Houston, we have a problem.
This has been another week, when the dark side of fear has conquered -- for at least the moment -- doing what is right and treating all people with respect and compassion, no matter how different they may be from you, even if you do not understand them.
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
In Houston, earlier this week, Proposition 1, which would add protections for gender identity in the city's non-discrimination ordinance, was defeated. In effect, the citizens of Houston threw the baby out with the bathwater, as they defeated the entire non-discrimination bill since it added the words "gender identity" as a protected class. The opponents once again claimed it was the "bathroom bill" and were successful in creating enough fear in the citizens to be afraid of those of us who are transgender.
Yes, Houston, we have a problem!
I have lived with fear for so much of my life. Being transgender I lived in fear of being discovered, and the shame that would fall over and bury me. I hid so people would not know my truth. I hid it from myself for so long, which numbed me out from fully being and participating freely in the world. I know so many other trans people who have shared the same feelings with me. It has taken us so long to learn whom we are and get to a point of self-acceptance. Many of us have, while many are still exploring their own paths of discovery.
Fear is also present in people who do not travel this path of gender variance.
"Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth"
In order to come to terms with my true self, my true nature, my true sense of who I am, I had to learn about fear. I am far from a Jedi Master, but I understand that fear is the path to the dark side, and I no longer want to go there. This takes a conscious effort and work on my part. It has taken me so many years to learn this, and still I get to learn it each day. This is so important to me that I open the first chapter of my book with the following quote:
What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.
In the clip from Apollo 13, we see how fear can be conquered by teamwork, and a concerted effort by a team. In space and on earth there was no doubt fear, yet every one stayed calm in order to solve the problem and return everyone to safety. I believe there is a lesson here. We cannot let fear beget fear. We all know where this leads, and know that it never solves anything.
We, who are transgender, have done nothing wrong. However, for many who do not understand our experience it is easy, although sad, to walk down the path of fear. This past week, I was invited to do a training for a group of high school teachers who had so many questions abut how they can best deal with some of the students in the school who were exploring gender. I asked these teachers whether the student population had the same concerns and "fears" as the teachers were expressing to me, and they honestly shared that it was the teacher's concerns on what was the right thing to do, as for most of the student body it was no big deal. This was great to hear the openness and honesty of the teachers, and I am glad to say that I will be working with them more to help them learn.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
Sometimes, I refuse to say the word "problem." I often will replace it with the word "opportunity." I am comfortable in my own skin and am happy to use each moment as a teaching moment. I also believe that for me each moment is a learning moment.
"If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher."
We will all be stronger together if we are willing to teach and learn from each other. It will not be easy, and I hope we choose the path where the light is.
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. 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 available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .