don't attract sympathy. It's as if the only thing we can do right is to die. "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it." Many times I've heard Transgender Day of Remembrance described as an opportunity to inform cis people that we don't deserve to die. And we don't. But is that the only moral appeal we have?

Perhaps people admire those who are willing to die for what they believe in, like Harvey Milk. Can we also live for what we believe in? Is that worth more than dying? When do we achieve admiration for our survival? I guess in order for that to happen, people would have to acknowledge just how heroic our survival is. Give us our roses while we're still here.

(Once or twice people have called me "brave." I hate that. But collectively we are brave.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Secret Message

On July 7, 1984, in Bangor, Maine, Charlie Howard, a gay man, was killed by three teenage boys who threw him off a bridge. They pled guilty to manslaughter and served approximately two years in prison. (Subsequently, one of them spent some time speaking to young people about why homophobia is bad.)

In 1984 my family was living elsewhere in Maine. We heard about the killing that summer. Later on we moved to Bangor. The murder of Charlie Howard is only a prelude to my story about the Bangor Public Library.

It was a nice little library. I haven't seen it since Stephen King donated huge amounts of money towards its renovation. I'm sure it's still nice. When I first started going there, I hung out in the young adult section. Then at some point I discovered the adult fiction room, which was downstairs.

One day I was browsing the shelves and I found a gay novel. Or possibly a lesbian novel. I don't remember exactly which book it was. But I quickly realized that someone had chosen to purchase this book for the library and put it on the shelf. This book and others like it. My recollection is that I had been exploring the adult fiction section for some time - as much as a year - before I found this book. Either I hadn't noticed it before, or conceivably someone had suddenly made the decision to start providing these books. Someone put them there for us to find.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On the Full Moon of August 29, 2015

“It was completely silent . . . all you could hear were the fire alarms in people's houses dying away, the burglar alarms dying away.” Charmaine Neville, on the aftermath of Katrina*

Oh moon
for such a long time you've been with us
Oh moon
for thousands of years people have said
Oh moon
when you look down on us
what do you see?

Oh moon
the battery in the fire alarm ran out
the battery in the burglar alarm ran out
the 'uninterruptible' power supply ran out
Oh moon
when do you run out?

Oh moon
please stay with us
in all your faces
dark and light

* I am trying to find a source for this quote. I saw it on TV. Right now all I have is this audio track, with reference to the fire alarms around 21:08.