New Jersey has a Wonderful New Law About LGBTQ+ History, and I’m Here For It!

Yaaas, Queen. I’ll acknowledge your royalty when you acknowledge mine.

Photo Credit: NeverSkurred Imagery

We trans folk are far more introspective than the average human.

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates

I don’t know if I’d take it that far — some of the folks wandering in their fog seem to live and die attesting to ignorance being bliss. I have seldom had the luxury of indifference.

I am neither cis woman nor cis man. I can only ever have insight into both, I can never put on either and wear it comfortably. I see their performances, their hypocrisies, and the big pockets where they carry their judgments of folks like me.

I’d say I understand more about women and men than most of them do themselves — because while the vast majority float around content in their skin never thinking much about it, I study them with a curiosity I can’t say they even possess.

I’m a trans human.

I am decidedly more femme, yet the old words and explanations said about us don’t quite fit for me.

Seems to me “born in the wrong body” is meant to elicit sympathy, or at least empathy, and I have done enough sympathy-seeking on my own, thanks. I’m willing to examine this life from the perspective that this is exactly the body I was “supposed” to show up in, as me. Now what I do to remodel this “house” for my own comfort is none of anyone’s business but mine.

I don’t want your pity. There’s nothing to feel sorry here for — unless of course you are one of the many who should hang your head for the things you’ve said to me, they ways you’ve treated me, devalued and deflowered me. I still don’t want the pity, though an acknowledgment here or there of how fucked up some of you were toward me would be nice.

I spent years wanting to be seen as “special.” I especially wanted special dispensation for time off school and work — I needed mental health days, and there just isn’t much room for those in this modern world. Sigh.

I do want this society to acknowledge how difficult they have made my life. Or, how chronic trauma early in life leaves one unwhole. Mostly because I’m so sick and tired of folks slamming us to the ground then complaining that we’re broken. I don’t expect us to backtrack, but forward movement would be nice.

The entire kerfuffle over CRT (Critical Race Theory — not taught in grade schools, or high schools, by the way) seems to be from folks who don’t want their kids to know what they and their ancestors have done to others. They don’t want their spawn to wrestle with empathy. I DO.

I’m exhausted frequently by the Joe Rogans of the world rubbing their neck with an, “aw shucks, I’m an idiot” smile that gets them laid. Y’all are too much for me.

All of my life, and especially as a child, I tried with everything within me to carry myself with dignity. I pretended my parents wouldn’t allow violence, and that was the reason I would not fight back in school. For the record, this was completely untrue — violent people raised me. I couldn’t stand it, so I made up a story I liked better. Then lived that story.

We use a language of nobility in the queer community. A language that, in the black community, refers to actual blood lines, disrupted. Ours may be metaphorical, but we also have ancestors I’d label as royalty. While this practice occasionally irks me — especially when cishet white girls ride round in convertibles with “Princess” on their license plate — I do understand it among the marginalized.

We have to remind ourselves that we do not deserve the treatment inflicted upon us.

If I did ever have boot straps, they’d have been used as handles by the boys hellbent on seeing me land on the ground, repeatedly.

Funny thing is that often it was the notion I was looking down on them that stirred their ire — and for the record, I was. Hard. I’d deny it, along with everything else I was forced to deny because I didn’t understand it all myself, but I usually wound up fearing a beating that would either come or I would narrowly escape. I could run FAST. (There was a time I would run “for fun,” even. Now, if you see me running, assume I am being chased.)

Anyways, the struggles involved with being trans in America should not be ignored or diminished — but their provenance should be clearly labeled.

We are not the cause of our own pain. We are not the “cause” of our higher rates of mental illness, and definitely not the cause of our sky-high suicide rates. We become exhausted being told we don’t fit in as if fitting in was the highest human goal. It shouldn’t be (not if we want an interesting life) and it has not served us well, but boy do we love to Other as we sort.

I’m spending a lot of time thinking about my school experiences. I live near my former elementary school once again, and my state recently passed a LAW making the teaching of LGBTQ+ history MANDATORY in our public schools.

I for one am THRILLED. I want to know all I can so I can do all I can in support of this. New Jersey, where I live once again, is one of only two states (the other being California) to enact such a law at a time when so many other states are trying to keep trans kids from peeing or playing sports near anyone else.

We have some pretty dynamic LGBTQ+ ancestors, and few cishets ever learn about them. Or, if they learn about them at all, they only learn their accomplishments minus the uphill struggle that came with their identity.

Religion keeps wanting to challenge whether we actually exist, and wants that challenge to be validated throughout the land. Religion is in the business of selling several big LIES, and this is the one that sounds loudest, currently, to my ears.

Want to really blow a religionist’s mind? Tell them the difference between “innate” and “choice.” WHAT and who I am — my wiring, if you will — is Innate. Their religious beliefs? Those are a CHOICE. Those were absorbed later — instilled. And they can be laid aside at will.

One is not born with a religious belief they come to understand without being carefully taught.

One is born with both an orientation and a gender identity one comes to know from within.

THERE is the difference.

Dismissing my existence with the word lifestyle reveals you — not me. Know what really IS a lifestyle? Religion.

Religion REQUIRES indoctrination.

Orientation and gender identity? You cannot indoctrinate those things, no matter HOW hard you try!

Wiring.

Innate.

And while you CAN switch out the plumbing if you’d like, you can’t change the wiring from birth to death where orientation and gender are concerned. I’m not saying they don’t evolve. That does happen.

But it never goes from queer to straight. Or actually, straight to queer.

If someone tells you otherwise — THEY are lying. If prayer could change orientation or gender, it would have done so by now, millions of times over, because nobody prays harder than a queer kid in a Pentecostal church. Trust me on this, I Know.

Jesus said something about removing the log from your own eye before you worry about the mote in mine. I may be paraphrasing. But “mind your own business” is an adage I wish more religious folks would adopt. I grew up at a time when churches were not political, and religious beliefs were private. It was a better situation all around, and I’d like us to return to THAT. Or, make those churches pay taxes and distribute that money to their many, many, many victims. Let them put their money where their mouth is in ways that (finally) don’t destroy so many lives.

There is an especially insidious trend I see among cishet white folks, and some white queers, that drives me insane. They revel in what they believe is their “neutrality.” They’re the good guys who “never said a bad word about anyone.”

How do you get through life never saying a bad word about anyone?

First off, you don’t. That usually means they never said a bad word about anyone the speaker ALSO liked.

You didn’t hear what they said about the folks you also don’t care for, because you agree that some folks are just subhuman.

Y’all have a way of conflating all manner of “deviance” from murder and pedophilia to rape and incest — with the LGBTQ+ community, and the darker-skinned among us, along with damning religions you don’t know anything about but aren’t yours.

SO when they write that obituary that says you, “never had a bad word to say about anyone” — they mean you were awful nice to other folks who looked like you and shared your “values.“ OR, you were one of the few “good ones” in a less familiar community of designated bad seeds. Neither case is actually flattering.

Values.

There is a loaded word. If you’re asking me, conformity, appearances, money, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and homespun fence-talk were chief among the “values” I saw growing up.

There was and remains a very “live and let live” ethos in my little town, but it comes with caveats, many of which are benign, several of which I approve.

As an adult I spent years in community service. Planting trees, cleaning parks, hosting community days, and resolving not-so-neighborly disputes.

“Your rights end where mine begin” and “your desire to punch me in the nose ends where my nose begins” have been on my lips as often as… coffee.

Adding an accurate telling of the contributions made to our society by people who identified within the LGBTQ+ community won’t harm the little cishets ONE bit.

But it could be transformative for kids like me who never saw themselves affirmed or represented in any of our studies.

Yes, this LAW states (whether it does in words or not) that queer folks Exist. This isn’t some mental illness (even if some want to say it is, it isn’t) or some deviance (I’ll accept variant — like left-handedness or having red hair or green eyes) or some challenge to ANYONE’S religion!!!

My existence has nothing to do with your desire to say I do not exist.

I don’t disappear because you say I am not real. This law validates the personhood and Reality of the LGBTQ+ community — and that is life changing for kids like me who spent their formative years in abject terror because of the wiring they were born with.

It wouldn’t matter a lick, by the way, if tomorrow they prove nurture over nature where I am concerned. IF the people who barely raised me somehow exhibited such a fucked up version of reality that I was confused (another gem they throw at us) about my wiring, it has since become hard and set. My self-discovery says so, and I know me better than you know me.

Read that again. Twice.

Everything I have known myself to be from the age of 2 and 3 has been This right here.

Were their decades of denial? You betcha. I tried it your way. It was unworkable. Millions of us have tried it your way and found the same. We are who we ARE — not who you tell us we are. And that is immutable.

Most of the strongest, most compassionate, most resilient people I know fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Especially, in my experience, the T’s. We are usually the most broken, god knows — but the mosaic many of us create from our shattered lives is breathtakingly beautiful. And Stronger than the original.

You’ve taught us (not intentionally) to value ourselves at our core where no one even wanted to venture — all those “neutrals” who talked of us, not to us. About us and not with us. Your cold indifference to our suffering helped to forge us.

Navigating this mind of mine often feels like sorting an entire house full of pennies, looking for one or two in particular. My mind often feels like a precariously stacked hoard, and I am in search of a few things I know I put somewhere near the bottom of the biggest, oldest piles.

With thanks to Marie Kondo, gratitude to some incredibly wise trans elders, a kickass therapist who stuck with me for many years, friends who see my Soul and adore it, a man who loves all of me, everyday, for the past decade — and the belief that all of this can not have been for nothing — I Persist.

SO I do plan to enter a few uncomfortable conversations, especially over the feedback I’m seeing regarding my State’s amazing new LAW.

And I say with conviction, the person you are dealing with now is not the frightened child y’all left laying in the playground sobbing.

Not even close.

Peace, Lovelies

-MM

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Trans Artivist/Writer/Humorist ~ co-host of “Full Circle (The Podcast) with Charles Tyson, Jr. & Martha Madrigal.” Rarely shuts up.

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Martha Madrigal

Martha Madrigal

Trans Artivist/Writer/Humorist ~ co-host of “Full Circle (The Podcast) with Charles Tyson, Jr. & Martha Madrigal.” Rarely shuts up.

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