Some weeks it all seems to be too much. Some months it seems as if the pain won’t relent. Some years it all seems to heavy. I wonder, sometimes, how transgender people survive in this world? How do we get through the day when everything seems to be stacked against us?
This isn’t an intellectual exercise. So far this year so many transgender or gender nonconforming people (primarily women of color) have been murdered in the United States. Legislative bodies continue to pose attacks to transgender bodies. Religious organizations continue to debate about our lives and identities and ability to serve in ministry.
Even if our lives are not in danger, our livelihoods are. Organizations are laying off their transgender staff, transgender clergy struggle to find churches that will hire them, we work low paying jobs just to put some food on the table.
How do we survive?
And yet, many are surviving. Some are even finding ways to thrive. We live in the complicated and complex intersection of grief and triumph, of privilege and access, of surviving and thriving. There is nothing clear cut here. There are no easy answers. There are no bandaids that will fix all of our problems. We need safety nets of all kinds in order to protect and ensure health and wholeness and happiness for transgender people.
I spend a lot of time thinking about stories and storytelling. I think about how much I long for happy stories. For hopeful stories. Not as some kind of opiate, but because I believe that seeing ourselves as heroes changes how we move through the world.
I want transgender stories about coming out, about transitioning, about falling in love and out of love, about being parents, about being workers, about being adventurers. I want trans stories where being transgender isn’t the focus (but it’s still there). I want transgender stories where we have jobs and loves and families. I want flawed transgender heroes. I want transgender heroes! I want transgender stories where no one dies. I want transgender stories of triumph. I want transgender stories about it all.
And I want us to tell these stories. I want to read stories by transgender people about our own lives and communities. I want these stories to focus on our experiences and our perspectives and to be told from our point of view. I want us to tell our stories for ourselves; not to educate or inspire cisgender people but to celebrate the richness of our own experience.
I want more theology by transgender people where we talk about our relationships with God and spirituality. Where we don’t defend our right to exist but instead we talk about how our gender experiences have enriched our faith. I want theology by us and for us, but also for cisgender people so their minds can be opened and so they can learn from us (instead of just about us).
The stories we tell matter. Who tells the stories matters. As transgender people, our stories mean something. We mean something.
In this world where it so often seems like we are disposable, where no one cares about us, where people would rather see us as jokes or as punching bags, we need to cling to this: We are invincible.
By God, we must survive.