Memorial Day in the US is a time to remember those who died while serving in the military. It also serves a very important function, in reminding us that our troops are not just “boots on the ground” or “armed forces” or “a military presence.” They are real people who put their lives on the line, in protection of their homeland and defense of innocents. They are individuals with hopes and dreams. Some are friends, lovers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, parents – the center of other lives, the beat of someone else’s heart.
Their deaths diminish all of us. In my family, my oldest uncle was lost in WWII, in the fields of France. He was the oldest son, my father’s brother. He was the one who was destined to set the world on fire. The smartest of the three (and my father was a PhD geneticist, so that’s saying something.) He was the one who understood people, the one with the most friends, the law student who was going to be Canadian Prime Minister one day. Instead, he’s become a part of the soil of a foreign land.
My father spoke of him almost every day, until his own death at age 88. It was, for him, an incalculable loss. For me, another uncle I never got to meet.
There are times when war seems inevitable, when madness and blindness and greed set events in motion that seem only stoppable with the blood of patriots. Sometimes events in another land cry out for humanitarian intervention, and our military members stand up to be counted. We owe those soldiers much.
But what we most owe them, and every person who puts on a uniform going forward, is attention. Accountability. Open eyes, not blind and lazy acceptance of what we are told.
From Vietnam to Iraq, we have been shown that our leaders turn to war for complex and suspect reasons. Some of those are not essential national safety, not worthy of the trust given them by our men and women in uniform. Sometimes it’s greed, ego, power, undue influence. Sometimes a real crisis is given spin and propaganda, and used for evil ends.
We are losing our veterans to suicide, at a rate of 22 a day, twice as high as civilians. These too, are casualties of how we wage war.
We owe our military, the dead and the living, our attention. We owe it to them to ask our leaders to justify uses of force with more than empty rhetoric. We must demand accountability. Both for the use they make of our military, and for the support they sometimes don’t give to our veterans.
Our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women stand up to place their mortal bodies between us and harm. We owe it to them to be sure we don’t use that sacrifice to line pockets, push corrupt ideologies, support unworthy regimes, or help our businesses make more money. It is up to all of us to do our best – checking data, writing letters, discussing, supporting investigations, and voting – to be sure that their courage is not rewarded by betrayal at the top.
To all those who served and paid the ultimate price, I thank you. Whether unavoidable war, questionable war, corrupt war – you still gave your trust to our leaders to protect the innocent lives at home. It’s now up to us to elect and monitor leaders who will not abuse that most precious gift. My uncle died reclaiming Europe from the Nazis. There was little doubt in his family’s minds that their loss was for a good and true cause. In a better world, every bereaved family should able to feel the same way.
Consider Ireland in the spring of 2015, in the months before the vote on equal marriage for same-sex couples. Sure, there were many good public information campaigns. But in the end, it was everyone who came out, to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, who made the difference. It was “my son who’s gay”, “my lesbian auntie”, “my bisexual cousin”, “my gay dentist” who turned the tide. Personal familiarity and family feeling brought victory to the Yes campaign.
Coming out as transgender can carry physical and emotional risks, and may bring fewer new freedoms than coming out as LGB. And even so, we’re seeing more and more openly personal stories from people across the gender spectrum. As a parent of LGBTQ kids (and my extended family can identify with every one of those letters), and in supporting the teens on my YA Books group, I’m grateful to every single person who steps into the light to say, “Me too. When you speak of LGBTQ, you’re talking about me.”
Transgender rights are the most intense current LGBTQ battlefield for American opinion, although equal marriage opponents are still fighting a rearguard action. When it comes to the right of a teen trans girl not to be forced into the boys’ bathroom at her high school… there we find the new height of conservative fear-mongering. (Being used as a wedge against other LGBTQ rights, of course.)
Once more, I believe it will be visibility that wins this war. People keep talking about what a tiny group trans people are, how they’ve never met anyone transgender, as if that makes their lives not count. I believe that will change when they know trans people personally, when their image of a trans woman or girl is more Jazz Jennings or Corey Maison or retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck or 12-year-old Tru Wilson and 95-year-old Robina Asti than some stereotype of cross-dressing.
I am grateful to so many people who are sharing their stories, to help others understand what it means to be transgender. To Jennifer Firth and her wife, Elizabeth . The “To Survive on this Shore” project highlighting older trans folk. Hannah Winterbourne of the British Army. To Matt Kailey who wrote in 2005 about transitioning at the age of 42. To the heirs of Angela Morley, a transgender pioneer who faced the incomprehension of the music industry when she transitioned in the 1970s, and of gospel singer , Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax. And so many more.
Not to mention all those who don’t fit into the binary – a host of people who are coming out to say things like “My Gender is an Everything Bagel”. I have dozens of links to the stories of people who are stepping into the light, to challenge how we’ve thought about gender. To broaden our understanding beyond stereotypical male and female.
I think one of the best things I can do as an ally is to amplify their voices. Share their stories. Stand behind them, by linking their own words to inform and enlighten us. And to thank them, every day, from the bottom of a parent’s heart, for making a difference in the world. They make the future brighter for all the kids, cis, trans, and gender-nonconforming, who will grow up knowing that gender is in the mind, not dictated by chromosomes and anatomy, and that a person’s worth has nothing to do with their gender identity.
(Many additional links are available on the “Transgender and gender-spectrum narratives” thread on my YA LGBT Books group. It’s a public group. Feel free to check them out at https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2275320-transgender-and-gender-spectrum-narratives .)
To read others of the 65 posts along this Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality, each also with a chance to win prizes, follow this link: http://hopforvisibilityawarenessandequality.blogspot.com/
Commenters below will be entered into a drawing for three winners, each to receive one of my backlist ebooks of their choice. (Check my “Books” blog page for possibilities.) Drawing will close Midnight Central time, May 25th, and winners will be chosen at random. (You do NOT need to put your email into the comment to win.)
To the mothers who love their children unconditionally, not thinking they are perfect, but supporting and accepting them even when they’re not.
To the people who managed to become adults without that kind of supportive mom in their lives. May the images of this day for others not hurt too much. May you have someone else in your life who gives you unconditional love.
To those whose Mother’s Day is bittersweet with loss. My two wonderful kids give me little tokens that mean the world to me.❤ But my own mother is lost in the fog of Alzheimer's, and the day means nothing to her now. I mean nothing special to her now. But once upon a time… I will remember the love from once upon a time, and know how fortunate I am. And then look at the note from my son, and the cookies and home-made candy from my daughter, and know I am blessed.
When I released this book on audio, I didn’t expect it to ever be discounted. Audible.com sets the price for audio books, and the ebook from which it was created has been free for years on Amazon. However… it turns out that Audible has now whispersync’d this title, without changing the free price of the ebook.
That means you can now download the ebook on Amazon at no charge (http://www.amazon.com/Into-Deep-Waters-Kaje-Harper-ebook/dp/B00D8GLHYG/) and then add the audio narration for $3.47 to $5.50 (depending on where you live, exchange rates and taxes.)
I hope this will encourage people who’ve held off to consider checking out Kaleo Griffith’s amazing narration for this story. He made me cry and chuckle with my own words, and that never happens. He’s seriously talented, in this his first M/M audio title. (http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Into-Deep-Waters-Audiobook/B016QQDXNW/)
This story pays homage in fiction to some of the gay men who served in the US military, and who not only risked their lives but who risked being exposed and punished for their love. Day by day, year by year, decade by decade, these men won their acceptance from friends and co-workers, and hoped for a place in their families, and helped all of us move toward a more LGBTQ-friendly world. And, in my story, found love to last a lifetime.
Today I have a guest blog post up on Love Bytes Reviews where I talk about showing character emotions in stories, and why my favorite book may not be yours. Check it out – http://lovebytesreviews.com/2016/04/15/showing-emotions-by-kaje-harper/
Gender-spectum individuals – trans and genderfluid and agender and bigender and other non-cis folk – are at the highest risk. They are represented in the public mind by a very small number of individuals (and not always well-represented.)
I saw a post recently from a random guy who claimed that he only hung out with “real men” and was sure he didn’t know anyone trans. Well, perhaps he should read about Kristin Beck – a transwoman with a 20-year career as a Navy SEAL. While her teammembers were on active duty around the world with Senior Chief Beck, they probably would have claimed not to know any trans individuals either. (http://www.beck4congress.us/about.html)
So many people don’t see gender-spectum individuals as ordinary people living side by side with them. Kids like mine. Adults like Kristin. Judges (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Kolakowski). Medical device consultants (http://www.basicrights.org/news/lived-split-life/). Comedians like Eddie Izzard (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/03/15/watch-eddie-izzard-perfectly-explains-his-gender-while-getting-his-nails-done/). Gospel Singers (http://www.ew.com/article/2016/03/01/little-axe-transgender-gospel-singer-short-film?iid=sr-link10)
We urgently need to share information. Visibility. Just like the bad old days when Americans could say “I don’t know any real, ordinary person who is gay/lesbian”, we are hearing the same thing now. “They’re not people like me, with ordinary needs, like a safe bathroom.”
Please, today, somewhere on your own social media, or in your life, with your family or co-workers, share something about Transgender visibility. Help us build a world where it’s not okay to check someone’s underwear, genes, or birth certificate to decide who they are and what they are allowed to do. Knowledge is understanding. Knowledge is power.