Coming Out Day Reflections
Jennifer (Ray) Angelina Petro
If you didn’t already know—I’m trans, and every time I leave the Treehouse automatically makes the day, no matter what day it is, for better or for worse, Coming Out Day.
There are still private, and little/big moments, when I look at myself in the mirror, and for better or for worse, realize all over again that I’m trans, and there is nothing whatsoever I can do about that even if I wanted to. And that can bring a wild, almost feral joy. It can also bring the oppressive sense of being trapped in a life I did not choose.
There are times when I think back to my initial coming out, and how it smashed my world all to hell, and I regret it–in the sense of wishing it didn’t have to happen. And yet, the truth was/is that I couldn’t NOT come out. When you’re born you’re born, the rest of the world be damned.
I have learned over these past 5 years that my being trans–in my particular case–and, for better or for worse, is only a beginning to the discovering/uncovering of who I am, and there isn’t a finish line to this journey, and the journey is wondrous, terrifying, full of laughter, full of loss, full of gain, full of joy, full of anger, full of shame, full of power, full of gratitude, full of healing and pain, full of possibilities and opportunities, full on the kind of emptiness that is crucial to being a vessel for authenticity and for good.
Coming out, for me, was really more of a coming down–as in descending, incarnating into my body for the first time. It was the embodiment of fire in wood. It was also more of a coming up, as in the cicada nymph having no choice but to allow the light to draw it skyward. And magically, it was also a certain kind of coming in. As the revelation of who I was blossomed into the world, its roots found soil in my heart, and my own self-compassion turned inwards to treasure and protect the truth of me in ways neither you or I will ever fully know.
Coming out was also the acceptance of how powerful I am, how resilient. It was embracing that being a shapeshifter is holy. It was honoring and feeding a ferocity that for too long lay hidden, afraid, and directionless. It was accepting that coming out later in life, for better or for worse, makes me an elder, a crone, a warrior who will fight for the young with my new found claws and teeth.
Coming out has also made my life far more threatening to those around me than it was when I thought I was a cis male. Surrendering male privilege in this society threatens people in strange, outlandish, and very real, dangerous ways.
Know this: if my coming out was a choice I may have very well not come out. I am not that brave, but I have to be now.
My coming out, however, wasn’t a choice. It was, as mentioned above, the giving birth to myself; it was Joseph midwifing me into the world.
The only thing I can control now is how I outwardly present who I am, and how I choose to use the new-found power that lives within me. And sometimes choosing to hide is the wisest, bravest thing I can do.
And even as my wings continue to grow and there are times I can spread them, like an angel, I am very conscious that the more I fly, the more I soar, like a hawk searching for those that would harm the fledglings– the more vulnerable I am to violence, hate, discrimination, and marginalization.
So, while Coming Out Day can be a day of celebration, it can also be a day of reckoning; a day where one’s destiny suddenly unfolds before them, like an unstoppable river. And this can bring joyous freedom and excitement, and it can also bring churning fear of what might happen next. It can also bring a deep sense of inner crisis, isolation, and the need to hunker down for a bit to grow into the truth.
Know this, my blessed allies–Coming Out Day is a very big day indeed with repercussions that will be felt the rest of our lives, and so, we need you. Please continue to make this world safer and safer for people like me and to the young ones coming after. I know you will, because you too, are brave. Please also continue to make the world safer for older trans people like me to come out later in life.
And remember all of you seasoned, professional queers–remember what Coming Out Day was for you, and never forget how scary it can be. Protect each other. Celebrate each other. Remove the gates so gatekeepers have nothing else to do but turn away and grow into better people.
So, there it is. It’s Coming Out Day. I am a transgender woman who presents somewhat non-binary, and uses she/her pronouns. I am, every day, newly born, and, for better or for worse, I am not going anywhere.
Musings on Prayers and Kisses
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Trying to pray with your eyes open is like trying to walk with your eyes closed. One distracts you, the other confuses you, but the end result is the same—clumsiness. Trying to kiss with your eyes open is more an act of will and wide-eyed-giggling than it is: “I must see where my face is going.” Lips know. The soul knows. The feet do not without aid of the eyes. Then again, it must be considered not all prayers are the same, just as not all kisses are the same. And I must say at the beginning, I am musing along with you as I write these words. The ideas herein are like the aforementioned legs without eyes to guide them. I do have certain experience, albeit limited, with both kissing and praying, but I am roaming these topics of heaven-given moments with as much anticipation as you to see where they lead.
One can kiss a lover, friend, or a child “Good morning—have a good day”—with eyes open (perhaps, however, while staring at the coffee maker or the clock). One can kiss a lover with eyes open—wild, seeing everything—following the other’s eyes like search lights, but that’s usually at first contact—when clothes are dropping off ready bodies, like swollen seed-husks falling from blossoming flowers. Eventually the eyes close and you both connect, like living magnets, and both exhale–surrendering into that intimate vulnerability of having someone ornament your body with decorating kisses. We have an interesting distinction here: eyes open during the initial flurry of passion, then eyes close when things settle in a pulsing rhythm of bodies, and the feast of lips tasting lips. Then, one begins exploring the other’s body with kisses as the other’s eyes close in deep, rising and sinking sighs. And when the lips find the places where rapture happens both lovers’ eyes close. That being said, it’s not uncommon for the one receiving to have their eyes fly open with: “Oh God! Oh God!” When the sweet release comes, and the waves shimmer through the body, the eyes most often close like the deepest, most calming, evening. And when the lovers switch places, the process unfolds, with any luck, the same way.
Prayer is very much the same, only different. So is singing, but that’s another essay. In praying, as in nighttime prayers (that often slip so easily into sleep), the eyes close to shroud the whispers that kiss the dark. Morning prayers too are most often said with eyes closed, head bowed before the body of the day. Of course, there are those prayers where the whole body participates, as when the sea rolls through your body during love making. Dancing prayers, yogic prayers, walking prayers, making coffee for your partner prayers—these are all eyes-open prayers—even if your eyes are drooping with not enough sleep. There are vigil prayers when candles are meditated upon, and lives gone are reflected upon, and hopes for peace rise to the sky. During vespers, the eyes can be open or closed, as the prayers wish for safe sleep and warmth. Then, there are prayers we pray for someone else—someone sick or struggling through a rough patch—these prayers are almost always asked with eyes closed in supplication and intensity, as when we humbly, or boldly ask a lover to kiss us in the places we want kissed. There are prayers of wonder, as when we see stars and newborn babies and sunsets and moon rises. These are prayed with gasps and awes, as when your lover’s lips find the tingling places on your body—eyes suddenly open with surprise and reverence. There are rote prayers where the eyes automatically close because everyone else’s automatically close and if you sneak your eyes open and scan the room full of closed-eyed people you feel a sprinkle mischievous and a dash voyeuristic, and perhaps a pinch of outright rebel. These are moments akin to opening one eye during a kiss to catch the reaction of your lover. Both are perfectly acceptable, of course, for they inspire the fun of witnessing community and union, provided the eyes aren’t opening in either case with insecurity to check whether or not you’re kissing well or praying with the proper piety. Hopefully, however, there are very few rote kisses in your lives. There are prayers of prophecy—spontaneous and unplanned like wild, ravishing kisses predicting soon to come release. Your eyes are always open during these prayers while your lover’s are usually closed with faith and the sweet, blessed, little fear that sometimes accompanies letting go to the control of another. There are also the prayers of grace and blessings before a meal, which can easily be translated into prayers of gratitude before feasting at the table of your lover’s body. Lastly, there are prayers of ecstasy, when your eyes close seeing lights and visions, and the soul stirs awake and bliss shimmers through your entire body, and exclamations of: “Oh God, Oh God!” soar around the room. We don’t have to imagine too hard to know which kisses these are like and where they settle and deepen and what the eyes do when such rapture happens.
Well, there we have it. I truly had no idea where this was going. Now that we’re drawing to a close (or a curious, intriguing opening) it is my hope this meandering piece inspires you to kiss more reverently and to pray with more wildness; to kiss with more attention and devotion, and to pray with more openness to revelation; to kiss more adventurously and to pray more like the trees must pray, like the sea must pray, like the shore must pray, like a hawk gliding on spiraling currents must pray, like the mother bear awakening with cubs must pray, like the owl must pray keeping watch over fields and marshes. In other words, may our prayers and kisses become one and the same, where Lover and Beloved become one and the same–one breath, one sparkling river, one song of praise.
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.
20 Alternative, Life-Affirming Activities to Do During Lent
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.
All donations go to medical expenses and groceries. Thank you. <3
Reflections on Going to the Super Bowl Parade for the Philadelphia Eagles
Thursday, February 8, 2018
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…”
One Way to Prepare
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.
Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018
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,
Thank you for your kind support. <3
If You Become Lost
Jennifer Angelina Petro
The road, they say,
Is made by walking,
I know, that sounds
Trite and annoying,
It holds true.
Think about acorns.
They haven’t a clue
About what is happening,
Or where they are,
Or where they are going.
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
So, what do they do?
They move inside—
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,
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
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
Jennifer Angelina Petro
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.