“When my student org was meeting, our president and our faculty advisor, both of whom are black, called the rest of out for not being good enough allies. I’m disappointed that I’m not doing enough for people I care deeply for. When you were working on becoming a better ally to trans folks, what steps did you take?” This was an excerpt to a question my college aged child asked me recently. My answer is pretty much the rest of this article.
The Answer I Gave to the Question
I went grocery shopping today. On my way home I had the Lyft driver stop at a drug store for something I could not get at the grocery store. The driver was a nice young man. He just got back from an overseas deployment in the Army, his wife lost her job and they had a one year old at home. He was also black.
In conversation I found out he smoked. I asked him what his favorite brand was. When I came out of the drug store I gave him his preferred brand of cigarette. I thanked him for his service and I tipped him well. I did all of this because I genuinely enjoyed his company and care what happens to him and his family.
Did it change his life? No. But will he think kindly of the middle aged white guy who bought him cigarettes and talked about how great it is to be a dad? I hope so.
“A place of love and caring”
When I go to a march, it is because I care about my black neighbors in my neighborhood and the people who graciously allow me to take their pictures when I do street photography. We are equals.
When I write elected officials it’s because I am writing on behalf of my friends and my neighbors who are hurting. When I vote, I am not just voting for what I want. But I vote for what would be best for the common good. What is best for you and other transgender people, what is best for black lives, what is best for women and the poor and everyone who is not equal.
Of course I do my research and learn. But the core of what I do is from a place of love and caring. When I was a pastor I used to go to seminars and read books about how to help the hurting. I thought I had all of the answers, but I did not. The answers were very academic. But where there is love and friendship and respect, the answers are easier, organic. What I need to do is easier to figure out from that space.
“I already loved you”
See, I already loved you when you came out so it was easy to accept and affirm. Through you, I had the privilege of meeting other transgender teens. That led to me making friends with transgender adults. My fight for equality was simply my fight for people that I care about and love who are getting treated poorly.
“It Gets Exhausting”
It gets exhausting to wonder if you are doing enough for black people, brown people, rape victims, the poor and the queer community. I think if you approach it from that way, you are on the path of becoming a lessor ally. It is focused on what you do and not who you are. The simple truth of the matter is I am never going to be able to do enough for all these people because there are not enough helpers in this important task. I can only do what I can do.
If someone tells me that I am doing something hurtful, I will stop and listen. After listening I will change the behavior and grow.
If someone tells me I’m not doing enough I know two things. The first thing I know is that they are probably right. The second thing I know is they don’t actually know what I do on a day to day basis. They will never know about my black friends experiencing homelessness that I chat with at the train station. They do not know about the young man who drove me home. The frequent letters I write to my elected representatives are also unknown. They do not know what is my heart when I stand beside, behind and in support of black leaders at marches. I am a humble witness taking instruction and reflecting the protest how they have determined it to go. I am not taking selfies nor bragging. I am standing with new friends.
Prior to our conversation, my child made a donation to the NAACP from a space of guilt not knowing what to do. Today, they went to a protest from a space of love, excitement, and adopting my humility what at a protest or a march. They are learning, making friends and falling in love. Is it enough? Before anyone answers, what did you do today? What can you do? What are you able to do?
I hear a lot of people say that love wins. I do not know if that is true, but I do know it puts up a hell of a fight. It is all I have in my fight.
Be human. Make mistakes. Learn. Do better. Fall in love with people and ideas that matter.
I Need Your Help!
I need your help now more than ever before. I’m facing housing scarcity if I do not come up with another $800 by October 28th, things get bad for me. If anything I have written has had value to you, help me and my kid. This is all I know to do, write and ask.
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