I once got up in front of a room full of graduates and told them to “Fail Big.” After the Pride rally today, no one can ever tell me I don’t take my own advice.
I had a brilliant reason behind saying that at the time, I’m sure, but it was little comfort to me after attempting to give a speech that meant so much to me and, well,… failing BIG.
I broke my own heart a little, as I struggled to remember ANY of the words that had been so meaningful and so perfectly memorized just moments before getting on stage and looking into a giant camera. (headslap) DOH!
After some time to mourn the loss of my grand vision of not making a complete fool of myself, I realized that it’s actually fine.
Not because I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was (I was), or because I wasn’t still crushed that I didn’t really accomplish what I intended to (I am), and not because everyone was SO nice to me about it (they were) (Thanks guys!); but because I realized that it feels better to fall on your face trying to do something that really matters to you, than to run away and keep your dignity in tact.
Thanks to all for making Pride week a success! My pledge to you all is to never avoid making a complete fool of myself, and to always do so with pride.
Here’s what I was trying to say today, and please know, I meant all the words I said, and all the ones I choked on equally.
(oh, and I wasn’t going to say the ‘naughty words’ out loud.)
When we are born, we are given a name.
As we grow, people begin to call us by things that are not our name. Some of these things are seemingly harmless or born out of love: (Honey, daughter, bestie, sweetheart) …others are outright destructive or cruel (lazy, stupid, fatso, slut…)
With disproportionate frequency, LGBTs are called things throughout our lives that are not our given names. (Queer, fag, dyke, pervert…) It’s like we’re being labeled for resale, though the claims on the packaging are typically false: (freak, sicko, sinner, it’s ok to hurt me, it’s ok to rape me, I’m less than human)
After a while many of us try to reclaim this naming process. We take the hurtful words we’ve been labeled with and make them fit us rather than living down to their abusive expectations.
Instead of being ‘queer’ we become “queer fabulous!” (glittered dyketastic!, gaylicious!, fag-yum-yum) instead of allowing someone else to label us “expletive deleted” (black censor bar) we redefine what it means to be an “expletive deleted”(glittered black sensor bar) and embrace the empowerment of labeling ourselves.
Often we continue this process by adding our own positive labels to cover up the negative ones others have put on us. (Strong, beautiful, activist, survivor..) But as soon as we falter or fail, there always seems to be someone (sometimes ourselves) standing by waiting to tear those positives off of us for not being good enough, straight enough, gay enough, fill in the blank enough.
Sometimes we put negative labels on ourselves, (stupid, worthless, idiot, LOSER) and walk around with them stuck to us like clearance price stickers on the back of our discount jeans (99CENTS), hoping no one agrees with our low estimation of our worth.
We can keep trying to cover ourselves with good labels (Kind, caring, wants to make a difference, tries real hard…) but eventually it becomes evident that, at best, all we’re really doing is building ourselves a traveling closet to hide within.
We just keep piling on more and more layers between us and the rest of the world. Paper thin though it may be, it’s still a wall. Walls are intended to protect, but they often just hold us back and keep us apart.
This process can do a lot of damage. It’s like when you eat a whole box of cookies because the label claims they’re healthy and all natural. It’s marketing.
It affects things as minor as being treated differently, by referring to our unions as ‘gay marriage’ instead of just ‘marriage’, and as major as lgbts being bullied or attacked for nothing more than existing.
If people only see the packaging labeled “queer” “different” “less than” they’re able to justify even the most horrible actions.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just an US vs. THEM problem.
We all have to stop seeing labels, and start seeing humans. Labels are for food packages, not people, …and closets, (even travel-sized paper thin ones), closets are for junk. Not people. We’re NOT junk.
We have to stop sticking labels to ourselves, and stop allowing our media, our pop culture, our peers, our neighbors, and our friends to stick them on us as well.
We especially have to stop sticking labels to one another, and start sticking together.
LGBTs often have literally nothing in common, aside from the fact that we’ve been thrown into the same melting pot of alphabet soup next to each other. The risks, and discriminations we face depending on our identity and presentation varies greatly.
Some of us fight for equal recognition under the law while, others of us, are still fighting to simply be able to use a public restroom, attend our schools and jobs as ourselves, and live without the fear of violence, abandonment, or death that often follows.
We are not the same. But we HAVE to stick together. Because we are family.
I don’t mean that in an idealistic ‘brother hood of man’ kind of way. I mean that literally, people today who identify the way you do, the way I do, are still being harmed, or harming themselves because of the pain they face as a direct result of the labels they are burdened with.
These are the names of humans who have suffered (this is where the name tags came in) physically or been killed because of unfounded hate. This does not include domestic abuse. These are the names of people who were physically attacked or murdered only in the united states and only this year. I didn’t include the names of lgbts who took their own lives, because I wouldn’t have had enough time today to stick them all on.
These are not JUST Gays, or transgenders, or lesbians. When they were born, they were given a name.
This is what I mean by being family: Until we are ALL able to be who we are and still be free from harm, free from cruelty, discrimination, violence, and heartbreak, … Until there is no more blood spilled ANYWHERE for no other mitigating factor than someone’s gender/sexual identity, until then, we are literally blood related.
I’m not trying to motivate you to join this fight. I’m trying to remind you that you’re in it.
We are so blessed to be living in such a wonderful, mostly safe community, and those of us on the MN side of the river have experienced a true victory in marriage equality.
But please, don’t mistake the end of the day for the end of the battle, we still have a long fight a head of us.
I want to encourage you to not be satisfied to just be one more voice in the world complaining about the things that are wrong, but instead be one more pair of hands working to make things the way they SHOULD be.
If you have even a few hours a month, get active, and involved.
We have some great community leaders working for us, get to know them. Become one of them. Join or start a committee or support group. Communicate with your legislators and advocate for your rights and those of your LGBTQ family. There are so many important organizations that need your help to make a difference. Support your local Pride Center, Kaleidoscope, Tristate Transgender, We Are Family, Youthworks, or broader scale organizations like The Trevor Project, or The Human Rights Campaign.
Find the thing that breaks your heart the most and instead of shrinking away, put your heart into it; because nothing simply ‘gets better’, we have to work together to make it better.
I know there is an overwhelming amount of work to be done worldwide, and millions of unmet needs even here in our own backyard. I know you are busy, and have a life and can’t do everything.
Not being able to do everything is not a valid excuse for doing nothing.
Lets start right here, and set an example for the rest of the world as to how to treat one another. Let’s leave all the label making aside and get to know each other by name, and start listening to one another.
Let’s especially, not dishonor the fallen, by sitting idly by while still others continue to fall.
Much like our biological families, we didn’t choose to be born into this fight, and unfortunately we can’t simply chose to walk away from it either.
What we can choose, however, is whether or not we put our hearts into it.