“I am human; nothing human can be alien to me.”
— Terence, 2nd century B.C.
Those words, repeated with eloquence by Maya Angelou, have been resonating in my head often of late. Maybe it’s the result of my frequent soul-searching internal dialogues, or maybe it’s just the echoes of her magical voice, but nevertheless, they are so loud that I must put pen to paper to share them.
The paradigm shift that we call our current state of affairs is a harsh change away from this beautiful concept. We are being made acutely aware of our differences and we are forgetting that no one is defined by just one label. I myself can be categorized in many ways: woman, Jewish, white, LGBTQ, and many more. These labels serve an important purpose in defining who we are and connecting us to our respective cultures – we should never forsake them. But I find myself wanting to distance myself from these labels and take on a new one - human.
In our community, we pay attention to pronouns. I proudly wear a button that states “My pronouns are she/her,” courtesy of The LGBT Bar Association. But what we need is a button that says “My pronouns are we/us.” If we begin to see that this intersectionality of our categories results in the commonality of us all, we will realize that the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.
The current attacks on the trans community are, at least in my eyes, the reaction of those who refuse to see us all as humans. And while the LGBT community might not fall into this category, we have a long way to go before we truly understand what it means to be T.
I myself, was unaware of this until I met, through my volunteer work with the Harvey Milk Foundation, the amazing Whittington family. Eight year old Ryland, who transitioned at the age of 5, has insight into life that many octogenarians lack. When his younger sister asked me, with the innocence of a 5 year old, what happened to my nose, I explained to her that a doctor had to cut out a sick part of my skin (aka cancer), Ryland’s comment was “it’s just a detail, like my ears.” (Ryland is deaf and has cochlear implants.) To Ryland, our differences are just details because we are all human. That someone whose life is still measured in the single digits, should be so aware that our differences do not define us, and chose his ears rather than his gender, as his analogy, was one of the most beautiful comments on humanity that I have ever heard.
Our differences should be celebrated, embraced, and accepted, and should never become lines in the sand to separate us. This needed awareness should be pushed on us and into our collective psyche.
And it must start with us.
It wasn’t until I became very close with a trans friend, that I realized how far we have to go. One would think that in Wilton Manors, of all places, a trans person would be able to be comfortable and free from harassment and judgment. But we really have no idea. He is constantly addressed by the wrong pronoun and when he or I gently correct this person, he or she persists.
So, when you read your Twitter feed, or see a Facebook post about the horrific murder of a trans woman in Brazil, filmed for the licentious amusement of others, remember the feeling of horror, and when the Wilton Manors City Commission thinks that it is enough to have the rainbow flag fly in the city because it includes everyone, think twice. Because while we are all humans, we have a long way to go towards acceptance of all.