I warn those that may be reading this that the following words may be hard to swallow.
In the time that I have been a part of the BDSM/Alt community, I am grateful to have made the acquaintance and developed the numerous friendships since I began to explore and identify to this lifestyle. Amongst those I count as my closest and most endearing friends are several who have identified as transgendered persons. The very ‘household’ that I am a part of is composed of transgendered women. My best friend, who faithfully kept track of my whereabouts and provided much support in my travels, is also transgendered. A great number of my partners, both local and abroad, are transgendered. I, myself, am not.
However, none of them would not judge me any for my identity and orientation. Those conditions are not as necessary to them as my loyalty and my friendship. I can’t help but wonder what it is they see in me, what measure of character that defines my worth, and yet despite the lack of understanding of that I am grateful to them always. We have laughed together, cried together, played together and grown together. In this day and age I would not exchange that for anything.
It is true that I have a passion for traveling. I take great pride in exploring new places, meeting new people, and learning about the history and culture both within and outside of this lifestyle. I would like to think I have seen a great deal of things, both beautiful and dangerous, in my life so far. It would be terribly vain of me to take all that for granted.
In time, my memories have become blurred and worst of all entirely forgotten. I no longer remember many of the names or even the faces of those I met during my travels. All that is left is the bittersweet feeling of absence, like that of a dreamlike state, and it is a feeling that borders close to madness; a struggle as to whether or not to accept those events as real or imagined.
The darkest of my memories were those days of isolation. I was often alone in unfamiliar environments, left alone to instincts, and without connection or security in each of the places I visited. I had to learn very quickly how to adapt and survive. The slightest gap of judgment would have meant the risk of injury and the effects that would have had would have been disastrous. I had limited resources and had to become very quick to assess them. The intent would have had to be always absolute.
I understood during those moments more deeply than I had before the feeling of loneliness. I had and still am often an introvert. I go to great lengths to establish my own solidarity. It was during those moments in those unfamiliar places that I became further aware of the extent of human compassion, in the forms of the locals I encountered, and the essence of each community I visited. I had to rely on the trust, the knowledge, and the wisdom that was often imparted to me by those I met.
From that understanding of kindness, the value of friendship, I would readily die for them. I would rather be killed than forget the important of having felt and learned the value of the very things that make life beautiful and worth fighting for. This I could say for certainty.
In time, both from that understanding of loneliness and the gift of compassion, I took it upon myself to give back as much as I could to those that had even less. I’m talking about the homeless youth that often filled the streets, outside of the hostels I stayed at, the clubs that I entered during those numerous adventures.
I saw in them a grim reflection of myself. I saw through their appearances and their hardships the reflection of my friends and family and knew deep inside, that had the circumstances been different by fate or design, I would have been in their place.
What kills me now is the thought that I could not save any of them nor anyone for that matter. There is only so much a person can do to resolve these issues that have been prevalent in our history and even less for those that are gone because of them.
To think that a person could starve, alone, ignored by those that have more than they ever could have, that so much more could be done to help them regardless of who they were but a human being is a realization that haunts me worse than the absence of memories.
I listened often at night to the screams outside of hostels, in the ominous shadows of numerous Chinatowns, the feral asphalt corners and the unknown depths of those unfamiliar places. I was often afraid of them, the cries for help, the deranged drug-fueled rantings of some junkie or the clash of violence that often echoed throughout the silence of the evenings. The mind can wander off to terrible places with such kinds of imagination – I wondered if they belonged to any of those youth I met, conversed, and shared my time with.
The most terrible tragedy of it all is the indifference that remains to them. I count at least two dozen nameless, faceless, individuals whose stories virtually paralleled one another and each of them either homosexual or transgendered. Some outcasts from their own families, others driven to the streets by circumstance; each of them alike in their suffering, forgotten and ignored.
What was most profound about that realization is that despite these settings, none of them have surrendered their identity, not even for the sake of comfort or warmth. One may call them stubborn, naive, but understand that for those that have been oppressed for who they are these terms even in the throes of starvation and threat of violence are not for negotiation. Their dignity is all they have left in a world that has all but murdered them for it.
If that is not the very essence of integrity, I do not know what is.
It was not until much further on that I realized the extent of my fortune to be where I am now. That had I been born a different gender, a different race, or come from a background of poverty, abuse, or violence – the outcome of my travels and arguably my own journey would have been dramatically different. In that part of the essence to this lifestyle is our connectivity to one another, our ability to form relationships to one another, it would be a travesty to simply allow myself to ignore those that might have once been a part of this community.
Sometimes I wish I had the capacity to find the words for reason and the strength to confront those oppressors. The fact that people actually try and justify their inhumane treatment of those that are different, filling those that would listen with their lies, makes me want to commit myself to violence. I know better than to do so. It makes me want to lash out at the fucking injustice of it all.
I would not though. My friends have taught me that they are bigger and better individuals than to repeat the same actions as those that have attacked them. I would not betray my responsibility to the flag, for those that identify with it, and tarnish its image because of a lapse of judgment. In the same manner of those that have endured, we must not forsake that vigilance they have shown. We must act with rationality and above all us free from ignorance. There must be humility in our words and actions and no measure for our extent for kindness and loving.
Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance within the LGBT community. This day is dedicated to those that have been killed because of transphobia and intolerance. This day is dedicated to those that have fought against persecution and discrimination.
I remember the outcasts, kicked out from their homes, and left to die in the streets because of who they are.
I remember the sacrifices of those that have fought and literally gave their lives for the rights of others.
I remember the courage of those that identify as transgendered, their hardships, and their struggles.
I remember the names and the faces of the forgotten, that history ought never repeat itself, and for them and those like them the purpose of this fight.
Their memory, their faces, their names, my vigil; their strength, their courage, my inspiration. For them and others like them, the lost souls, the children of night, I uphold my flag for them. For their kindness, their wisdom, and their compassion, I salute them.
“The Flag Still Stands”