Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tell Our Activists You Love, Honor And Respect Them While You Can Do So

One of the things I've been pondering in the runup to Christmas Day and the closing weeks of 2011 is the fact we've unexpectedly lost some pioneering transpeople this year.

We have lost Dana D. Turner, Tracy Bumpus and Lois Bates this year, and trans icons such as Tracie Jada O'Brien and Miss Major have spent time in the hospital this year for different reasons.

It not only puts an exclamation point on the fact that some of our pioneering transpeople are getting older, my generation who was mentored by them and followed them into activism are in middle age as well and about to qualify for our AARP membership cards.

Pondering those facts concerns me on two levels.  The first level it concerns me on is as the child and godchild of historians.  I want to do my part to make sure that the trans history these folks helped write and their stories are preserved and accurately told to future generations of transkids . 

The other level of concern I have is that we tell our pioneering transpeople while they are alive how much we love them and deeply appreciate the sacrifices they made on our behalf.

They kept hope alive in terms of building a trans community, nurtured it, paid out of their own pockets and purses at times, lit that torch and carried it aloft until they could hand off that leadership torch to the next generation.

I knew all three people who passed this year on different levels.  One of the things I'm so thankful I did with each of them is let them know how much I personally appreciated the sacrifices they made on behalf of our community and how much I loved, honored and respected them.

While rewarding at times, activism can also be a thankless pain in the ass.  The same persons that are glad you're standing up for them one minute when they need your help can turn on you the next when you're espousing a principled position not in line with their way of thinking or their desires at the moment.  

But that's life in the activist big leagues.  We deal with it as best we can, but what really helps us deal with the ups and downs is to hear from your peers and the people you are advocating for express how much they appreciate your efforts.

I'm glad I did so with Dana, Tracy and Lois at various times and they knew without question how much I loved, honored, and respected each one of them   Didn't mean that we didn't disagree about policy issues or directions we should take at one time or another, but they knew where I stood with them as human beings and knew that when our backs were to the wall, I was down for the cause of advancing trans human rights just like they were and would have their back.

With some of our pioneers approaching or moving past Medicare collection age, it's past time we in the trans community redouble our efforts to record oral histories from them.   We also need to tell our iconic leaders immediately just how much we love, honor and respect them while they are still alive, able to hear us say it and have the ability to read our essays thanking them for their years of service and trailblazing leadership to our community.

Because once they leave this plane of existence and join the angels, it's too late to do so.. 

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