Silly Geese and Momma Bears:
A Playful Look at So-Called Gender Differences
Jennifer Angelina Petro
The following is a light-hearted (yet with deadly serious ramifications—especially in today’s world) look at the fallacy of so-called gender identifiers and the even more illusionary “characteristics” of gender as perceived by people (henceforth referred to as Silly Goose, or SGM for “males;” SGF’s for Silly Goose “females,” (sorry to use the tired binary system—it’s just for the sake of this post); and I will refer to them collectively, as Silly Geese, or SG, for short) who
1). Believe there are only two genders— “male” and “female,”
2). Believe that the only two genders are “opposite,”
3). Believe the two genders can ultimately be defined by genitals and personality traits.
It should be pointed out at the onset that I too am a Silly Goose Female, but of a much more pleasant, fabulous, and glittery variety.
Some of what is said in this little romp are actual statements people have made to me (henceforth referred to as Fabulous Unicorn Glitter Rainbow Queen, or FUGRQ for short) while trying to disprove my existence a transwoman.
Please note: any information herein is meant to be humorously educational and if it offends may you be nibbled to death by gazelles. And now back to the exchange.
SGF: How do you know you’re female?
FUGRQ: How so you know you’re female?
SGF: I asked you first.
FURGQ: And the first shall be last. We’ll get to my answer later.
SGF: There are clear-God-ordained differences between males and females.
FUGRQ: That’s an opinion, but back to my question.
[Please note I am not going to use quotation marks around words like, “male,” “female,”” tough,” or “womanly,” for the remainder of this post. I realize I just did, but that was purely for example’s sake. The overuse of quotation marks dampens their otherwise enormous powers of making sure you understand what I “actually” mean. I have the fullest confidence that your brain will automatically insert quotation marks around the words that need them, thus saving me from having to hit “shift,” before hitting the quotation mark key. Damn.]
SGF: Well, I just feel…womanly.
FUGRQ: OK. What does feeling womanly feel like?
SGF: It feels…feminine.
FUGRQ: What does feeling feminine feel like?
SGF: Well, I feel nurturing as a female.
FUGRQ: Have you ever met, seen, or interacted with a nurturing male?
SGF: Um…. yes, I suppose.
FUGRQ: Then the quality of being nurturing is a genderless quality?
SGF: Well, female nurturing is softer and gentler.
FUGRQ: Ever heard of Mr. Rogers? Or, Bob Ross, or, say: Jimmy Stewart?
SGF: There are exceptions, yes.
FUGRQ: Those exceptions are actually proof that being nurturing is a genderless quality, and thus cannot define gender. Give me another example.
SGF: Females are more emotional than males, they cry more easily.
FURGQ: Ever heard of Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig, Jon Stewart, Abraham Lincoln? They all cried, as did many a Philadelphia male when the Eagles won the Superbowl.
SGF: As I said, there are exceptions—some males are more sensitive than others.
FURGQ: Those exceptions are actually proof that being emotional, or crying easily, is a genderless quality and thus cannot define gender.
Here is a conversation between an SGM and myself:
SGM: How do you know you’re female?
FUGRQ: How do you know you’re male? What is your inner experience of that like?
SGM: Well, I feel…masculine.
FUGRQ: What does that feel like?
SGM [puffing out chest]: Well, I feel manly.
FUGRQ: OK, what does that feel like?
SGM: [unable to keep chest puffed out more than a few seconds, it sinks back to regular chest settings]: Well, I’m a protector of children.
FUGRQ: Ever heard how mother bears protect her cubs, or how Sojourner Truth or Mother Theresa protected children, or how Pink protects her children?
SGM: Well, there are exceptions to the rule.
FUGRQ: Rule? You’ve just seen that being protective is a genderless quality.
SGM: Well, I know I’m male because I’m tough. [SG puffs out chest again.]
FURGQ: Well, what about the aforementioned mother bear, or the likes of Kathrine Switzer, Venus and Serena Williams, Rosa Parks?
SGM: As I said, there are exceptions to the rule [chest sinks back in].
FURGQ: It boils down to toughness—physically and mentally—is a genderless quality, and therefore cannot define gender.
FURGQ: So then, what is the actual difference between males and females?
SG: Here’s proof of the difference between males and females you can’t dispute—males have a penis and release sperm and woman have a vagina and release eggs.
FURGQ: So, it comes down to body parts?
SG: Yes. You can’t deny that one.
FURGQ: What about sterile males and infertile females are they still males and females?
SG: Those are disorders.
FURGQ: But you still consider them as defining characteristics of male and female?
SG: Yes, of course.
FURGQ: So, then, ultimately bodily functions can’t define gender. What about intersex people or the so-called-not-really-used-anymore-word: hermaphrodites?
SG: Again, there are exceptions that are considered disorders.
FURGQ: Hmm. What if a male loses his penis in a horrible accident or a woman has her vulva damaged in some way? Is the male still male or the female still female?
SG: Yes, because accidents happen.
FURGQ: I’ll give you that both sperm and egg are required to make little humans, but those ingredients can produce both little male and females, isn’t that interesting? And just because sperm come from one type of body and eggs from another doesn’t actually make two genders—it makes differently made bodies. Both have arms, legs, eyeballs, ears, toes, and so on. You’re saying the ONLY body parts that define males and females are genitals and their bodily functions?
SG [smugly]: Yes, that’s the truth.
FURGQ: OK, well, we’ve seen that either body can have different genitals, so, when it comes down to it, bodies don’t explain the inner experience or the feeling of being male or female. Despite bodily varieties there is no actual way to define what it feels like to be male or female.
SG: Yes, that’s what we’re saying. We just KNOW.
FURGQ: And so, you go around KNOWING you’re males and females because you’re constantly—so-to-speak—feeling your genitals?
SG [looking at one another then turning back to me]: No, not necessarily.
FURGQ: So, genitals do not make you experience on a soul-level-a consciousness level, that you’re male or female?
SG: We suppose not, but still…
FURGQ: Still what?
SG: Feelings and inner experiences are subjective and not necessarily true.
FURGQ: Really, so your inner experiences don’t count either?
SG: Well, it’s in the Bible.
FURGQ: Ah, I wondered when that book would eek into the conversation. There’s no way for me to really argue with people who believe that one book—out of the gazillion books ever written—is the whole truth and nothing but the truth despite science, and verses like Isiah 53: 3-5 where God says eunuchs shall be given names greater than men or woman? Or how Jesus treated everyone as if their gender didn’t matter in the least?
SG: Never heard of the Isiah passage.
FURGQ: Ah. What about Jeremiah 1:5? If you deny an infinite variety of bodies exist, then God must make mistakes. You must believe people born blind or short or tall or deaf are mistakes.
SG: God doesn’t make mistakes. People born handicapped are due to human genetic abnormalities.
FURGQ: I prefer the term, “differently born,” because that includes everyone—since we’re all born with different bodies. But aren’t those genetic issues ordained by Divine Providence?
SG: Now we’re getting into theological debate, and there’s no sense in that.
FURGQ: Agreed. Disputing the Bible’s so-called infallibility is futile, not because it’s right, but because your minds are indoctrinated with what you believe to be true, and everyone knows that beliefs aren’t facts.
SG: The Bible is God’s actual word.
FURGQ: As I said, there’s no way I can argue with your ingrained beliefs, I shouldn’t have tried, so let’s return to the human body, which you so ardently believe defines a particular gender.
SG: OK. Let’s. Everyone knows females don’t have facial hair or deep voices or adam’s apples.
FURGQ: On the contrary , there are females with beards and facial hair of varying amounts, plus most other mammals, like the afore-aforementioned bear–no-matter what genitals it is born with–have hair (well, fur). So then, body hair is a genderless quality and can’t define gender. And by the way, I wouldn’t go around asking bears to spread their legs so you can think you’ve decided what gender they are based on what you find.
SG: OK, fine, but what about the male’s deep voices or adam’s apples?
FURGQ: What about Mae West, Kathleen Turner, Angelina Jolie? They have deep voices.
SG: There are exceptions too.
FURGQ: At the end of the day, the sound and timber of someone’s voice does not define male and female. And as far as the adam’s apple, anyone can have one. Just because some bodies have bigger ones than others doesn’t make theirs’ male and the other female. Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, and Halle Berry can all be said to have large adam’s apples.
SG: Well, females can nurse babies and men can’t.
FURGQ: We’ve already seen that body parts do not define gender itself—they may be associated with bodily functions and made-made words—but those words and functions referring to various body parts don’t define gender. It’s what’s inside that counts—the inner experience or feeling of being the gender you know yourself to be. So, I will ask my original question: What is your inner experience of being a particular gender—not reliant on the outer forms of the body? What does it feel like to be who you are?
SG: We just know, that’s all. We just know.
FURGQ: And that’s my answer to your original question. I told you we’d get to it eventually.
SG: Whatever. We won this little debate [the SG’s walk away with their chests puffed out and their chins pointed high].
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” I call out as they strut away, but they are too far out of range to hear, which would be the case no matter the distance from where we stood.
A Call to White Men With Healthy Masculinity Everywhere
to Help Save Our Nation from White-toxic Masculinity,
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.
Planting Seeds for the LGBTQIA Community and its Allies
Jennifer Angelina Petro
“What does it feel like to be transgender?” the eight-year-old asked wearing a t-shirt that read: “One of a kind.”
“THAT is a great question,” I said, “thank you for asking it. For me, being transgender feels just normal. It’s me. It’s who I am. It’s awesome. When I realized who I really am it was the happiest moment of my life. It feels wonderful, and sometimes scary, and sometimes I struggle with learning more and more about what makes me feel more comfortable being myself.”
She listened with wide-eyes…wide with wonder.
“What does it feel like to be you?” I asked, “Wonderful-one-of-a-kind-you.”
“It feels good,” she said, “People laugh at my jokes, my friends like me. Do you want to hear a joke?”
“Lay it on me,” I said.
“What is the best time of the day for a clock?”
I was stumped. “Tell me,” I said, “I’m stumped.”
“Six-thirty,” she laughed, “It’s hands down the best time of the day.” And then she laughed again at her own joke.
“Grrroooooan,” I said, “I love it!” And then, of course, I told her one of my corny jokes.
Another child, probably around the same age as our budding comedienne, asked: “Are you a boy or a girl?”
“GREAT question,” I said, “Thank you for asking it. I am a girl. I am a woman. When I was born the doctors and my parents all thought I was a boy. I looked like what they thought a boy should look like. But then, as I got older, it just didn’t feel like I was a boy, and then, little by little, I realized I’m actually a woman.”
“But you have a deep voice,” he said.
“Yes, I do. I also shave. There are millions of ways to be a woman—and all of them perfectly wonderful. Some women, like me, could easily grow a beard. Some women HAVE a beard. Some women, like me, have deep voices. And I’m still a woman.”
“Cool,” he said, and I gave him a rainbow flag that said: “Love is Love,” on it.
A few minutes later, I asked an adult, “Hi, are you familiar with LGBTQ things?”
They looked embarrassed and then confessed, “I don’t even know what those letters stand for.”
“Want to learn? I asked.
And so, I explained what they mean, and then curtsied and said, “And I am a transgender woman.”
“Ooooooh,” she said, her voice modulating up and down as she prolonged her, “Oh.”
Throughout the evening I asked the same question to kids and adults and got a variety of answers. Several kids knew what the letters mean, while others didn’t. Some kids and parents said they knew lesbian people, gay people, trans people, and all of those kids and parents said it with complete every-day-ness, which, of course, it is.
One ten-year-old asked: “Is it normal to be transgender?”
After thanking him for the question I said: “Yes, it is. It’s normal to be gay, bi, lesbian, it’s normal to question—so, yes, it’s normal. Is it not as common to be transgender? Yes. But it’s normal,” and I handed him a flag.
One little boy entered the fair, holding his mother’s hand, and pulling her eagerly over to our table. He was probably seven. His mom told us, “He saw your table and was so happy. He says of himself, I’m not a boy, I’m not a girl—I’m me—Benjamin.” He proudly took a rainbow flag and explored our displays with eager eyes and a happy, validated heart.
I could go on and on with wonderful moments like these. Being at a diversity fair at a local public school–Glenside Elementary School, in Glenside, PA., was a complete joy. It was an honor to be asked. Glenside is a fairly conservative town, and the diversity fair has always featured tables with different countries, religions, foods, and so on. Never in their history have they had an LGBTQ+ table. We were a first. And yes, it was a nervous first. The organizers weren’t sure how we would be received. They figured none of the parents would be mean, but they thought it was possible some families wouldn’t take kindly that we were there. We worried parents would shepherd their children away from our table, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. Parents and children flocked to our table. It didn’t hurt that we were giving away cupcakes, Skittles, stickers, rainbow flags, parent and child resources, and so on. And they came—dozens and dozens—probably well over a hundred people—maybe closer to two hundred. And every family that came was happy we were there. They asked respectful questions, had supportive things to say, and took advantage of our free resources. It couldn’t have been a bigger success. We planted many, many seeds that night—for both allies and queer kids, who may or may not know they’re queer yet, or do know they are, but keep it a secret, to other kids who proudly know they are. We demonstrated that queer people are people—fun, smart, generous, kind people. We celebrated the LGBTQ+ community, and its allies.
We made many wonderful connections. We met someone who helps get homeless LGBTQ+ kids of the streets. We met another who helps place LGBTQ+ kids in foster care and get adopted. We met teachers and educators needing ideas and support for queer children in their classes. Networking is so key in helping the world work together to help queer kids.
We were invited by my friend Kate, who was organizing the event. She was inspired after she saw an episode of Liz Plank’s, Divided States of Women, which featured my church (Love in Action UCC) and myself.
Our table was stellar. We draped it with a large rainbow flag and a large trans flag. We had several poster-board-sized displays. One of them had queer people throughout history—past and present. We had a display for queer sports figures. We had a display for queer entertainers. We had one with queer comic book heroes (that board brought a lot of kids over to our table). We had another devoted to transgender people. Another devoted to simply loving yourself as you are—your bodies, your talents, your genders—a total celebration of loving ourselves. We also had a board for general Pride—with pictures of queer people of all kinds. As mentioned, we had a bunch of picture books about LGBTQ+ people and issues. We had a lot of parent resources for loving and accepting and parenting LGBTQ+ children.
I even brought my guitar and sang a few songs on the stage. I introduced myself as a transgender woman and watched proudly as the children sat on the steps of the stage and watched and listened and smiled. One little girl sat listening, smiling, and waving her “Love is Love,” rainbow flag as I sang. Parents formed a semi-circle behind them and also happily watched and listened.
And we planted many seeds.
Dear Readers, despite the current regime, the future is bright and in good hands. Changes are happening—positive changes. Our presence at this diversity fair even prompted the principal of the school, after informing the faculty we would be there, to introduce a new, school-wide policy: No more addressing the student body during assemblies, as “boys and girls,” no more greeting your classes with, “Good morning, boys and girls,” no more dividing groups by boy-girl. This type of change is huge for queer kids—those in and out or questioning. It shows one positive act for the LGBTQ+ community has far-reaching effects.
Join us. Encourage your schools to invite the queer community to attend your diversity festivals. Advocate for non-gendered bathrooms and non-gendered language in your schools. Encourage teachers to learn about queer issues, talk with your children and neighbors and friends. And if your child has a question for one of us, say, if we meet in the check-out line—let them ask. Don’t censor them because you worry we’ll be offended. Let them ask. Their questions are important, our answers are important, that you support your children asking questions is important. Plant seeds with us and watch as a garden of rainbows sprouts in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, watch as the culture continues to grow in simply seeing us as people who deserve equal rights like anyone else. Watch as your children continue to blossom as lights in the world.
Playing in the River of the Reality of Binary-Relativism
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Try and take hold of the night. What ends up filling your hands is darkness tinged with light, whether that be moonlight or starlight, there will be traces of the coming morning or the retreating sunset.
Likewise, try and take hold of the day. What ends up filling your hands is light tinged with darkness, whether it be the shimmering shadows of the willow, or your own shadow, or that small, rushing anxiousness that evening is approaching much faster than your plans would like.
Night and day are ideas—in the truest sense they do not exist as opposites—they are ever and always touching, held together by a river that flows both ways. I know, the “held together,” and “flowing both ways,” seem to contradict the idea that night and day are one. Words are limited in scope and range. And it is easier (safer) to write in ideas like black and white and the binaries of male and female. You can try and wrap words (ideas) around other ideas and, at best, you come up with a poem, and, at worst, fear-based violence.
Why is it safer (easier) to write in terms of binary ideas? Describing day and night as light and dark is strangely comforting to those people who fear stepping into the river. Describing greys, tones, gradations, the multitude of colors that inform sunsets and sunrises–this type of thinking requires more effort, more consciousness, and an openness to the idea of the infinite creativity of the God they believe in. It is easier (and safer) to let one’s thinking be governed by ideas that appear to fit their notions of “the opposites.”
It’s the same with thinking of the idea of the so-called gender-binary. Defining gender by body parts, chromosomes, and reproductive functions is the same basal reasoning as saying day and night can be defined by clocks and the amount of light we see or don’t see. Reducing genders to body parts invalidates the manifestations of the inner and outer gender identities that so many experience in the reality of their lives.
Life flows in a circular current between the ideas of binaries. The reality is spectrum, shadows, fading in and out colors, touches, whispers, hints, nuances—nothing exclusive unto themselves—travel West far enough and you slip into the East. Rise North as far as you can go. You will only descend into the South, like a waterfall.
This blending and interwoveness isn’t to be feared—not within the notions of day or night, male and female, mania and depression, faith and disbelief. Everything touches. Everything mixes. What is created along that circular movement is peace, life, the aforementioned wonder, and yes, the infinite ways these ideas manifest in the river of the world.
But what of science? Doesn’t it prove the idea of opposites? Some people use science in the same way they use bibles—selectively. While deriding the idea of the gender spectrum they propagate the ideas that climate change doesn’t exist, that the earth was created in six days, that all the animals of the world fit into an ark, and for some, that the earth is flat.
Science is crucial to the future of humanity. So is letting go of fear of change and the perceived threats to the family. Erasing the idea of gender binaries doesn’t unleash havoc on the family. Instead it opens up the definitions and manifestations of family. It doesn’t mean the end of procreation. It doesn’t mean the end of heterosexual, cisgender marriages. All it does is threaten the shadow-desires some people feel but are trained to be experienced as deviance and to be felt as shame and fear.
The idea that binaries are ideas sometimes threatens people in other ways—particularly that the world will dissolve into relativism. What is so threatening about that–whether that relativism be cultural or societal? If the idea that there are no absolute truths threatens one’s spiritual security then where is their faith? In reality, one cannot escape cultural relativism. It’s the same with the ideas of black and white and the gender binaries. For example, take a look at the word, “relativism.” It’s clearly “related” to “relating,” ‘relations,” and “relationship.” And these, in turn, can be traced back to the word, “refer,” which, means, in Latin, “to relate, and to carry back.” Let’s carry the idea that gender is based on body parts back to the reality that some “men,” are born with vulvas, and some “women,” are born with penises or combinations of both. Those aren’t ideas—those are realities. They are not mutations or abnormalities—they are as natural as being born with a certain hair color. What is the threat if someone knows they are a gender that may not correspond to the body parts that some people associate with a particular gender? In reality, there is no threat. The threat is fake news.
In the same way, relativism does not erase decades of fighting for women’s rights and feminism. However, if modern feminism and the fight for respect, dignity, safety, jobs, pay rates, does not include transwomen and other people on the spectrum that identify as female, then it isn’t truly feminism. It is as guilty as the extremist Christians that hold the old idea that in order to be female you need a vulva as defined by the confines of reproductive function.
All things are related, in relationship, and we can even have “relations.” These are realities. The idea of night being related to the idea of day and the reality of these relationships can be experienced in our everyday lives, and no one is threatened.
Knowing binaries are ideas does not blur or muddy the waters of reality’s river. They liberate us into realizing the infinite facets of the divine radiating prisms of color that touch the world with joy and wonder—in other words—variety—infinite variety.
Heaven hell, good and evil. These are ideas inherently couched in relativism—cultural and spiritual. Killing is wrong unless you’re defending your flag or religion, or the world from abortion; stealing is wrong unless you are trying to save your children; war is wrong unless it is for oil or to get rid of “evil doers,” who believe something different than you. My religion is right because yours is wrong, my book says so, your book is wrong. It’s silliness—dangerous, childish, fear-based silliness—and most of it propagated by men insecure of their own sexual/gender identities and possibilities. Everyone knows how dangerous, cunning, manipulative, and cruel a man can be when scared. History is full of men scared of losing something or scared of something being revealed and to prevent this they resort to violence. And it is undeniable that many men who rail against homosexuality are found to possess porn, and or engage in sex with other men. Why is that? Because gender is a spectrum and something to be ashamed of.
Ask yourself reading this right now if it inspires you with vehement hatred, anger, and, if you’re extreme—violence? If it does, I suggest you have little-to-no faith in your god—your beliefs, which are nothing more than ideas woven with communal feelings—are weak. Indeed, they are relative. You’re proving it by being upset. If you’re living in the prison of the idea of binaries and you’re reading this, and you have some twinge somewhere within you—whether that be between your legs, in your heart, or in your mind—that moves you to the suppressed knowledge that you are actually happily gender-non-conforming—that you are perhaps a gender other than what your genitals say. Most certainly it points to your shadow hiding conscious or unconscious secrets. What if you’re feeling a secret, joyous sense of freedom as you read this? I suggest that indicates you are a true believer—in the sense that you believe in a god of infinite possibilities and varieties that in no way threatens anyone or anything—only your limited ideas.
Go play in the river. You can’t drown in a river made of joy—unless you become afraid and slip back into the suffocating ideas that kept you from going near the river in the first place. Look, there are others already there—splashing, swimming, and forming bridges called Fun and Freedom and Faith. There is room for all. Go be baptized in the infinite variety of your god.
Some Thoughts on The Gender Binary
And Everything Else
Jennifer Angelina Petro
What I am about to share is going to piss somebody off. Seems that way about most everything I say nowadays. However, if you truly have faith in your God, or you truly have faith in who you are as human being, then what you are about to read should not be threatening to anything you believe or experience. This is not to say that what I have written here is perfect. Far from it. Language barriers, prejudices, and fears—yours and my own– make that impossible. Let’s get on with it. I am ready for the mean, hateful, harmful, and trolling comments from “both” sides (and “both” is in quotations because well, you’ll see). I am also ready for nice comments. I am inviting them too. I hope.
I will give you that the idea of the binary exists. I know, many scientists today say the gender binary doesn’t exist in the ways we’ve traditionally thought, and I totally support their findings. That said, the idea of polarities exists. It is seemingly everywhere—day and night, cold and hot, light and dark, rainy days and clear days, fire and water, sky and earth. Having given you that, you will inevitably need to give me, that there isn’t, and never will be, a truly individuated or separate representation or living form that will ever exist on the opposite ends of the binary. For the opposite ends of the binary are only ideas, even if they are created by God. If this scares you, then so must the idea of the morning, or of the evening, or rainbows, or singing.
The opposite ends of the binary only exist to overtake the other—swallow it up, merge within in it, into and unto, itself—not in battle, never forced—but in dance and song, and flavor. That is the miracle, that is the beginning of all things. The purpose of the binary is not to separate, but to join, merge, and hence, create.
No one can imagine the idea of the opposites without seeing, feeling, experiencing, knowing, or witnessing that they are all in some relationship with the other.
Go ahead, stand on the earth without forever being also in the sky. Be in the middle of a perfectly sunny day and not know that evening is already on its way. Step into a pool that you want not too hot and not to cold. You get what I’m saying.
Having given you that the binary exists as theoretical reference points (I know, I know, the Bible says God created male and female and it also says: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones,” or, “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.” I know, I know, you can take a verse of the Bible and use it to back up even the most outlandish ideas. Like this one: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” I know you can take the fact that God killed about 25 million people in the Bible to represent the killing of our unbelief or to justify the slaughter of unbelievers, but then again, so do some Muslims). It is high time and low time, to grasp and let go, once and for all, and forever anew, the idea that the front of a coin can be separated from the back. They exist because of one another and because of what they manifest—and in the case of human existence—they manifest all that is wonderful (not the coins themselves, but what they represent, well, not what they represent, but what they demonstrate).
Cold is nothing unless heat exists. Up means nothing without down. Music is only heard in silence. Purple only arises between shades of blue and shades of red. Death prowls and life blooms. It is the space between them that brings forth all things; where all things wondrous, flavorful, truthful (yes, truthful), and just plain living—exist. It is in the mingling where the fun begins.
Two people do not have sex in order to annihilate the other. They have sex to blend together, breathe and gasp together, come together. It is this joining of bodies, souls, hearts, and minds that brings forth life.
I know, I just got done saying the opposite ends of the binary only exist to overtake the other. Remember what I also said—the true opposite ends of the binary do not exist except in theory. You will never find them in life—no man is ever just a man—he has his “feminine” side. No woman is ever just a woman. She will have her “masculine” side. God becomes the mother hen to keep us safe under his wings. No night is ever not slipping into day.
And that is my point. Living is in the union. Fun is in the merging. Wonder is in the rainbow. Beauty is in the evening sky.
So please, just as you cannot deny the idea of the binary, you cannot deny the existence of infinite variety, or of the intricate, heavenly, ever-expanding spectrum between the opposite ends of that binary.
I know, there are flaws in what I say. Language makes things messy and muddles meaning up. You can easily take my words and use them to prove the exact opposite of what I am saying. That being what it is—you cannot lose sight (well, you can out of your own shadowy, shame-based fears—and we all have them) that all the good stuff lives within and on and with and along a spectrum. And nothing in between threatens the existence of the binary. The binary will always be the idealized ideas of opposites in the same way day and night will be always be idealized ideas of opposites. I do not use the word “idealized” to mean better. I mean it to say, the ultimate opposite ends of the spectrum only exist as ideas. They never truly manifest, one without the other.
Go ahead, flip a coin. Not only does it rise, tumbling upwards into the air, it also tumbles down landing on either heads or tails—and these will never exist one without the other—front and back. But I said that already, and I will say it again, at risk of being repetitive (the crusty idea of the idealized binary has been repeated for eons, but so has the idea that God creates souls to burn them in hell, or that the earth is flat, or that slavery is ever a human thing to do). So, I repeat:
It is the stuff that exists along the spectrum that is most intensely alive. It is the dance between stillness and movement, music and silence, light and darkness, male and female, death and life that makes existence wonderful. We are born, we die, and it is the living in between that gives either of these meaning (and please don’t think I am associating masculinity with light and darkness with femininity. Remember, however, that language is goofy. Then again, feel free to associate anything with anything—you’ll get a good idea of how you live your life).
The spectrum is undeniable, and completely, and utterly, wondrously, beautiful, vibrant, and living.
So please do not tell me I do not exist as a transgender person. I am a living arc–a living rainbow “across” genders. Please do not tell my queer friends, non-binary friends, asexual friends, and so on—that they do not exist. We are the beauty and meaning of the ideas of so-called, male and female. We are what is meant to be celebrated because the true opposites will never exist in form. Murder is not always bad or the Christian religion would mean nothing. Rebellion is not always bad or else freedom would not exist. This is not relativism. This is reality. No one loves without a hint of hate. No one prays without a hint of doubt.
People like me are the rainbows, we are the mornings and evenings, we are that place where stars and darkness dance. We are the perfect temperature for swimming. We are the space between inhaling and exhaling. We are the glorious existence of form. And we include all gender identities, all gender expressions, every gender preferences, every rainbow, every song, and every breath. And so then, we include you.
Do not fear the rainbow. Go find it, and take out your phones and snap pictures of it. Give thanks to Goddess for it. Take a selfie with it in the background. It is a sign that God will never again destroy the earth with a flood—a flood of ignorance, fear, bigotry, or hatred. The rainbow is the spectrum that blooms from the skies of our souls.
Our Only Hope
A Solution No one Wants to Hear
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Have you ever been so afraid that you went against your core values and morals? Have you ever been so scared you stopped thinking clearly, gave into fear, and just reacted? Let’s take a very minor scenario: Have you ever been late to something—your kid’s soccer game or work, and you drove recklessly, disobeying speed signs, traffic signals, and disregarded your own safety and the safety of those around you, and so on?
When we are desperately afraid of losing something or someone we hold dear we can become frantic, mean, thoughtless, and so rigidly determined to do everything we can not to lose what we love that we stop listening to our hearts or consciences.
What would make a thoughtful, intelligent, perhaps even religiously minded person, vote for Donald Trump?
Fear. And nearly half the country voted for him.
Not every Trump supporter is a racist. Many however come from rural America where a kind of poverty exists that is rarely talked about. Jobs are hard to find in the city. Jobs are hard to find around farmlands and old coalmining towns.
Imagine along comes a wretched human being who claims to have a solution, who feeds your fears to such a degree that you look past his immorality so desperate you are to save your family, your town, your farm, your family business, your values.
Imagine fear seeping into your heart so much that it effects your reasoning. You might become afraid of everything that moves, everything that’s different from what you have always known. And as more fear is poured into you the more desperate you become for some thread of security even if it is presented in ways that make little sense or by someone abhorrent.
Are the poor living in rural areas victims? Are the poor living in the inner cities victims? People do desperate things in the inner city for money. People do desperate things in the country for money. And not just for money, but for opportunities they feel aren’t there for them—opportunities for jobs, college, healthcare. The overriding issue of desperation is the same.
If you have never allowed your morals and values to be set aside for even something seemingly minor, then you are a better person than me. Thing is, if Trump gets impeached or assassinated (and Pence chokes to death on a piece of beef) we would still have half the country that believed their wretched ideology. To me, voting for Trump was a horribly desperate call for help and change. And maybe an inner change so fundamental that some people don’t even realize how unconsciously they acted.
If you ask Trump supporters why they voted for him they might say something like this:
“We want change. We are tired of the average politician. We are afraid of this group or that group. We are afraid of terrorists. We are afraid we will lose our farms, our businesses, we are afraid of not having work—jobs, opportunities, access to healthcare and education—we live in rural areas where the poverty we experience often goes unnoticed. We are afraid our values are being taken from us. And some of us are scared enough to overlook our candidate’s racism, bullying, and misogyny because we believe he offers the best chance of getting us out of this mess. Anything but politics as usual. That scares me.”
If you ask someone who voted for Hillary they might say something like this:
“We want change (i.e. a woman president). We are tired of the average politician. We are afraid of this group or that group. We are afraid of domestic terrorists. We are afraid we will lose our homes, our businesses, we are afraid of not having work—jobs, opportunities, access to healthcare and education—we live in urban areas where the poverty we experience gets noticed but little done to solve it. We are afraid our values are being taken from us. And some of us are scared enough to overlook our candidate’s record on war and big business, and cronyism, because we believe she offers the best chance of getting us out of this mess, and besides, she isn’t him. He scares me.”
Both sides are based in fear. And the more the fear grows the more frightening our actions become. We might sacrifice our family time because we have to pay the bills. We might sacrifice family traditions for the same reason. We might sacrifice our values and morals for the same reasons also. We might manifest a call-out culture to distract ourselves from ourselves and the perhaps directionless state our lives may be in. We might manifest hideous ideas about Muslims and people of the LGBTQIA spectrum. We might become willing to fight for beliefs that stem from fear and a gut-wrenching desperation.
And there is little hope. It feels as if the nation is on the brink of civil war or, at very least, massive civil unrest, and both sides operating from fear, and both sides believing they are in the right. And like every good kindergarten brawl, both sides will wreck everything in their path to get what they want.
We must find a way to bring together—at risk of over simplifying the image–the country mouse and the city mouse. We must find a way to ease one another’s fears. Somehow, someway conversations need to happen between the alt-right and the alt-left. Somehow dialogs must begin so we can personalize and humanize one another instead of viewing one another through the narrow lenses of stereotypes. Both sides stereotype, that cannot be denied.
How to get these conversations started is another story. We need brave, strong moderators. We need people who can listen and set aside their own fears and prejudices long enough to hear someone out (or in). Both sides must look past the deeds and ideologies of one another and see the fear in each other’s eyes and the soul of light wanting to be safe.
These conversations need to happen on all levels, but first and foremost Hillary (or Bernie) supporters must reach out to Trump supporters and vice-a-versa. Difficult conversations need to happen around dinner tables or in living rooms. These need to then spread to places of worship, and then perhaps schools and town halls, but it starts with us trying to make bridges with one another instead of unfriending and cutting each other out of our lives.
“I hate you!” the kindergartener shouts when scared and angry that they don’t get what they want.
And then the building blocks get thrown. And people get hurt.
We must be better than this. And it starts with difficult conversations.
And let’s be clear, the conversations wouldn’t be about trying to convince one another about who is right or wrong. The conversations should focus around certain fundamental questions such as:
1). What is your biggest fear?
2). Do you have enough money to eat?
3). What are you afraid of losing?
4). Do you need anything by way of healthcare or visits to a doctor?
5). How can I help?
6). Does anyone in your family need a tutor or a babysitter?
7). What do you value most in this world?
8). What are your spiritual beliefs? Tell me about them. Let’s find common ground.
9). What causes you the most pain—emotionally, physically, spiritually?
10). Are you willing to pray with me? Share a meal with me? Be seen in public with me?
11). Who is your favorite music star? Play me something by them. Tell me why you like them.
12). What are your favorite family traditions?
13). What is one of your most cherished memories?
14). What were your dreams growing up? What are your dreams now?
15). Where did your ancestors come from?
16). What talents do you have? Hobbies? Interests? Weird habits?
17). What things do we have in common?
18). What is your favorite joke?
And, of course, the list could go on, or be simplified. The point is to ask questions that help draw us together, that help us see the soul in one another, the spirit, the basic humanity, the pain, the joy.
As I see it these conversations are our only hope. The alternative to coming together is living in a consciously divided country that may or may not end well, and, we all know, likely not well–is, well, the more likely scenario (how’s that for a sentence?).
It’ll never happen! I hear you cry! As a transperson I am never sitting with an alt-right “Christian.” As an alt-right Christian I am never sitting with a Muslim!”
Yes, these conversations would be risky and painful, and both sides might sit before one another feeling unsafe or even threatened. But does either side feel safe now sitting in front of their computers posting angry, fear-based things to rationalize and justify more fear and separation? Does either side feel safe on the streets? After all, terrorists of one kind or another are everywhere, guns drawn, bombs at the ready, aren’t they? I believe we are greater than this—greater than our fears and differences—real or imagined.
I also believe the more we say these conversations will never help or never happen the more we expose ourselves to be just as stridently rigid as those we fear.
I also believe it must be the young people of this country to first take up the challenge of bringing one another together in conversation. The less hardened, the less frightened, perhaps. The less indoctrinated. Then, once young people get the ball rolling, I believe the rest of us can follow their lead. And speaking of leading:
Some may say we need strong leadership to make these conversations happen, but I disagree. The people must lead in this instance. The top is not to be trusted. It needs to begin with the people. We must take charge of bringing each other together, of trying to heal the painful divisions that exist between us, of trying to see one another as human beings—frightened, desperate human beings frantic to not lose what they so hold dear, even if what they hold dear seems foreign to us, or threatening, or even repugnant. We must learn to listen in such a way as to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to recognize ourselves in the eyes of another.
Maybe it’s too late for hope, or for peace. Maybe both sides are so deeply and fundamentally afraid that they are creating the very world they fear. Maybe we all have a deep-seeded death-wish based on massive hopelessness and fear. Maybe we don’t want a solution. Maybe we believe it all needs to get torn down in order to get rebuilt the way we like it. Maybe we all want out because we see no way out and are tired and afraid, and war seems, at least unconsciously, the best alternative.
I am trying hard not to think that way. I believe in America. I believe we are a great nation with people full of passion, ideas, creativity, boundless generosity, humor, warmth, kindness. We must begin believing in one another and to do so we must see each other’s humanity. We can do this. We have done hard things before. I believe in us. I believe in you.
May our nation be blessed.
Relax, You Will Not Be Eaten by Bears
Even if You Think a Lot
About Being Eaten by Bears
Jennifer Angelina Petro
I saw this ad on my Facebook sidebar that said something like: “You become what you think about,” and, “think happy,” and it got me thinking and feeling annoyed.
Yes, thoughts are things, but do you know what a thought actually is? I mean really?
Is a thought the stuff that drifts through your head like air through an open window, or static on a radio? Is it something you create out of your own “mind-stuffs”—in other words is a thought is something you “think it up?” Is that a thought?
I ask because some people who push things like the Law of Attraction (and I know this because I used to push it myself) haven’t a clue what they are talking about (just like I didn’t), and, as a result, they hurt people, frighten people, helped people feel powerless and defeated. And that sucks. Big time. I am making amends for my past stupidity and this article is part of that process.
Here’s the deal:
1). If you spend a lot of time thinking about ashtrays, you will not become an ashtray.
2). If you spend a lot of time thinking about medicine you will not become a doctor. You might become a doctor, but it wouldn’t be because you thought about medicine day in day out. It would because you studied and worked hard and got yourself into debt over college loans for the rest of your life.
3). Most of what passes for “thinking,” isn’t.
Let’s use some negative reasoning to help us understand what thinking is not.
Thinking is not all the afore mentioned stuff that drifts and sifts and dusts itself through your head.
Thinking is not all the “mindless” listening to NPR or the chatter of other people on the subway (yes, I used the word, “subway,” on purpose to make an allusion to the subconscious. Some would argue we actually live based on what’s stored (collecting dust) in the attics (basements, dungeons, silos) of our subconscious minds. This is like believing I am suffering in this lifetime for something I did, but cannot remember doing, in another lifetime. It is a cruel idea. It is like saying: “Here, YOU suffer for things unknown. YOU suffer because I suffer and don’t know why I suffer, but I am going to tell you why YOU suffer.”).
Thinking is not all the stuff you “think” about in a given day—the bills, the bad drivers, the fate of the nation, etc.
And now what I am about to say will sound like a contradiction:
Those things just mentioned above are all examples of “thoughts” yes, but only if we believe the definition of a thought as being anything that just so happens to be in your head at any given moment. But I don’t categorize these things as the kinds of thoughts that can be properly put into the file of, “thinking,” because they are not the kinds that can ever have truly creative properties.
So please, stop worrying about becoming bipolar because you think about bipolarism. Please stop worrying you are going to get eaten by a shark because you watch so many shark attack videos. Please stop worrying that your house will be robbed because you worry about your house being robbed.
Our fears do not, I repeat, do not, attract the things we fear into our lives. Promise.
I mentioned there are thoughts that have creative properties however. What kinds of thoughts are these?
They are the ones you invest your heart into. Thoughts that you think with your heart in addition to your head—those are powerful things; things that can bring about great changes in the world and within yourself. Here’s why:
Thoughts themselves are images really—sense impressions/impulses flashed on the screen of the mind—they are largely static, lifeless things, sort of like random magnetic poetry words on a refrigerator. However, once you stop, focus, draw your feelings up from your body, from your heart, suddenly those plain, “meaningless” thoughts begin to take form, shape, make sense, create beauty, excitement, dialog, poetry. YOU have to rearrange them though, like the magnetic words on the fridge. You give them meaning by what you DO with them and how you FEEL about them. In other words, thoughts can become powerful creational tools when infused with the heart, the soul, the spirit, and most of all, actions.
If you “think” a lot about being attacked by bears but never go into the woods, you’re probably safe from bear attacks. If you “think” about bear attacks AND THEN go out into places where bears live and you drag around slabs of meat and cart along backpacks full of honeypots, well, then, you might just become bear poop in the very near future.
You see the difference? One is empty(ish) and the other is boosted with actions.
I suffer from clinical depression. I have spent many years in various forms of dissociative states. I am a trauma survivor and someone who suffers from PTSD. The last thing I need to hear is “think happy thoughts and you will start farting rainbows, and dancing around happy as a well, farting unicorn.” The last thing I need to hear is “if only you would discipline your thinking to think positive thoughts you would be happy.”
There are times in my life when asking me to think positive thoughts is like asking someone without legs to get up and run. I simply cannot do it. I am not choosing to be mentally ill. I have not chosen to be unhappy. And I haven’t become depressed by simply thinking depressing thoughts any more than I will become taller by thinking about stilts.
People who find success with positive thinking are probably not as fundamentally ill as I am, and I am tired of being shamed for not being able to think as happily as you.
It’s similar with the Law of Attraction (LOA) cult. Yes, my thoughts are things, but they are not homeopathic. They will not attract other similar thoughts and thus, eventually, the desired thing (usually money, success, a relationship, a yacht) (nothing wrong with wanting any of these things, wanting is good, I am just pointing out the LOA cult leaders prey on people who are often economically disadvantaged, the lonely, the down-trodden, the ones who, forgive me for saying so, but who do not think clearly because they CAN’T).
The only kinds of thoughts that will attract other similar thoughts are the ones you think with your heart and hands. The ones you put your blood, sweat, and tears into. Things you love. Things you not only desire, but know are true and good for yourself and the world.
Of course, positive affirmations and positive thinking is a good “idea.” If it helps, go to town.
So, instead of telling me to “think positive” and to just “be happy,” or to just remember, “thoughts are things,” tell me you love me. Tell me you’re here to listen. Tell me you will drive me to my therapy appointment or come out for a cup of tea with me. Tell me you’re sorry and that you care. Whatever you do, know that I am listening to you and that it would be great if I knew we could stand together in the world, and not worry together about being eaten by bears.
There Is No One Way to Be Trans, or the Number Three
Jennifer Angelina Petro
There is no one way to be trans just as there is no one way to express, well, anything, even, let’s say, numbers. The number three is a quantitative value that can be expressed with three acorns, three pieces of candy, three pennies, a triangle, a tripod, and so on. It can be expressed as 3, III, or three—not to mention how it is expressed in the many different languages of the world. The fundamental value of a three does not change because of how it is written or illustrated, or expressed or in what language it is referred to in. Transpeople are fundamentally human beings who just so happen to exist and express themselves on a spectrum of infinite variety.
I could care less how “feminine” I look in some respects, in others I do, but the point is, I choose what is right and true and comfortable and fun for me. I do not base my gender identity or expression on what the world might think is most “feminine.” Three pencils and three jolly ranchers both express “threeness” equally validly, and “correctly.” I express the value of “transness” not wearing makeup just as much as another transperson wearing tons of makeup.
I have met transwomen who were trapped (or so it seemed to me) in the traditional gender binary. And this is sad. And can be tragically sad. Some transwomen try so hard to fit in to what they perceive is the “right” feminine gender norm and kill themselves when they perceive they can’t or don’t. Some transwomen seemingly buy into the same misogynistic impressions of “femininity,” that many cis-gendered people do.
This past year in which I came out, several transwomen have told me I will never “pass,” unless I fix my eyebrows. Of course, I had no idea my eyebrows were broken AND I had no idea “passing” was the goal. I thought being my authentic self was. If that includes passing, cool; if it doesn’t, still cool.
One transwoman, a few years older than myself, recently said, after looking me over:
“Have you ever heard of the uncanny valley?”
“Well, it’s the idea that some robots and zombies and aliens, etc. make humans feel eerie and uncomfortable because they appear to look CLOSE to human, but aren’t.”
“I see,” I said, while inside drifting steadily into a protective dissociative state (really).
“You just need to fit in more,” she went on without mercy, “work on your makeup, your hair is too flat, your clothes, well, your clothes are OKAY, but you can work on those too. And your eyebrows…they are way too big. You haven’t feminized your voice or your moves—your walk.”
Later, after much reflection and a healthy dose of needing to be talked down from a highly triggered state of dysphoria, I thought about just how sad it must be to be her.
She is stuck—I daresay—bound–to the belief that the task of a transwoman is to fit into “American” society’s prevailing views of what women should look like. If I would only “feminize” myself in such ways, this would, in her mind, make me look more “human,”—less threatening to the “normies.” If I would just toe the line of “traditional,” “American,” “feminine” ideals then I would find a job and a place to live. I wouldn’t be so depressed.
I also realized later on that I must be a threat to her on some levels. She was likely told and bought into the idea that she had to look a certain way in order to be a “real” woman, a woman who “passes,” or a woman who, at very least, doesn’t draw attention to herself. There are, of course, very real safety concerns for some transwomen, but I think in this case, I must have contradicted decades of, what deep-inside she must view as, her wasted time, money, and life trying to “fit in.” Turns out you can be trans and not have to look a certain way, not have to give a fuck about fitting in. Something she may never have been told. Something she cannot bear to hear.
The fact that I don’t wear makeup must fly in the face of her “traditions” about what women should and should not do. The fact that I don’t care about covering my five-o’clock shadow might make her upset for all the money and time she spent on electrolysis or expensive makeup, not to mention the time she spent shaving, and so on. The fact that I don’t care how fluffy my eyebrows are might make her resentful at herself for all the countless hours she spent plucking, waxing, trimming, shaping, or threading her eyebrows—and here I am—a whipper-snapper transwoman—who comes along and says: “Um, I’m trans, and I have fluffy eyebrows. Fuck you.”
Of course it is completely possible she looks the way she does, and does the things to help herself look the way she does, because she likes it, because she chooses it consciously, thinks it’s fun, affirming, liberating, and so on. And that’s all totally fine, totally acceptable, totally trans. And when I dress the way I dress or choose not to “feminize” myself in the ways others think I should, I am also acting perfectly, acceptably, and totally, wonderfully trans.
So let’s get some things straight, because there are some things in the world that need to be straight, and these are a few of them:
1). There is no one way to be trans.
2). There is no right or wrong way to be trans.
3). Transgender folks are human beings just like everyone else. We do not belong to any uncanny valleys. Uncanny valleys are stupid.
4). There is no one way to be a woman, a man, or genderfluid, genderqueer, asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, a child, a dog, a puppy, cat, whale, moose, tree, or sky.
5). There is no need for transgender policing in the transgender community.
Those are eternal truths just as the number three will always and ever be a three. A thousand years from now you can hold three pieces of stardust in your hands and they will still represent the number three. A thousand years from now the idea of uncanny valleys will still be stupid.
A penis is most commonly found on “men.” A vulva most commonly found on “women.” But that doesn’t mean they are the only places for those organs to be found, and further more they do not define the gender of a human being any more than an arm, leg, nose, liver, or knee cap does. I am a woman with a penis. And I don’t like wearing makeup very much. And further-further more, I just divulged a very personal bit of information about myself because I chose to. In actuality, what anyone has or does not have in their pants, skirt, spacesuit, etc. is none of your business, and if you think it is, then perhaps the idea of the uncanny valley IS valid because it would then apply to you.
I am a transwoman with fluffy eyebrows. I am a transwoman who still likes her voice. I am a transperson who doesn’t believe in “dead names.” And I am still perfectly, wonderfully a number three, a person, a transperson, a woman who just so happens to be powerful, creative, and full of life. I am a person who just so happens to be fed up with the policing that goes on in some trans communities. A person who cares deeply about the young transfolk coming up behind us.
They need to be accepted completely and fully for who they are and how they want or need to express themselves. They need us. They need us strong, together, and smart. They need us to have their backs. They need us to look in the mirror and at one another, and at THEM, and see love—pure and simple expressions of infinite variety.
Jennifer Angelina Petro
I remember being told school was letting out early—
Parents were coming to pick up their children—
A plane had flown into the World Trade Center
And another was circling somewhere—
We all looked up as we handed the students to their families—
We all felt the shock of a national emergency out of nowhere–
We all moved to our cars with uncertain, fragile steps,
Still looking towards the sky—
And then, by the time we had arrived home, another plane crashed into the Pentagon,
And another in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, not too far from Pittsburgh—
For the rest of the day we huddled around televisions
And radios—and we asked confused questions—stunned questions—
Allah would never—questions—
Two days later when we were permitted to return to school
We pondered deeply what to tell our students—
How could we even come close to eulogizing so many?
How could we explain, with any sense at all, what had happened,
Not to mention why?
My fourth graders and I had a frank, tearful, and frightened discussion—
“Why?” they asked.
“They were sick people,” I said.
“They are evil people,” they said.
“Maybe,” I said, “they were sick, that is what I believe. No well person does things like that.”
“Why did they do it? What could they gain from doing that?”
“I do not know,” I said, “I do not know.”
“Can we get sick like them?”
“No,” I said, “Never.”
We held a long, trembling moment of silence.
We prayed openly for the victims and their families,
We prayed long and hard for the first responders and rescue workers,
We prayed for the dogs still sniffing for survivors,
We prayed it never happens again.
One student asked: “Should we pray for those who did this?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “Do whatever feels right for you. There is no wrong prayer.
Your question is beautiful.”
And then one student, the smallest kid in the class,
With a voice that quivered like the branch of an autumn tree,
Said with holy conviction:
“If I were on those planes, I would have stopped those people—
I would have found a way.”
Later, we went out to the big field for recess,
Still looking towards the sky.