Conversations with People Who (Verb) Me

4.

3.

2.

1.

Go.

In the midst of so much angst and hate and misgivings and doubt, how can one even possibly attempt to write about what is going on?

Where does one even start?

A loosely connected stream of conscious rant through things said and words meant and thoughts expanding and horizons possible?

Perhaps.

Because, how am I supposed to respond when a coworker asks, “You ever go back to Oklahoma? Do they accept you? Or, are you just kind of a guest?”

How do I respond? When it was said completely out of nowhere as I sit at a round plastic table eating my “Women’s Health” blend of trail mix in the former cafeteria space, now staff lounge. Perhaps, I could have taken the guidance of the third episode of “Conversations with People Who Hate Me,” and began a dialogue. A dialogue to emphasize I am a real person. I am not something that is not to be believed in. I exist.

Because, how am I supposed to ignore the results of Facebook stalking my mom’s post and finding that she shared the following gem from my 7th/8th grade history and government teacher:

“So (redacted school district) is mulling over a name change for Robert E. Lee elementary because of Lee’s participation in the Civil War. Kind of silly don’t you think considering that Lee was a well respected leader before, during, and after the war.  He played a large roll in continuing education at college level serving as president of Washington and Lee University and raising it to one of leading colleges in the South after the war.  This whole movement to try and erase black marks in history is ignorant. Without the Civil War and the loyalty of all who fought in it, how much longer would slavery have lasted?  Changing names and removing monuments memorializing those involved will not erase that history.  It will not repair any of the damage of that era.  It changes nothing about how people feel today.  Those things need to remain in place to remind us that we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. What is next, blowing up Mount Rushmore because those presidents or their families held slaves?  The radical Muslim groups have tried this without success.  History does not change because memorials are removed.  History serves the purpose of creating CHANGE.  Hopefully, positive change.  For me, there is nothing positive about trying to change what happened in the past by trying to erase the evidence.”

And, I post this here, not with her permission, since I am not Facebook friends with her (or any of my family members for that matter), but due to a lack of privacy settings on her account, this post was made public for the world to see. So, I call dibs.

And, I do try to have a difficult conversation and follow the advice from my new podcast addiction.

I begin like this.

“Seriously? You are okay with monuments of the Confederacy?” (Perhaps, not the most diplomatic opening ever, but it is a start.)

“I liked what (redacted teacher’s name) said”

“Really? What part?”

“Can we argue tomorrow. I am having trouble sleeping and this will make it worse..”

“Sure. We can discuss this radical Christian traitor later.”

Again, not my most crowning moment of civil discussion, but the line “The radical Muslim groups have tried this without success” just bothers me to no end. So, the next day and before I get into the car to go see Brigsby Bear, I bring it up again.

“And, you still agree with the post you shared?”

“I see both sides. Yes I agree.”

“Really? How?”

“I thought the post was very clear”

“I am not sure what the argument in the post is. It is poorly written, difficult to follow, and just overall convoluted with a pinch of Islamaphobia.”

I don’t get another reply, and I can’t decide if I want one or not. Aside from the “both sides” argument ringing like a comment from the racist former host of Celebrity Apprentice, I don’t know what I want from this exchange.

Maybe, I just want to understand.

I just want to understand the different point of view that just seems outside of my realm of understanding.

It’s like on Twitter when someone from the #MAGA crowd posts a photoshopped picture of Democrats admitting 45 is president. I guess I just don’t understand the point. Just because something is the way it is doesn’t make it good or right or worth defending or worth arguing about. Posting a picture that simply states 45 is president doesn’t prove anything other than verifying, yes, while unbelievable, 45 is actually president.

But, just because he is president, that doesn’t mean he has good policies or high morals or is worthy of the office of president. Because, it is becoming clearer and clearer that he is sorely missing the mark.

But, I need a night away from it all, the news, the fear, the overwhelming sense of dread.

And, maybe, that is why I was totally enamored with Brigsby Bear.

Because it was a weird movie, but I loved it. It is one of the best movies I have seen in a long long time. And, I left the theater in a hazy fog of wonder. And, I felt ready to say what I needed to say, write what I needed to write, which brings me back almost full circle to this.

Why do I find my middle school social studies teacher’s post problematic?

Really? Robert E. Lee was a respected general? I wonder if the Union, or rather America at the time agreed with that, considering the fact that he was leading the war against America. Given the fact that he was a military traitor, leading a war against his own country in order to sustain slavery, it seems unlikely that he was well-respected.

But, I am not a history major, or even much of a history buff for that matter. So maybe, we should go with his own words. Since he was opposed to Confederate statues seeing how they “keep open the sores of war”.

Also, it is “role” not “roll”. If you are wanting to make a precise argument, check your homophones. Words matter. As far as I know, my former teacher is not an elected official but missing a homophone is in line with 45’s attempt to heel the nation.

And, what does this line even mean? “Without the Civil War and the loyalty of all who fought in it, how much longer would slavery have lasted?” Whose loyalty? Also, what? If all citizens had stayed loyal to the Union and stood against white supremacy then, would the Civil War even occurred? Unlikely.

And, the argument to remove Confederate statues has never been about removing and rewriting history. Instead, Confederate monuments were built to remind a subjugated people that while they were “free” they were not equal and must be reminded of their place.

And, to return to the great, what will happen next argument. “What is next, blowing up Mount Rushmore because those presidents or their families held slaves?” Just, ugh. Those individuals on Mount Rushmore actually contributed to the founding and success of this country, not its breaking and needless loss of life.

And, what is she even talking about her? “The radical Muslim groups have tried this without success.” Tried what? Who are these groups? Why do we have to attach “Muslim” as a descriptor? Because for historians keeping track, a radical Christian group took up arms against their countrymen and murdered for the sake of maintaining the inhumane institution of slavery. If you’re looking for a synonym for this group, go with Confederacy.

And, finally, no one is trying to erase history. Or, make people forget by removing these oppressive monuments. But, not everything deserves a monument. Just ask Germany when you look for the monuments dedicated to Hitler.

And to make a complete full circle, I really don’t know what my coworker meant by his questions.

But, I do know that this post got away from me.

I blame Brigsby Bear.

 

“Robert E. Lee Opposed Confederate Monuments”

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/robert-e-lee-opposed-confederate-monuments/

“Baltimore’s Confederate Monument Was Never About ‘History and Culture’”

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5995a3a6e4b0d0d2cc84c952/amp

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Proposed Replies

I haven’t spoken to my father in four months. I sent him my blog post “To Whom It May Concern” via text, and I received a response telling me I was lost. Then, I sent him a package, and I heard nothing. So now, after four months of not hearing his voice, I receive a call and this voicemail:

“Hey, son. It’s, uh, dad. I haven’t talked to you in a long time, and I just wanted to give you a call and check in on you. And, uh, I hope you are doing well. Love you, and I’ll talk to you later.”

I honestly don’t know how I want to respond. I don’t. So, I have come up with a few different options.

Version 1:

A Very Bad Idea

Hey, thanks for calling. Honestly, it shows you are making some kind of effort to speak to me while I spew fire and brimstone atop a throne of dildos. Is brimstone even spewable? Meh, don’t care. I am spewing it.

Hold on . . .

. . . Sorry, the Christians in the other room were getting really loud. They were crying about being forced to read through the worldwide gay agenda put forth by those gays.

Ha, silly Christians.

So, anyway, what did you want to talk about?

Version 2:

Snarky with a Side of Snark

Thanks for calling. I hope you are well. I heard about the new job and new house. Congrats. Really.

I know it has been awhile since we have caught up. Four months, to be exact. So, let me fill you in.

So, let’s see, the big things.

Well, I am sure you heard that I moved. It’s a great place. Big open space. I have a garage and a washer and dryer. Nice walk-in closet and a great kitchen. My furniture I have, which consists of a bed, a futon, and a bookshelf, looks so small in this new place. Before, those three things filled up my entire old apartment. I haven’t bought much for the new place. Just a rug and a grill. I was hoping to have a little more money at the moment, but when I switched bank accounts that I used, my last apartment and I had quite the falling out over an error with their system. I lodged a complaint. It was a whole mess, but it is over now.

You might be wondering why I changed my bank account. Look, I will just be honest. I didn’t feel comfortable with someone having access to my account that thinks I am either a) mentally ill or b) possessed or having something to do with the devil and/or demons.

I hope you can understand.

So, anyway, I have been trying to stay politically involved. You know, part of the resistance and all that. So, I have been doing what I can with the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign. I participated in a fundraiser for the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. I have also been participating in a six-week course on bullying put on by Equality New Mexico and several other groups. I was at the Women’s March, the Tax March, and the March for Science, and it was amazing to see how many people were standing up for what is right and good in this country. I’ve been staying active on Twitter and Change.org trying to help keep this new level of corrupt and ill-fated government accountable to the Constitution and equal rights and the environment. I have also been contacting my congressional leaders and speaking out against what has been going on. It’s been nice being involved. Surely, you can even admit that the new administration is an embarrassment.

But, let’s not get too far into politics. I’d like this to be as civil as possible.

I just wanted to fill you in on what I have been up to in the last four months.

Let’s see.

What else . . .

It sucked being uninvited to my brother’s graduation. He just didn’t want it to be an issue with me there. And I get it, I do. Because, if someone said something stupid about transpeople or immigrants or some other backward and idiotic comment, I would not have been able to keep my mouth shut. It probably would have caused a whole scene, and one of the stipulations for me being there was that if something was said, I was to keep my mouth shut. That . . . well, it was a bridge too far for me to take.

Anyway, I have been rambling . . .

Is there anything you wanted to talk about?

Version 3:

The Only Viable Option

Thanks for calling to check in. I hope you can understand that I don’t feel like talking right now. But, things are going pretty well. I hope you have been well, too. Love you.

Version 4:

A Plea for Change

Thanks for calling to check in. I hope you are well. But, here’s the thing. I said exactly what I needed to say when I sent that text to you and again when I mailed you that package. And, until you come to terms with what it means, there really isn’t anything else to say. What is happening in this country right now . . . well, it is bigger than you and me. I wish you the best. Love you.

Version 5:

Defeated

Thanks for calling. But, honestly, with what you think of me, why bother?

Version 6:

Anger and Disappointment

Thanks for calling. But, I just want to know, and I want your honest opinion. Where do we go from here? Because, right now, we are at an impasse, and I can promise you this. As long as you hold to your view about LGBT people, myself included, we are never going to be okay. That, I can promise. So, I am asking, where do we go from here?

*          *          *          *          *

But, in the end, I went with none of these options. As I was driving to Santa Fe for the last of the Beyond Bullying workshops, I called his number, and he picked up. And for the first time in four months, we had a conversation. A ten minute conversation.

It was civil and caring, and it avoided any “controversial” topics.

What it means . . . I honestly don’t know.

But, it was something.

Maybe, eventually, that something will be enough.

Because, when he ended the conversation with “I miss you,” my response was “Take care.” I miss the person, the parent, I thought he was, and maybe, just maybe, he will come around and be the parent I need him to be.

Maybe.

A One-Sided Exchange

I don’t feel a need to wait for anyone to know. I have told you as much. I have said I don’t care who knows. I care how I am treated. If you feel like the enemy, then, you are reading into my blog. I am sorry that you live in a bigoted and cruel town, but not advocating for LGBT and other minorities is why bigotry and cruelty continues to thrive.

A response.

A response.

How would you resolve it? Because, I am not changing or hiding who I am. If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. I am doing what I need to and only being honest about what has happened and how I feel. How you respond is up to you.

A response.

Then, you can help stop it. But, if reluctant acceptance is the best I can hope for, this drifting will be inevitable.

A response.

You know what. That is up to you. You have to face your decisions just like I have to face mine. And, at this point, it doesn’t matter what I want anyone to do when they find out. I just continue to see how family views and treats “otherness”.

A response.

I want you to do right by you, regardless of how it affects me. I cannot ask you to do more than that. You have to be okay with your decisions and actions. You are not ready for people to know. That is fine, but you are either with me all the way or you are not. There is no middle ground here. There could of been. But not anymore.

A response.

How is it a secret? I want you to accept, respect, and advocate for me. I want you when someone mocks or bullies LGBT individuals or any minority or any person for that matter to be the first one to put a stop to it. I want you to be proud of who I am and that I am being true to myself and not worried about what people will say or think. I thought I made that clear when I sent my blog post to you. With how things are going, I need you to have my back all the way. There really isn’t anything else to say on it. You are either with me or not. If you are, great. If you are not, well, we will both have to live with the consequences.

A response.

A response.

How are u today? What r you doing??

Those words was the text message I received from my mom today, and the conversation devolved from there. 

I glance at the text while standing in a crowd of like-minded people showing their support for women’s rights. Balls of ice fall in torrents as I try to seek cover under a neighboring umbrella. 

I send her a picture of the gathering and try to pay attention to what is going on. I see signs that read “Trump likes Nickelback” and “Hands off our pussy” and “You can’t overcomb bigotry”. When the many signs in Spanish cross my field of vision, I ask a friend to help me decipher the one or two unknown words that escape me. 

I glance down at my phone again and brush off the ill-flavored Dip’n’Dots raining from the sky. 

Her: Demonstration against trump?

Me: Women’s March on Washington in ABQ

Eventually, my friend and I can no longer feel our toes, and after nearly two hours, it is time to go. I take the offered ride and we talk about work and politics and things. It was a nice experience, and we both have things to get done. I have a stack of mail and bills on my counter I have been ignoring, for one. 

I plop down on my bed and check my phone again. 

Her: What will it do..

I really don’t know how I want to respond, but her question annoys me. I try to play a round of Clash Royale, but it doesn’t help. Things are about to go sour, and I know it. 

Me: It is the largest mass protest for an incoming president. Who knows what it will do? But, if the rhetoric and deceit of the Tea Party and its ilk lead to the election the current president, there is hope in truth and facts and in gatherings so voices can be heard. With the new president, I am deeply ashamed to be an American. I can either cower in fear or do everything I can do oppose bigotry, hatred, and oppression.

Her: I will always be proud to be an American. And only ashamed of the idiots. There are many out there. I saw a video of people demonstrating breaking huge glass walls even at Starbucks. I think starbucks made big financial donations to Hilary. None of that helps.. it just shows more idiots.

Me: I was and am proud of our last president. He did a lot of work to protect the lives of all Americans. I sincerely hope that he won’t be this country’s last president.

Instead of receiving another written message from her, I receive a meme I can only describe as racist. It is from a conservative blogger’s website and shows a smoky picture of five young African Americans riding in and on a car decorated with words displaying messages about justice and freedom and racism. The caption reads: CLAIMS TRUMP WILL DESTROY AMERICA AS THEY GO OUT AND ACTUALLY DESTROY AMERICA. I’m highly bothered with the picture because I honestly don’t understand. Is the picture from a riot? Sure there is smoke, but couldn’t that be steam rising from under the street? I lack the investigative photo skills of the Catfish hosts, so I have no idea where the picture was taken or what is is from. But, here is what I do know, a riot does not destroy America. Laws, lies, and bigotry does. Unfortunately, I continue to take the bait and respond. 

Me: I can easily find you a similar picture of an angry white mob doing the same thing. What’s the point? The president delegitimizes actual news and truth in favor of sensationalizing and legitimizing fringe organizations as factual. He refuses to release his financial documents which has not been done in modern times. And, when the intelligence community produced evidence of Russia influencing the election, he downplayed or ignored it. He has so many conflicts of interests that it really is just pathetic. On top of all that, he brags about sexually assaulting women. I really have never respected anyone less. He won because of his racist rhetoric and false information. The fact that you are even attempting to provide an argument is a disappointment. Enjoy your ignorance. I will fight back.

Her: I think everyone should fight together for America!

Me: See, the thing is, with Trump, America isn’t for everyone.

Her: That doesn’t make sense

Me: Really? Are you that naive?

Her: With trump America is not for everyone.. well when Obama was president half the people didn’t like him either.

Me: Besides the fact that what you are saying is not true, considering that Obama’s approval ratings is one of the highest in modern history, do you hear what you are saying? You just said everyone should fight for America. Now, “with trump America is not for everyone”. Which is it? And if, it is the second, are you proud to be a part of that America? I thought America was a melting pot of all cultures? Home of the brave? Land of the free? What freedoms did we lose under Obama? Because I can easily rattle off the freedoms already under attack with the new president. Do you know that in the first day he took office every reference to LGBT rights and Women’s rights was removed from the White House website?

Her: I think we should all pull and support America regardless who is the president

Me: And as you said, Trump’s America isn’t for everyone. It is not for me, a transgender woman. It isn’t for my students, immigrants. It isn’t for many of my friends, non-Christian or non-white or women. The thing about America and life that I truly have begun to cherish is that sometimes, sometimes you are right and the other side is wrong. And, when laws are enacted and hatred is faced, you stand strong for what you believe in. When everything looks scary and frightening and you feel insurmountable pressure to yield and give in, you look bigotry and hatred in the face and say, “No, you move.”

That ends the discussion. I am left feeling, just, disappointed. My mom and I are on completely different sides of a completely different coin. I will never be okay with or understand how anyone can be okay with the results of this past presidential election. She asks one final question. 

Her: So what r u going to do.?

Me: Get involved. I joined the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign. I sign petitions. I blog. I go to rallies. I contact my elected officials. And, that is what I have already done since the election.

Was this conversation worth it? Did I get through to her? Or, is it just another waste of time? 

Joking

My little sister spends the evenings springing in little joking comments of “don’t assume genders” about her bacon and bread, “this isn’t a government handout” when I ask her to pass the BBQ sauce, and “is it okay to call it red sauce” and “sauce lives matter”. 

I yearn for a sign that says “bang head here” because the ignorance drives me crazy. Living so isolated from how the world really works, only knowing and being around white Christian people, I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for my family.

But, of course, I used to be that isolated and naive.

But, of course, I keep quiet and don’t make a scene. 

I am trying to be civil in an uncivilized setting. 

It wouldn’t help much away. 

And, no one wants me to spew my trans-liberal agenda all over the walls of my conservative Christian childhood home.

Ghosts

“Do you believe in ghosts?” 

“Nope,” I respond. 

I turn back to watching Kimmy Schmidt. 

“Really, you don’t believe in ghosts?” my mom asks. 

“No, and I don’t believe in psychics either,” I reiterate in a tone that may have been too condescending. 

“Huh.” My mom turns to her phone. 

“You’re not going to change his mind mom,” my brother pipes in. 

“I’m just going to ask the smartest person I know for another opinion,” she adds. 

I think my internal eye roll may have been visible. 

I turn back to watching Kimmy Schmidt.