Last Thursday evening I went and saw Black Panther. The movie was incredible on many levels. It was also the catalyst for me to finally get past my fears and join Black Lives Matter. The same fears that held me back are the fears I often hear from cis het people wanting to get involved in trans issues. None of the fears are rational.
Black Panther as a Movie
I do not know how people who review movies do it without revealing spoilers. Here is what I can tell you about the movie. It is wonderful. There is a lot in the movie that is important and I would love to sit down in a room full of people who saw it and have a dialogue. Right now I am having a monologue. The characters are amazing. The antagonist is not a one dimensional villain, but something more nuanced. This movie is something I am going to have to see a few times and have a few discussions before I can think I have begin to understand it beyond the initial thoughts and sheer wonder I felt watching it.
Black Panther’s Inspiration to Join BLM
I was afraid of there being a crowd so I got to the theater over an hour before the movie started to ensure that I had a good seat. To my right were two skinny white guys who were obvious Marvel Comic Book fans. This was apparent through their attire. Comic t shirts, hats, buttons, etc. In the special needs seating just ahead of me and a little to my left was an older white man with a neurological condition. You could tell it was a struggle for him to get around. The trip to the theater must have been arduous for him. But you could tell it was worth it. I looked over at him every so often and he was alive and animated watching the movie. It was the face of joy.
As people walked in I saw countless black families coming in. Mothers and Fathers and sons and daughters and a few grandparents. As they filled in the seats with a few pockets of white people in the midst, you could feel the electricity of excitement and importance.
As the movie progressed I saw things in it that I recognized. Things that reminded me of King, Malcolm X, and Mandela. Some of the things are writings and speeches I have used as tools to help better understand what it is that a transgender person experiences and what is needed to bring about awareness and equality.
We all left the theater in excitement and joy. We had seen an amazing movie and had fun. The tension of ideas between T’Challa and Erik Killmonger bounced in my head. I looked at the children leaving the theater with their families. And I knew one simple fact. It was time. It was overdue.
My Irrational Fears That Held Me Back
Anyone who knows me knows that I really do not care what transphobic sexist racist people think. Their opinions of me will not stop me from loving who I love. I was concerned what black people will think of me if I go to BLM rallies, wear the shirt, and join the cause. What if I say the wrong thing? I do not want to look like I think I am Pat Boone leading the Civil Rights march.
Here is why that is silly. I often talk to cisgender people with the same concerns about the trans community. And I always tell them the same thing. “I am three years in as an ally. I still say the wrong thing from time to time. Here is what happens. If I say the wrong thing someone often tells me about it. Sometimes they know it was an innocent mistake and the correct me kindly. Other times I may have touched a nerve that led to a trigger and the delivery is not kind. Either way my reaction is the same. I apologize, I educate myself, and I don’t say or do that thing again.
I’m One Person With One LifeI see some of my progressive friends that take on every cause with the same energy. They see every cause as the most important cause and they burn out. That is not me. I know I am one man with one life. I also know what burnout and compassion fatigue are. For obvious reasons, trans equality is my primary focus in activism. It is an integral part of my family with my son and my fiancee’. I am also involved in feminism. I have seen the damage done to those who scream metoo and this is a man’s issue because we are the ones who have done the most harm.
Black Lives Matter is now on that list of the limited things I can march in, go to meetings for, and take an actual tangible part in with blood sweat and tears. I look forward to going deeper down this rabbit hole. Dr Maya Angelou inspired me with a copy of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” I checked out of the library when I was an abused kid. Her writings kept me from slashing my wrists in the bathtub after hard days. When I was a minister, the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King made me uncomfortable. I knew what he was saying is still relevant and I knew he was right. Nelson Mandela was my introduction to the African principle of Ubuntu. In my post theism, Ubuntu would help me hang onto something, some moral code, some principle in a world where everything was slipping away.
These are my neighbors, my friends, my coworkers, my brothers and sisters. My fiancee’ is half Puerto Rican and half Cuban. I’ve seen first hand some of the stupid things people can say when we are together. I also wince way too often at the things my white friends say when speaking of people of color and thinking they are enlightened when they say all lives matter. I think I need new friends.
The Reason For Today’s Article
I do not get a medal for this. The reason I am telling this story is I am looking for more activists. There are a lot of things broken. Massacres in schools, Islamophobia, Anti LGBTQIA garbage, racism, horrific deportation policies, rape culture, etc. The only way any of this gets better is when we do something. Whatever the cause, you are invited. Help. Do something. Don’t let fear stop you. Especially fear of what other people think.
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