Taking on The Patriarchy as a Trans Man

So it’s been decided – at least in Houston.

The trans community is nothing more than men in dresses with uncontrolled sexual urges who are compelled to attack women in public restrooms. At least in Houston.

Fear mongering has always been a tactic of those who have nothing left to fight with. So it should have been expected. And I suspect that before our side could react, the fear had stretched so far and wide that it  became its own entity.

But this entity attacked trans women only. Ads saying that somehow, this would lead to an increase in sexual assaults in public restrooms. Ads saying things as ‘facts’ with no factual evidence or basis to go on. Ads attacking trans women by degrading, demeaning, and stirring up hate.

Do these people know how many trans women have been murdered this year in the US alone? At least 22. Murdered by heterosexual men who were ‘surprised’ and attempted to use a ‘gay panic defense’ because they were, are, nothing more than cowards. Do these people understand that if a man is going to sexually assault a woman, he doesn’t need to put on a dress to do so? That he can walk right into the restroom and rape her, and no law or ordinance will either stop him or protect him?

And why? Because of the patriarchy. Men have ruled for centuries – they use their male privilege to further their own interests at the expense of women and don’t give a passing thought to it. How else do you explain the incessant need for men to control a woman’s reproductive rights?

But where’s the fear and hate-mongering towards the trans men? All of these ads attacking the transgender community are geared towards creating hate against trans women. Because who in their right mind would openly give up their male privilege? Why would someone want to be a woman? They’re weak, feeble-minded, and good for sexual pleasure and ego-stroking, right? That’s it, right?

These people think laws keeping trans people out of their respective restrooms are going to keep rapists out of women’s rooms, but fight against gun control laws because criminals don’t abide by the law.

Those who think that men in dresses will descend upon women’s restrooms are the same people who think that a woman is incapable of making decisions over her own body. This is something I’ve mentioned before – these people who are trying to defund Planned Parenthood are trying to regulate women’s bodies, and by no stretch of the imagination, they’re attempting to regulate everyone else too.

These are the same people who think gender is purely biological and if you’re a man then you were born with a penis and if you’re a woman you were born with a vagina and there’s no in-between. They think they get to make that defining choice for us.

So I’ll bring it up again. If these men think they can tell trans people which restrooms they’re supposed to use, and tell women what to do with their bodies, then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll attempt to pass legislation making hysterectomies illegal because that would be killing any prospective children one might have.

Do you think this doesn’t affect you? Do you think that your newly acquired male privilege will keep you safe? Let’s do a ‘what if’ – What if the same Republicans who are trying (and in some cases, succeeding) to defund Planned Parenthood go after other procedures that render a woman unable to reproduce? After all, when it comes down to it, a lot of men believe a woman’s purpose is to make babies and sammiches. What if one of those procedures is like I said above, to outlaw hysterectomies like they’re trying to outlaw abortion? Where does that leave us? Because remember, according to them, men are born with penises and women with vaginas, and there’s no way in their eyes, to change that.

So why the hell aren’t trans men furious over this? Because it’s easier to stay silent? Because it’s easier to quietly accept your male privilege while keeping your mouth shut and your head down? In all the forums I’m in on Facebook, none of them talk about this. None of them talk about taking the patriarchy down from the inside. Hell, none of them talk about male privilege or the patriarchy at all. None of them mention the atrocities faced by women on a daily basis, despite the fact that I’m sure at least some of them have suffered at the hands of male privilege prior to transitioning.

I’m not without culpability. I’ve sat quietly, making comments from my comfy sofa at home, while Mira makes dinner and breakfast and makes sure I’m comfortable and taken care of. I’ve failed to acknowledge all she’s done for me, and I’m truly sorry for that. But saying I’m sorry is half of an apology. Showing I’m sorry is something I’m working on, because I’ve never had anyone hold me accountable before.

It’s time to make the patriarchy implode. And if my fellow trans men don’t have the heart to take down the same group of men that essentially gave them their male privilege by perpetuating it, well, I ask you to get the hell out of the way. It’s time we realize our role in this.

I know what I have to do at home, to do my part as a feminist. Because it doesn’t stop at my front door. I’m reaching out to organizations that help women, all women, to see how I can help. And I’m going to keep making internet comments and blog posts to spread the word and spread awareness of the insidiousness that is the patriarchy. I’m going to fight for the equity of all women, because it’s the only thing to do.

This isn’t new. I’ve talked about this before. I talked about how Planned Parenthood offers services necessary to all people, not just women. But not one trans guy commented or offered their support or asked what they could do to help. And that disappoints me. I know we have struggles. Trans men aren’t exempt from discrimination and harassment. But that’s all the more reason to join the fight and get active. To say you support and to actually support are two completely different things. You want the community to support you and recognize your struggles. You turn to others for help with GoFundMe accounts for surgery. Yet when there’s a call to action on the other end, how many of you stayed silent? How many of you joined the rallies for feminism? How many of you

To the trans men of my hometown – where were you during the Feminist Film Festival? I was there. I didn’t see you. Did you know they gave a shout out to the trans community? Did you know they had a couple of films that addressed trans issues? Specifically those of trans men? No. Because you weren’t there. You weren’t there to support your sisters – trans and cis – in their fight against the patriarchy. You weren’t there to see them recognize us, and support us in our struggles to exist.

Stop hiding. Stop taking the back alley to freedom. Our ancestors didn’t have that option. The least we can do is acknowledge their struggle by acknowledging their fight. Look beyond the reach of your own hand.

You can be an accomplice, an oppressor, an activist or an ally. There’s only two choices that are acceptable. And in some situations, there’s only one choice.

Make sure you make the right one.

Advertisements

How does one measure courage?

How does one measure courage?
Is an Iraqi war veteran more courageous than a child fighting cancer?
Is an amputee more courageous than someone who hasn’t lost a limb?
Is an athlete more courageous than a single mother?

If so, then who is the most courageous one of all?

We cannot measure courage. Comparing scars does nothing. Your battle is different than mine, and mine is different than theirs. Our scars don’t exist to be compared. They exist to show strength. My scars show battles I’ve won, battles unique to me. And when something is unique, there is nothing to compare it to.

Our journeys through life are unique. Each step we take has not ever been taken, by anyone, before. Similar paths have been traversed, and recognizable steps have been taken, but everything you do, is unique because you do it.

It takes courage to come out, whether it be out of the closet or out of your gender, and knowing the world could hate you for it. It takes courage to go off to war, knowing you might not come back home. It takes courage to lay in a hospital bed while toxic chemicals are pumped into you, fighting off an enemy you cannot see.

Are any of these things more courageous than the other? No. They’re all different, unique struggles and battles that take individual strength to endure. No single action can be called the most courageous action, and to try to compare such actions has the potential to invalidate the struggle that each individual has gone through.

You cannot measure courage by comparing your actions to those actions of others. You can only compare yourself to past selves, and take pride in what you’ve done, how far you’ve come, and what battles you’ve won.

Not All of Us

We’re erasing each other.

“Yeah, but not all men are rapists.”

“Not all white people are racist.”

“Not all Christians hate gays.”

It’s become so important for us to distance ourselves from those groups who these statements are about that we’re missing the point. Of course not all men are rapists. I’m a transguy, and I’m not a rapist, but I also don’t need to tell people that.

“Hi, I’m Teri. I like cats, I like to write…oh, and I’m not a rapist.” No, that’s stupid. If you have to state that you are the exception to the rule, and not the standard, something is terribly wrong.

There’s been a movement, where Christians show up at gay pride festivals across the country and apologize for the pain and suffering inflicted by the religion. They hug LGBT people and say “I’m Sorry” and wear t-shirts with the phrase emblazoned on the front. There’s other movements too, where white people have shown up to protest alongside blacks in their neighborhoods, protesting police brutality.

It’s not enough. Saying you’re a good Christian, and you’re sorry doesn’t do anything for me. Why? Because it doesn’t close the gap between the two communities. You’re sorry on behalf of those who wish to take away my rights, and in some instances, wish me dead. They’re not sorry. They most likely never will be sorry. So unfortunately, your apology, as well intentioned as it may be, is empty. At least to me. If five people at a pride event say they’re sorry, then I go home and there’s 20 people talking about how it’s the LGBT community’s fault that Nebraska had an earthquake, or a reporter is telling the story of a trans life taken much too soon…it just simply isn’t enough.

We talk of privilege. Privilege of skin, privilege of money, of education, of sexual orientation and gender identity. But what do we do with it? I’m sure there are black people who appreciate the white people standing beside them in solidarity, but that doesn’t stop black youth from dying.

A Christian telling me they’re sorry doesn’t change the fear I have using a public restroom or keep me from being fired because I’m trans.

So you’re sorry. That’s great. But don’t come to me to assuage your guilt for being Christian. Don’t tell a woman who has been raped that not all men are rapists, because clearly it doesn’t do her a damn bit of good. If you want to help, if you truly want to make a difference, get out there and change things. Engage in conversations with other Christians, tell them you know gay people, that you know transgender people, and surprise! We’re not bad or evil. Use your white privilege to change people’s attitudes. Call others out when they’re racist. Go to community meetings and stand up and tell people that police brutality is not only unacceptable, but that it needs to stop and things MUST change. When other men are being misogynist, call them out. Let them know that it’s not right.

Be that change. Don’t hug me and tell me that you’re sorry. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t help me move forward towards equality.

Yes, all lives matter, and yes, not all of us are [pick your poison]. But stop erasing the struggle because you need to clear your conscience. I know you’re a good person, but simply being a good person doesn’t create the change that’s needed to make this place safe for all of us. Stop telling me you’re a good Christian and go find out why the bad Christians feel the way they do about us.

Stop being the exception. Become the standard.

An open letter to the LGBT community:

We’ve been in the news a lot lately, especially regarding DieselTec and business owner Brian Klawiter. Now, I’m not necessarily inclined to believe the ‘death threats’ and graffiti weren’t self-organized in an attempt to keep their name in the news and to keep the publicity rolling in.

But, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is our further actions with him and any other businesses that engage in this extreme form of discrimination.

I implore you, as members of the LGBT community in West Michigan, to stop engaging this business, this man, in any and all forms of communication. Clearly nothing we say or do will change his mind into supporting us and our fight for equality. He is a lost cause. And frankly, he offers a very specialized service that most of us will never use.

As I said, I don’t believe the death threats are real, and I’m seriously inclined to believe the graffiti was self-inflicted. However, if it wasn’t, and if the death threats are real, and did indeed come from our community – please, stop. Stooping to his level and destroying property does nothing more than provide fuel for these people to further spew their hatred. Acting in this way not only gives us a bad reputation, but can make it harder to get city officials and members of the community to back us and give us the equal rights we deserve.

We can’t bully people into accepting us. I understand the frustration and anger that fills you when someone says such hate-filled things. Trust me, I understand that desire to lash out and show these people that we will not run in fear, and that we will not back down. But reacting with threats and vandalism isn’t the way to do this.

I understand the want to react in kind when someone calls us evil, or says we’re sinning, or says we’re below them. Stand up for yourselves, stand up for our community, but don’t drop to the level of behavior of our detractors. That is not the path to equality.

Let this story die. Let this man flounder his way in his hate-filled life. His business is either going to go away or it’s going to continue forward. But don’t let him define our progress or our actions.

If you want to fight back, get involved in the community at large. Volunteer, announce your pride and show the community we are not unlike them and we are claiming our space in the world. Get involved in local politics – show up at city hall meetings, talk to the lawmakers in your community. Protesting outside of a business will not get us equal rights. Laws and city ordinances will. Make our voices heard in the most productive way.

And remember the more space we give this man and others like him, the less space we have for ourselves.

The Measure of an Activist

The internet has been abuzz as of late about Indiana’s RFRA, specifically, about a little pizzeria called Memories Pizza. (By the way, the business didn’t bother to purchase their domain name.)

They closed shortly after coming out on the news talking about their opposition to serving the LGBT community, specifically stating they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding. The owners claimed they received death threats and because of this, felt they needed to close their business for their safety.

Yet none of these alleged threats have been discovered. None of the articles posted go into any sort of detail regarding the threats. To me, a threat of death is far more serious than a threat to boycott a restaurant.

This post, however, isn’t about the validity of the threats, or why RFRA is wrong, or how obvious it’s been that Memories Pizza was chosen to be a martyr for the “Gays are Evil” movement. This post is about activism and advocacy, and how important these things are.

I comment on a post about exactly that, how these people are martyrs for the cause. Someone responded with a comment that didn’t set well with me. They said that yes, the LGBT community and their allies had shut the business down, but that we didn’t change the minds of the business owners, so essentially, nothing had changed.

I beg to differ. Shutting down a business because they have bigoted, discriminatory views does change things. Recently Mira received the honor of being a member of the Trans100 2015. One of the keynote speakers, Tiq Milan, talked about his mother teaching him about taking up space, and how he has a right to take up space, and a responsibility to take up space.

By shutting this business down, the LGBT community has shown them that we deserve to be here, and we will take up our rightful space, whether others feel we deserve that space or not. And it’s our responsibility to continue to take up our rightful space, no matter what the opposition says or does.

How do we gauge the success of our efforts? If it’s solely by the number of minds changed, then are any other efforts moot? The Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro most likely didn’t change the minds of the shop owner or many of the other white people sitting in the diner. Because they didn’t change the minds of those people, does that discount the fact those four students sparked an interest that ultimately resulted in 1000 people protesting the segregation? Certainly not.

Those four students had enough. They took up their rightful space at that counter. And the LGBT community needs to do the same. We need to continue to take up space and show our opposers that we are not backing down. Of course I’d love to change minds in the process, but that obviously isn’t always going to happen.

To poo-poo the efforts of the LGBT community and their allies to get businesses to close their doors because of discrimination is hurtful and extremely dangerous. If enough people felt the way this commenter did, the likelihood of any kind of movement for social change wouldn’t occur, because ‘we couldn’t change their minds’.

Change doesn’t occur overnight, either. Stonewall was the catalyst for the LGBT movement. But their efforts didn’t change the hearts and minds of all people. Clearly that fight still continues. The results of their actions, however, gave others the inspiration to no longer sit back and be trampled on.

Yes. We came out in force against this business. Yes, we may have helped in shutting the business down. And yes, we didn’t change the way they feel about the LGBT community. But things have changed. And they continue to change.

We may not change everyone’s minds. But it is our job to continue to fight, to take each step forward as a victory, as fuel to continue down the path to equality. As Tiq Milan said, success is measured in the space we occupy. It’s measured in the quantity of people out fighting for a cause. It’s measured by the quality of life those fighting for rights have. Each victory, no matter how small, counts.

This is a victory. It shows other businesses that we will not back down. It shows others within the LGBT community that we do matter, and that we can make a difference.

SIDENOTE: I understand that the owners of the pizzeria became puppets of the religious right. I also understand that they were most likely approached and told if they closed their doors, they would be repaid for it. I understand they became martyrs and targeted to be martyrs. This however, to me, is still a victory. Our voices were heard.

Oppressor or Activist? Turns out, I’ve been both…and more.

I am an oppressor. I am an accomplice. I am an ally. I am an activist.

I have kept silent while others have made jokes about someone’s weight. I’ve felt my blood boil as someone made a racist remark, or said something derogatory about the trans community, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? The reasons are endless – maybe some part of me thought it was true, or I didn’t feel like getting into an argument that day, or I knew if I spoke up, it wouldn’t do any good. The reasons don’t matter, though.resist_oppression_communism_will_prevail_india_revolution_operation_green_hunt_cpimaoist

Sometimes someone will make a comment about the weight of someone we both know, making a joke or some off-handed remark, I laugh along with them, while I should have, could have, said something, not in defense of their object of fun, but in response to the inappropriateness of the comment. Instead, I commented as well, not wanting to seem “weird” or “awkward” by going against the norm.

I am an oppressor.

black-tape-mouth-shut-no-speaking-700x45_660If I’m at work, where the majority of my co-workers are heterosexual and all of them, save me, are cisgender, I keep my mouth shut about many things. I haven’t officially come out at work, and so when I talk about being trans, or the trans community, I speak in hushed tones, not making eye contact, keeping my head down, as if the words I’m saying are something I should be ashamed of. When people use the word ‘tranny’, I cringe internally, but respond with “Yeah, I don’t see the big deal…” My silence is as dangerous as the loud voices of the bigots and discriminators.

I am an accomplice.

I am not proud of these situations. Because I should have stepped in and said it was wrong. I should have made it abundantly clear that their attitudes and opinions were their own to have, and solely their own to have. I didn’t. And I regret that.tumblr_m5ixrhNjhD1rpy84ao1_500

I went with Mira to a Lady Parts Justice rally. I was there to support her, but now because of the inspiring acts of the women that spoke and performed, I’ve been inspired, and I really want to speak at the next rally, to the importance of allies in the fight against the patriarchy telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  Because if we do not stand alongside women, if we do not stop the regulation over their bodies by men who claim to know what’s best but essentially just want to dominate and put women “in their place”, then we all are subject to the repercussions of such a loss.

I am an ally.

During the last lame duck session in Michigan, there was a movement to change the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA for short), to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. There was another splinter group that thought it best to only include sexual orientation, and come back to revise the law later to encompass gender identity and expression. Years ago, I would have totally been all for the ‘half a pizza’ argument.

activistNot anymore, and not just because I’m now a part of the LGBT that has historically ended up without any slice of pizza, but because it’s simply wrong. And because of this, I went to a few ELCRA rallies, I went to TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance), and I want to speak out against the injustices faced by the trans community, a community I am a part of, and one that I fully embrace.

I am an activist.

I play all of these roles at varying times. When I identified as a lesbian and I fought for equality – I was an activist for the L and G, and an oppressor to the T. The B wasn’t even a concern, because in my head, they were simply confused. That has all obviously changed, for the better. I don’t want to ever play the role of the oppressor, and I think it’s even worse to play the role of the accomplice. Having the knowledge I do from my brilliant and insightful girlfriend, Mira, and my other activist friends, I’m learning when to recognize oppressive behaviors and attitudes in which I act as an accomplice.

Self awareness is just as important as self confidence. Being aware of my actions and words is just as important as saying them in the first place. I’m still going to screw up. But I will be aware of my missteps, and I will not silence my voice. If I am not empowering, I am oppressing, and I am contributing to the reason why equality has not yet been achieved.

If I don’t use the power I have from the privileges I have to raise up both the marginalized groups I belong to and those I do not belong to, then I am failing not only as an ally, but as an activist.

Everyone has some kind of privilege. It may not be obvious at first, but you know that saying – “There’s always someone worse off than you” – it’s true, and those who are “worse off” are most likely part of a marginalized group you do not belong to. If you have a place to live – then you can be an ally for the homeless, and use your privilege of stability of a roof over your head to help advocate for housing the homeless and providing them with an opportunity to achieve the same level of safety and stability you have.

If you are cisgender, you can ally yourself with the trans community, and use the power of being cisgender (and yes, you do have power, because you have privilege) in circles to support the trans community when the trans community is not represented.

I’m working on being an ally. I want to be a better ally. I feel I have the tools and the knowledge and the support to be a better ally.

Because it’s not always about my story.

How about you?

1bbb565

Realizing My Role Models

I’ve written about wanting to be that rock that creates ripples in water. I’ve pointed out the fact that there aren’t a lot of visible trans men in role model positions, or at least are not readily accessible via media without already knowing who you’re looking for or sifting through Google results.

I’ve also written about my struggles with my lack of dysphoria, and how I didn’t think I was trans, because I wasn’t miserable, despite the nagging voice in my head trying to convince me otherwise.

Mira, my partner (who has her own, wonderful blog) asked me who my role models were. I stumbled, I fumbled for words. I responded with,

“I don’t really have any.”

and then I wondered why. Which led me down a path of reflection, and so in this blog post, I want to thank the men who have been in my life, and whether they realized it or not, have taught me some incredibly valuable lessons on both manhood and acceptance.

First, I want to thank my friend Erik, a wonderful guy with a wonderful wife and a wonderful son (who will also grow up into a wonderful guy because of his father). Erik is the living definition of an ally. He has taught me what it means to be an ally. His words in support of who I am makes me less fearful that I’ll be rejected by manhood as I transition.

He’s living in Denmark now, navigating a new plane of existence. But when he was here, he threw a couple of “Man Parties.” And no, they were not misogynistic guyfests. In fact, it was more about the craft beer than talking about women. I remember him sending me a message on Facebook, saying he didn’t want to be a jerk the first time around, but that he thought I was one of the coolest people around and he wanted me to come to the second party. Maybe he saw something there that I hadn’t seen yet, because at that time I was still identifying as a butch lesbian, but regardless, the message touched me and still brings tears to my eyes.

Erik is unconditional in his friendship, and in his support. I’d see so many times when he would comment on an LGBT story, stating his anger over the injustice done to a community that he was not a part of, but allied himself with. Erik, you were my first “bro”, and I thank you for showing me that I can be a man without attaching all that baggage to the word. And thank you for simply accepting me as I am, without making me define myself to you.

Next, is my friend Brian. I met Brian several years ago. He welcomed me into his house and quite honestly, into his family. I work with his wife, and she’s just as amazing as he is. Brian has shown me that you can love with emotion, and it’s okay. He and his wife are madly, endlessly in love, and because of them, I know what love is supposed to look like, and I’ve found that. Brian has always seen me as me, and has even threatened to smack me upside the head when I’ve made a ridiculously dumb decision. He’s been somewhat of a father figure to me, showing me that love and emotion are okay in manhood.

Brian has shown me that I can be a man without showing that machismo. That manhood can be full of understanding and love and family without compromising masculinity. Thank you, Brian, for showing me that manhood can be defined by subtle masculinity and strong love. Thank you for showing me that emotions don’t take away from, but add to, the definition of a man.

To my friend Greg. I know we only met a while ago and even then it was for a handful of hours, but in those hours you taught me a lot. You taught me that standing behind the woman you love doesn’t make you less of a man, but rather, lifts both of you to a place of understanding and respect. You showed me that being a male feminist is actually a thing, and that you don’t have to emasculate yourself to do so. You showed me that being an ally does not mean you speak for others, but with them, and never louder than them. You taught me that respect for women is something that comes naturally, and is not only the right way, but the only way to love.

To Jessie, a fellow trans man – thank you for showing me what strength in character is. And thank you for showing me that compromising who you are is never an option. I look forward to this journey with you, and I’m really proud to know you. Same goes for you, Nico. You were my first trans “bro”, and hold a special place of friendship with me. You’ve helped to show me that struggles can be overcome. You’ve also helped me to look for the good in everyone, regardless of any biases or preconceptions I weigh myself down with.

These are the men in my life. Some have been there for a fleeting moment, others for years. But you all have taught me that a man, by his own virtue, can define his own manhood. And because of you, I am molding my own definition of manhood – one that will hopefully, eventually, negate the baggage that comes with the concept.

So in answer to Mira’s question – it turns out I do have role models. None of them grace the big screen, or have won Nobel Peace prizes. But when I look at how I want to model my life as a trans man, these are the men I turn to.

And on the flip-side, something else I’ve learned, mostly through the help of Mira – is that not all of my role models must be male. It’s not a requirement that men should only have male role models. Having female role models is not only not going to reduce my ability to call myself a man, but it’s something that is necessary, as men are not the only creatures with qualities I want to model.

So, to Laura, you welcomed me in as family, and you’ve taught me that mansplaining is wrong. Always. You’ve taught me how to stand up for myself in subtle ways that leave a lasting impact. You’ve taught me that in the end, if I’m not happy, then I need to change something. You’ve let me know that it’s been okay to screw up and make stupid decisions, and you’ve told me “I told you so.” in ways that didn’t make me feel lesser, but respected. Thank you for never making me feel ridiculous or useless.

To Paige, for navigating your way in a male dominated industry, and becoming a force to be reckoned with. I have the utmost respect for you because you taught me that women can go toe-to-toe with men, and be absolutely awesome while doing so. You have shown me strength and grace. You have shown me acceptance. You have shown me that it’s perfectly okay not to lay down and take the bullshit that the world can throw at you simply because some aspect of society has tried to define your role as a woman as such.

To my new friend, Amy. You’ve shown me what internal strength is. I’ve only gotten to talk to you a handful of times, and always in a censored fashion (which needs to change, soon, btw), but in those conversations, your ability to completely accept what’s happening and deal with the punches as you navigate your day has taught me patience. Your innate ability to know what to say, despite your fear of offending, is immeasurable, and you’ve taught me to open my ears and eyes to others around me and listen to what they are saying without adding my own biases.

And finally, to Mira. My love, my life. You have taught me strength, perseverance, and grace. You have taught me that it’s okay to be happy without regret. You’ve taught me that I am capable of change, and you have taught me that unconditional love is not only real, but completely attainable. You have given me knowledge and shown me what respect truly means. Watching you navigate this world and hearing you speak and captivate an audience, a crowd, or a small group of people – it is not only an honor, but something I aspire to do. You have taught me that I can be who I am, and I can do so without apology.

These are my role models. Men and women from all walks of life, cisgender, heterosexual, transgender, with different backgrounds and experiences. And it feels really, really good to have this realization, that I do have role models, and that they all are helping me (whether they know it or not) to become the person I am. The person I’m supposed to be. My journey of self-discovery is one I may have to go alone at times, but with these people as my role models, I’ll never really “be” alone.

And because of all of this, I can be that rock in the water.