I always loved their uniforms.
The tall black furry hats; the bright red jackets; the red pinstripe down the legs of the black trousers. Most of all, I loved that no one, no matter how hard they tried could change the expression on their faces. I am sure that you have seen them so many times. These are the guards at Buckingham Palace.
There were parts of me that acted just like them, guarding the palace that was me! They were on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and would do anything to protect me and my secrets. No one, could make them budge, make them smile or make them laugh. They knew what their job was and they did it well. They kept people away from me. They never complained, and for over sixty years they never let me know how tired they were of doing this job. They were very good at their job that they thought was protecting me.
Although, deep inside I knew what they were protecting me from, but it took many decades before I accepted that they were protecting me not from others, but really from my own truth.
The truth that I am transgender.
Once I accepted this -- my truth, and decided to do something about it, my palace guards were allowed to step down, and find other jobs. The details of my story and how it might help you can be found in my memoir, No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth.
I have this sense that everyone has some form of their own palace guards -- protecting some aspect of their own truth that they hope others never ever will discover. It is a basic truth of being human to be attached to the herd -- to be a member and conform to one group or another. Yet, another facet is that each and every one of us is an individual and has our own unique thoughts and desires, that we "think" that if we expressed or acted on them, we would be banished from the herd.
In our culture, when our uniqueness touches the areas of sexual orientation or gender identity, these seem to be such great triggers for the society at large to say, "NO! You are not like us, and we will send you out of the herd, the tribe. We do not like, do not accept your difference, your uniqueness. You threaten us, and our way of living. We cannot tell you why, but you do!"
I am astonished that in the past few days we have seen a vivid example of this in the public arena. The governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback recently rescinded a 7-year-old executive order that provided protection of jobs for LGBT state employees. In a country founded on the principles of all men are created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, how can such an event occur? A governor makes a statement that a specific group of people who were once protected is no longer protected. Your rights have been taken away. Effectively, the message is you are no longer equal to the rest of us -- we are afraid of you and do not like you and perhaps do not want you in our herd. I am not sure that astonishment is even the right word!
A few quotes come immediately to my mind. The first is from George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
And then, the famous message from Martin Niemoeller, a Lutheran pastor regarding living in WWII Germany;
"They first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist
They then came for the Jews.
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew
They then came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up."
When will we all recognize that we, as human beings are all part of the same herd? Our challenge is to find the balance to be who we are and also be part of the greater community -- the herd. It is time that we move from a place of fear of those who are different to recognize that those who may be different may have something to teach us all.
We in the LGBT community know that our inner lives have improved when our own guards have retired, and wonder what it might take for others to stop living in fear of not only our truth, but also their own truth. We wonder!
The freedom of being yourself and following your inner voice, your inner truth is personal freedom and priceless. For people in the LGBT community, the journeys to live their truth is often filled with both internal and external "battles" to achieve personal freedom. How can this be wrong? How can this harm others? Isn't the freedom to be yourself what we all strive for -- even if our own guards are blocking it?
I believe that everyone should be able to live their own true life. When we talk about "people like us," let's stop looking as to whether they are black or white, red or yellow, gay or straight, or transgender. Why don't we look for, and make "people who express their truth" the most important criteria of the herd we wish to belong to?
Within the LGBT community, so many of us have come through the battles to live our truth. We have let our palace guard retire, even if we loved the uniforms. Perhaps we can be the teachers to so many others that it is OK to live your authentic lives. Are you ready to let your guards retire too? Every one can learn a lesson from us.
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe! Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. Grace is an author, speaker, trainer and counselor. For more information about Grace and her work and writings, visit her website at http://www.graceannestevens.com