Living up to Our Words

I read this at Olympia’s Equality March for Unity and Pride today:

This is the Equality March for Unity and Pride

Pride … Unity…. Equality….

Powerful words, powerful enough to bring us together today. But what do they mean? I’ve been thinking about what they mean to me…

What is Pride?.. I have been joining my community to celebrate pride during the month of June for a long long time. It’s been awhile since I gave much thought to what that word means to me. Some people equate Pride with Boastfulness. I equate Pride with not being Ashamed I don’t march to boast about being queer and trans. I march because I’m not ashamed that I am a queer transgender man.

I gather with my community every June, because I am not ashamed of who I am and I am not ashamed of who you are either. I am proud to come together with all of you to celebrate our ability to survive and to work for social justice and to see the joy we have in community.

How about Unity?… this one’s a bit trickier, I think. Can we achieve Unity even if we don’t completely agree on everything? Can we be unified on the basis of some overarching truths and goals, even if we don’t agree on how to reach those goals?

For example –

Can we agree that trans women should not keep getting the shit end of the stick any more?
And can we agree that trans women of color should not have a gigantic target on their backs any more?

Can we agree that our gender and sexual minority children and youth should be allowed to grow into adulthood, to be healthy and happy and allowed to pursue their dreams without threat of assault and rejection?

Can we agree that our gender and sexual minority elders deserve to be cared for, cherished and protected as they become more vulnerable?

Can we agree that immigrants don’t deserve to be labeled enemies and that our indigenous people deserve respect and acknowledgement for what they have given up in order for the rest of us to be standing here today?

Can we unify around the fact that this is a dangerous time for all marginalized people and we really do need each other? We need all of our efforts, and all of the methods, tactics and ideas we can come up with to counter the hatred that endangers our most vulnerable people every day. I would like to think we can unify around those ideas.

So what is Equality?… my son and I were talking about this the other day. What does equality mean to you? Does it mean we all get equal portions? Is it about a level playing field, whatever that is? We arrived at this explanation – Equality means no one should get an automatic disadvantage based on the color of their skin
or who they love
or how they relate to gender
or how their brains or bodies work
or their economic class
or where they came from before they were where they are now.

Privilege is advantage. Working toward equality means working toward a time when there are no automatic advantages for being a particular skin color or gender or class.

There are a couple more words I think relate to our purpose in coming together today:

One is Inclusion. What does it mean to be inclusive? Is it enough to put the right sequence of letters on the flyer for your event? What are we doing to make sure people know they are included? Words are not enough, actions speak much more loudly.

Actions like, choosing venues that are accessible to people with mobility and transportation challenges.
Actions like, paying attention to where we are advertising, what publications and media do we choose and what businesses do we post our flyers in. Are those locations being accessed by the people we want to feel included?
Are we choosing venues that allow for participants of all ages to join us?
What message are we sending based on who we choose to be up on stage, with a mic, getting the opportunity to share their thoughts and truth?
Being inclusive is not just about the words we put on our flyers, it’s about the whole process of planning, organizing and advertising.

I have one last word — Connection. This work we are doing for ourselves and each other is hard work. We can’t do it alone so we gather in groups. These groups usually form around similarities, that’s how we’re wired as humans. These groups can do a lot of good and there is no doubt that we need to gather with our peers at times to recharge and be seen. I believe we also need to reach outside of the comfort of those group and connect with others.

Imagine a strong network of people of all ages, all colors, all origins, all abilities uniting behind common goals, even if we don’t always agree on everything. How do we make that happen?

I think part of the answer is by making Connections with each other. Take a moment to look around I’m betting there are people here you haven’t met yet. I’m betting there are people here representing viewpoints and contexts you aren’t well versed in.
Are you up for a challenge?

Before you leave here today, make a connection with someone you don’t know, someone who can teach you something new.

Maybe you’re shy and that seems like a daunting task. So maybe the connection you can make today is eye contact and a smile.
Eye contact and a smile … that’s some powerful stuff right there, even if you don’t exchange a word.

I believe there is great power, even in that simple and brief connection. When I meet someone’s eyes, my humanity recognizes their humanity, and for a moment we are connected deeply, even if our contact is a few seconds of eye contact and a smile while passing each other on a sidewalk.

I invite you to make connections today and to consider what these words mean to you – Inclusion, Unity, Equality and Pride.

I sincerely hope you leave this event ready to take action. I know each of you can make a huge difference for all of us.

Thank you for your time.

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