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.

One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my crew interact with the kids and parents.  Miles, a young transman friend came, and Anais, a young friend who doesn’t identify as either male or female came as well.  When I say, “young,” people, I mean, they were 20 and 17, and they were amazing.  I was so proud of them.  They are blazing a trail for queers and allies.  They were kind, cheerful, genuine, wise, proud, mature—they give me so much hope for the future, as did all the parents and children who visited our table.  These young people who came with me—they were, and are, amazing. They left the event feeling happy and proud of themselves and so moved and excited at the response we received.

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.

 

 


 





Some Thoughts on the Gender Binary and Everything Else in Between, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Some Thoughts on The Gender Binary

And Everything Else

In Between

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

What I am about to share is going to piss somebody off.  Seems that way about most everything I say nowadays.  However, if you truly have faith in your God, or you truly have faith in who you are as human being, then what you are about to read should not be threatening to anything you believe or experience.  This is not to say that what I have written here is perfect.  Far from it.  Language barriers, prejudices, and fears—yours and my own– make that impossible.  Let’s get on with it.  I am ready for the mean, hateful, harmful, and trolling comments from “both” sides (and “both” is in quotations because well, you’ll see). I am also ready for nice comments.  I am inviting them too. I hope.

I will give you that the idea of the binary exists.  I know, many scientists today say the gender binary doesn’t exist in the ways we’ve traditionally thought, and I totally support their findings.  That said, the idea of polarities exists. It is seemingly everywhere—day and night, cold and hot, light and dark, rainy days and clear days, fire and water, sky and earth.  Having given you that, you will inevitably need to give me, that there isn’t, and never will be, a truly individuated or separate representation or living form that will ever exist on the opposite ends of the binary.  For the opposite ends of the binary are only ideas, even if they are created by God. If this scares you, then so must the idea of the morning, or of the evening, or rainbows, or singing.

The opposite ends of the binary only exist to overtake the other—swallow it up, merge within in it, into and unto, itself—not in battle, never forced—but in dance and song, and flavor.  That is the miracle, that is the beginning of all things.  The purpose of the binary is not to separate, but to join, merge, and hence, create.

No one can imagine the idea of the opposites without seeing, feeling, experiencing, knowing, or witnessing that they are all in some relationship with the other.

Go ahead, stand on the earth without forever being also in the sky.  Be in the middle of a perfectly sunny day and not know that evening is already on its way.  Step into a pool that you want not too hot and not to cold.  You get what I’m saying.

Having given you that the binary exists as theoretical reference points (I know, I know, the Bible says God created male and female and it also says: Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones,” or, “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”   I know, I know, you can take a verse of the Bible and use it to back up even the most outlandish ideas.  Like this one: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”  I know you can take the fact that God killed about 25 million people in the Bible to represent the killing of our unbelief or to justify the slaughter of unbelievers, but then again, so do some Muslims).  It is high time and low time, to grasp and let go, once and for all, and forever anew, the idea that the front of a coin can be separated from the back.  They exist because of one another and because of what they manifest—and in the case of human existence—they manifest all that is wonderful (not the coins themselves, but what they represent, well, not what they represent, but what they demonstrate).

Cold is nothing unless heat exists.  Up means nothing without down.  Music is only heard in silence. Purple only arises between shades of blue and shades of red. Death prowls and life blooms.  It is the space between them that brings forth all things; where all things wondrous, flavorful, truthful (yes, truthful), and just plain living—exist.  It is in the mingling where the fun begins.

Two people do not have sex in order to annihilate the other.  They have sex to blend together, breathe and gasp together, come together.  It is this joining of bodies, souls, hearts, and minds that brings forth life.

I know, I just got done saying the opposite ends of the binary only exist to overtake the other.  Remember what I also said—the true opposite ends of the binary do not exist except in theory.  You will never find them in life—no man is ever just a man—he has his “feminine” side.  No woman is ever just a woman.  She will have her “masculine” side.  God becomes the mother hen to keep us safe under his wings.  No night is ever not slipping into day.

And that is my point.  Living is in the union.  Fun is in the merging.  Wonder is in the rainbow.  Beauty is in the evening sky.

So please, just as you cannot deny the idea of the binary, you cannot deny the existence of infinite variety, or of the intricate, heavenly, ever-expanding spectrum between the opposite ends of that binary.

I know, there are flaws in what I say.  Language makes things messy and muddles meaning up. You can easily take my words and use them to prove the exact opposite of what I am saying.  That being what it is—you cannot lose sight (well, you can out of your own shadowy, shame-based fears—and we all have them) that all the good stuff lives within and on and with and along a spectrum.  And nothing in between threatens the existence of the binary. The binary will always be the idealized ideas of opposites in the same way day and night will be always be idealized ideas of opposites.  I do not use the word “idealized” to mean better.  I mean it to say, the ultimate opposite ends of the spectrum only exist as ideas.  They never truly manifest, one without the other.

Go ahead, flip a coin.  Not only does it rise, tumbling upwards into the air, it also tumbles down landing on either heads or tails—and these will never exist one without the other—front and back. But I said that already, and I will say it again, at risk of being repetitive (the crusty idea of the idealized binary has been repeated for eons, but so has the idea that God creates souls to burn them in hell, or that the earth is flat, or that slavery is ever a human thing to do). So, I repeat:

It is the stuff that exists along the spectrum that is most intensely alive.  It is the dance between stillness and movement, music and silence, light and darkness, male and female, death and life that makes existence wonderful.  We are born, we die, and it is the living in between that gives either of these meaning (and please don’t think I am associating masculinity with light and darkness with femininity. Remember, however, that language is goofy.  Then again, feel free to associate anything with anything—you’ll get a good idea of how you live your life).

The spectrum is undeniable, and completely, and utterly, wondrously, beautiful, vibrant, and living.

So please do not tell me I do not exist as a transgender person.  I am a living arc–a living rainbow “across” genders. Please do not tell my queer friends, non-binary friends, asexual friends, and so on—that they do not exist.  We are the beauty and meaning of the ideas of so-called, male and female.  We are what is meant to be celebrated because the true opposites will never exist in form.  Murder is not always bad or the Christian religion would mean nothing.  Rebellion is not always bad or else freedom would not exist.  This is not relativism. This is reality.  No one loves without a hint of hate.   No one prays without a hint of doubt.

People like me are the rainbows, we are the mornings and evenings, we are that place where stars and darkness dance.  We are the perfect temperature for swimming.  We are the space between inhaling and exhaling.  We are the glorious existence of form.  And we include all gender identities, all gender expressions, every gender preferences, every rainbow, every song, and every breath.  And so then, we include you.

Do not fear the rainbow.  Go find it, and take out your phones and snap pictures of it.  Give thanks to Goddess for it. Take a selfie with it in the background.  It is a sign that God will never again destroy the earth with a flood—a flood of ignorance, fear, bigotry, or hatred.  The rainbow is the spectrum that blooms from the skies of our souls.

 

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