I was listening to Glennon Doyle speak the other day. Glennon is a New York Times best-selling author, and a general lover of…humanity. She inspires me often. She spoke about what we can do when things are happening in the world that we know are wrong. She was inspired to speak about this after the recent ban on transgender people in the armed forces.
I am paraphrasing here, but essentially she said when we recognize that something is wrong in the world, when something really riles us and makes us upset, we can do one of three things. We can rail against it (fight), we can run and hide (flight) or we can “offer another invitation.”
I love that – Offer another invitation.
The invitation she spoke of was to be leaders ourselves. She called it the Kitchen Table Resistance. We can lead by example – by speaking up against discrimination when we hear it, whether it be at our own kitchen table, in church, or out in our communities. Our children are listening. They want to know what we think, and silence is as powerful as agreement.
We must lend our voice.
To be fair, I have been. I have been supportive of gay and transgender rights – of human rights, but I have the opportunity to add my voice to this conversation in a different and more meaningful way.
I can bring my own personal experience to the table.
You see, my ex-husband, the father of my children, is transgender.
While he is biologically a man – in his heart, mind and soul, he is a woman.
He revealed this to me over a year ago. We had spent the day together, celebrating the seventh birthday of our youngest daughter. Later that night, he sent me a text that shocked me. It was 10:30pm on a Saturday night, and I happened to be cozy on my couch…with a date.
When I saw a text from my ex come through, I explained to my date that I had to look at it in case it was an emergency with my kids. He watched as I exchanged a flurry of texts with my ex.
I then placed the phone down on the coffee table, and sat in silence.
“Are your kids okay?” he asked.
“Are YOU okay? You look like you’re in shock.”
“That’s probably accurate.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
(What a truly unforgettable date that was, let me tell you!)
Since then I have been marched through a parade of complicated emotions.
However, my initial impulse, and the default setting to which I keep returning, is that of love, compassion, and to an extent – fixing. Not fixing in the sense that I am trying to change him, but fixing in the sense that I want everything to be okay.
“It is going to be okay,” I texted to him that first night. “We will be okay.”
We have since had some good talks (I’d say, perhaps some of our best), during which I ask lots of questions. He answers them all. Sometimes I say the wrong thing and he corrects me. I learn.
So far he has continued to use his birth name, and will continue to use male pronouns. Over time his clothing has become more and more feminine, though he has held off on making any drastic changes. He has been easing us into it. We’ve seen a therapist to learn how and when to talk to our children about his gender identity (which we have done, and which we will continue to offer as an open conversation).
Our children, by the way, are just fine. They have nothing but pure love for their dad (yes, we still call him that, for now anyway). They see him as nothing short of amazing, and my biggest fear to date is the crushing effect it may have on them to find out that not everyone is as accepting of him as we are.
So do we wait for the world to dim their rose-colored glasses?
Or do we take on the formidable task of challenging the world to be better?
The latter – oh, yes please, the latter.
A Course in Miracles teaches – The obstacle to love is not hate, the obstacle to love is fear. In Glennon’s talk, she said, “Fear can’t handle proximity.”
We must draw each other closer.
The more we really see one another and listen to one another’s stories, the less we fear what is “different” and the more easily we can recognize our common humanity.
I realized I can quietly watch as fear continues to control the minds and hearts of many, or I can use my voice here to be a part of a conversation that may begin to shift things. I talked with my ex about using this blog platform to do just that – to open up a conversation…or as Glennon would say,
Offer another invitation.
Perhaps we can help someone.
I have so much compassion for family members who may be struggling with what can feel like a death, as they watch the person they know and love seemingly disappear before their eyes.
A few weeks after my ex revealed his true self to me, I had to attend a memorial service for my father’s cousin. We weren’t close but he was a lovely man and it was important to me to go. The service was at the same church where I had been married, twelve years prior (it honestly never entered my mind that this would be a problem). It is about an hour’s drive from my house, and as I got within a mile of the church, the grief hit me like a brick wall. I had this overwhelming feeling that the man I married had died….because in some ways, to me he had. I pulled the car over and sobbed uncontrollably. I never made it to the service. I just couldn’t do it.
So I am telling you – If you are going through this – I know it’s hard. I understand.
Over a year has passed now, and I have had time to process things. So perhaps you will trust me when I tell you that your loved one hasn’t died.
The person who they fundamentally are inside – that person is the same as they always were. My ex still makes me laugh like no one else, and he also has the ability to frustrate the hell out of me – regardless of whether he’s wearing men’s loafers or women’s strappy heels. Same laughter, same frustration. Same person.
Draw them closer.
If you look your loved one in the eyes, I promise you will see them there, plain as day – same as before.
I know your fear comes from a place of love. You are afraid of how your loved one will be received by the world. You’re afraid they will be teased, discriminated against, or even physically harmed. Maybe you feel embarrassed, and confused.
It’s okay to feel all of those things.
You deserve the same compassion that your loved one does.
This is hard. I understand.
Please listen –
Your loved one wants you to ask questions (as long as they are born of a desire to truly understand).
Everyone wants to be understood.
Draw them closer.
If I can help, let me know.
There is always room at my kitchen table.