Planting Seeds for the LGBTQIA Community and its Allies, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Planting Seeds for the LGBTQIA Community and its Allies

By

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.

“Yes.”

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.

 

 


 





20 Alternative, Life-Affirming Activities to Do During Lent, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

20 Alternative, Life-Affirming Activities to Do During Lent

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

There is debate in both pagan and Christian circles as to the origins of Lent, and, as usual, both sides think they’re right.  We know Norse people put ashes on their forehead to protect them from Odin’s more violent moods.  And it’s hard not to notice that Yggdrasil, the World Tree, in Norse mythology, is an ash tree.  We do know Jesus never mentioned Ash Wednesday, nor anything even close.  It was a ritual adopted many centuries later.  We also know that, in most Christian denominations—both Protestant and Catholic, that it’s traditional to “give something up” for forty days. Some people fast from meat.  Other’s treat it sort of like a New Year’s Resolution and deny themselves chocolate, TV, fried foods, and the like.

I propose that Lent be a time of welcoming new things into our lives, of affirming people and things we love and new people and things we want to cultivate love for. The word, “Lent,” simply means springtime.  Why, during such a lavishly abundant time of growth should we refuse ourselves even the simplest of pleasures?  I truly believe that is not what Jesus wants.  I believe he wants us to enjoy “the kingdom of God,” and to share of what we have.  He fasted, yes, so the story goes, but he never said we should do it for forty days.  Early Christian Church leaders were all about encouraging the illiterate flock to deny itself pleasures, to self-flagellate, to perform outrageous acts of penance, and all manner of self-mortifications, while they sat back in their gold-gilded rooms feasting.  It almost became sort of a contest: who can sleep on a bed of nails the longest?  Who can pick the worst self-abusive behaviors for the glory of God?  The body was, after all, sinful.

Well, if we are made in the image and likeness of the Divine, then I say our bodies are sacred and meant to be treated as such.  In light of that, here are twenty suggestions for alternative, life-affirming things we can do for the next forty days.

 

-Commit to doing some kind of act of self-care.

-Accept and celebrate positive things about yourself and others in active, real ways.

-Do something creative every day and then throw a party after that time to culminate the resurrection of (or the evolution of) your creativity.

-Do something kind (and in secret) for someone every day—especially perhaps for those you may not “like,” or who are “different,” than you.

-Take time to expand your understanding of things like feminism, racism, gender studies, white-privilege, etc., and ways to get involved locally and/or globally to help the world.

-Send someone (the same person or different) an email every day with a silly joke or inspirational quote.

-Sing every day–your favorite song, a new song, a silly song, a made-up song—to yourself, in the shower, at work, while walking, to strangers, to friends, to family.

-Try a new food every day and/or share food with someone else.

-Make every effort to sit down with your whole family for dinner.

-Every time you catch yourself thinking something judgmental towards someone, including yourself, reframe that thought into something loving, positive, and compassionate.

-Donate your time and resources to someone or an organization that helps others.

-Read spiritual literature every morning and/or evening.  Or, at very least, read something other than online news—a story, a children’s book, poetry, a biography. You get the idea.

-Take time to learn about different faith traditions with the goal of looking for similarities and places your faiths converge.

-Eat breakfast and/or health(ier) foods.

-Take one little (or big) step towards your dream every day.

-Take a moment to breathe consciously outside.

-Take a moment to notice—really notice—a tree, flower, cloud, a loved one, your own amazingness.

-Throw away, or give away, one thing in your living space that you haven’t touched, noticed, used in ages.

-Inventory your life a little each day.  Ask yourself how you’re doing as a citizen of the world.  Be honest.  No shame.  Just objective self-reflection.  What are you doing well?  Where can you improve?  Are there any amends to make?  And so on.

-Go ahead and eat something you absolutely love.

 

The list is endless and as varied as you.  The point is, instead of Lent being a time of denying things we like and love, we make it a time of embracing what we love in mindful, attentive, fun, and thankful ways.

It might also be fun to have your worship community, your family, your co-workers, and so on—commit to doing one of these affirming activities together and then celebrate the revelations and resurrections of playfulness and appreciation that hopefully would result by doing such a shared ritual.

As the season unfolds, it’s OK to start up a new “Forty Days,” anytime.  It’s OK to celebrate the resurrection of anything that was lost and then found.

And, of course, it is the hope the cultivation of these positive things would extend far after Lent (or at least much longer than most New Year’s Resolutions); that they would become habits, so to speak, or perhaps, continually evolving spiritual practices.

You might be wondering what I have chosen to do this Lenten season.  As of the writing of this post, I have the flu, so I am not committing to anything that puts me in contact with anyone else until I am officially not contagious.  For now, I am committing to telling myself something nice about myself every day.  I also commit to send little messages of appreciation and inspiration to someone different every day.  Look in your inbox.

Have fun.

Happy Lent.

Jenn

 

opening flower

 

 


 

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Reflections on Going to the Super Bowl Parade for the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Jennifer Angelina Petro

philly parade 2018

Reflections on Going to the Super Bowl Parade for the Philadelphia Eagles

Thursday, February 8, 2018

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

I picked up sons Ben and Daniel at 4:30 AM.  After stopping at Wawa (because everyone should stop at Wawa on the way to anything–especially on their way to a Super Bowl Parade) and headed downtown.  It took us an hour to both drive and eventually find a parking space.  It was another 15-minute walk to where we set up camp for the next eight hours, near where the parade was going to end—the Art Museum steps.

The sun had yet to rise, and people were filing in the slowly-lifting darkness from Broad Street down to the Art Museum, like a jubilant river.  It was 6 AM and people were already shouting Eagles chants, fight songs, and Brady-Sucks, and yes, people were already drinking.

As the crowd grew hour by hour, the people grew kinder and happier.  People were dancing, singing, oh, yes, and drinking—and they were also happy, high-fiving, laughing.  And as the sun rose and illuminated the Art Museum, the sea of people swelled with anticipation.

People played catch with footballs that seemed to be soaring around the crowd from out of nowhere. People introduced themselves to those standing around them.  People exchanged stories of how long they waited for this day and what it all means.  Strangers hugged and offered each other blankets, handwarmers, and beer.

And the green.  Nearly every person there—of all shapes, sizes, ages, race, gender-identity, and expression was bedecked in Eagles green.  Looking out across the ever-burgeoning crowd, it turned into a luminous green sea that ebbed and flowed and raised its waves to heaven.

Yes, there were the knuckleheads.  One idiot climbed a tree, urinated (very poorly aimed) into a water bottle, spraying the people below with urine, and then, threw the full bottle down among the people.  If the police hadn’t been there I think he would have been beaten to a pulp.  The people below were justifiably (pardon the pun) pissed.

One nearly-naked guy with green hair smashed two beer cans together in front of his face and roared as he sprayed the crowd with Budweiser.  The surrounding people weren’t happy, but not as unhappy as those who were where the shit-brain peed on them.

Then there was the guy so stoned he came tumbling through the crowd like a wobbly train, and, if I hadn’t had been there to grab him, he would have plowed into the two old ladies in front of us.

“Thank you,” he said with his voice slurred and his eyes rolling around in his head like marbles, and then he just kept stumbling through the crowd.

There was no violence though.  No meanness (yes, peeing off a tree was mean, but he was clearly drunk, and cracking up as he did his heinous act), no rage, no property being damage, no cars set on fire.  It was plain and simply a party.  It was a celebration of civic-pride—city pride—family pride—and, of course, pride for our team—the bunch of under-estimated players who overcame a ton of adversity to sweep unexpectedly and remarkably through the playoffs to bring home the long-awaited Super Bowl victory.  It is a team comprised of good and decent people.  It is a team together in true brotherly love.  It is a team unlike any other I have ever seen, and I was proud to be there to celebrate them and our city.  It was glorious, hilarious, bizarre, and fun—profoundly fun.  When a city comes together to dance, sing, and embrace one another—it is a truly beautiful thing—I dare-say, holy.

There is so much wrong with the world.  And, I believe there is far more right with the world.  Today was one of the right things, and I am grateful to have been there with two of my sons.  We will never forget it, and neither shall this team, this city—all the people living and dead who waited so long for this moment—who suffered through agonizing years of frustration.  This was a day of unbridled joy—a collective exhale of relief and a collective in-breath of getting ready to sing—arm-in-arm-again and again, as loudly as humanly possible— “Fly, Eagles, Fly…”

 

eagles last meme

 

 

 


 

 


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One Way to Prepare, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

One Way to Prepare

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Exhale: Release and create,

Inhale:  Gather and nourish,

Exhale: Loosen and share,

Inhale:  Draw and replenish,

Exhale: Surrender and sigh,

Inhale:  Unite and receive,

Exhale: Express and give,

Inhale:  Assemble and hold,

Exhale: Relinquish and set free,

Inhale:  Store and treasure,

Exhale: Cast and measure out,

Inhale:  Claim and protect,

Exhale: Bestow and rejoice,

Inhale:  Shore up and fortify,

Exhale: I am awake and ready.

 

 

 


 

All donations go to medical expenses and groceries.  Thank you for your support. <3

 


Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Last year, at this time, I was in the psych ward begging the nurses to kill me.  Luckily, they said they didn’t do that sort of thing in the hospital.  I spent 9 days there.  My second time in the 2 months. I spent my 49th birthday there.  The staff brought me a cupcake, which they said was against the rules.  It was yummy.  You really haven’t lived until you hear a room full of psychologically ill people singing you happy birthday.

And here I am.  As far as I know, alive.

You are an integral part of my being here.  You supported me 100%, and even though most of this saga was chronicled on my now lost, Radiance Moo-Cow Facebook page, you know the story.  I have no secrets.

I have been criticized for sharing so intimately about mental illness.  You know I do it to destigmatize it all.  You know I do it to help people see someone can exist and function productively and positively—some days better than others—with a chronic, and at this point, incurable, mental illness.

Anywho, things began to lift, not so coiendentally in the spring, with your support, therapy, and a long, struggling, scary, frustrating search for the right combination of meds.

And, of course, there was the unwavering love and support of Mandy, Sam, Ben, and Daniel.

Around late winter, early spring I found Love in Action UCC.  I cannot emphasize enough how important that was, and is, to my recovery.  The accepting, supportive community, the aliveness of service, the many new friends, and the purpose I feel and truly have there working with lgbtqia youth, and watching those programs grow, is so healing.

Then there are the adopted kids I have taken under my wing and have helped get through some rough times.  They too have helped me perhaps more than they know.  They are not just adopted kids—they are friends.

Then too, there was my journey into realizing my meds did not take away, as I so deeply feared, my creativity.  They have helped hone things, focus things, but the creative forces are still there, and for that I am more grateful than I can say.

Yes, there was, and is, all the ongoing shit with trump and his terroristic regime.  Yes, there was, and is, all the ongoing shit from the far-right terrorist extremists.  Yes, there is still the transphobia and the daily challenges I face simply existing in the world—the public world.  And yes, there are still bouts of deep self-hatred and dysphoria.  These have, thankfully, lessened lately though, and for that I am relieved beyond measure.  Yes, I am still living under mountains of debt and the fear of being taken to court for those debts.  Yes, I still cannot help support my family the way I would like financially.  Yes, I truly believe I am not yet ready to handle a full-time job in any field.  Yes, I still have my obsessions, magical thinking, paranoid thinking (and I do not use that last word lightly), and my anxieties, fears, throttling storms of PTSD, and the like.

And I am here, and yes, I still talk with much hyperbole and drama.  I’m Italian.

Looking ahead, I see my role as a mother changing and growing more and more into being a friend.

Looking ahead, I see a future of growing and living into my role as a mentor of lgbtqia youth.  I see myself exploring the possibilities of taking a stab at stand-up comedy and performance poetry, and to return to storytelling, and perhaps even giving concerts/kirtans.  I see myself making a CD of my music and publishing another book(s) of poetry. I see continued discoveries into myself as a transwoman, as a woman, as an aging woman, as someone exploring the wonders of their sexuality and the on and off desire to be in a romantic/intimate relationship with someone.  Yes, I am still a budding pansexual.

Looking ahead, I see more poems.

Looking ahead, I see reconciliation for those in my life who still do not accept me or want me around their families.

Looking ahead, I see new friends weaving their way into my life, and I in theirs.

Looking ahead, I see doing my best to tend to the medical conditions that are gradually developing in this body of mine.

Looking ahead, I see more prayer, more devotion, more deepening, more diving into, more blossoming, more treasuring, more sharing, more joyous my spiritual journey, which, of course, encompasses everything in my life, my every breath.

Looking ahead, I see more healing in our world, and me doing my little part in that healing.

Looking ahead, I see things in the world perhaps getting worse before they get better.

Looking ahead, I see more taking care of myself and setting boundaries for my safety.

Looking ahead, I see more ways to give, in both secret and out in the open.

Looking ahead, I see less shame.

Looking ahead, I continue to see the goodness, resilience, compassion, wisdom, and power of everyday people.

Looking ahead, I continue to notice the little things, the big things around me that are beautiful, mysterious, wondrous, and important.  I continue to actively look for and see/experience gratitude for these things and more.

Looking ahead, I know there will be days when I want to die, when I will be unable to leave my bed, my house, or to eat.  No, I am not calling this to myself.  I am ill, and I live with that illness every day, and while I am doing OK, I know this disease of mental illness is relentless and reminds me everyday that it is there, lurking, hungry.  I am not in delusion about that.  At some point it will drag me under again– hopefully not into the suicidality I walked with everyday for months.  The writing of suicide notes, the making plans of where, when, and how, the carrying of knives and box cutters, the taking them to my wrists.

Looking ahead, I also see healing and the right support to get me through those times.  And while I am afraid, everyday at some point, that the beast is just up ahead behind the next happy, good moment, I am comforted that I can get through it with you and my ability to ask for, and to receive, love and help.

In short, because, yes, I am still short, and likely will remain so, and perhaps I may even grow shorter as the years go by (by-with), looking ahead, I see positive possiblities.  I see you.  I see me, and today I see me with some measure of self-acceptance and even, I daresay, love.

And it’s still winter.  The local world is wrapped in biting cold and sparkling snow.  And I see its beauty and dangers.  I also, looking ahead, see spring.

Looking ahead I see more glitter, unicorns, stuffed animals, and hippy skirts.

I see this moment, looking inwards, outwards, here, now.  And looking ahead, for the first time in years, I see more here and now’s.  More moments, each one unpredictable—no matter what I envision—each one full of possibilities and unexpected joy and hardship, each one full of me, you, the Divine, and a world full of people who care, who take care of one another no matter what the media says.

Looking ahead, I see now.

Looking ahead, I see hope.  Yes.  Hope.

Much love and thanks,

Jenn

 

first thing saw 2018 yup

 


 

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If You Become Lost, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

If You Become Lost

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Keep moving,

The road, they say,

Is made by walking,

I know, that sounds

Trite and annoying,

Nevertheless,

It holds true.

 

Think about acorns.

 

I imagine

They haven’t a clue

About what is happening,

Or where they are,

Or where they are going.

Nevertheless,

They go.  I want to

Believe they dream

Of sky and wind and sun

And roots to hold them

As they sway in said sky,

Wind, and sun.

I also think they haven’t

Any idea that their dreams

Are real, on so many

Blessed levels.

 

So, what do they do?

They move inside—

Something unfurls,

Like having the morning

Tucked away within them,

And as this slow, green,

Galaxy of branches opens,

They move outside.  While they may

Not know where

They are going,

They open themselves

To possibilities and roads.

 

Sure, they meet stones,

Rocks, pass worms

And bones, perhaps

Even a sleeping bear or two,

Sure, its dark inside, and outside,

And, for the most part, cold.

Yet, they rise, moving

In ways that remind me

 

If you become lost,

Keep moving.  You may

Not know where

You are going, or

Where your destination

Will be; what skies

You will open up into—

What horizons you will see,

What birds will find safety

In your arms.  The light knows

However.  The light knows

Wherever.  The light knows

Whenever.  The light knows

Whatever.  The light knows

Whyever.  The light knows

Whomever and whichever,

And shiningever, and singingever,

Callingever, lighthousingever,

Lookingforyouever, thewayever,

The nowever, the light knows all

The question words,

The light knows all

The answer words,

The light knows all

The inbetween words,

The light knows all

The unspoken words.

The light knows

You.

The light knows

You carry its child.

The light knows

You will both be born

Again, and again,

Into the way home.

 

 

 


 

 

All donations go to medical bills and groceries. <3


Interdependence Day, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Interdependence Day

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

vigil photo 1

 

I love this country.  I really do.  I will never forget, however, that it was, and is, being born from violence—genocide, slavery, and corruption.  It was also born from a deep thirst of religious freedom and the ideal where anyone could come to live out their lives the way they chose.

Yes, we have a terrorist imbecile in the white house.  Yes, it has a barbaric administration.  We also have you.  We also have many who will resist and fight, and care—maybe not in the ways you think they should, but they are do, and in their own ways are living out their lives the way they choose—a life of generosity, compassion, kindness, love, and humor.

And yes, there are those who have no choice in how they live—those who have no independence.  There are the oppressed, the marginalized, the hated, feared, the hungry, the homeless, the people without healthcare, or enough money to live on no matter how many hours they work at a minimum wage job.  And of course, this must change.  The dangers of capitalism, the patriarchy, white supremacy, the attacks on the environment, racism—these all must change and be dismantled.  And it is hard.  Most days it seems impossible.  I truly believe we can do it though.  I truly believe we can, and are, rising up as never before.  The powers of good are getting stronger every day, and you and I are a part of that energy.

Yes, this country is deeply flawed, and we can look around and see those flaws, and rightly so, everywhere we look. And we should.  We need to be awake to what we can do to help make positive, lasting changes in our country.  We need to bear witness to each other’s pain.  We need to listen to each other’s stories of sorrow and victory.

Yes, there are people living kind, compassionate, good lives—I  daresay the vast majority in this country are trying to do so.  They love their kids.  They do good in their communities.  They offer you a hand when you’re down.  They do amazingly inventive, hilarious, useful things.  They do their best to live in such a way as to promote basic, human decency.

Yes, this country is a mess.  It is also a tapestry of wonder and of good people creating peace and a safe place for all.  There are many people who do not let hate live in their homes.

And no, I am not going to say we are the greatest country in the world.  There is no greatest country.  There is only a world of souls woven together by threads of hope in the face of great, unholy darkness.

I am a trans woman….I have tasted oppression and marginalization.  I have received death threats, and been the target of hate.  I fear going out of my apartment every day.  And yet I go.  I go with the faith that the good people will always outnumber the ignorant, misguided, brainwashed, hateful, hurtful people.  And it has never failed to be so in my experience.  For every act of hatred aimed at me, there have been a hundred acts of kindness aimed at me also.  The vast majority of my days I go out into the world, and while afraid, realize I am OK.

And no, I am not free.  I am not truly independent.  I am held back by my gender, by my mental illness, by my not being able to pass.  I also can share many gifts and strengths by being trans.  My mental illness may prevent me somedays from getting out of bed, but it also helps me see the world in magical ways, and it heightens my desire to be more and more compassionate to myself and others.

Yes, I am free to fight, and I do.  I am an activist by my very existence.  I am free to let you help me, and I do, and you do.  I am free to help you. I am free to troll the world with beauty, courage, compassion, and humor.  I am free to be me even as, in the same moment, I am not.

Today, I am going to change the name of this day to Interdependence Day.  We all need each other.  We all need one another.  And if today the best you can do is post a meme about justice, then you have helped the world.  Today I might need to be carried.  Today I might be able to carry.  We are all inextricably connected.  We even share the same air as trump.

I believe in us.  I believe in you.

I believe in our capacity to help one another, to see the good, to assume the good in one another.  I believe in our desire for justice, equality, and the genuine acceptance of one another.  I believe in our power to fight, to speak out however loudly or softly we can. I believe in the good people doing acts of kindness every day. I believe in love.  I believe in the collective power of our vision and that it will one day prevail.  It is already spreading.  A fire is burning in our hearts.  A light is shining from our eyes.  We can rise up, lifting one another, and learn how to help change the things that so desperately need changing.

I am going to celebrate Interdependence Day by bringing a meal to a family in need.  I am not bragging, but if I was, who fucking cares?  Announce your goodness for all to see.

Happy Interdependence Day.

I love you all.  Thank you for all you have done, and will do to help me survive the illnesses I carry.  I would not be here today were in not for good people like you.

 


 

 

 


Donations go to medical expenses, groceries, and medicine.

Thank you. <3

When Mother’s Day Doesn’t Quite Fit, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

When Mother’s Day Doesn’t Quite Fit

 

By

 

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

As I was reminded at church today, Mother’s Day may be hard for some people. Some, like me, have lost their mother’s–in my case, six years ago. And while I can still celebrate her life she isn’t physically present to go out to lunch with or something like that. Others never had a mother–in the sense of one being present in their lives. Others couldn’t have children and desperately wanted to. Others have lost their children to miscarriages or other tragedies. Still others have had mothers who were abusive or negligent. And still others have a strained relationship with their mothers, and some mothers have a strained relationship with their children.

There are also people like me–people who lived most of their parenting lives as “Dad.” I will always be Dad to my kids–I know I was a father to them and I am glad for that. I am also their mother. So, for me, Mother’s Day is very special. I get to parent in a whole new way and in the same ways I did before coming out. Luckily for me my kids are amazingly supportive and I have already received Mother’s Day greetings from them. However, I am also one of those people who has always (even before coming out as trans) ached to be able to have children—I was always deeply envious of pregnant mothers. I have always ached to be able to nurse a child. I have come to accept neither of these things will ever happen–and I am no less a mother. So, to all the non-binary “Moms” or people who act as mothers to others–regardless of their gender. Happy Parent’s Day to you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the people out there who mother other people’s children—teachers, nurses, doctors, librarians.  Blessings to all the foster moms and moms who have adopted children from around the world or their own communities.

And to all the grandmothers and aunts who have taken on the role of mother again because of special circumstances.  Blessings to all the grandmothers who simply get to grandmother grandchildren, and do so with wisdom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the single Dads who serve as mothers all day, everyday.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the people who have consciously chosen to not bear or raise children.  I am willing to bet there is someone or something in your life that you mother, and do so with grace, dignity, and love–be that a pet, a plant, a poem, or a person.

And of course, Happy Mother’s Day to ourselves–no matter who we are–for we all, one day, must begin, and never stop, mothering ourselves. It is just the way that it is–we all become our own mother’s one day–giving birth over and over again to ourselves.

To wrap up I would like to lift up all those for whom Mother’s Day is a hard day. Your soul and spirits are Mothers. You have been mothered by the world. You are Mothers of the world.

And also grieve, or be angry. Seek safe support to be with you today as you move through any difficult or challenging feelings and memories.

You are loved. You are special. And you are held in the hands of Mother Gaia.

 

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Thank you for your support.  All donations go to medical expenses and groceries. <3


Some Thoughts on Seeing, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Some Thoughts on Seeing

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Vision depends on the amount of light the eye bends to its uses. The retina sees things upside down and needs the brain to flip the images right side up. As evening comes, the eyes tire and rebel against the light, and sleep passes over, closing them for the night.  And we dream, creating light inside ourselves, until dawn comes, awakening light within light, and we are flooded with things to touch and see, taste and smell, in short, to celebrate with our whole being.

Today, as the amount of light coming in from the world appears to be thinning, lessoning, I will make it my work to seek out more light and keep the aperture of the soul open. I will make it my work to create more light with sparks of humor or song, kindnesses and attention, calm words and softness of speech. And if I begin seeing things upside down, I will depend on the ideas of others to correct the image.

And if a time comes when the soul constricts–from fear or pain, closing off the light, then I will make it my work to seek out ways to ease the soul into opening, to coax it to look for, and to see, oceans of light in the hearts and minds of everyday people on everyday streets in everyday homes and towns across America.

Of course, sometimes the soul requires sleep and a time to dream its own dreams, some of which we never see.  And in those times of holy darkness, when I must become the moon to my soul, then I will sing in whispers and move quietly about the house so that my soul may rest.  And I will do the same for yours.  If your soul wearies and needs time to replenish its rivers and suns, then I will sing softly to you until you sleep without fear.

I am awake, and it is not too late.  In the soul’s time it is early, always early, and I open the pupils of my mind to new opportunities for vision and possibilities for drawing in more light through service and singing.  I allow the world to see the iris of my heart, risking everything to stand on the solid ground of peace—eyes wide open, looking for you.

 

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Our Only Hope, A Solution No One Wants to Hear, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Our Only Hope

A Solution No one Wants to Hear

By

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.