When Loretta Lynch announced her response to North Carolina’s HB2, which is one of the most vicious anti-LGBT pieces of legislation yet passed by any State, I responded to her comments in a most visceral manner. I was literally moved to sobbing tears. Writing about my response, I was asked if I would consider writing about my experience for a Pagan periodical, which I did. You can, if you wish, read that article in an upcoming issue of Green egg.
But in writing that article, I realized there was much more to say, and some of it that was very timely.
I began to think of conversations I’ve been having in recent weeks on PaganFM. It moved me to think of the Catholic Priest, Fr. Daniel Berrigan who engaged in activism well into his 80s, and who said that he would cease his activism on the day that he was embalmed.
I have seen many companies step up for equality; companies like Paypal who elected to not build a facility in North Carolina, and companies like Target who have explicitly offered open arms to the LGBT community. In response, self-styled “Christian” organizations like Faith2Action, the American “Family” Association and other groups have taken to loud, inconsiderate and obnoxious protests at Target. They have gone so far as to send men into women’s restrooms and changing rooms in order to instil fear, and to make the case that bad things will result if transgender people are permitted to pee in safety. They need to do this, because there are no reported cases of transgender individuals actually harming women or children in restrooms; they need to invent their own to make anything that resembles a plausible case to support their assertions.
Still, despite a complete lack of evidence that transgender people pose a threat to women or children, these people continue their protests. There is ample evidence in cities and counties that have implemented policies permitting access to public facilities for transgender individuals, that the fear these people are peddling is entirely irrational and unfounded. But these people, indoctrinated in a faith tradition of hatred and intolerance will not relent. They need enemies to fight, and having lost the battle over same-sex marriage, they are off to war against the next group of people that they can paint as abominations – as “icky”.
I’m a Pagan, in part, because I wish to celebrate diversity. I’m part of a coven that typically has about 30 – 40% transgender, or gender nonconforming participants. The freedom to be ourselves is part of what permits us to celebrate our rituals in fullness. We celebrate in fullness when we are fully alive, and fully human, and fully ourselves. Those things that cause us to hide some part of who we are in shame, are those things that hinder our ability to raise energy in circles, they separate us from our gods and goddesses. We can’t, at the same time, stand in power and stand in shame.
Activism is the means we use to stand in our own power. It’s not only a tool that we use to effect change in our societies, it’s also a tool that we use to effect change in our selves. We look up to those who take risks, who are willing to stand up for justice, for what is right. We see these people as brave. But the truth is that it is in the doing of these things that we actually BECOME brave. Activism changes not only society, but those who practice activism. It is something of an amplifier – it helps to make us more powerful versions of who and what we are.
Some of us don’t engage in activism because we are afraid of confrontation, we are afraid of up-ending the apple cart, we don’t want to be seen, we’d rather be invisible members of society who don’t call attention to ourselves. Some of us have more legitimate or more immediate concerns – we are afraid of going to jail, we fear for our physical safety. As a transgender woman, the concept of being jailed is honestly frightening. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve avoided the sort of activism that could be called civil disobedience. If I went to jail, not knowing whether I’d be stuck in a men’s cell or a women’s is truly disturbing. So I’ve taken to, for the most part, less dangerous routes of activism – calling and writing lawmakers; taking part in awareness campaigns – some of which have been quite public, but which still had the permission of local law enforcement and government officials. I engage street preachers, anti-abortionists and others, on a personal level.
But I’ve found that even this form of activism isn’t without risk. On the streets, I’ve had verbal attacks – and on the Internet, I’ve even had threats of rape and death. Fortunately, I know enough to know that the online threats are meaningless. But the first time you receive something like this, it can be unnerving. But it’s important to recognize that the only reason such threats are issued is to frighten and silence someone.
I’ve also had people try to dox and out me. And I’ve learned there is a very useful tool to completely disarm anyone who tries – and that is simple honesty. Online and in public, I’m honest and open about who I am. I’m Dee, I’m trans. I’m not ashamed of who I am. So, as when a couple of weeks ago, some idiot tried a line like “why are you talking about trans people like you aren’t one – what are you ashamed of?” when I spoke in the third person for a particular paragraph, it became more of an opportunity to show this person was an idiotic bully who simply couldn’t be bothered to read. They had, apparently visited my Facebook page and “learned” what I’m constantly open about, and somehow thought they had discovered some secret.
There was a time in my life when I was ashamed of who I was. I was filled with the self-loathing that years of indoctrination in Christian bigotry had cultivated. It nearly cost me my life, and the healing from that also took years. But I learned that when I could had recovered from that, that I was much stronger. We become trapped by fear – we believe that it is dangerous to step outside the lines – we know not what is there, and we dare not go. But when we finally break out beyond those barriers, at least when I broke out beyond those barriers – I found that the the fear didn’t actually keep me safe – it made me fragile. It was the truth and honesty that made me stronger.
The point of this is that truth is never our enemy. It is much more of a sword, a weapon which disarms our opponents.
All of this brings me to the reason I’m writing right now … this hate group, Faith2Action, is calling for protests of Target stores on June 4. I want to be at my local Target store on June 4, and if, and when these people do show up, I want to answer them directly. I want to be there with my own signs, with my own people, and if people are going to be there spreading lies and hatred, I want to be there spreading truth and love.
The hate groups are spreading the lies that permitting transgender people to pee is dangerous, where the truth is that children are more at risk at religious institutions than in bathrooms with transgender individuals. During the time that they have been protesting safe bathrooms for transgender people, multiple “Christian” pastors have been arrested for crimes against children. The only people who have committed crimes in bathrooms were heterosexual perverts, and those perverted hate-mongers who have entered bathrooms to sew hatred and discontentment.
And so, I intend to be at Target on June 4, to speak truth to hatred, and love to intolerance. I’m going to be there, and if these people show up, I’m going to speak to them. And if they don’t want to talk, then I’m going to offer a rigorous and truthful response to them. Whatever lies they offer, the truth will be told.
And I am asking anyone else who wants to get their feet wet in activism to join me. It’s pretty easy – just show up at your local Target store on June 4. And while these pesudo-Christian hate-groups are protesting, show Target shoppers what Loving, honest Pagans and trans-folk are actually about. If the hate groups are blocking doors, escort shoppers yourself. If these people are walking around stores, get in their way – disrupt them. Don’t fight them, and don’t get physical – but disrupt them. If you catch them spreading lies about trans-folk be there to offer a counter narrative. When they talk about “bathroom safety”, ask them directly why it is that so many more children have been harmed by “Christians” and even protesters such as themselves in recent weeks, than by transgender people in recorded history.
I can’t promise that this is a “safe” counter-protest. I can’t promise that none of these “Christian” protesters will do you harm. But if you’re respectful, and if you don’t engage in violence, you’re not likely to be arrested. And in speaking the truth, you’re likely to show shoppers the difference between hate and love. And they are likely to see the difference between Christianity and Paganism. And they will see that it’s the hate groups that are far more dangerous than the transgender community.
So, anyone want to go to Target on June 4?