I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because the word and the action have been diluted by overuse and the almost universal failure of people to keep doing what they resolved to do. However, with 2016 being the most unusual year I’ve experienced in my lifetime I feel the need to go into 2017 with resolution.
Starting the year “with resolution” is not the same as making a New Year’s resolution. I won’t make hollow promises to lose weight or exercise more or write more handwritten letters or turn off my cell phone more often. I’m talking about being resolute in what I believe, advocating for people and causes, doing whatever I can to make a positive difference amid the ridiculousness that is going on in the world. It was the collision of several events that created a spark of energy, making me feel a responsibility to humanity in ways I had not before.
Love is love
2016 brought the beginning of my new life as the wife of a transgender woman. Grief over the loss of my husband turned into gratitude for having gained a happy, healthy, confident, strong, beautiful wife. June 12 was arguably the best and worst day of the year, the day we were overcome by the outpouring of love and acceptance we felt as we marched in our first Pride parade, walking with new friends who welcomed us into the community without reservation or judgment. We choked back tears listening to the crowd shout messages of love and encouragement; we laughed out loud when we realized the police were blaring their sirens at the corner to drown out the bullhorns booming with hatred wrapped up in misdirected religious fervor. It was a life-affirming event, for both me and Carli. Later that day we watched the horror unfolding in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in United States history, and we were again overwhelmed with emotion but now with a deep, crushing sadness at the loss of so many people in the LGBTQ community, many of them Latinx. The realization that this community, the group of people who have shown us unlimited love and acceptance, had been deliberately targeted by a disturbed young man to be murdered in the name of making some strange, twisted statement. This could have been any one of us. Our son or his friends. We went from extreme high to extreme low in the matter of hours, and suddenly the sense of belonging was accompanied by a terrifying sense that we were now members of a unique club that might forever be targets of hate and violence.
The next day we attended a memorial service for victims of the Pulse shooting. Among other speakers, we heard a Muslim community leader express the same deep sorrow we all felt. We were in awe of her strength and courage, to stand with us in mourning, side by side in support and true fellowship. Later we listened to Lin-Manuel Miranda accept a Tony Award for Hamilton, saying “love is love is love is love is love….” These words brought it all together for me.
People are people
Of course, the Pulse tragedy was just one in a long series of events that define 2016. There was a tidal wave of violence based on fear, racism, ignorance, and political slant. I don’t care what you look like, where you live, how or if you worship, what you do for a living, who you love; I can even look past the fact that you are not a dog lover. As a fellow person, I am on your side. I refuse to be afraid of you and will not give you any reason to be afraid of me. I will not assume you are a criminal based on the color of your skin, your manner of speech, or the fit of your clothes. I will treat you with kindness, respect, and consideration. I will assume you will treat me with the same. Someone will surely try to take advantage of this approach but I’m smart enough to know it, and not afraid to keep trying.
What I cannot do is “unite” with people who are deliberately disrespectful, people who wear ignorance as a badge of honor and use it as an excuse to cause harm. The electoral college elected what is potentially the most destructive administration in American history. I say “potentially” because I can’t predict the future but based on track records, past words and actions of administration picks, we have legitimate reason to be concerned about LGBTQ equality, education, the environment, and foreign relations. I cannot stand by with a “wait and see” attitude, nor can I just let someone else fix things. It’s time to own up to my responsibilities to humanity, to do what is within my power to do.
In 2017 I will, with resolve, speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, or whose voices are ignored or minimized. My legislators will get to know me and will witness the love that exists among my LGBTQ family and friends. I will call out hatred, bigotry, misogyny, racism, and transphobia when I see it. I will intercede, interrupt, redirect, discuss, educate…whatever it takes to support, protect, defend, and uplift.
In 2017, I will, with resolve, expect my wife to receive as much respect as my husband did, and I will no longer accept anything less, from anyone.
When you think about it, my message is strikingly simple at the heart of it. People are people. No one is more important or less important than anyone else. Love is love; not only do we deserve love, we thrive on it. Love. People. Love.
May 2017 bring you sheer, utter joy and peace, dear friends.