Be Proud One Day

Get to work all the others

Photo by Levi Saunders on Unsplash

Lots of people like to feel pride of place. Where they live means something special to them whether they were born there or not, but especially if they were.

To me this is childish, and I only remember this sensation as a child, when I was growing up in New York City and learned to be proud of that place for all of its history and magnificence.

But all of that was false. The history taught was glossing over the killing of indigenous peoples and growth built upon the slave trade, the riots, the suffering of immigrants, the ghettos.

I traveled the country, loved the scenery, but learned that the history was always much the same. The nice people with their pride of place were always unaware of or blissfully ignoring the facts.

Unless, of course, they were the unfortunate objects of that history.

Many take pride in the religion of their parents, or the new religions they’ve turned to through conversion, even later after they’ve learned of all the deaths their religion has caused through the centuries.

I lived my best years in and around San Francisco, having lost any idea about pride of place, but finally learning deep love of place. I lost all sense of pride in any religion as well.

I was forced to leave California, and I have now spent nearly forty years in the US South, where pride of place and religion are both a cultural “thing” of boundless meaning that defines a person in many ways. This is why our most ambitious warriors, hunters and preachers come from The South.

And SO MUCH hate.

Today I live in a mid-sized city in Tennessee, having recently returned here from a lengthy hiatus about fifty miles to the East. A place far more pleasant but still no escape. If anything, I have very much the opposite of pride each morning when I awake, walk out to the street and retrieve the morning paper.

The other day the headlines informed me, as if this were not unexpected, that the Republican-dominated State Legislature had, after minimal debate, passed a bill barring trans students from participating in high school athletics. Now the bill would move on to the Republican-dominated Senate where it would be greased through.

This morning I awoke to the headline news that the State’s Democrats were “split” on the issue. I found that I was not as surprised as I should be. And that the split had nothing to do with politics. That almost all the Democratic leadership simply agreed with the Republicans.

Allow me to step back again to my past for a pause. I cannot remember a moment in my life when I was not in contact with the LGBTQ+ community. Family, friends, classmates, coworkers, colleagues, etc.

“Oh, no… The dreaded, ‘Some of my best friends are…’”

Fuck off. I don’t have time for that. I’ve wasted enough already with the lengthy intro (I’m actually quite good at lengthy intros…). Jump right in. Am I? No. Straight as an unbent nail. Not quite as hard any longer, but that happens when you reach my age. Sad.

Back to the point (forget the nail). Because this is going to get serious (again).

Do you know what they call members of the community, particularly trans and intersex folks, in this rural area, and others like it around the rural parts of the country?

“Squirrels.”

Because they hunt squirrels. Take Pennsylvania, for example, where I first heard this term used. My family is originally from Philadelphia, and they have an old joke in the state of “Virtue, liberty, and independence”: “There’s Philly, there’s Pittsburgh, and there’s Mississippi in between.” And it’s a big state. They do a lot of “hunting” of all kinds.

Down here, too.

Most of those Democratic leaders I made reference to earlier come from the big cities in Tennessee. Take Johnny Shaw, a leader in the House. He explained to the public that the Democrats had to vote the way they did because this was “a moral issue.”

Yes, they represent their constituents. The “blue” part of the population. Guess what part of the population is “blue” here? The LGBTQ+ community. They vote for these creeps. That is, if they have the opportunity to register.

So many times, for example, trans men and women, and even gay and lesbian youth are living “lightly” in the big cities. They aren’t “registered” at an address so that they can vote.

They also aren’t registered at an address so that, if for some reason they go “missing,” the police will not go looking for them. The police don’t care so much for “transients.” They make assumptions about people.

And that’s why they won’t get involved in a missing person’s case involving a member of the community in many instances until a body shows up. Dead.

Too often that doesn’t happen. The body showing up. There are many ways to dispose of a body. In rural places. Never to be found if no one is even looking.

They are, after all, just “squirrels.”

So. What is the solution? I don’t think there is one. At least not in the short term. There may be one, long term. But it takes patience. And it requires a very different strategy.

I was met the other day, online, by (unfortunately, yet another) person who assumed (aha) that, because I am not, literally, a “member” of the community I exist entirely outside of it with no concern for it. Sigh.

In much the same way that I am sometimes met by Black people (usually younger ones) who suspect me of being racist because I look like some “Cracker” with my white hair and beard.

Or how some Jewish people wonder if I am anti-Semitic even though I am Jewish but because I criticize Israel for their current anti-Semitic politics. Oh, you didn’t know that Arabs are also Semitic?

Anyway… There he was, lecturing me, and pummeling me with reams of scientific evidence about animals in zoos. And stuff. Penguins.

Why?

If I were a legislator, what would it accomplish? If I were a homophobe, or a transphobe, what would it accomplish?

I’ll tell you what. It would make them run into their bunker and hide there. Or perhaps grab one of their guns and come running for him, Mr. Squirrel.

You know what else our enlightened State Legislature was doing this week? While that madman was killing ten people in Boulder, Colorado, they were passing legislation to make it legal to carry any weapon open or concealed, without a license or permit. Or even any training. And our brilliant Governor held a press conference to thank the financially and morally bankrupt NRA for helping them to pass that law.

Next on the agenda? I kid you not: Legislation to make The Bible the official State Book.

Not on the agenda, ever: health care. For anyone. And they work around the clock without masks, coughing in each other’s faces, practically. (I know what you’re thinking, some of you…me, too.)

You want to convince people like THIS with science? Stories about penguins in Antarctica? You must be out of your ever-blazing mind. Who the heck are you kidding? They are going out at night and killing you, literally, because they believe you are not human, and you are trying to convince them that YOU ARE THE EQUIVALENT OF NOT HUMAN?

By the way, every time I post something pro-LGBTQ+ on Facebook or work for a political candidate who has expressed a pro-LGBTQ+ platform, I get death threats. I get hate-posts.

In the meantime, like me, you take the brunt of everyone’s assumptions. Without throwing them back. Because…that’s the world we live in. And you make the best of it. You try not to make it worse.

You find the people who can accept you for who you are, and the best places where you can be — hopefully — and go to them as quickly and often as you can.

And you live. Until you die. In the meantime you work to slowly educate everyone. If you can’t do that, you take care of yourself and the people you love.

If that doesn’t have a familiar ring to it, work on it until it does.

I learned it from people like Pauli Murray back at Benedict College and a woman by the name of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy a lifetime ago back in Northern California, and an intersex woman by the name of Anne in Liberty, Missouri so long ago I was still growing my first mustache.

Good people who knew a thing or two. And kept their eyes on humans. Other than themselves. Because it isn’t about “pride.” And it isn’t about penguins.

It’s about community.

Possessor of Paul Newman eyes. Author of many things straightforward and strange. Some of them appear here. “Women zai shuo ba” as the Mandarin say. Born 2016.

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