"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
For a long time, I have wanted nothing more than for our community to be a happy and successful family. It's not right now. Infighting, as with any family. Wonderful times, too. We worked together to get the anti-gay Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy repealed (few more steps needed on that). I took a self-development course this weekend, Landmark Education's Forum, and saw that an extraordinary LGBT community is possible.
We didn't always play well together, particularly with the failure of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation to prohibit job discrimination. Marriage equality is chugging along, but some wonder whether trans anti-discrimination protections have been left in the dust because of it.
And yet, trans people have steadily been gaining ground, too, covered by more and more protective policies and laws both on the state and the federal level. Corporate policies, too, thanks to the Human Rights Campaign, though there have been rocky times with HRC, and the lesbian and gay community more generally. Bisexual and gay communities have been working more closely, too, though there's still some biphobia in the community. Communities of color have been gaining ground in the community, with active groups and happenings like the National Black Justice Coalition, the Queer People of Color conference, and the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Those working within the system, like HRC, and those working outside the system, like GetEqual, have sometimes cooperated well to create effective results, as with DADT repeal.
But there's still some nagging questions.
Are we a community? Are we a family? Do lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender and transsexual people belong together? Should we go with courting those in power, as HRC has done, or protesting those who stand in the way of civil rights, as GetEqual has done? Do we support one another? Should we work for civil rights together? Or are we separate and distinct, never the twain shall meet, etc.? Are gays and lesbians out to throw trans people and bisexuals under the bus? Is there a viable trans community movement, or are they all just angry waiting-to-happen and seeking to pull down the citadel?
What would our world be like if the 10 million people in our U.S. community were to create an extraordinary context for our lives and our politics, working together as one. What if we were to create together the possibility of a world of love and respect for all? Not just about us, but for everyone? Not just our marriages, but all marriages. Not just our rights in the workplace, but creating just workplaces for all?
This past weekend, I participated in Landmark Education's Forum, a weekend course which is designed to cause a positive and permanent shift in the quality of your life, redefine the very nature of what's possible, and create a future of your own design. It worked, not surprisingly, by redefining the context in which I have lived, freeing me from the constraints of the past, and creating an extraordinary vision of what is possible. What was surprising is that it worked.
We all know that context is decisive. What we don't know is how to alter that context for ourselves. But Landmark Education knows how. Very cool, and nothing short of mind-altering. I have known of this course, and the company that runs it, for a long time. They've been in business for 40 years. In fact, I took the course 25 years ago, and it had a profound effect on me then, as a law student soon to enter my new profession, and as a young person finding personal relationships difficult and trying. It made a profound difference for me then. I took it again this past weekend, because I wanted to do it with my son, Eric, now 19, and to offer him a new context for his young life that would make a difference for him.
One area I wanted to work on, amongst my various issues in work, advocacy, and personal relationships, was creating an adult relationship with my son. He's about to move on from his teenage years, and he's no longer a boy, but a man. How do I relate to this new creature?
One thing I told him, when he started college, is that I don't want to be his aunt any more. My ex insisted, when he was young, that we tell people in his community that I was his aunt. I didn't like it, but my ex didn't want him being harassed or made fun of, and I went along. I particularly didn't like the fact that this was a lie. I'm his father, or parent, or whatever you want to call it. Eric didn't feel comfortable calling me mom, which is our language's term for a female parent, as he already has a mom, but I understood his position. When we started the course this weekend, I introduced Eric to someone as my son. When the person said "oh isn't that nice that you're doing the course with your mom," he said "this isn't my mom; this is my dad." The person didn't even blink, just said "oh, okay." We went on with the conversation. After this happened several times, we both got that we had been pussyfooting around the issue for no reason. People don't care; they honestly do not care. They are far too busy with their own lives and concerns to really give a hoot. I realized that I, a staunch advocate for equality, had been operating as if I had something to be ashamed of. That was a revelation to me. I had no idea I was operating that way. I really thought I was as out as out could be. Not so. I'm now freed up to be myself. It's not that I'll be making an announcement to every person I meet, or put myself into unsafe situations, but that it's my choice -- freely chosen -- to be out or not when I deem it appropriate, instead of being driven by dread. Now that's redefining a context.
I also realized that there is something possible for our community, and more significantly, the world. LGBT equality isn't just about our rights, it's about making a better world. Yes, we deserve civil rights. But the movement for equality is about more than just taking what we deserve. It's about creating a better world for everyone. Me having my rights gives you a better world to live in. Our creation of a context for working together as a community would make a difference, not only for our community, but also for our world. Through attending the Landmark Forum, I am now able to say that I am committed to a new possibility, the creation of a world of love and respect for all. I'll still be working within my specific area of trans workplace rights, but I'll also be working within a new context, and committed to the creation of a new context for our trans community, our LGBT community, and our world.
Here's a video about the course. I think it has the potential to make a significant difference in our community. If you think it's something that could make a difference, I invite you to check it out and to do it.