A Call to Action For Allies of Transgender People
Jennifer Angelina Petro
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
― Elie Wiesel
Violence against transgender people and other queer people, especially queer people of color, is up ever since the terroristic Trump regime took office, and will only increase if the latest political assault on trans people goes through.
Trump wants to legally define gender based solely on body parts. This would effectively erase transgender, intersex, and other nonbinary people out of existence.
Of course, we’ll still be here—we’ve always been here, and always will be.
What will happen though is that any and all legal protections will be removed (not that we’ve had many of them to begin with). It will be “legal,” to deny transgender people healthcare, insurance, employment rights, and housing rights.
It will also give the haters even more license to commit hate crimes on people like me. Why shouldn’t they if we don’t exist—if we don’t matter in the eyes of the federal government? We shouldn’t they if we’re not going to be counted on the U.S. Census?
This amounts to genocide. Yes, it’s a strong word. Genocide means: “the deliberate killing of a large group of people.” Its synonyms include: “mass murder, mass homicide.”
Will there actually be a mass killing of transgender people? I hope not, of course. However, if one factors in an increase in the undocumented and documented murders of trans people, the documented and undocumented lives of young trans people lost to suicide as a result of constant—federally condoned violence and bullying, if one factors in the transgender people who will die as a result of lack of health care, or who will die on the streets due to homelessness, then the numbers of dead transgender people could become staggering (and yes—one is too many). These atrocities will all worsen if the federal government decrees that we don’t exist.
What frightens me the most are the terrible consequences that young trans people will suffer. The kids. The ones growing up into a future where they will have no federal government protections. Their futures are in jeopardy even more than they are now.
It’s time allies.
It’s time to rise up and stand with transgender people and all other LGBTQIA people.
You might be thinking: There are a lot of other kinds of people to stand up for—lots of causes to fight for, and you’re right. Consider this though:
The next step after erasing trans people will be to erase people based on their sexual orientation, religion, race, political party, health issue, people on birth control, people who’ve had abortions, people who are differently abled, people who are different than the white and the rich, the educated and male. What will it do to the #MeToo Movement? A movement already scoffed at by many. Should sexual assault victims have human rights? Should children?
There was a time I would have thought these things would never, ever be possible.
They are though. They are. It has already begun.
Stand with me. Stand with us. This affects everyone.
What does it look like to stand with trans people?
-Write to your senators and local politicians.
-March with us.
-Educate your family and friends about us—risk being hated for what you believe.
-Add pro-trans FB profile frames on your profile pictures and/or your FB banners.
-Spread the word across all social media that trans rights are human rights.
-Stand for us in your places of worship and schools.
-Buy “Trans Rights Are Human Rights” shirts and wear them proudly.
-Hug us openly.
-Adopt trans kids.
-Open your homes to homeless trans people.
-Go to the homeless and bring them food, water, blankets, medicine.
-Go to public restrooms with us.
-Invite LGBTQIA people to holiday dinners.
-And much more.
It is one thing to tell a trans person you love and accept and stand with them. It is another thing to take public action steps to demonstrate that love and acceptance.
And yeah, I get it. Some of you are afraid of what others will say. Some of you might be afraid for your safety if you openly fight for trans rights. You might fear for your jobs, for your membership in places of worship, for what your friends and relatives might say. I get it. On a daily basis, believe me, I get it.
Anyone who voted for Trump is complicit in the violence and deaths that will increase as a result of transgender people being erased in the eyes of the federal government. So are those who remain silent in the face of such abuse of power. If you are too afraid to stand up to any of your friends and relatives who support Trump for my sake and/or the sake of an entire group of people, then where does that put you in relationship with those friends and relatives? Where does it put you in relationship with me? With yourself? With your faith?
If the nation only hears the voices of the haters, then that’s all Trump and his regime will hear–that’s all the haters will hear–it’s all the people who choose to do nothing will hear–and so the hate and violence towards people like me goes on. If the nation only sees the public actions of the haters and not the public actions of people in support of trans-rights, then that’s all Trump and his regime will see–that’s all the haters will see. It’s all the people who choose to do nothing will see, and thus the hate and violence towards people like me goes on.
No. This isn’t about guilt–at least not about unhealthy guilt–like the shame that erases oneself. A certain kind of guilt can be healthy. If you feel guilty about something you did or didn’t do and knew you shouldn’t have done that thing or should have done that thing–then feeling guilty can be healthy. Shows you have a conscience. So, no. I am not trying to shame you–just help motivate you to rise up and show your support in public ways.
This is a plea.
This is a begging for something that should never have to be begged for.
Tired of the fear I feel on a daily basis. Will the place I’m going to be safe? Will I be assaulted? Will I be safe in a public restroom? Will I live to see my grandchildren or be cut down because of who I am, and not what I choose to be?
I’m tired. And I will keep fighting.
No. This isn’t about guilt if you can’t fight, or need a break from fighting.
It’s a charge. Fight if you can. Not just on social media, but with your lives.
Stand with transgender people, intersex people, nonbinary people—all LGBTQIA people.
Stand with us openly, actively.
Lives are at stake.
Freedom is at stake.
The fate of the future for countless young people is at stake.
We need you. I need you.
All donations from this post go to TransLifeLine.
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.
Soldiers Died For People Like Me,
A Memorial Day Message
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Memorial Day must suck for the extremist right-wing-white men in our country.
They get all emotional on this day for all the fallen soldiers. And for good reason.
However, they need to understand those fallen soldiers fought for the rights of people on the #LGBTQIA spectrum. They fought for the rights of women, minorities, the poor, the uninsured, Planned Parenthood, senior citizens, and all the Muslims living in our country, and the environment, the right to impeach a barbarian president.
The alt-right white “christian” KKK-loving men can’t get around this truth. And it must really piss them off.
Of course, some of wars were unjust, wrong, a political pawn. Some however, were not. Some, I suppose, needed to be fought.
Thinking of those people who died to help keep America safe, we need to remember they died for people like me.
Any donations specifically from this post will be in turn, donated to Veteran’s Mental Health Programs. <3
Jennifer Angelina Petro
vigil (n.) 1200, “eve of a religious festival” (an occasion for devotional watching or observance), from Anglo-French and Old French vigile”watch, guard; eve of a holy day” (12c.), from Latin vigilia”a watch, watchfulness,” from vigil “watchful, awake, on the watch, alert,” from PIE root *weg- (2) “be lively or active, be strong” (source also of Old English wacan “to wake up, arise,” wacian “to be awake;” Old High German wahta “watch, vigil;” see wake (v.)). Meaning “watch kept on a festival eve” in English is from late 14c.; general sense of “occasion of keeping awake for some purpose” is recorded from 1711.
—From the Online Etymology Dictionary.
We were watchful, alert to every loud sound,
We were lively, active, and strong—we were awake
So fully our guard dropped and we wept in the arms of strangers;
We were watchful, full of rage, full of questions,
We were a living sea of sorrow that crashed the shores
Of common humanity, and we were strong, and we were awake,
And we were alert to every loud sound,
And we rose on steps and shoulders, and we rose on songs and speeches,
And we rose on embraces from strangers—
We were awake—watchful, alert to every sound—
We lit one another’s candles, we swayed in silence, swayed in song,
We shouted out to high heaven the names of the stolen,
We whispered to hell the name of the thief,
We held signs and wrote in chalk on pavement
Messages of solidarity, we assembled forests of candles,
Altars of light and tears, altars of hopelessness turned
Into hope somehow, someway, some holy
And desperate way. And we were watchful, and we were awake,
And we were alert to every loud sound, and we were lively,
And we were strong, we were active, and we sang knowing
This was no eve of a festival—it was the eve of funerals
And heartbreak, families just finding out their loved ones
Were gay and gone—
This was the homily of tears,
This was the vigil of no tomorrow,
This was the night of never ending darkness lit up
By hearts and candles,
This was the right and human thing to do,
This was the pulse of a nation,
This was the vigil for us all.