Up to this point, I have written three letters that have changed everything in my life. Three letters that forever changed my life to a point where there was no going back. Three letters that forever defined me as a person. This is the third.
The first was written when I was dying. I was on the verge of giving up. I had hidden a part of me for so long that I just wanted to cease to exist. It hurt to live. It hurt to breathe. Yet, from a blind mix of fear and courage, the letter saw life, and it ended a relationship with someone I loved most in the world. But, instead of dying, I lived.
The second was written because I wanted to live. I felt renewed. I felt hope. I decided to confront my fears of their reactions and be true to myself. I had just come from rock bottom, and I felt alive with truth in who I was. Just like the first, the second letter changed everything. It was met with anger and disappointment and disgust and fear and hate and hurt. But, instead of letting others continue to control my life, I stayed true to who I was. I lived.
The third letter, your letter, will again change everything.
Will it, like the first, allow me to see the core of who you are and care for you all the more because of your acceptance and love and respect?
Or, will, it like the second, allow me to see the core of who you are, my memories of and respect for you to dissolve to shades of memories surrounded by a tumultuous onslaught of disappointment?
And, before we get to the heart of what I am saying, I must first tell you why. Why now? Why are you reading this letter now?
I wrote this to you the weekend after the inauguration of the 45th president of the country I have called home. I wrote this then. And, at this moment, I have no idea when you are reading it because I am not making any changes to it between now and then. But, I need you to know when it was written to fully understand the full extent of what I am saying.
You are reading this now because something has happened. I honestly don’t know what. Maybe, it is as simple as my inability to take the outright lies and divisive rhetoric spewed forth by the 45th president. My fear is that you are reading this because we are on the cusp, the brink, a slight shifting of the wind will send us to a point of no return as a country.
If history had provided a different path with a different 45th president before us, I doubt that I would have had the courage to send you this letter. Without this letter, things could have drifted as they have been. Yet, that was not the path that has been provided to us.
And, now, to this.
I need to know.
Are you with me?
Or, will you follow the path of the second letter?
Because the reality of what is going on is this. Depending on if you voted or not, you may have gotten it wrong. Less than half of America got it wrong. There is something wrong with the 45th president. When facts and reality can be refuted by “alternative facts” with no basis in reality, something is wrong. I am not going to provide you with the evidence. I should not have to. If you are the person I hope you are, you know deep in your heart, that something is wrong. And, you are afraid.
I am afraid, too.
If you don’t believe that something is very wrong with the 45th president, put this letter down now. Honestly, put it down and go no further because the core of the letter comes next. You have only covered the why are you reading this now part.
A few Christmases ago, I received a gift of a plaque with a quote from Steve Jobs. It is on a bookshelf in my office. I look at it often. I think on one piece of the quote in particular. “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Every time I read the quote, I ask myself, do you believe those words?
Because my heart and intuition have led me here.
To this moment.
To these words.
And, I need to know, are you with me?
The first iteration of this letter went into the details of the how and why and had only one specifically small audience in mind, but those details don’t matter now. What does matter is what happens next. With this iteration, you still have options and a choice to make. And, a truth.
There is always a truth.
I am transgender.
When you are ready, come back to this line and know that you have three options, if you know me. And if you don’t know me, consider these metaphorical options of character. Option 1, you ignore it. We continue as things are and slowly drift farther and farther apart as the weight of the truth makes it harder and harder for us to bear. Option 2, you fight against it. You condemn who I am. You seek reassurance by blaming mental illness, the devil, the demons, my corruption through societal means, and this either abruptly ends our relationship or settles to a slow drifting apart. And, Option 3, you accept and respect it. You see that I am who I have always been, just more myself. If I ask to go by a different name, you use it. If I ask to go by a different pronoun, you use it. We move forward, awkwardly at first but with new found hope and mutual respect.
I am filled with moments when hope for the third option is almost nonexistent. I have seen and heard how family ostracizes individuals that fall outside their bell curve.
I have been told, time and again, that family is important.
What about people?
Are people important?
I ask because I can no longer stay silent.
The lives of every minority, woman, and child are at risk, but the ripple effect of what is happening will be far wider than just the future of this country. Without action, we fall. We fall as a country. We fall as a society. We fall as humankind.
When I was at the point where I no longer wanted to live, I was afraid of dying. And, I continue to ask myself again and again, did I choose to live because I was afraid to die or because I was brave enough to live?
Whether I chose life because of fear or bravery, I am no longer afraid of dying. What I am afraid of now is standing by. Standing by as bigotry, hate, and prejudice become the new normal.
I have given you my truth because lives are on the line.
I sincerely hope that you choose the third option.
I hope you choose acceptance and respect.
But, more than that, I hope you find courage. I hope you find courage to stand up for what is good and right and true. I hope you fight for this country. I hope you fight for human lives and rights. I hope that you can look back at your life and know that you were in the right. That when the pendulum swung too far, you pushed back.
You have a myriad of choices before you.
We all do.
I chose to live.
I chose to be true to myself.
I am choosing to stand up for the what is right. To stand firm against a presidential decree of bigotry, hatred, and prejudice.
If you have gotten this far, there is hope.
Consider every single action that you take, every choice you make.
Your choices stand before you.
What will you choose?
Where will you stand?
Are you with me?
Because, even if you are not, I am just getting started.
Holding Out for Hope,
A Fellow Human Being