Dissociation and Presence-The Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018 By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Dissociation and Presence

The Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2018

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

I realized after the Transgender Day of Remembrance Service that I helped organize and lead at Love in Action UCC, I began to dissociate. It was a beautiful and yet heavy morning. Try as I might my brain just couldn’t stay present with the pain. PTSD triggered, I tried to feel the tragedy of so many innocent lives lost, yet my soul said: “It’s too much. Feel what you can now, then feel more later, and remember Dear One, you do not need to sit with the pain alone.” I did my best to not shame myself for needing a space between the pain and consciousness. I went home, collapsed into bed, and within minutes I was weeping, and then, like a baby being held in her mother’s arms, I slipped away into a holy nothingness. Later in the evening I had the honor of holding a baby in arms as she slowly drifted into sleep. I sang to her as softly as the wind, I matched the rhythm of her breathing, I swayed gently, like a tree holding the moon, and I knew at that moment—allowing myself to experience pain and grief in however I need to—even if that requires a sleep of nothingness, I will not judge myself as weak. I will acknowledge my soul’s wisdom for taking my wounded heart into her arms and singing to me as softly as the wind, for matching the rhythm of my breathing, and for swaying gently, holding me, as a tree holds the moon. ❤️

 

 

 

 

 


 




The Root of Us All, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

The Root of Us All

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Flowers flower from the branch,

Branches flower from the tree,

Trees flower from the ground,

The ground flowers from the earth,

The earth flowers from love’s universe,

Love’s universe flowers from many minds

And many hearts and many wishes and many prayers.

 

Minds flower from seed,

Hearts flower from fire,

Wishes flower from all children,

Prayers flower from pain.

 

You flower from me,

I flower from you,

We flower from need,

And need flowers from desire,

Desire flowers from all space,

And all time, and everything right

With the world.

 

Waves flower from the sea,

The sea flowers from longing,

Longing flowers from love once known

Calling us home,

Home flowers from hearth and bed.

 

Love flowers from our hands,

Our hands flower from our limbs,

Our limbs flower from our bodies,

Our bodies flower from union,

Union flowers from creation everlasting

Everlasting flowers from joy,

Joy flowers from need,

Need flowers from want,

Want flowers from gardens of many fragrances and colors,

Many colors flower from infinity’s imagination,

Imagination flowers from the hands of a child,

And a child is the root of us all,

All of us flower from variety’s branches,

Branches flower from the tree,

The tree flowers from the ground,

The ground flowers from where you stand,

Your standing flowers from community,

Community flowers hands opening,

Hands opening flower from pain lived,

Pain lived flowers from the bravery of a child,

And a child is the root of us all.

 

 

 


 

 





Remembering the Storm, And Putting the Box Cutter Down, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Remembering the Storm

And Putting the Box Cutter Down

By Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Two years ago today, I stood at the threshold of the doorway to my basement apartment with a box cutter held to my wrist.  I paced.  I shook.  I wept.  I was filled with fear.  It was cold.  A light snow was falling.  I felt utterly alone.  It was the first fall I wasn’t teaching after twenty years.  Other loses as a result of coming out as trans weighed heavily on my chest.  The last school year I taught was devastating—aside from the most amazing and accepting students ever.  The rest of it was traumatic.  Now, I couldn’t find a job, and I missed teaching with all my heart and knew I would likely never teach elementary school again.

I stepped out into the snow.  It drifted down gently on my shoulders.  I was in my pajamas.  No coat.  No shoes.  My socks were wet.  My feet freezing.  I pressed the blade against my wrist daring myself to end my life.  Visions of collapsing right there in front of my door seeped into my mind—a mind broken—cracked—frantic.  I stood there wondering who would find me.  I feared for their hearts.  I hoped the Divine would have mercy on my soul.  Ending my life wasn’t a conscious choice.  I was compelled by searing pain, depression, and the terror of a dark, uncertain future.

And then it happened.  I closed the blade back into the box cutter.  I went in and got my keys.  I was drenched with snow, shivering.  I put the box cutter down on my unmade bed.  I looked around at the piles of dishes in the sink, the clothes strewn upon the floor, the plants unwatered, and, weeping even harder, reaching down for the box cutter again, only to drop it back on the bed.  I forced my wet feet into my slippers, and went back outside.

The wind was wishing me onward.  The snow slanting at an angle gesturing to my car.  And I followed.  Angry and frightened, disappointed in myself for ruining my life, for allowing myself to get this sick, wiping the snow from the windshield with my bare hands, unable to see what a courageous step I was taking.  Unable to see the unseen forces of strength that were being obeyed by some part of my spirit that wasn’t sick—that deeply wanted to live—caught in a blizzard of mental illness.  And I drove myself to the hospital.

When I got there, I gave my keys to a valet parking attendant—they stared at me.  I must have looked wild—a scared animal—unshaven, sopping wet, snow-soaked.  I walked into the emergency room and up to the counter.

“How can I help you Hun?” the nurse asked.

And I found myself, still weeping, snot falling, saying: “I’m going to kill myself.”

“Step around here,” she said, and they immediately brought me into a private room.  Nurses gathered around me.  They called a doctor.  They gave me a gown and a warm blanket.  They stationed someone outside my room to watch over me.  The nurses were like angels—quiet, soothing, present, efficient.

I would spend the next ten days in the psych ward, missing Thanksgiving with my family.  But I was alive.  Somehow, I had survived a wave of mental illness.

The storm wouldn’t end there.  I had more hospital stays and worse bouts of suicidality a month after leaving.  For that moment though, I was safe from the sickness.  I was surrounded by care.

The last thing I remember thinking as they injected tranquilizers into my IV, was: “Help me.”

Today, two years later—much more stable, and yet still struggling daily with passive suicidal thoughts and other forms of mental illness, those memories are falling like the snow, blanketing my heart.  I watch the snow covering the trees with meticulous attention.  I remember standing out in the snow holding the box cutter.  I remember the depth of pain, fear, and depression—the echoing hopelessness.  I remember feeling completely alone.  I remember turning back, putting the box cutter down, picking up my keys, and walking, unsure, terrified at how sick I had become, out to my car.

 

 


 

 

All donations from this post go to Trans Lifeline.




I Think I Might be Straight? My Ongoing Journey of Discovering My Sexual Orientation, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

I Think I Might be Straight?

My Ongoing Journey of Discovering My Sexual Orientation

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

CW: Description of Dysphoria; mention of sexual abuse; open references to genitalia; mention of gender-affirmation surgery; a couple sexually explicit words; allusions to sexual acts

 

  1. Dysphoria—Getting Current

 

As of the writing of this post—November 5th, 2018, I am struggling with a nasty bout of dysphoria.  Haven’t had one this bad in a while.  In this moment—sitting on a big, round, fluffy, pink pillow on the floor of the living room, writing this, it’s six-eleven P.M.  It’s dark, rainy, chilly.  The autumn leaves are shining with their true brilliance.  And I am sitting here alone, weeping quietly.  I want a vulva so badly—my heart hurts.  My guts are churning.  My whole body feels wrong.  I know—I have an interestingly-penis-shaped vulva.  I know—it’s not the parts that make the person.  I am a woman no matter what my genitals look like.  I am a woman because I am—not because I take estrogen—not because of how I dress or act or speak.  I am a woman.  Enough said.

And yet—here I am, sitting on the floor—experiencing this strange sensation in my genitals—it’s a sort of longing to be something else—it’s visceral.  The feeling extends up my sides, branching to my arms and shoulders, and my shoulder blades ache as if wanting to sprout wings.  The rain-stained darkened window reflects my face—it looks as if I’m melting.  My heart contracts and pulls my sense of self inwards a little further—a little more away from the world, and the tears withdraw inside, and my eyelids feel heavy, and my spirit wilts like a rain-soaked weeping willow.  My genitals seem to remember another time—perhaps another lifetime even—I don’t know—but another time, when they were right with who my spirit is—when they radiated warmth, the darkness of a pond, the beauty of a flower, and the power of the moon.

And so, I sit, type, share what many think is way too much information.  I know I wax poetic—fuck you—I’m a poet.  Thing is, the very next moment after the blessed revelation that I’m a woman over three years ago—the very next moment—I wanted gender affirmation surgery.  It didn’t faze me as to why I had such a desire.  It simply needed to happen.  Having no frame of reference in any way to such a surgery—the palpable desire to adjust this body more to what would ease this intense longing—that would help me feel more me—wasn’t even surprising.  It’s as if it was always there—hidden inside, and that’s because it was.  And it is all a holy mystery.

I think this wave of dysphoria has to do with where I am on my journey to awakening to my sexual orientation.  The more I think I’m straight—that I really like guys—the lonelier I feel—the more impossible life feels.  I want to be made love to with every fiber of my being by a man.  I want to feel a cock inside me.  It’s just the truth, and it will never happen.  Nor will I ever have a child or nurse a baby.  These are painful truths I live with every day.  Some days hurt more than others.  Today is one of the days it hurts like hell.

 

2. Questions About My Sexual Orientation

 

After I came out, the second most frequently asked question (after: “Have you had the SURGERY?”) from people was (and often still is): “Are you lesbian?  I mean, you were married to a woman for twenty-three years.  So, um, like…you’ve got to be a lesbian, right?”

When I first had the blissful christening of being transgender, I assumed I was, in fact, a lesbian, for exactly the reasons people mentioned.  It made sense.

Then, about a year in, I was ordering some fries from Five Guys and the cashier was an incredibly handsome young man, and I found myself swooning in a way I’d never done before.  I could barely speak.  My knees were shaking. My hands fumbled as I gave him my crinkly cash and took the receipt hoping we would make some electric, albeit brief finger to finger contact.  I knew if we did, I might faint.

Alas, it didn’t happen.  I stepped aside to wait for my fries while compulsively munching on the free peanuts they give out.  I admit I kept stealing looks at him.  I hoped to god he couldn’t see my eyelashes batting like hungry butterflies.

I was stunned.  It was the first time in my life I consciously had an attraction to a man.  I left the restaurant and pondered in my heart what this encounter meant.

I’m a lesbian, right?  Or am I bi?

I went home and conjured up some sexual-fantasies to see what felt better, so to speak, when imagining myself being sexually intimate with someone.  And while I could feel twinges during reveries with the traditional images of men and women, the one that made me the horniest was thinking of making love with a man, and of doing various things to a man I suddenly always wanted to do.  Once again, I was stunned.

And luckily, I wasn’t worried one way or the other.

Growing down (as opposed to “growing up”) I was forcibly “masculinized,” by my parents and other adults in my life.  They saw something “effeminate,” in me and wanted it gone.  After years of a steady diet of porn supplied by my parents it had seemingly “worked.”  I thought for sure I was a straight guy even though I would have to confess to myself that when the porn I looked at/watched involved a man and a woman, I was often most fascinated by the guy and their “money shots.”  I didn’t know why and I certainly didn’t encourage it by seeking out relationships with guys.  I was steeped in an environment of homophobia and I had my own.  I can see looking back that I also had an internalized misogyny, and, if I would have had a word for it in my unconscious awareness of being trans, I would have experienced an internalized transphobia as well.  Not to mention dysphoria.  Add to all that sexual abuse of all kinds, Catholic guilt over masturbating, as well as my own warped inner attitudes and desires around sex, and I wasn’t only confused, but ashamed—steeped in self-hatred.

Over time, after coming out, I started feeling the urge to date.  Hadn’t dated in over twenty-five years.  Time to get back in the game.  Time’s a-ticking.  I joined a couple dating sites.  I proudly announced I’m trans and proceeded to write what amounted to an entire autobiography as my profile.  It’s no wonder I never had any takers. No one had time to read such a tome.

I marked that I was lesbian.  I marked to only have women see my profile.  Nothing.

After a while, it seemed right that I was actually attracted to everyone in the gender galaxy (to hell with the spectrum idea—gender is an infinite multiverse). So, I switched my profile to “pan,” and happily proclaimed on FB that I was pan—bought the pan flag, and some pan-buttons, and well, yeah, being pan felt right.  It seemed to encompass the whole kit and kaboodle.

And yet the people I found myself most attracted to were female-identified and/or presenting individuals.  Maybe I was lesbian after all.  Or maybe I’m pan with a little leaning towards women.  Here again, I am happy to report that these confusions didn’t disturb my sense of self.  It was an adventure.  It was exciting.  And yet, I believed it ultimately didn’t matter anyway because no one would ever want to date me let alone be sexual with me.  That being said, it was all still fun to discover, if at least on my own, who and what made me horny.  I longed to be sexual with someone the way I am now—fully cognizant of being a woman. I simply wanted to know the truth of who I am and share that truth with someone else.

I get it, labels mean little.  I like them sometimes though.  Like when I finally was diagnosed with being bi-polar.  I found that strangely comforting.  Same with being trans.  Moving along a journey of discovering (uncovering?) my sexual orientation, I liked when I found names—labels.  They were like sign-posts pointing to buried treasure.  They don’t define me, they just help me understand myself.

Fast forwarding a bit, I’m not sure if it was the orchiectomy or my abusive past, or because I was resigning to never being sexual with anyone ever again—or because I simply was that way because I was—there needn’t be a reason—but I began to wonder if I was asexual.  After much research, it seemed to fit.  I no longer felt attracted to anyone sexually. And that was OK too.

That label didn’t last long however.  I don’t know why.  It just fell away, and a more, deep-seated, realization began to emerge.

I started having more frequent sexual fantasies involving male-identified and presenting people.  I realized I wanted to identify as hetero but felt afraid to do so—or insecure—something.  My internalized homophobia came in—as if I, a woman, could be gay—gay for guys, that is.  I am a woman, so I can’t be gay for guys.  I can be attracted to them, and that makes me straight. And yet, the deep fears were there.

Dysphoria began to creep back in more and more, I think because I felt insecure about having a penis—my penis shaped vagina.  No guy would ever want me—unless they were fetishizers. Yet I couldn’t, and can’t, escape the truth.  I am a woman with a penis.  Enough said.

And so, today, Monday, November 5, 2018, I am settling in nicely with the dawning of being straight.  I like guys, and that is fine with me.  Maybe someday I’ll actually have the opportunity to be with one.  For now, however, I rest (uneasily) in the work to be done today.  And if this sense of being straight changes?  So be it.  As Allan Watts once said—we don’t dance together to end up at a particular spot on the dance floor.  We dance to have fun.  We dance to feel alive.

 

III. Current Final Thoughts

 

This journey of discovering my sexual orientation isn’t unique to me.  And not just because I’m a transgender woman.  It’s because I’m human.  There are many factors contributing to this extended journey and the fact is that there is likely no finish line to this exploring.  Many people, if they’re deeply honest and self-aware sometimes question their sexual orientation. Sometimes not and they can be just as honest and self-aware.  It’s all good.

Main thing I suggest to anyone out there experiencing questions about their sexual orientation—have fun.  It’s OK to be who you are.  It’s OK not to know.  It’s OK to know and not tell the world.  It’s OK to treasure up your findings to yourself and/or to a few, select people.  It’s OK to shout it off the rooftops. And it’s OK to wake up tomorrow and think you’re actually something else.  Have fun, be safe, have a trusted support network and even a therapist if you feel overwhelmed.  You’re not alone.  And again, there may not be a finish line.  Main thing is: Have fun, and enjoy adventuring. Go slow, go far, and rejoice—you are giving yourself the gift, and honor, of exploring who you are.

 

 

 


 



I Think Too Much About Everything…Even Facebook Posting, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

I Think Too Much About Everything…Even Facebook Posting

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

When is it OK to start posting silly puns and memes after events like the massacre at Tree of Life?  Is it even appropriate to post anything silly at all in today’s frightening times? Am I exhausting my FB friends when I post all this serious-as-shit-trans-stuff?  Do I offend them when I ask them to change their profile frames?  Do I risk getting into arguments over politics? How do I handle feeling disappointed when more people don’t (won’t?) read my activist FB notes and blog-posts, and even my poems? Why am I even asking and sharing questions like these?

I am bipolar.  My PTSD can exhibit similar symptoms to borderline personality disorder. I am aware my abuse history and addictions sometimes stir up codependency. I say these things to shed some light as to why I care so much about something as inane as posting on FB.

I have taken it upon my FB timeline to be an oasis of positivity and humor in the desert of horror going on in our country and around the world.  I consciously chose to stick with funny posts because I know how important it is to laugh.  And then, I couldn’t do it anymore.  Not just because my life is more threatened now than it was even two weeks ago, but also because it just seems wrong to post silliness while such tragedies occur.

Of course, I am not responsible for how you feel, what you think, or what you do or do not do.  Of course, you probably don’t have time to care about what I post or don’t post.  Of course, I need to get my mind away from caring about any of this.  Trouble with me is that I am thoughtful, highly empathic, and, am old-fashioned in the sense of treating the words, “FB Friends,” as friends in general—in “real” life. In other words—I think too much and I care too much.

As a bipolar person it’s very challenging to find “balance,” in anything in life, let alone something as inconsequential as FB posting.  I need to be aware of-and-steer clear of all-or-nothing, black/white thinking, and so it’s absurdly hard for my brain to decide do I post something funny or serious, or do I try to balance them out, or must I post only one or the other, or do I leave FB altogether?

Not everyone is on FB as much as I am, and of course, it can be argued I’m on it too much.  I am also unemployed and prone to hazardous isolation, so, for me, FB can be an important means for staying even virtually connected to the world while most people I know are off being gainfully employed.  So, as goofy as it seems, the question of what to post is important to my broken brain.

I also understand FB has implemented annoying algorithms that prevent us from seeing things on one another’s profiles. I know we can also choose to “follow,” each other’s pages thus seeing more posts of those we follow than those we don’t. And of course, anyone is free to unfriend anyone or choose to stop following someone and still remain friends.  You can even choose to stop seeing someone’s post completely and still remain FB friends, which, incidentally, I have done with some FB friends.

As so often happens, I am thinking out loud.  I am telling all.  No secrets with Jenn.  Why do I do this?  Because more than anything it’s important to share my vulnerable, messy, and stumbling humanity, and if that includes overthinking what I do or do not do FB post, so be it.  Why do I think it’s so important?  Am I being narcissistic? I hope not.  I feel it’s important for the reasons I have stated many times—to humanize being trans, to help end the stigma of mental illness, and just to demonstrate that living in a radically open way is possible.

What am I going to do about the FB posting dilemma? Post what I post and let go of whatever happens.  If my serious posts tire you out as just another preach-to-the-choir-political-poster, then so be it.  If my silly posts cheer you up and lighten your day, so be it. It is my hope the serious posts will inspire you to action—clear and open action.  It is my hope you will share those activist posts with your friends and family.  It is my hope the memes and puns will be shared too and inspire you to remember it’s OK to laugh even when there is so much horror in the world.

Mainly, however, it is my hope that my brain becomes healthy enough someday to not spend this much thought power on FB.

 

 

 


 





Reimagining Manhood, A Call to White Men With Healthy Masculinity Everywhere to Help Save Our Nation from White-toxic Masculinity, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Reimagine Manhood

A Call to White Men With Healthy Masculinity Everywhere

to Help Save Our Nation from White-toxic Masculinity,

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Who commits acts of heinous domestic terrorism in the United States? White men steeped in toxic masculinity. It’s not people of color, it’s not immigrants, it’s not Muslims, it’s not transgender people. It’s white men steeped in toxic masculinity.  It’s just a fact.

This is not a post about hatred of men. The vast majority, I believe, of men, do not believe or act in these evil ways. That’s why I distinguish between healthy masculinity and the toxic, cowardly, and yes–evil masculinity.

It’s the task, the charge, of all men with a healthy masculinity, a feminism of heart and mind, to actively, and openly work against the toxic masculinity that commits acts of terrible, and horrifying terrorism. In your everyday lives call out sexual harassment, misogyny, call out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, the encouragement to build walls and cage immigrants, homophobia, transphobia. In a very real sense, you have tremendous white male privilege. It is largely in your hands to help effect brave and meaningful changes.

So, in any gathering of men that you’re involved in–any gathering of men–refuse to accept toxic masculinity. Encourage and educate other men in what it means to be a feminist in the truest sense of the word.

It is a traditional stereotype of men being protectors and defenders. I ask you to embrace those roles and help protect your non-white-marginalized brothers, sisters, and siblings. Speak out. Write to your newspapers promoting healthy masculinity, speak up in your groups, families–teach your sons to be defenders of the oppressed. Teach healthy masculinity. Teach your children how to use their white privilege to help the marginalized and those targeted with hate and violence; educate yourselves in ways you can be effective, brave, and powerful agents of positive changes, and then pass that learning on to other men.  Speak up in your places of worship, jobs, schools, and family gatherings about healthy masculinity.  And finally, it’s crucial to speak out for gun control.  Another fact that cannot be denied is that the weapon used in the majority of gun-massacres is the A-15 assault rifles.  These military weapons need to be removed from American society.  So, yes, in addition to teaching about healthy masculinity, speak up for the banning of assault weapons.

And perhaps most of all—keep working on your own internalized homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, transphobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny.  This is work for all of us to continue doing.  However, the more men work on their shadows, their own inner insecurities, fears, ignorance, and self-hatred, the more the horrific projections toxic males throw onto people they hate.  Support one another in these ongoing efforts.  Listen to the marginalized and oppressed.  Understand their basic humanity and the struggles they are experiencing.  Be examples of powerful, meaningful, and enlightened change in your communities.

With all my heart–so much depends on you. It’s just the truth. The facts cannot be denied. The people who commit acts of evil violence are white, men steeped in toxic masculinity. Help change and help save our nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 





A Call to Action For Allies of Transgender People, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

A Call to Action For Allies of Transgender People

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

― Elie Wiesel

 

 

Violence against transgender people and other queer people, especially queer people of color, is up ever since the terroristic Trump regime took office, and will only increase if the latest political assault on trans people goes through.

Trump wants to legally define gender based solely on body parts.  This would effectively erase transgender, intersex, and other nonbinary people out of existence.

Of course, we’ll still be here—we’ve always been here, and always will be.

What will happen though is that any and all legal protections will be removed (not that we’ve had many of them to begin with).  It will be “legal,” to deny transgender people healthcare, insurance, employment rights, and housing rights.

It will also give the haters even more license to commit hate crimes on people like me.  Why shouldn’t they if we don’t exist—if we don’t matter in the eyes of the federal government?  We shouldn’t they if we’re not going to be counted on the U.S. Census?

This amounts to genocide.  Yes, it’s a strong word.  Genocide means: “the deliberate killing of a large group of people.”  Its synonyms include: “mass murder, mass homicide.”

Will there actually be a mass killing of transgender people? I hope not, of course.  However, if one factors in an increase in the undocumented and documented murders of trans people, the documented and undocumented lives of young trans people lost to suicide as a result of constant—federally condoned violence and bullying, if one factors in the transgender people who will die as a result of lack of health care, or who will die on the streets due to homelessness, then the numbers of dead transgender people could become staggering (and yes—one is too many).  These atrocities will all worsen if the federal government decrees that we don’t exist.

What frightens me the most are the terrible consequences that young trans people will suffer. The kids.  The ones growing up into a future where they will have no federal government protections.  Their futures are in jeopardy even more than they are now.

It’s time allies.

It’s time to rise up and stand with transgender people and all other LGBTQIA people.

You might be thinking: There are a lot of other kinds of people to stand up for—lots of causes to fight for, and you’re right. Consider this though:

The next step after erasing trans people will be to erase people based on their sexual orientation, religion, race, political party, health issue, people on birth control, people who’ve had abortions, people who are differently abled, people who are different than the white and the rich, the educated and male.  What will it do to the #MeToo Movement?  A movement already scoffed at by many. Should sexual assault victims have human rights? Should children?

There was a time I would have thought these things would never, ever be possible.

They are though.  They are.  It has already begun.

Stand with me.  Stand with us.  This affects everyone.

What does it look like to stand with trans people?

 

-Write to your senators and local politicians.

-March with us.

-Educate your family and friends about us—risk being hated for what you believe.

-Add pro-trans FB profile frames on your profile pictures and/or your FB banners.

-Spread the word across all social media that trans rights are human rights.

-Stand for us in your places of worship and schools.

-Buy “Trans Rights Are Human Rights” shirts and wear them proudly.

-Hug us openly.

-Give to TransLifeLine, the Trevor Project, GLSEN, and other LGTBQIA services, like the ones offered at Love in Action UCC.   and The Center for Transgender Equality, The Human Rights Campaign.

-Adopt trans kids.

-Open your homes to homeless trans people.

-Go to the homeless and bring them food, water, blankets, medicine.

-Go to public restrooms with us.

-Invite LGBTQIA people to holiday dinners.

-And much more.

 

It is one thing to tell a trans person you love and accept and stand with them. It is another thing to take public action steps to demonstrate that love and acceptance.

And yeah, I get it.  Some of you are afraid of what others will say.  Some of you might be afraid for your safety if you openly fight for trans rights.  You might fear for your jobs, for your membership in places of worship, for what your friends and relatives might say. I get it.  On a daily basis, believe me, I get it.

Anyone who voted for Trump is complicit in the violence and deaths that will increase as a result of transgender people being erased in the eyes of the federal government.  So are those who remain silent in the face of such abuse of power. If you are too afraid to stand up to any of your friends and relatives who support Trump for my sake and/or the sake of an entire group of people, then where does that put you in relationship with those friends and relatives?  Where does it put you in relationship with me? With yourself?  With your faith?

If the nation only hears the voices of the haters, then that’s all Trump and his regime will hear–that’s all the haters will hear–it’s all the people who choose to do nothing will hear–and so the hate and violence towards people like me goes on. If the nation only sees the public actions of the haters and not the public actions of people in support of trans-rights, then that’s all Trump and his regime will see–that’s all the haters will see.  It’s all the people who choose to do nothing will see, and thus the hate and violence towards people like me goes on.

No.  This isn’t about guilt–at least not about unhealthy guilt–like the shame that erases oneself.  A certain kind of guilt can be healthy.  If you feel guilty about something you did or didn’t do and knew you shouldn’t have done that thing or should have done that thing–then feeling guilty can be healthy.  Shows you have a conscience.  So, no.  I am not trying to shame you–just help motivate you to rise up and show your support in public ways.

This is a plea.

This is a begging for something that should never have to be begged for.

I’m tired.

Tired of the fear I feel on a daily basis.  Will the place I’m going to be safe?  Will I be assaulted?  Will I be safe in a public restroom?  Will I live to see my grandchildren or be cut down because of who I am, and not what I choose to be?

I’m tired.  And I will keep fighting.

No.  This isn’t about guilt if you can’t fight, or need a break from fighting.

It’s a charge.  Fight if you can.  Not just on social media, but with your lives.

Stand with transgender people, intersex people, nonbinary people—all LGBTQIA people.

Stand with us openly, actively.

Lives are at stake.

Freedom is at stake.

The fate of the future for countless young people is at stake.

We need you.  I need you.

It’s time.

 

 

 

All donations from this post go to TransLifeLine.

 


Doing Good at Life, For Mandy, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Doing Good at Life

For Mandy

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The willow sweeps the grass of leaves,

The autumn sends her more,

And so, she sways and tends the day,

Her life an open door.

 

The momma bear prepares her den,

Ambling through the deep,

Wide she yawns, until spring’s dawn

And hunkers down to sleep.

 

Her sleep will be the sleep of birth,

Her dreams of cubs so small,

And in that space, aglow with grace,

She sleeps and nurses all.

 

The willow shelters all who come,

Her garlands a cathedral make,

And with the wind she softly sings,

And gives instead of takes.

 

 

 


On My Third Birthday of Coming Out as Transgender, September 18, 2018, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

On My Third Birthday of Coming Out as Transgender

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Last year I wrote about the fears I had of the upcoming winter.  Fall and winter are often the worst times of year for me mentally.  Two years ago, I went to the hospital twice in the span of two months for suicidality. Last year, with medicine, a wonderful therapist, Kellie Brunton of Ambler, PA, friends, a loving community at Love in Action UCC in Hatboro, PA, my poetry, and spiritual life, I had the best winter I have yet to have as far as mental stability is concerned.  I am so grateful.

This fall is more foreboding.  I know I need an adjustment in my meds.  I feel myself sliding backwards (deeper?) into my mental illness.  Fleeting thoughts of suicide and self-harm travel through my mind on a daily basis.  And while they are passive thoughts—they are there more than they’ve been in a long time.

I begin this annual update on my trans-journey because it is, for me, part and parcel of my experience.  By that I do not mean to suggest that I am mentally ill as a result of being trans.  No.  Being transgender IS NOT a mental illness, and while coming out three years ago blew up my life and that certainly didn’t help my mental illnesses, bring trans is a gift—-it is not, in any way, a mental illness.

My mental illnesses are part and parcel of my trans experience because they exist side-by-side, or, better put, are interwoven. So, to read this update on my Coming-Out-Birthday is to read also about my mental health, or lack thereof.

All that said, it’s been an exciting year with regards to trans-activism.  I’m fortunate to have been featured on an episode on the Internationally famous, Liz Plank’s, Divided States of Women. The episode also featured my faith community, Love in Action UCC (LIA).  I was also featured in a front-page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that also celebrated the wonderful work being done by LIA.  Most importantly, LIA and myself helped Hatboro, PA, pass a human rights ordinance to help protect people of the LGBTQIA community.  It was an honor to be able to speak before the major (the incredibly badass, Nancy Guenst) and the City Council.  I have also led LGBTQIA support groups at LIA, local libraries, marched in marches, written to political figures, given workshops on what it is to be trans, and will be performing in October for the important revue of This is My Brave—a national organization for helping end the stigma of mental illness. I was also honored to be the first ever representative of the LGBTQIA community at Glenside Elementary School’s Diversity Festival.

These many opportunities for activism in both trans-causes and helping to end the stigma of mental illness, have been rewarding and hopeful.  And I need to be careful.

The more I do, the more I run the risk of careening into mania and then depression.  It is still an evolving process of learning to navigate feeling joy and being manic.  At least I am aware that this is a danger.  That said, I am missing more of the signs of mental health relapse, which is why I know I need an adjustment in meds.  In addition to transient thoughts of self-harm, mania has been slowly encroaching on my life and I am struggling with some of the symptoms of my mania—compulsive spending, eating, grandiose thoughts, plans, and ideas, racing thoughts, sleepless nights, the struggle to try and slow down both mentally and physically—the drive to plough through life is intense, as well as a myriad of other manifestations.  All of this impacts my trans-experience by making dysphoria worse, by making the anxiety to leave my apartment even to just go shopping worse—alongside, paradoxically, the increased amount of publicity I am both seeking and being sought after for trans activism.

I don’t know where it’s all leading.  I am still unemployed.  I came close to getting a couple teaching jobs, but they both fell through.  I continue to joyously volunteer at LIA helping direct an LGBTQIA Center at LIA, and that goes a long way towards helping keep my mental illness in check.

My finances, thanks to being bipolar and being unemployed, are worse than ever.  I have to appear in debtors court in a couple weeks.  I am close to filing for bankruptcy, and I have no savings of any kind.

I’ve had to move yet again, and although I am now living in the most adorable apartment, it was a huge stress to move for the third time in two years.  I am hopeful this new space will be long-term.  I love it here.

I continue to have the love and support of my ex, and the kids.  We went on a family vacation for the first time in probably six years this summer.  We went to the Redwoods and Sequoias, and was the funnest time, for me, our family has ever had together.

Poetry is still my beloved friend.  Music too.

I continue to do healing where my sexual abuse traumas are concerned, and while that work is gut-wrenching, it is, of course, crucial, and ultimately transforming and liberating.

My father passed away last spring and that brought many challenges with family and the coming to terms with his not speaking with me the last nine months of his life.  I sent him pictures of myself and after that, all communication ceased.  I wasn’t permitted to go to his funeral because I’m trans, which was incredibly painful.  My brother, however, arranged a private viewing for me, and for that I am deeply grateful.  In addition, when he wrote the obituary, he referred to me as Jennifer.  I wept when I saw that.  He calls me Jennifer all the time now, and that means the world to me.

All-in-all, it’s been a challenging, rewarding, and busy year, and I am so glad I’m alive.  Being transgender—being a woman—is an evolution of transformation, wonder, and gratitude.  My transition has shifted a bit in my gender expression—I am comfortable now with some days not shaving, and I am presenting a little more non-binary, which is fine with me.  My definition of what it means to be “feminine,” is broadening, and that too, is fine with me—and important as well.  I have given up on dating–and by that I mean the complete lack thereof.  I am gradually accepting that a long-term relationship is simply not in the cards for me. Lastly, with regards to my physical transitioning, I am grateful to have had an orchiectomy, and that has gone a long way in being comfortable my own body.  Full gender affirmation surgery is probably not going to happen due to finances, and I am gradually surrendering to that.

Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, love, and care.  I am so blessed with so many wonderful friends.  I humbly request your prayers for where my mental health is concerned, and I ask you to continue writing to politicians, schools, places of worship advocating for the rights of LGBTQIA people, to coming with us to marches and protests, to keep sharing with your families, friends, and communities that LGBTQIA people are as deserving of human rights as anyone else.

Peace, my friends, I love you all.

Jenn

 

   

 


 


 


Because You Never Know, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Because You Never Know

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

When the welcoming angel

Will spirit you away into the folds

Of the other world,

Who exactly you are becoming,

Why you love sunsets and stars,

What compassion grows in you

For the secret sorrows that haunt

Another’s heart, like lost echoes

In a cavern of lakes and rivers,

Where your reverence leads

And how it gets there,

How your cells build one atop

The other while you walk

Without spilling you to the ground.

 

It’s best to just go about your days

Singing, breathing with your whole body,

And adventuring into the questions

Until the word never finally falls away, like

The paper and string of an unexpected gift

Opened by a child who finds inside

What they’ve always wanted.